Monday, September 3, 2012

DIY Stir Plate

A Stir Plate can be made quite easily with a little time and very little money. You could even make one without leaving the house.

Why make a Stir Plate?

A Stir Plate will help increase the number of viable yeast cells in your starter prior to pitching to your main batch. Pitching a large amount of healthy yeast cells helps to reduce lag time, decrease the chance of bacterial infection and give your beer the best start in life. The Stir Plate will keep your yeast cells in permanent suspension making sure they are exposed to fermentable sugars and oxygen. Professional Lab Stir Plates can retail for well over €100 but by salvaging some computer parts we can make one for next to nothing.

How Does it work? 

Using spinning magnets below a flask of starter wort and a small stir bar inside the flask a magnetic field will spin the bar in the liquid and form a vortex.

What is required? 

  • A 12v computer fan (minimum 80mm). This can be salvaged from a PC or purchased in a PC repair centre. 80mm is a decent size to use with a 1 litre flask. If you choose a bigger fan you will need more or larger magnets. Most fans will have holes in the corners that will be used to mount it in a box.
  • 2 rare earth magnets. A large earth magnet can also be salvaged from your hard drive but two smaller magnets will work just as well. These will be glued to the fan.
  • 12v DC power supply.This powers the fan.
  • Housing box. Holds all the pieces and will be used to sit the flask on top. A cigar box works well but care should be taken as wood is not waterproof and there is a risk to the fan from an over excited starter if the box is not made waterproof. 
  • Bolts. Large enough to pass through the housing, spacer and fan.
  • Spacers. Used between the fan and the housing wall.  
  • Nuts. To hold the fan in place.
  • Stir Bar. The stir bar should be about the same length as the magnets are apart. A proper lab type stir bar is a good purchase but a small metallic rod (straightened paper clip) would do the job.


Once you have gathered all the parts the first thing to do is figure out how you will mount the fan in your preferred box. Drill the holes and make sure everything will fit in the box.

Take the fan and draw a line along the centre on the fan motor. The magnets must balance along this line. It is important to understand which way the magnets should be placed. The ends of the stir bar have opposite magnetic polarity so each magnet on the fan must also be opposite facing. This will ensure the stir bar will lock on to the magnets and spin with the fan. If you place the magnets the same way up, one end of the stir bar will be repelled and it will fail to spin as needed.

When you have assembled the magnets on the fan and glued them in place ensure the fan will be able to spin as close to the surface of the box as possible (without hitting it) using spacers to adjust this.

To help keep a flat bottomed glass container on a smooth wooden surface I cannibalised an old mouse mat and super glued it on the top and the bottom to avoid any vibratory noises.

Getting this far is easy enough but the hard bit can be getting your stir bar to do the business. I had problems with the stir bar I bought not working all the time. It took some playing around before I found it's best performance. A slower speed actually improved the vortex (somewhere around 9v). I would advocate trying to make sure the stir bar starts the same time as the fan so it can speed up and gain momentum with the magnets. Jumping in once they are moving did not work for this brewer. Your stir bar should hum more than rattle around the bottom of the flask. Another possible problem is the slightly concave base to some flasks, this will cause heartbreak. Also if your magnets are too powerful the fan may not start as required and may need a jump start from another magnet or a push with your finger which again can be problematic when trying to coordinate stir bar position within the flask

And here she is in all her glory with a 250ml flask (with a paperclip as a stir bar) and a 1l flask (with the proper magnetic stir bar). No excuses for poor yeast starters now.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 12 CraftBeer Pubs of Christmas

The possibly not so old tradition of the 12 pubs of Christmas seems to be gaining momentum in Dublin these days and while it may be fun for those on board the journey for the rest of us it can be annoying. Large gangs of people festooned in Christmas jumpers barge into pubs, lash down a pint and hit the road to the next pub.   If you don't know what I'm on about, and you don't like beer, now is the time to look away. You might recall the 12 days of Christmas song and instead of useless gifts replace it with tasty beer. In my case beautiful Irish craftbeer.

SO last Wednesday I recruited 8 other members from my workplace, who wanted to be enlightened on craftbeer, and off we set. The idea being we visit 12 pubs and drink 12 different Irish craftbeers. Not likely I hear you say but it actually is fairly easy these days considering the rise of quality beer in the capital's bars. With the help of's beerfinder app it was plain sailing. The App lists all pubs stocking craftbeer and is regularly updated to keep you at the cutting edge of drinking. 

Armed with the App and knowing I had an expectant audience who needed to visit some quality establishments we hit the road.

Here is a rundown of where we went and how we fared.

1 Against The Grain - Wexford St- Tom Creans Lager - pint. Had a nice spot of lunch here. The enormous chips are fantastic. Huge selection of irish craft beers on tap as well as many other favourites and surprises in bottle form. Great staff to guide you too.

2 The Long Hall - South Great George's St- Galway Hooker - pint. A lovely old pub that gleams from the outside. Nice big window to sit at and watch the madness outside. Hooker was the only Irish micro on tap.

3 The Bank - Dame St - Headless Dog - bottle. Can be a busy spot and full of bustle. Carraig lager on tap as well as Hooker. Decent range of Hilden in the fridge.

4 O'Neill's - Suffolk St - 8 Degrees Brewing Sun Burnt Irish Red - pint. A very large selection of craftbeer here but I'm not convinced about the quality of cellarmanship at times.

5 PorterHouse Central - Nassau St - Bohemia Freak Out - half. Another busy spot anytime of day. Full range of PH beers plus a few other micros on tap.

6 Doyles - Fleet St. - O'Haras IPA - pint. You can be find a quiet corner at the right time of day. IPA was the only craftbeer available on tap.

7 Bowes - Fleet St - O'Haras Red - half. Great pub and a well looked after ale. They shift at least a keg a week and even more of the IPA they tell me.

8 Messrs Maguire - Burgh Quay - Jul Ol - pint. This seasonal is malty and very satisfying at 6%. Get in here early to avoid the madness.

9 Palace bar - Fleet Street - Dungarvin - Copper Coast Cask - half. It's great to see cask in so many pubs but they need to be on the ball and realise when a beer is past it's best. I like copper coast and this was nearly as good as it usually is but maybe the furnace heat in the jammed packed palace bar doesn't help it.

10 Farringtons - Templebar - Metalman IPA. A bit of a surprise on the craftbeer front but they offer quite the selection and in a lot better condition than elsewhere.

11 Porterhouse Templebar - Celebration Stout 12%. No more needs to be said about this place.

12 Bull and Castle - Lord Edward St - 8 Degrees Brewing - Howling Gale Ale pint. The last on the list and certainly worse for ware we got a seat at the bar and with the choice they offer here we never had to consider drinking the same beer twice.

At this stage we needed a Zaytoon (kebabery).

It was a great day out and the enthusiasm for Irish craft beer that was shown by the bar staff we met was fantastic to see. Long may it last. Looking forward to next year and planning a new route.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Galaxy of Diamonds

After a decade of saying I wouldn't get married I finally came around to the idea and the thought of supplying beer to my own wedding had nothing to do with it at all! So to celebrate the fact that we made it this far I decided, as most normal people would, to brew a celebratory beverage. Since Galaxy hops have been so good to me ( see award winning beer post), and the fact that they are in the only home brewed beer Jenny will drink I decided they would be the back drop for a pale ale containing 4 flavour and aroma hops all from the southern hemisphere. The name is a play on the diamond I got Jenny, the fact that all these hops are gems all on their own and the idea that if I told Jenny there is Galaxy hops in it she may drink it!

The hops I had in mind were:
Nelson Sauvin

The crushed grain

Filling my only free fermenter

After a little time in secondary I kegged the beer and now she is sitting pretty in the kegerator in my shed.

Beer review to follow soon if the GBBF doesn't kill me first....

Here is the recipe.

A Galaxy of Diamonds 4 hops beer
10-A American Pale Ale
Author: rossa
Date: 03/07/2011

Size: 25 L

Original Gravity: 1.051 (1.045 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.010 - 1.015)
Color: 11.43 (5.0 - 14.0)
Alcohol: 5.03% (4.5% - 6.2%)
Bitterness: 61.7 (30.0 - 45.0)

3 kg Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
2 kg Munich TYPE I
.500 kg Carapils®/Carafoam®
.200 kg Crystal 55
1.0 tsp 5.2 pH Stabilizer - added during mash
1.0 tsp Protofloc - added during boil, boiled 15 min
20 g Magnum-PLMG (12.6%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
20 g Galaxy (13.7%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
20 g Nelson Sauvin (14.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
28.0 g Rakau (12.0%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
20 g Citra (13.8%) - added during boil, boiled 5.0 min

Yeast : Fermentis Safale US-05

5g gypsum, 2 table salt, 8 epsom salts for boil
mash @66 for 60 mins.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Losing the plot year 2

Purple Early First weeny Carrots

July has arrived and with a much more relaxed attitude to planting than last year my efforts have started to produce some early veg. Last year it was all consuming but with the harsh winter, and all the beds completed last year, I was not in as much of a rush to get going. I felt the spring was too cold to risk planting out anything early and the schoolboy errors of last year had thought me that patience is the key.

Little Gem Onion bed

Too much Garlic

I got a present of Vegetables For the Irish Garden by Klaus Laitenberger and although I have other allotment focused books the majority are British based and the climate is too different to ours to rely on these for planting times. Klaus has set my mind at ease with regards when to sow and plant out in Ireland. He also has some interesting views on weeding which I also have taken on board. All this leads to a more relaxed experience as there is a bit more harmony to the plot.

So instead of going completely bananas with too many varieties of vegetables I instead went bananas with the volume of less. I planted around 60 garlic bulbs of 3 varieties, 3lbs of onions with again 3 varieties, 2 types of peas, 3 types of beans, 3 varieties of potato, 2 varieties of beetroot, 2 varieties of leek, 3 varieties of carrot not to mention the lettuce, courgettes and broccoli.

I'll have a Pea please Bob

The second year has brought it's own problems and my laid back approach is in danger of backfiring rather dramatically. During the winter snow a drift formed at the corner of our field and deer got in and did a fair amount of damage, eating foliage and trampling winter crops. Not much can be done about that but the summer has arrived now and so too the local rabbit population. Not seen last year, the rabbits seem to be causing havoc. They milled my lettuce and broccoli seedlings so I had to go back to basics and put down the netting.

Rabbit defence

The next month will be something to look forward to with the early veg and fruit tantalisingly close to harvesting time.

Let the harvest begin.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

There will be Trouble ahead

Last night to my great surprise I was awarded First Prize in the Trouble Maker brewing competition. It was a beer brewing competition run by Trouble Brewing Company in conjunction with and the The Bull and Castle, where the judging was held. First prize not alone included dinner for two in a gastro pub and a hamper of beer but the winning recipe will be brewed commercially in 2011 and be available at various festivals depending on what pops up. It will be launched at the Fanciscan Well's EasterFest 2011.

At around 10pm I received a text from an unknown number telling me of the news. In the back of my mind I was thinking complete stitch up so I rang the number and it was confirmed I had won by Mr S. Billings of fame. I talked to some of the judges and I got fairly giddy at the thought of a commercial batch being produced and me being there to help brew it.

So in the new year I'll be off for a day to Trouble to brew my award winning recipe Galaxy Pale Ale. Here's hoping it lives up to it's tag line 'Galaxy Pale Ale - it's out of this world'.

Galaxy Pale Ale

4.9% ABV, 40 IBU

Size: 26.0 L
Original Gravity: 1.046
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 11.02 (9.85 - 27.58)
Alcohol: 4.9%
Bitterness: 40

4 kg Pale Ale Malt
1 kg Munich Malt
.250 kg Crystal 60
.5 kg Carapils®/Carafoam®
1 tbsp 5.2 pH Stabilizer - added during mash
16 g Galaxy (13.4%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
25 g Galaxy (13.4%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
25 g Galaxy (13.4%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
1 tsp Protafloc (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

Friday, November 5, 2010

Losing The Plot

After numerous attempts at planting various varieties of vegetables in pots or back gardens over the last few years I finally went after an allotment. I had spent plenty of time talking about getting one but after a couple of calls to the local councils where I was told the waiting lists were so big it would be decades until someone died and gave up their plot (no pun intended). So in Jan 2010 I Googled once again looking for plots and to my amazement two new allotments had opened near enough to my door. I emailed both to inquire and within 15 mins I had a call back from John who ran Glencullen Allotments. A few days later I was up selecting a plot and the hard work was about to begin.

Not really having a clue I set about designing my raised beds and rang about to find used scaffolding to make the beds with. Seed catalogues were reviewed and I seemed to be heading to the local DIY store and the nearby Saw Mill every second day (I kept all receipts for purchases but it scared me too much to think about how much I had spent so I haven't look at them and I am fairly sure I never will). Grow your own books were purchased and constantly reviewed as I tried to get a grip on what to grow.

Once the scaffolding planks were delivered, on what was a beautifully icy day where the truck couldn't reverse up the hill for all the mud, I got to work setting out the markers for the beds.

Not wanting to have to saw through the 2 x 8 planks I made do with their lengths and widths as the dimensions for the main beds. I attatched stakes to the ends and with help from my Dad (who wasn't long after a triple bypass) we got them into place and hammered them into the sod.

After being so intent on making raised beds I never gave much thought as to how to fill them. Being 24 feet long and 8 wide it was going to take a fair few wheel barrows to fill them. I got to work and dug up the clay next to the beds and wheeled in barrows of wood chips to make paths. It gave the plot a rustic look but made it practical when the weather turned sour, which is basically anytime in this bloody country.
So All the donkey work done it was time to start growing. I wanted to keep my patch organic and mainly plant Irish varieties. With this in mind I got onto Irish Seed Savers and the Organic Center. Little did I know what was in store: sleepless nights considering when and what to plant, worrying about frost and snow, every morning running out the back to check on seedlings. It was like having a baby. Instead of going for nappies it was down to the local garden center for compost. And just like a baby it wont be the first time ever again. Doesn't mean I will be able to sleep with the excitement next spring though!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A new era.

Well well well. I thought it would never come to this. First it was Facebook, which Jen bullied me into signing up to. Then it was Twitter.Jen actually signed me up and got me following a few folk before I even knew I was in. Now it's a blog. Jesus Christ what's going on? I should be doing long tones or lip slurs not writing crap online. Anyway before I rush off to teach some little Tboner's how to wield a bone I have to mention Wednesday Night Beer. My WNB was an oak aged stout made with 70% Munich Malt and a hefty helping of Chocolate Malt,Roast Barley,Amber Malt and hopped with lovely citrus American hops. The oak really mellowed the beer out and added some lovely fruity yet smoky flavours. It's the first time I have used oak chips and they will certainly be making another appearance. Here is the recipe:

Nuclear Summer

5.1% ABV, 42 IBU

4.167 kg Munich TYPE I
1.5 kg Pale Ale Malt
.5 kg Carapils®/Carafoam®
.5 kg Amber Malt
.300 kg Chocolate Malt
.5 kg Roasted Barley
1.0 ea WYeast 1084 Irish Ale
21 g Target (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
33 g Chinook (11.0%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
27 g Cascade (7.8%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min

Mash at 66c for 90mins. Sparge with 15l at 75c. Additions of sats at mash gypsum 1g chalk 1g. At boil 1g gypsum, 3 epsom salts, 5 calcium sulphide.
Pitched at 25c.