Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great American Beer Festival Tickets Arrived!!!

I received my GABF tickets in the mail yesterday!!! I am very excited!

Lets take a look shall we?

The envelope is open, the suspense is killing me!


Members get their own entrance to the event, makes me feel like a VIP!  ;P

Saturday afternoon is just for AHA members. Ah, privileges.

Ouch! That stings...I guess being in a drunken stupor for 4 days wills help ease the pain!

FWIW, I plan on taking a shit-load of photos during the festival, so I will post those near the end of September...

Next time Sour Project update, stay tuned.

Love Temperature Controller (TS-2) Install...Finally!

So I finally found the time to install my temperature controller, and boy was it a journey.
I apologize for not being more detailed with this install. I am usually fairly detail oriented when doing a write-up, however I failed to snap as many photos as I would have liked to, so I will provide more detailed explanations along with the photographs I have.

It begins...

First, the obvious, find the best place to install the controller. Since the original analog thermostat is located on the right side of the fridge that seemed like the logical place to install the controller.

The right side top corner of the controller cut-out was measured 2.5" down from the top of the door, and 3.5" inward from the right side of the door. (I used a tape measure, but a speed square can be used if available.)

An interior photo.

After measuring for placement, I followed the instructions provided and used a millimeter ruler to measure the dimensions to exactly 71 x 29 mm. It was time to cut out the panel.

I used my trusty (cheapo, but free) Dremel with a cutting disk.

It took about 5 minutes.

When removing the cut panel, I found the same spray-foam insulation was in the door as was under the top of the refrigerator. This stuff gets everywhere!

I drilled a hole in each corner of the cut-out with a 1/16" drill bit to show where I needed to cut the panel on the inside.

I used a utility knife to remove the inner panel.

Once the hole was finished it was a matter of mock fitting the controller, it took a little trimming of the interior panel. The key was to make a nice tight fit so there was no need for any sealant. The controller comes with a rubber gasket, and that is all I intended to use.

A snug fit was achieved. 

The easy part was finished. On to the wiring. (this is where I didn't snap photos, I apologize.)

A fellow brewer who goes by the name of ClaudiusB on the Home Brew Talk Forum, was integral to the success of my installation. He created a wiring diagram for me, which was exact. I can't thank you enough
I think the schematic above is more useful than my photo of the wiring, but here you can see it put together.

Sorry about the quality of this photo. I used male/female crimp connectors to connect all of the wiring from the controller to the fridge. I have all of the female connectors on the fridge side, and all of the male connectors on the controller side. If you look closely you can find them.

All of the wires are just shoved in the nook where the OE analog thermo was. I plan to get a piece of Plexiglas, or some PVC to fabricate a cover and screw it down keeping all the wires out of the way.

I also needed a way to install the temperature probe. I fabricated a housing out of a White Labs vial. It was extremely simple. I used a 5/16" drill bit to make a hole in the center of the cap. I was able to find a rubber grommet at ACE for $0.25 that fit perfectly. I shoved the temp probe in, and that was it. I filled the vial with Star-San sanitizer to keep mold and bacteria from growing in the vial.

I mounted the probe in the back of the kegerator, I am thinking of moving over to the side near where the original analog probe was, but for now it will stay where it is.

I have the fan wired to the compressor so it only runs when the compressor is on. I found that having it run all the time caused it to cycle more often.

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on a way to cover the wires, after that is finished this kegerator will be completed. For now it is done and fully operational.


An anecdote...and I'll try to keep it short.

I have had this controller for a couple of months now, and I was struggling to find the time to do the install. A fellow brewer from HBT hooked me up with an awesome wiring diagram which I've detailed. However, another fellow brewer who lives nearby stopped by to help me out with the wiring and soldering. Nonetheless, we managed to cause a short and pop a breaker. Thank goodness the kegerator wasn't damaged! All of the initial wiring was only for mock-up to ensure everything worked before I made things "permanent". When I went to rewire everything, I moved my fuse wire which caused the display to go blank for a couple of seconds, and when power returned it failed to switch the compressor on. I was sure I killed the relay in the controller.

After some cursing, swearing and some physical interaction with the fridge, I took a well needed break. By this time my help was long gone. During my break I left everything plugged in hoping it would switch back on. After about a half an hour...still no dice. I was extremely angry, and it is my nature to jump to conclusions, so I was certain I had a $180 paper weight on my hands. I was so angry I left the kegerator alone for 4 days before I started to tinker with it again. Long story short I had changed one of the parameters (which was minimum stopping time, to 50 minutes). When the power failed while moving the fuse wire I realized the controller needed 50 minutes before it would resume its function. When I reset the controller's parameters to default it started cycling again.

Of course I reordered another controller in fear of having fried the relay. Of course I wanted the blue LED, so it is made to order, and of course they do not accept returns on custom orders.

Yeah, I'm a dumbass...

I'm telling you this so you can avoid the same mistake I made, and save yourself some energy cursing, swearing and kicking random inanimate objects!

I have a chest freezer I plan on installing the other controller in, so it worked out in the end.

Please comment or feel free to ask questions!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quick & Easy Corny Keg Modification.

When I first began kegging, I knew nothing about the process let alone the kegs themselves.

By far the most common system used by home brewers for draft beer is the 5-gallon soda canister, originally manufactured by the IMI Cornelius Company (Annoka, Minnesota). Though other companies also make similar models, notably the Firestone brand (Spartanburg Steel Products, Spartanburg, South Carolina), whose kegs are virtually identical to Cornelius's, although all parts are not necessarily interchangeable. The style is usually referred to as a Cornelius or "Corny" keg. These stainless steel canisters were developed and used to distribute premixed soda for common restaurant dispensers. The keg shape, capacity, and fittings are standardized, and over the years millions have been manufactured.

Kegs are available with two types of valves, ball-lock and pin-lock, which refer to the method used to couple the hose fittings to the valves. The fittings are threaded slightly differently and are not interchangeable, so it's a good idea to pick one keg type and stick with it to avoid confusion. Ball-locks are a bit easier to disassemble with your average socket set.

For what it's worth, Pepsi exclusively used ball-locks, and Coca-Cola used pin-locks. Ball-locks are a bit more narrow, Pin-locks are a bit wider, and the pin-lock valves, when attached, are taller.

Enough about all that.

When I received my kegging equipment I became the proud owner of two Firestone Challenger VI kegs. When I disassembled the kegs for cleaning I noticed that the gas-in dip-tubes were these little red plastic things. I was under the impression that all of the dip-tubes in these kegs were stainless steel. A little research revealed that some of the later model Firestone Challenger kegs used these plastic style dip-tubes. For what it's worth Cornelius brand kegs have all stainless dip-tubes as original equipment.

A closer inspection of the plastic dip-tubes revealed that they were in less than optimum shape. They were both warped around the flared end, one much worse than the other.

During reassembly of my kegs after their initial cleaning, one of the plastic dip-tubes split around the flared end and broke. Actually, it became jammed up in the post and poppet valve, it had split when I tightened the post down. The first thing that came to mind was I'll need to replace the dip-tube. Well it was much harder to source the plastic dip-tubes than I thought, the one company I found that sells them wanted $2.00 a piece and had a minimum order amount of $10 (Chi Company). My second thought was I'll just buy some stainless steel dip-tubes, this way I wouldn't need to deal with the plastic dip-tubes breaking. I bought two stainless dip-tubes for $0.99 and found that they didn't fit! The stainless tubes are wider in diameter, and the gas in post is reduced (wider at the top, then narrows half way in).

Regardless, this is what led me to modify my kegs to use the stainless dip-tubes, and that's what this post is all about.

Here are my original guts:

Here is a picture of the original plastic gas-in dip-tube.

The flare on this dip tube was not as badly warped as the first. I needed to modify the first keg right away, and I wanted to make sure this modification would work. I forgot to snap a photo of the other plastic tube, but it was in bad shape.

This is the OE dip-tube, the replacement Stainless Steel dip-tube, o-ring, and the 5/16" carbide drill bit needed to drill out the post. 

The plastic dip-tube fits right in:

The stainless dip-tube does not fit:

Hence the need for the drill bit...

...and the drill.
(I stuffed some paper towels in the keg to catch the oil and some of the metal flash.)

(Make sure to use some lubricant. I prefer vegetable oil over cutting oil, it is easier to clean up).

Almost finished...

I didn't have a round file or better tool to deburr the edges, so I reamed the post out with the drill bit.

A quick clean up and check for fit:

Add the o-ring and it's complete!

This was a very simple modification. It takes about 5 minutes.
Some things to remember:

  1. Use a carbide drill bit (it will make your life much easier when drilling stainless steel.)

  2. Use some lubricant (vegetable oil, cutting oil, etc...)

  3. When drilling - go slow, and use an even steady pressure.

  4. If you have a round file, or a deburring tool use it, it will make the SS tube slide right in.

  5. Enjoy that you will never have to dick-around with those plastic pieces of junk!