Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top Cropping Method

    Top cropping is a method of harvesting yeast from beer that is in the 2nd or 3rd day of active fermentation.  Ale yeast are also known as top-fermenting yeast.  During fermentation the unique shape of the ale yeast's surface allows it to attach to rising CO2 and travel to the beer's surface.  Top cropping was the norm years ago.  It is how breweries managed to reuse yeast for hundreds of years.
    Today bottom collection is common practice.  Shallow, wide and open is the optimal fermentor shape for top cropping and this shape also takes up the most space.  You can fit a larger volume of beer in a 100,000 sq. ft. building using cylindrical shaped fermentors then flat shallow ones. There are some instances where the tall narrow shape of modern cylindrical fermentors prevented the yeast from forming enough of a head to successfully harvest enough yeast from the top.  Top cropping is becoming more popular among craft and homebrewers.  The yeast that rise to the surface after the first 12 hours of active fermentation, are the most viable, active and are relatively clean.
    The shape of the fermentor dictates the ease of top-cropping.  Fermentors with large top openings are much easier to harvest top yeast from than fermentors with small top openings.  On open top fermentors, you can collect the yeast with a shovel, spoon, a cup as long as the methods are sanitary.  On small top fermentors some sort of device must be used like a vacum, or pump or collecting via a special blow off tube contraption.
    Below I will show you my method for top-cropping.

Step 1.  Take 4 quart glass canning jars and place in pot along with lids and 1 large stainless steel spoon and tongs.  Fill pot with distilled water until water is above top of the jars.

Step 2.  Boil for 30 minutes.

Step 3.  Place lid on jars leaving them full of water.

Step 4.  Allow to cool to below 70f.

    From this point on a spray bottle filled with star-san is our best friend.  I spray everything.  Jars, fermentor lids, spoon everything.  I keep a piece of aluminum foil on the shelf by the fermentors to set everything on while working and I spray star-san on that as well.  I even like to blast the air before I start opening fermentors.

Step 5.  Take the lids off 2 of the jars and discard the water.

Step 6.  Open fermentor and verify a nice thick krausen.

Step 7.  Scoop out krausen placing it in the 2 empty jars (scrape back the scummy looking stuff, try taking the creamiest yeasties) I took about 10 scoops from the 3522 (ale pail) and about 30 scoops from the US-05 (10 from ale pail and 20 from my 20 gallon fermentor).

Step 8.  Allow foam to settle then fill with water from the other 2 jars.  Make sure you fill it to the brim.  You will have to fill and let foam settle and then top it off.  Place lids on jars loosely. Label with yeast name and the date.

Step 9.  Refrigerate between 36f and 40f.  Once chilled tighten lids.

    I use Mr. Malty to estimate cell count.  Use the "Repitching from Slurry" tab changing the yeast concentration setting to "Thick".    
    Also don't forget to practice good sanitation throughout the process.


Monday, May 23, 2011

1st Batch in the Fermenter.

    Well Saturday night I decided to brew up my Summer Wheat, taking the electric brewery on it's maiden voyage.  Everything went great.  I hit all my numbers and the sparge flowed smoothly.  The grain bill was half white wheat so I tossed in a couple of scoops of rice hulls to help with sparge flow.  Both pumps worked flawlessly and I had no priming issues at all.  The RIMS tube maintained my mash temp perfectly and I was able to chill the wort down to 68f in less than 30 minutes with the chillus convolutus.
    I have to say I am in love with electric brewing, no loud ass propane jet burners blasting or fear of asphyxiation, just the hum of the pumps and whatever music I am brewing to.

Mashing with RIMS Tube

Boiling 17.5 gallons of wort

Next is to set up my temperature controlled fermentation chamber.  This way I can pump from the brew kettle directly into the fermenter since the fermentation chamber will be sitting right next to the brew stand.  I am sick of fermenting in the basement, that trip up and down the stairs is getting old.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Almost ready for the Maiden Voyage.

Well the new wire (8-3 w ground) has been run.  The control panel and gfci spa panel have been mounted.  All the kettles have been fitted and sight glasses have been calibrated.  All the elements have been wired.  RIMS tube and wort pump have been wired and mounted.  I have done several wet runs and every thing works awesome.  I am loving the bsc-460.  Here are a couple of pics before mounting the RIMS Tube.

Now all I have left to do is wire the water pump, mount it to the cart, and make a couple more hoses.
I am hoping to brew by no later then next weekend.
I am going to brew my Summer Wheat.  It is a nice light American wheat beer so if I get any scorching it will stick out in this beer.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finished Controller

Here are a few pics of the finished controller. 

Up next is to run some 8-3 with ground from my electrical service panel to the spa panel with gfci breaker that the controller will be mounted next to.  Then I need to run some cat5 cable out to the brewery.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Control Panel Build

I have begun working on the control panel.  First thing I did was layout all of the holes for switches, heat-sinks, twist lock outlet's, & temp probe cables.  I modeled up my box in 3D and included my 2D hole locations.  This allowed me to create nc programs directly from my CAD data.  The control box needed to be machined on 4 sides.  Here is a pic of the control box before machining.  This electrical enclosure is 16"x12"x8"  and was purchased on ebay.

The first side I machined was the front door.  The front panel is where all the switches for the elements and pumps, an e-stop button, a system start button, and a selector switch for selecting between the HLT and Brew Kettle elements.

Next I machined the top of the enclosure.  This is where the heat sinks for the SSR's will go.  I purchased 2 large aluminum heat sinks from ebay.  I could not fit both heat sinks on the top so  I had to shorten one of the heat sinks by one SSR station.  This involved cutting and drilling and tapping new holes in the heat sink.

The bottom is where I machined holes for the twist lock outlets.  This is where the pumps and elements will plug into.

Last is the left end.  This is where the temp probes will enter the control panel.

Here is a pic with all of the switches.

Here is one with the heat sinks installed.

Here is a pic of all the pc's for the inside of the control panel.

Now back to work.
Cheers ,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pots are on the Stand!

The pots are back on the stand and mocked up with fittings.  Next I will be cleaning and polishing them with Bar Keepers Friend.  Work has begun on the control panel.  I will post those pics shortly.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

In With the New....Let the Build Begin!!

I have most of the components collected for the brewery build.  The pots have been drilled and welded.  The welds are being cleaned up at the moment.  Here is a picture of the drilled pots on the brew cart.

Top left is the Mash Tun, Top right is the Brew Kettle, and Bottom middle is the HLT.