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.



Luke Hagenbach said...

That looks good. How much do you charge to do my 8 carboys? :-)
If only to see where the 6 gallon mark is (looks like the beginning of the curve), this is very helpful.

Luke said...

This is cool, man. I've been following for a while and you are an interesting guy. Belgian table beers, Hot Wing Beer with Ranch dressing, and carboy glass etchings, who would have thought!? Good shit.

Orion Homebrewing said...

This is a great idea, I don't think I could do justice to the elegant way this turned out in the pictures, great job! I recently discovered that an engraver also etches glass, though your method is nicer to look at I think!

Ryan said...

Thanks guys, it really is a nice thing to know the volume of the wort, and trub once it settles out, if you have the time I suggest you do this yourselves as well

Anonymous said...

Come summertime, when it's too hot to brew, this will definitely be a project to take on. Thanks for the idea and instructions!

Jeffrey Crane said...

Looks great and this has been on my to-do list for a while.

I'm thinking of making my own graduated cylinder for blending. I have more than enough beer glasses around.

Captain2Harted said...

Thank you so much more posting this with instructions. It really is a great idea. Did my first one of 5 the other day and it turned out great.
Thanks again!

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