Monthly Archives: April 2013

My Homebrew Rig

Brewing Collage

One of my more recent DIY hobbies has been making my own beer.  My wife and I have grown to really enjoy good craft beer and I knew it was something I wanted to try doing myself.  I have to admit I was a little sceptical after hearing my mom say:

“my dad and my brothers used to brew their own beer [potato] and argue about whose beer tasted the best… the truth was that it was ALL awful”

Maybe this was going to be a little harder than I thought, but after a little bit of research, I found a thriving homebrew community with plenty of information and vendors.  I also learned that it could be very easy or extremely complicated to make your own beer.  You can make beer by simply boiling some water, pouring in the ingredients and throwing it all in a bucket with some yeast.  You can also make beer by analyzing your water, correcting water for mineral content, milling your own grain, doing a triple decoction mash, using an electronic temperature control methods during fermentation, calculate priming sugar amounts to achieve certain carbonation levels and kegging your beer.  You can spend thousands of dollars on equipment or you can spend 50 dollars on equipment.  The one constant I found in my research was that regardless of how much money you want to spend or how sophisticated your equipment and methods are… it all makes good beer!

I fall into the less money on equipment and moderate sophistication camp.  I have made most of my own equipment with cheap or free supplies and I use the “All Grain” method for making beer (it has some special equipment requirements over the other methods).  In the near future, I hope to do a post about a “brew day” where I will take you through my process of making beer, but in the meantime I thought I would share my “brew rig” that I mostly made myself (well… at least the parts that you can make yourself).

I started off by purchasing this middle of the road home brew kit from Midwest Supplies.  This kit contains the buckets, measuring equipment, cleaning and bottling supplies you will need.  It is pretty hard to DIY a food grade bucket, so I just bought this stuff.

Midwest Supplies Homebrew Kit

I happened to have a turkey fryer big enough to boil a full batch of beer (It just needed a very good cleaning), so there was no need to buy any boiling equipment.

I made my mash tun out of $10 worth of parts and a free cooler that someone gave me.  This allows me to steep my grains, and filter the grains out of the liquid as it drains out.

My DIY mash tun made from an old cooler, copper pipe and valve parts

My DIY mash tun made from an old cooler, copper pipe and valve parts

This is my “wort chiller” (heat exchanger) that I made out of flexible copper pipe and a few fittings.  This is optional, but makes cooling the wort much easier.

DIY Wort Chiller for cooling the wort after it is done boiling.  This needs to be done ASAP.

DIY Wort Chiller made out of flexible copper, hose fittings and some tubing for cooling the wort after it is done boiling. This needs to be done ASAP.

I even made a temperature controller for about $30 worth of equipment and parts, but need to acquire a used refrigerator or freezer to actually use it.  Once I am able to use it, there should be a small improvement in the quality of my beer.

MY DIY temperature controller.  It will sense if it gets too cold or hot and turn on heat or turn on cold.

My DIY temperature controller. It will sense if it gets too cold or hot and turn on heat (heater) or cold (refrigerator) to keep the fermenting beer at a constant set temperature.

Most of my ingredients I get from Midwest Supplies or Austin Homebrew and they are awesome about helping you if you have questions (no matter how basic).

Here is the full setup in action.

My whole "brew rig" set up and in the process of making some beer!

My whole “brew rig” set up and in the process of making some beer!

So far, I have been making 5 gallon batches of beer for a year and a half now and have had some pretty good reactions including:

“Honestly… this is the best beer I have ever had”

“This is actually… good?!”

“I liked it… and I don’t even like hoppy beers.”

“I didn’t get sick.” (there is a common mis-perception that you can get sick from homebrew, but nothing that can make you sick can live in beer)

“The person that made this beer must be the smartest, richest, best looking, smartest, funniest, best looking and smartest person on the entire planet.” (paraphrased from my sister-in-law)

I even have fun naming the beers.

Bottle cap label I made for my wife's favorite... Peach Hefewiezen.

Bottle cap label I made for my wife’s favorite… Peach Hefewiezen.

There you have it!  A little bit about my homebrew rig and my new hobby.

Cascading Children(Child)

BrendanOnSlide

I do not have quadruplets!

When looking through old pictures I found some shots I had taken of my son taking a trip down the slide at a local park.  These were taken with a simple Kodak point and shoot camera using the “sport” mode of the auto settings.  I decided to combined them with some old photo editing software to show his entire trip down the slide in one picture.

A couple notes on taking the actual pictures:

  • DO NOT MOVE!  It is important for lining everything up.  If you move, you may still get good shots of your subject (my son in this case) but it will be very hard to line everything up with the background.
  • Start holding the button down early and hold it longer than you think you will need.  This will ensure that you have all the shots you need to combine into the final picture.  My first shot at this did not have enough pictures of the beginning of his trip down the slide.
  • Choose your shooting position wisely.  Yeah… that is my leg in the bottom left part of the picture…

Combining the pictures:

Pick 3 or 4 pictures where there is enough “movement” in between the subject that you can see you subject clearly in every layer.  If you choose too many pictures or there isn’t enough space, all you will really see of the subject is the last picture.  There is no fancy technique I used to do this… just lined all the pictures up side by side in order and picked out the ones that looked like they would go together well.

BrendanOnSlide_Photos

The 4 photos I am combining: These were chosen out of the 8 pictures that the sport mode took . There is good spacing and you should be able to see him well as each photo is layered.

Your “base” layer will be the picture at the beginning of your cascade.  In my picture, I used the one with my son at the top of the slide.  Every subsequent layer will have the background (mostly) erased so you can stack your subject on top of the previous layer.

As you are erasing the backgrounds in your pictures, pay attention to shadows (you don’t want to erase those) and look for lines or objects that can be used later to line everything up on the base picture.  I recommend just leave a little portion of the background to line things up.  I used the horizontal and vertical lines of the slide as a good reference to line the layers up with the base image.  Don’t worry about leaving little background pieces because you can go back and erase them later.

Last picture with the background erased. Notice that I left the shadows and some "pieces" of the background near his feet to help line the layer up.

The last picture with the background erased. Notice that I left the shadows and some “pieces” of the background near his feet to help line the layer up.

After all the backgrounds are erased, copy and paste each image as a new layer on top of your base image.  You may need to zoom in to move your layers around to precisely line them up.

Merging the layers

Merging the layers

Once all your layers are in place, hide all the layers except one to go through and do final touch ups including erasing any little background pieces you left for lining up your layers.  Repeat for each layer.  I also used a “softening” tool to go around the edge of each layer.  This helped blend the images together a little better so there were no sharp lines where I had erased the backgrounds.  Now you are done!  Save or export your image and do whatever you want with it.

(I am probably the last person to give photo advice… but I thought this was a fun project.  I am sure people with actual photography skills could do some very cool things like this)

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