Beer Machine Brew Day

A Brew day with my R.I.M.S

Step 1. Get some Grains

I like to support small business so I head over to the Auckland Brewers Co-op . Over the last two years I have been constructing really basic beers to try work out kinks in my process and find improvements to my machine but today I decided to go with something a little more regular, my favorite style; Amber Ale. My grain bill for today was rather haphazardly googled on my way to the brew shop and converted on the fly with the (very patient) gentleman working the grain room at the time.

I adapted Max’s last call  to fit a NZ grain and hop bill.

Particularly important with R.I.M.S is avoiding a  ‘Stuck’ mash, when this happens in R.I.M.S. it ruins the whole system. “Stuck” means that there has been too much pressure or you have put too much volume into your mash so it forces the mash down and drastically reduces wort / liquor flow.  So I bought 600 grams of Oak Hulls. I have never seen these before but there was a bag for sale so I thought I’d try it. Now I never want to brew without them! I mixed them into my grain bill and I was very impressed.

Ingredients in hand, it’s time to get the machine out.

Beer brewing machine in storage

Step 2. Sanitize

Once the machine is out I want to make sure it’s all still cleaned and sanitized. Technically you don’t need to sanitize your mash setup but I like to for good measure.

Step 3. Get Liquor up to strike temp

I lift the inner pot out of the bigger pot and start heating up a bunch of water using the 3 ring burner. I’m normally aiming for 76- 80 degrees Celsius for my strike temperature or so as I want to try bounce between 60 and 70 degrees for my mash.

Using a STC1000 with a thermowell and the manual thermometer I was happy to see they aligned in their temperature. Thanks to Sadu on the homebrewtalk forums for his suggestion that putting the probes into the wort would affect the probe, I installed a thermowell and replaced my probe with a replacement from RS components which was a fucking pain in the arse to get . Honestly, these guys send me the biggest fucking cardboard pamphlets advertisements every other month, but can’t send me 10 grams of temperature probe for less than $50 USD. Come on, guys 🙁

Once the Liquor is up to temperature I lower the mash tun into the boil pot and top up with additional water if required. Then manage the temperature and wort flow with the STC1000 and playing around with the valves respectively.

Step 4. Mash

I have a stainless steel mesh lid on top of the grain bed to help distribute the hot liquor and avoid wells. This and the oat hulls really helped avoiding a stuck mash, I am very pleased with this result.

Step 5. Vorlauf and Sparge

I use the winch (because a 40L pot of Grains and Wort is remarkably heavy!) to raise the grain slowly out of the boil pot and let the pump run for a bit longer to keep everything fluid then I turn that off and use the Quick Disconnects to remove the pump and hoses and set those aside for cleaning. A quick note on Quick Disconnects: I love them. I was on the fence for a while because of the cost but I found some for under $10 each and I am so happy with them. They really make any brew system 10x easier to manage.

Near the end of Sparging, the grains are raised out of the pot and the pump is removed

Then I boil my kettle and slowly sparge with that as many times as I feel necessary. I would really like to get a second hand Zip style 10L water boiler mounted above the current system but I haven’t found one at the right price yet, so household kettle does it for now.

With the grains sufficiently rinsed it’s reasonably easy to remove from the winch hook and dispose of appropriately. Time to boil.

Step 6. Boil

The easiest part. Just wack the burner back on.

Boiling the Wort

I have removed the STC1000 probe, the element cable and the pump to avoid any heat damage to any of those components. I was a little concerned about the thermometer but it didn’t have any issue. In this particular recipe I added 5G of hops at 5, 15, 25, 35 minutes and 35g at 45 and 55 minutes. This is just my particular taste, I am no longer keen on ridiculous amounts of hops and bitterness. I am using Taiheke Hops which is basically New Zealand Cascade hops. Initial taste tests (1 week in fermenter ) seem positive. Always improving though 🙂


Time to Finish the boil.

Step 7. Cooling

5-10 minutes before the end of the boil I dunk my cleaned copper immersion chiller into the boiler. This way if there is any residue on the coil it will boil off and remain nice and sanitary. I use garden hose at full speed for about 10-15 minutes then drop the pressure down and start using the coil itself to agitate the wort to help cool it faster. I usually aim to get it down to about 30 -40 degrees before putting it in the fermenter, I seem to get quite drastic diminishing returns using immersion chillers and it takes a long time to get to fermentation temperature like this.

Important note, always test your wort chiller before using! A kink or blocked hose will literally spray boiling water all over you and your house, I have done this, it is bad.

Step 8. Into the Fermenter

OK maybe this is the easiest part. I just rotate the boiler around and open the tap and admire the glorious wort.

I then chuck the fermenter straight into the fridge to get down to a reasonable fermenting temperature.

Step 9. Clean up

I have been cleaning things as I go so this last part is a cinch, I just hose off all the remaining parts trying to remove any visible leftovers and then scrub down with a kitchen sponge. Then put it away for next time.

All done



Special Thanks

Thanks to jekeaneacidrainSadua and Nokie from the HomebrewTalk Forums for ideas to help get this machine working better. 

I am always looking for improvements so please feel free to drop a comment if you have any ideas 🙂

Beer Brewing Machine Build

Step 1. Test if the idea works.

R.I.M.S is Recirculating Infusion Mash System. The theory is you continuously pump liquor (water) through the mash and past a heating element to have more control over the mashing temperature and avoid variations within the mash. This helps get a better conversion at the temperatures you are aiming for. By nature, the system also has builtin Vorlauf which can assist in clarification.

To start with I purchased a stainless 50L (13GAL) boil pot and a stainless 40L (10Gal) mash tun pot. Then I cut out most of the base of the smaller pot and placed a stainless mesh into it. I used some scrap stainless square tube for ‘feet’ to keep the mash tun at the appropriate height inside the boil pot. After this I cut holes in the bigger pot and installed an appropriate pump with tubing to get the wort through the system, and a 2000W heating element which is tied it to a STC1000 to control the temperature.

It had some pretty major issues but it worked well enough to continue with the project. Onwards!

Step 2. The Frame

I built this with a cheap stick welder and some 2mm thick mild steel square pipe. It was my first real play with stick welding so its quite poor quality. Not poor enough to re-do, its strong, just not pretty.

The key points to note are the LPG Burner ring holder needed to be secure, at a good height off the ground, and at the right height to the base of the boiler. A bit of trial and error here. I ended up with about 4CM / 1.5 Inch. I think if I were to remake this I might make it adjustable, or a little bit lower.

Also one learning I had with the pulley was: I tried to position it right in the middle of the tower, but it should have been offset so that only one side of the pulley was in the middle, so that the actual wire was centered. at the moment the system pulls the mash tun out on slight angle.

Otherwise, I am quite happy with this structure.

Step 3. The Parts

  • Big Pot / Boiler / Kettle  – This is a Stainless 50L (13GAL) pot I purchased off a local trade site for about $90NZD ($65USD) it has 4 holes drilled into it near the bottom for:
    • BSP Bulkhead outlet from a plumbing supply store (for pumping) $10NZD
    • 2000W Heating Element from my local brewing shop $65NZD ($45 USD)
    • Stainless Analogue Dial Thermometer from an online brewing supply shop (for verifying digital temps) $50 NZD ($35 USD)
    • Stainless Thermowell from ebay (for digital reading – attached to STC1000) $11 NZD
  • Little Pot / Mash Tun – This is a Stainless 40L (10Gal) Pot that I cut out the bottom and installed a false bottom. About $60NZD ($42USD)
    • Stainless Grill false bottom – second hand from a local winery
    • Stainless Grill to spread wort across the grain bed – second hand from a local winery
  • Pump – capable of handling 100 degree+ boiling wort at a good rate. From eBay $100NZD ($70 USD)
  • Various copper piping, valves, Quick Disconnects and attachments about $150 ($110 USD) in total from eBay, local plumbing stores, and hardware stores
  • Silicone Tube – for getting the pumped wort closer to the top of the mash from eBay $11NZD
  • STC1000 for managing the temperature $65 NZD at the time – there are a lot of cheaper versions now.
  • Scrap Stainless square pipe ‘legs’ to hold the mash tun above the element.
  • Copper Wort Chiller from my local brewing shop $125 NZD ($90USD)
  • Scrap hose for the Wort Chiller
  • 3 Ring LPG burner – local hardware store  $65NZD ($45 USD)
  • Winch for hauling up the mash tun from a local trading site $25 NZD
  • D-clamps and stainless chain for winching the mash tun from the local hardware store $25NZD
  • Mild Steel for the frame was about $50 NZD from

Total $900 NZD ish (or $660USD at the time of writing.) Over the course of about two years which is how long it’s taken to build this.

Step 5. Assembly

Most of the equipment is just assembled on as per the photo below.

The Big pot (boil pot) has 4 holes drilled into it for the hot wort output, the 2000w Element, the Thermometer and thermowell, otherwise no other modifications.

From the bulkhead (wort out) I run to a stainless steel ball valve for flow control, and I have my Quick Disconnects (amazing) going to the pump. which has its own little shelf to keep the pipes inline and outputs to its own stainless steel ball valve (This one I dont really use, I cant even remember why I wanted it) which goes to a copper riser pipe and has a silicone hose off the end. I may shorten this configuration, it doesn’t need to be this long.

Inside the boil pot are 3 pieces of square scrape pipe, about 7cm long to hold the mash tun up off the heating element etc. then the mash tun sits ontop of that. the mash tuns only modification is I cut out 4 quarters in the bottom and placed a stainless mesh in there to serve as the false bottom. I also have a similarly sized perforated stainless sheet on the top of the grains to help disperse the hot wort and avoid wells.

attached to the handles of the mash tun I have two D-Clamps holding a stainless chain for lifting it out. I bought a cheap boat winch which is completely overkill but the price was right, and this is mounted on the side and the handle also serves as a convenient place to store the mash tun after its been used.

More details in the Brew Day post below

The finished machine

The Grainfather ( NZ$1,350.00 )  is what inspired me to build this, if you don’t take my time into account (Building things is fun, OK 🙂 ) I think I did pretty well.  I get a bigger capacity and had a lot of fun experimenting/building this. Knowing what I know now, I think I could build it again 25% cheaper, some fittings and piping didn’t make it into the final product and some parts are nice but not required (eg the Quick Disconnects and the Analogue Thermometer).

My homemade Beer Brewing Machine in production

Read on for a brew day process >

Motorcycle chain oiling system

I have often been frustrated with the task of oiling the chain on my motorbike, I want a Scottoiler but I don’t want to pay for it. So I built something that would do the same sort of thing only temporarily. When you want to oil the chain, you fix it on, go for a small ride or spin the wheel a bit, then take it off again.


  • Easy to put on and take off
  • will spread lubricant evenly on the chain
  • cost effective

The basic idea I came up with was to place a rag on the chain with oil flowing onto it at a slow rate, the oil would spread over the rag and onto the chain. This is how I built it.


I had intended to attach it either by using the rear stand thread but I didn’t have any bolts that size, but I found a piece of wood would very happily wedge into the swing-arm very tightly. I took an off cut, drilled a hole through it at 9mm then applied a piece of 10mm threaded rod to it (installed the thread into the wood very happily, the threaded rod was tightly stuck in there.

offcut with threaded rod insertedAn ‘arm’ was needed to reach down to the chain, so another off cut was attached with a couple washers and bolts. This also meant I could adjust the angle to suit when on the bike.

adjustable angle arm bolted to holder

Then I built the oiling base itself, I made two because the first one wasn’t large enough to be drilled again for the second rod. Basically its a small off cut with a 5m hole drilled in it for the hose.

block 1 drilled

Inserting the oil flow tube.

base with tube inserted

The “oiling system” is a folded up rag. I kept the rag and the block the width of the chain to keep the oil where it should be.

first oiling system ready to have the rag attached

I used electrical tape to keep it on. Electrical tape works here because of its ability to stretch. whilst it doesn’t stick to the wood etc. It’s basically working like a rubber-band in this instance.

first oiling block tested on the chain

Its looking good here, but because I cant really attach it to anything I remade it slightly larger, The threaded rod is the second arm between the first and the base, I used threaded rod again so I could adjust the distance.

block two with tube and rod inserted

This is the full mount set. The small block on the right is the wedge for the swing arm, then there is the arm that goes down to the chain. Then the rod that goes inwards to the right distance to place the oiling block where it should be. Bolts for Africa to keep everything in place.

Full mount set - dryInstalled on the bike:

installed on bike from side

chain and base oiler in placeI was a little surprised at how sturdy it is. you would expect with wood, tape, bolts, threaded rod, and something that’s just wedged into the swing-arm to be quite fragile, but its pretty solid.

At the other end of the tube is an adapter I had made earlier for a standard soft drink bottle. I drilled a hole that was 1m too small and  used a small off cut of another tube to make the base. some hot glue to seal and then inserted the smaller tube. I didn’t have any hose clamps handy so used some 20 gauge wire to make my own clamp sort of thing. works well 🙂

sprite zero connector

So now I have my oil input ready. for testing its just sitting in the pillion foot peg.

oil input readyIdeally I will have a small, thin, seal-able tube that has a screw thread on both ends that I can use to put the right amount of oil in, and maybe it has a gauge so I can see how fast its draining etc. but for now; the top of a sprite bottle will do.

ready to roll... and oil

So I put some oil in the “reservoir” and let it flow through. the tube thickness and oil viscosity control the rate at which oil gets onto the chain. and it was flowing through the tube at about 1cm per second, which was perfect. The oil goes through the rag and onto the chain as expected. I am a bit slow here, I was too busy taking pictures and musing to start rotating the wheel which is why that small drop is on the bottom. the idea is you pour the oil in and go for a ride around the street to drain it. Today I just tilted the bike on the stand and manually rolled the wheel, this worked just as well.oil through the chain

Full system off the bike (excluding reservoir)

full system off the bike

Overall, this was a resounding success. It does everything I wanted for very little cost (I had everything already) Its not too fragile, its not too bulky, and it actually works!


Possible improvements

  • I would like a better ‘wedge’ system perhaps some sort of clamp that fits on the underside of the swingarm
  • I should remake it with a better material than wood
  • I need to build a better tube style reservoir

    Wooden Pulleys – Equipment

(5 July 2010) – Power and Drills

First thing I needed for my generator was either cogs or a pulley/belt system to drive the washing machine engine. I thought about several different options from buying old car pulleys/belt, using a bevel/helical gear, or building my own cogs/gears/pulleys on the cheap.

I decided the cheapest option (since all my projects try to be as low cost as possible) for me is to try manufacture my own pulley’s from wood.
I needed a few things,

* Hole saw
* Reliable drill to run the saw
* Wood turning equipment to cut the grooves.

I had none of these so started with what I did have.

I had an old portable battery drill that had a battery that was dead and generally ready for the trash, I figured I could wire it into the mains and turns out I was able to find an old ATX PSU that put out enough power, so I snipped all the ATX connectors down fit inside case, covered the ends up with heatshrink (didn’t want one accidentally touching something) and rigged up a switch and so on so I could run it like a lab power supply.

Modified ATX Power SupplyModified ATX Power Supply

(This PSU came in quite handy for other 12v (ish) projects like a peltier effect device I am playing around with.)

So now I have power, then I removed the casing of my drill battery pack, removed all the battery’s and chucked them (they were quite corroded) then basically clamped two cables to the connectors that go inside the drill, unfortunately it wouldn’t let me solder them on so I ended up turning the metal sheet over to clamp the cable in. I tied a knot in the cables before the hole so they wouldn’t tug on the connection. Then ran about 2.5m of cable out to a Molex Plug I picked up from jaycar so I could plug it neatly into the PSU.

Drill with modified battery pack to run off 12v powerportable drill running off power supply

I ended up buying a hole saw, I didnt have anything I could modify to make that, but it was only $20.

For the Lathe/Wood turner I found I could bolt the wood I wanted into work with into the drill, and mount the drill into a small vice and I used a rope tied around the trigger, around a nail, down to a metal level so I had it foot controlled. but I talk about this more in part 2.

Wood turning and Pulley making with a drill in a vice

(17 July 2010) – New Wood Turner

Ive started working on a new wood turner (I cant really call it a lathe as its shaft reliant) pics now, further update coming later.

taking the drill apart
drill too far apartmaking the mount for the drill motor

wood turner mount in progresswood turner mount in progress, side angle

(click for big)

the offcuts from the MDF I was using to make the pulley’s is used (leave no wood scraps behind) so its all odd shapes, its almost artistic! I just need to cut the bottom to a standard height, mount it to a small board, then figure out what ill mount that to. Probably make it like a vice that can be moved around, bench mountable, I also need to make another end that holds the other side of the shaft so that the shaft is stable, not able to move around, which is the biggest problem with the drill-in-a-vice “lathe”.

(28 July 2010) – New Wood Turner: Wiring

I finished wiring and testing the new setup. Power comes off the other psuedo drill pack and I’ve just hacked the bottom off the drill I am using for the turning. Power then goes too the jandal controller for analogue (ie: more presssure more speed) control of the motor. I mounted the original drill control into a recess into the bottom jandal and glued the jandals together. then it goes off to the drill in the mount.

new lathe wired up
Lathe jandal pedal
lathe power 'wiring'

Unknown Device issues, Trying to identify unknown hardware

Disclaimer: All care No Responsibility. you follow the instructions provided at your own risk. I take no responsibility any damage you may cause. Please read the article in full before starting

I have spent most of today trying to install some drivers on a laptop I installed XP on yesterday. The issue? Identifying the unknown devices.

unknown devices

I was downgrading Vista to windows XP, gave it the user in question then got it back the next day with problems, almost none of the drivers had automatically installed. (in hindsight this was quite a spectacular overlook)

So I jumped on Toshiba’s website, and I commend them for having a nice and easy driver finding system (put in model, get drivers) but I found out quite quickly that it was… well, wrong. the modem and audio drivers do not suit this system.

So anyway, getting to the point, lets say you have a computer that you need to install drivers for and you don’t know what hardware it is. If you have no idea what device it could be, check to see if all the other hardware matches up (in Device Manager, you don’t have entries in the modem tree, or network cards etc. If something is missing but you have one, its probably that.)

If you can find out from the manufacturer (for example using Toshiba or HP’s neat driver finding by model trick) you can just download the drivers for the device in question. if this isn’t an option, it starts getting more fun.

If you are using a PC, you can pop the case off and have a look at the motherboard or peripheral card, if its a PCI card you are trying to get drivers for, pop it out of your computer (Google instructions if you are unsure) and look for the model number then Google for the drivers (or use the manufacturers website or

But wait a minute, this is a laptop. and or quite frankly I don’t want to take the case off. All right, now comes the really neat bit. Windows  will query all the devices in your computer when it starts up and gets a little bit of information, device ID, manufacturer ID etc, and you can get this information easily enough. once you have it, you are on easy street.


1. Start regedit,
2. goto HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Enum\PCI
(if its ISA (god forbid) use ISA instead of PCI etc)
3. Look through these keys for an item that has the description matching the unknown device you are looking for, this is most likely ‘unknown device’ although it could be ‘unknown simple communications device’ or similar
4. get some details. Its going to look something like this:
in particular you want
VEN: (vendor ID)
DEV: (device ID)
SUBSYS: (subsystem ID)
and REV: (hardware revision)

5. Once you have this information you can run onto the internet and get what you need, I would recommend you start here: so far its been helpful to me:
first up, click ‘Vendors by ID’
search through the list to get your appropriate vendor, in our case its 104C – Texas Instruments.
click on the vendor.

6. search for the device ID. in our case its 8033 – Integrated FlashMedia Controller – PCIxx21

7. This particular unit had a download link attached but most don’t, in which case, Search, download, install. (driverguide is good for this)


Further Reading

Check out this MS KB for XP

and for windows 7

if you have any comments or notes on this or any of my other articles please send them to me through the comments form. happy hunting.