Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Calibrating Carboys - Etching Glass

Lately, while I've been brewing less (busy at work), I have found time to do a lot of equipment upgrades/changes/planning including an all electric conversion.  This was one of the quicker ones, and its made it easier for me to get ready to bottle, or keg, or accurately estimate my brewhouse efficiency.

For a long time I've either eye-balled how much is in a carboy, had to rack to my bottling bucket, or marked the outside with sharpie.  While the sharpie method worked great, it was always just a matter of time before the marker got rubbed off and I was back to square one.  Instead of simply reapplying the sharpie this last time I decided I needed a bit more permanent solution - I'd etch the glass! Glass etching was something Id seen my grandmother do when I was little to make Christmas ornaments, and I thought it would be a great solution for my carboys.

Now before I went and did this to my carboys I played around a bit on a small jug to get a feel for it and to decide how exactly I wanted the markings to look.  I tried both etching calibrated lines across the glass (positive image) and etching a solid area and leaving the lines smooth (negative image).  I then filled up the little glass jug with some dark liquid to approximate what beer would look like in a carboy.  By far the negative image was much easier to read, and it also happened to be a bit easier to line up as well.

From there on the steps are pretty easy to follow, I've listed how I did things below, along with what I used (tapes, etc) and some pics of the process, its really easy to do and a great addition to any carboy.

Required Materials

  • Tape - Blue Masking (easiest), electrical (optional)
  • Carboy - Duh!
  • Quart Jar, Nalgene etc
  • Glass Etch (I used armour etch)
  • Stickers (numbers)
  • Popsicle stick or old butter knife
  1. Clean outside of carboy - I used CLR
  2. Calibrate carboy 
    • I did quart increments nearest the top and bottom, ½ gal in the middle
    • I used a sharpie to mark the liquid level, but had to clean it off later
  3. Tape up the area you want to etch 
    • Since I did negative image I ran tape down the sides (masking tape is easiest as it doesn't stretch)
    • I then make equally thin slices of tape using a cutting board and marked all of my increments across the entire masked area
      • 1 gal increments were left full width, ½ gal were cut shorter on one side, and the ¼ gal were cut even a little shorter: 
    • Carefully check all tape edges to make sure they are sticking to surface - Mine bled in one area
  4. Lay carboy on its side so etch doesn't run
  5. Apply etching compound, 
    • Make sure no marker remains in areas to be etched
    • You don't have to use too much etch, just enough to cover the glass
    • Wait ~2-3min, then use your knife to swirl the etch around (makes the etch more uniform)
    • Wait another ~2-4min
    • Wash off
Now I did this in two tries: One to do the increments, and another to do the numbering.  This allowed me to make sure the numbers were readable in case there had been bleed through on a taped edge.  For numbers I did the same thing except I used some reusable stencils for etching, though since the first try I have tried using stickers and they work great as well.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Apple Cider Varietals - A comparison

I realize Ive taken my time getting around to doing a side by side comparison of the apple varietals I used to make cider.  Maybe I could be a bit quicker but when it comes to cider I really feel like a bit of age helps their flavor.

Unfortunately one of the varietals I made (Fuji) I couldn't seem to fine a bottle of to review.  However that's not such a bad thing, because the ones I've tried were absolutely terrible (insipid, yeasty, no apple flavor).  I should be posting another cider review shorty (Chochise Stronghold) that is my favorite use of apples in homebrew so far, strange thing is it used the Haldi-Farms apples!?

Cider Varietal Comparisons

Haldi FarmsGranny SmithGravenstein
AppearancePalest, very clear, fine bubbles breaking the surfaceMedium color of the group, still very clearDarkets of the group, very clear yellow with tan highlights
AromaBready, white wine notesExtremely subtle, slight hint of sournessVery appley aroma, almost juice-like
TasteYeasty, slightly appley, and slightly sourSourish, very much like a nice white wine (riesling-like), with faint apple finishThe most appley of the group, slightly yeasty finish, very dry
MouthfeelHighly carbonated, nice round feelingStill, Im starting to think the acidity stopped it from carb'ing upVery spritzy and dry, highest carbonation
Drinkability3 - least favorite2 - good but in a white wine sort of way1 - Best, most appley but extremely dry
Overall: I preferred the gravenstein over the others, it  had the best flavor but was very dry and slightly yeasty.  However I'm starting to come to the conclusion that the best way to get a nice apple flavor out of a cider would be to bottle off a keg to minimize the yeast derived flavors that happen when bottle conditioning (lots of acid = bready/autolysis).  Going this route I could then easily add some Xylitol (non-fermentable sugar) without worrying about autolysis like happened with my pineapple cider

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