As the Zeptobrewery grows and matures, some equipment upgrades are inevitable. But what to do with the old equipment? I could give it away, try and sell it, or trash it. But why not repurpose it? Here are a few examples of equipment that used to be all I had, but now, are still part of the team.
- Enameled Pot: former brew kettle
When I originally got my starter kit at Barry’s Homebrew, one of the few things it didn’t have was a brew kettle, and none of my current pots were big enough. He recommended at least 3 gallons for extract-based partial boils, stainless steel or enameled. Target sold a 4 gallon enameled pot for $20, Barry said, which was more convenient for a beginner than the 5 gallon stainless steel kettle he sold, regardless of the great price. Even though the coating is fragile and a strong enough ding can chip it off, leading to rust, the enamel kettle worked out fine. But the time came for full-volume boils, and eventually, mashing. This 4 gallon stock pot now seemed so small and useless compared to my 8 gallon stainless steel kettle with weld-less valve and thermometer, and my 10 gallon mash tun. But any homebrewer will tell you, you can’t have enough hot water. So I use the pot as an auxiliary hot liquor tank – that is, it heats up water for brewing. Reserving a few gallons of hot, or even boiling water, has come in handy numerous times. And if the situation calls for it, I’ll even use the old kettle for wort collection after the mash.
- Copper Immersion Chiller – current pre-chiller
I used to chill my wort by immersing the enameled pot into a bathtub full of ice water. A few times I just poured it over 8 pounds of packaged ice (1 pound of water/ice = 1 pint). The bathtub took too much time and energy, and the ice was too iffy. It was clear I needed an immersion chiller to crash-cool the wort. But they’re not cheap. Fortunately it’s not too difficult to make your own, with some soft copper coil. So I picked up some coil and fittings. I only picked up a 20′ coil, as opposed to a 50′ coil, because the 50′ was SO much more expensive, and 20′ was fine for the enameled pot at the time. Well it wasn’t much longer until I upgraded my kettle. With the full-volume boils, that 20′ chiller took almost an hour to chill the wort down below 80° in Summer. Compounded with the fact that the copper continued to tarnish quickly, and thoroughly, it was time to upgrade. I got a 50′ stainless steel chiller and have been extremely pleased. I tried to sell/rent the old chiller but no one wanted it. Then I saw something called a pre-chiller, where you immerse a coil in ice water, so the water going in to cool the wort is even colder. Perfect! This way I don’t need to worry about the tarnish, and the wort cools even quicker – under 15 minutes.
- Ale Pail – former primary fermentor
When it comes to fermentors, there are three kinds that homebrewers should concern themselves with: stainless steel, glass, and plastic. Stainless steel is very sophisticated, but incredibly expensive. Glass is great, but a little expensive, and fragile, and the narrow opening at the top can make it difficult to add certain things to the fermentor. Plastic is cheap, easy to use and replace, and stacks inside another bucket. When I got my starter kit, it came with two food-grade plastic buckets – one with a valve for priming/bottling, the other for fermenting. The downside is plastic can absorb color and odor, and can get scratches, which harbor bacteria. So one day I noticed my bucket was getting a little too scratched and yellow, so I pulled it out of the game and put some newer buckets into play. Soon enough I actually plan on upgrading to glass primary fermentors. What will be the fate of my plastic buckets? My original ale pail has already become strictly a sanitation bucket, and the others surely will become utility buckets of some sort. I primarily use Iodophor to sanitize all my stuff and it’s known to stain plastic, so by designating my old bucket for sanitization, I don’t have to worry about it staining anything else. It would also be nice to have a standing solution of B-Brite in a utility bucket to cleanse stuff as needed. And my third bucket may become either a clean-water rinse bucket, or a grain bucket to combine my full grist into before mashing.