First Batch Results and a Trilogy of Errors

Well enough time has passed that I can finally give my critique of my first all grain brew. At least I can say I have one all grain brew under my belt.

Unfortunately this post is lacking in pictures, I didn’t end up taking a ton of pictures this time. There wasn’t that much different from my first post on all grain brewing, if you want more pictures, check out my previous post here.

Amber Ale Final Results

First, a couple of figures from the recipe versus what I ended up with:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.048 1.050
Original Gravity 1.055 1.040
Final Gravity 1.012 1.004
Alcohol Percentage 5.64% 4.73%

*The pre-boil gravity is the gravity of the wort just prior to the boiling of the wort. I’m a little suspect of the number I got, since I believe the number needs to be measured when the wort is closer to ~65 Farenheit. Also, this number shouldn’t be this high when the wort is at a higher temperature.

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Amber Ale in Secondary Fermentation

So the amber ale I brewed ended up with an original gravity that is 0.010 lower than what the recipe calls for. We can see that there was alcohol production considering the difference in the final gravity and the original gravity. At least alcohol was I got alcohol.

Looking at the final gravity of the amber ale, the consistency is close to that of water! (water has a specific gravity of 1.000). I can taste the hoppiness in the beer, and there is an amber look to the beer. Unfortunately, what I ended up with is what could be described as hoppy alcoholic water. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What I’m thinking happened is that I rushed the sparging process. I added water to the grain bed in the batch volumes indicated on beersmith, however I think the water didn’t sit in between batches for a long enough time, leaving lots of precious sugars behind.

Oh well, I’m drinking it anyways, because, well, it’s my first all grain beer. To me, it’s still drinkable. I think of it as a very light amber ale. Perhaps this will teach me a lesson, my penance for being impatient in the sparging process. Oh, woe is me!!

German Pilsner

For my second batch, I decided to try something a little different than what I’m used to. I picked a German Pilsner for this recipe, it’s supposed to be a little lighter and crisper. The end color ended up being a little darker than I was hoping for, but it’s all a learning process.

The brew day was nothing short of trying. Through all the issues I had during the day, I was pretty convinced this would be the first batch I spoil or infect. We’ll see what happens.

First Mishap – Expired Propane Tank

The first thing that got my day going was when I went to refill my propane tanks, I discovered one of the tanks was expired. So much for buying a half full propane tank at a garage sale. No biggie, the bar-be-Que I got with it works, that’s the important thing. Also I already had one brand new propane tank, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Second Mishap – The Water is Yellow!

Once I got my brew day going, I noticed that once I got my strike water close to mash temperature, the water was yellow! Not entirely sure what happened, the main pot I used last time only held water I heated for mashing and for sparging. I thought I’d cleaned it out. Turns out I hadn’t…

Minor setback, I cleaned out my pot very thoroughly with SOS pads and got it nice and clean. On my second try, the water was crystal clear. Lesson learned, clean out the pot even if it only had water in it…

Third Mishap – It’s Windy Outside…

Another issue I encountered was the fact that it was fairly breezy outside. The flame on my burners kept getting blown out. It was a minor irritation, I had to keep re-igniting them.

The mashing itself when pretty well, not much can go wrong when grains and water need to sit for an hour. I tested the mash with iodine after about an hour and ten minutes and it was ready for sparging.

Fourth Mishap – Problematic Sparge Arm Attachments

For this brew I attempted to fly sparge versus batch sparging. This involved using my nifty sparge arm I made myself and alluded to at the end of my last blog post. Basically, I didn’t have a solid attachment to the hose barb on the sparge water pot and while I was sparging, the hose kept slipping off, causing the copper pipe to land on top of the grain bed. So much for not disturbing the grain bed during sparging…

On the plus side, the sparge arm worked. I tried to take a picture, but there’s a wooden board I had covering it to kind keep some of the steam from escaping and to keep the sparge arm in place. You can sorta see how high the water stayed above the grain bed, the recommendation was about 1-2″.

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Sparge Arm Working Away

Fifth Mishap – Boilovers!

Once I finished the sparging, I got to boiling my wort. I stop paying attention for a little bit, and before I knew it I heard sizzling on one of my burners…yep, I had a nice boilover. Boy it sucks cleaning that sticky mess up.

The best part is, not only did it happen once, it happened TWICE. You’d think I’d learn from the first one, evidently not…

The End Result

After the boil, a lot more wort evaporated than I had anticipated so I only ended up with 4.5 gallons versus 5. I found that when I measured my original gravity following chilling, I was actually a lot closer to the original gravity than my first batch. This is good news! While the fly sparging took a lot more time, I think I captured a lot more sugars.

Basically I ended up with the following:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.052 1.042
Original Gravity 1.056 1.052

So looking at the numbers, I’m in a closer range to the recipe. I think if I’d let the wort cool a bit more I’d be pretty darn close.

Upcoming Posts

We’ll see how much more I plan to write about in the next little bit. I have been superbly delinquent in my plans to better understand and implement microcontrollers to my brewing process. At this point, I’m all talk and no action.

Eventually I’d like to talk a little more about some DIY projects I have in mind with woodworking, I’ve got some extra lumber kicking around that I’d like to use for some practical storage purposes.

Thanks for reading!

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All Work and No Play Make James Go Crazy

Once again, I’ve let far too much time lapse from the last time I wrote a blog post. I had hoped to keep my updates a little more frequent, however life as always has made it very difficult to just sit a write a post. I’ve discovered that two engineering masters courses and full time work means there’s very little time left for hobbies. It’s tough managing my time, but I’ll get through.

Trying to be as concise as possible, I will admit these last couple of months have been a bit trying. Between getting stressed out by school, by work, and by the constant bombardment of news that encompasses the USA’s newly elected President, it’s been hard to find peace sometimes. What I’ve found is that I’ve had to work at accepting the things I cannot control and calming myself down when I’m stressed out. Deep breathing has been a great source for those times when life in general becomes overwhelming.

But enough of that, I don’t need to dictate in detail my feelings, despite how interesting and exciting they are.

What am I here to talk about today? Skateboarding, beer, and electronics! (Yes, I’m just that cool 🙂 )

Skateboarding

We’re finally turning the bend where there should be some consistently nice weather. We had some not too bad weather a little while back, but it’s been so inconsistent. Once school ends in April, skateboarding awaits!

I plan to build a nice rail to complement the grind box I built for myself last summer. I made a lovely round bar rail in AutoCAD Fusion.

I’ve been thinking about how I would build this and I’m looking to keep it as simple as possible. So while the rail shown below uses round pipe, I’m likely going to end up using square pipe instead to make the welding process a little easier.

Now I just need to find someone with a welder…

Grind Rail Rendered.jpg

Grind Rail side view.jpg

Homebrewing

On the homebrew front, I really haven’t has as much time to brew as I did going into the holidays. Only a couple of weeks ago did I get a Belgian White and another IPA going.

While malt extract brewing has been going well and I’ve got a good feel for it, I’ve got the itch to start upgrading my equipment and going towards all grain brewing. All grain is about as close to making beer from scratch as it gets. Only step after that would be to start a farm and grow my own ingredients!

The All Grain Brewing Process

All grain brewing really doesn’t add many more steps to the brewing process. Right now, I do the following:

  1. Steep grains in hot water.
  2. Add malt extract to the water and bring to a boil
  3. Add hops a boil for an hour (add more hops at end if necessary)
  4. Cool wort
  5. Add yeast
  6. Let it ferment
  7. Carbonate and enjoy!

All grain brewing modifies the first two steps. With my current process the malt extract is already prepared, so there’s not much flexibility in terms of changing the characteristics of the wort. All grain brewing basically modifies the first two steps of the process, you in a sense create the wort by adding hot water to crushed grains and letting it sit for a while (this is called “mashing”). The liquid is then drained off, and hot water is then run through the grain bed to rinse it (called “lautering”). The wort is then boiled. After that it’s the same as Malt extract brewing.

What’s required in all grain in the beginning is the drain hot water into the grains. The vessel that holds the grains is called the “mash tun”. A lot of people use gravity to move liquid from one vessel to another, so one of my ideas is to build a 3 tier stand similar to what’s shown below. Considering it’s all wood, I figured it would make a great gravity feed system.

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Source: http://www.homebrewtalk.com (See attached link)

Source: www.homebrewtalk.com

I have a lot of plans for modifying my boil pots, modifying coolers to make a mash tun, and possibly a few side projects, such as making a counter flow chiller for cooling my wort faster.

Before I get into all grain brewing, I want to have the equipment to make sure my first day goes as smoothly as possible. I will likely have a slew of posts for all the little modifications I plan to make to my kettles prior to my first all grain brew. I’ve got the following planned:

  • Kettle additions
    • Site glass installation
    • Weldless Ball Valve
    • Temperature Gauge
  • Making my own Mash Tun
    • Fun Instrumentation
      • Level sensors for fly sparging
      • Temperature Probes for Mash temperature measurement
      • Wort re-circulation pump
  • 3 tier brewing system (woodworking project)
  • Counter-flow wort chiller

Electronics (and More Homebrewing)

As always, the world of electronics continues to peak my interest, despite the fact that I constantly get overwhelmed by electronics once I really start trying to map what I’d like to achieve with how to accomplish my end goal.

I have a couple ideas for some projects that I could apply to my homebrewing. Right now, most of them involve applying multiple temperature sensors to the homebrewing process to track temperatures throughout the process. This becomes more critical in all grain brewing since the temperature of the mash will define the characteristic of the beer. Mash temperatures influence the body of the beer, along with the fermentable sugars you get out of the grains.

Plus, going forward, I’d like to start logging more of what I did during the brewing process, and temperatures are a large part of the end result of the beer.

Oddly enough, it seems like most of my project ideas inherently turn into some kind of control system problem. The kind of control I want to have for whatever system I’m looking at  eventually lends itself to some kind complex control system (think P.I.D control. If you don’t know what that is, take a look here.)

Take for instance the grain rinsing process in all grain brewing. In a nutshell, it’s pulling the fermentable sugars and starches out of the grains. At the beginning of the mashing process, you add a certain amount of water at a given temperature to the grains and you let it sit for a given amount of time. Once that’s over, the wort has to be drained from the mash tun into the boil kettle. This is called “sparging”.

There’s a few different methods to capture the sugar and starches from the mash. One method involves adding the water in batches (also called “batch sparging”). You take a given about of water, add it to the mash tun all at the same time after the mashing is complete, then drain it all at once into the boil kettle. You add the water and drain in “batches” until you have enough wort in the boil kettle.

Another method is adding the water in a controlled process and matching the outflow of the water at the bottom to the inflow of water on top (this is also called “fly sparging”). Basically you try to match the inflow of the hot water to the outflow of the wort at the bottom.

In an ideal world, there’s a perfect height (we call it “X” in my illustration below) where the height of the water will not change in the mash tun with respect to the inflow of water and outflow of wort. Now if we think about this for a second, the outflow of wort is in a sense, a function of “X”. There is an idealized mathematical relation between the speed of the outflow at the bottom of the vessel versus the height of the water call Torricelli’s law.

Note that in reality, we can’t really rely on Torricelli’s law, because we have a whole bunch of other stuff going on. The ability for the water to travel through the grain bed and out the bottom is going to highly fluctuate depending on the grain bed density, porosity, and distribution of grains in the mash tun.

Without trying to model this as a mathematical system,  I’ve made a ghetto illustration with paint to show the process. In reality, we need a control system to match the inflow of water to the outflow of the wort. We want to get as close to height “X” as possible without deviating too much.

Using a given height “X” from the top of the grain bed, we can measure the upper and lower changes in height and modify our “Flow in” while keeping the “Flow out” constant.  We can accomplish this by measuring the height of the water on the grain bed with a level sensor, then adjust the water flow in until we get close to the set point.

Level Control.jpg

On further investigation, there are many other simpler ways to accomplish this. There’s mechanical devices out there that already attempt to accomplish this, and then there’s most other people who spend more time doing things rather than thinking about doing them.

For my first all grain batch, I’m better just to adjust the inflow and outflow valves accordingly. As much fun as it would be to automate certain aspects of the process, it’s not worth the investment in time until I figure out how to do all grain brewing from start to finish.  Then I can think of nifty contraptions later on.

Going Forward

For now, I have my classes to finish, which is likely to hinder my ability to make new posts in the next month or so. Ideally in the beginning of May, my plan is to get an all grain brewing system up and running and document the fun of my first all grain brew! I have yet to decide what kind of beer I plan on making, but that’s part of the fun!

Thanks for reading!

The Next Focus Point: Money!

Ever since I’ve built my Keezer, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from doing anything that this blog was really meant to detail. Other than some other beer batches (2 wheat beers, an IPA and an Oktoberfest) I haven’t done much in terms of electronics, photography, or other projects. My summer has been occupied by work, a couple vacations and the insatiable need to get outside. So anything electronics related has taken a back seat. Also, now that school has started back up, I see my free down going further down the tubes. Sadly, my Arduino and Beaglebone Black will be gathering dust 😦

Lately however, I’ve been focusing on money. The truth is that I’m a budget-aholic (I’m pretty sure this word doesn’t exist). I’ve spent copious amounts of time trying to plan my monthly finances, forecast my expenses for upcoming months, and plan my overall financial status for the future based on my current circumstances. I have quite the detailed spreadsheets I use for determining my forecasted expenses and income. What’s nice about forecasting to such detail is that it lets me understand what my ability to save and invest is.

Some of the next big milestones in my financial future include purchasing a home, building a car, building a large garage/man cave and quite possibly building a kick ass home theater. By kick ass, I mean theatre style, little to no ambient light, 12 ft screen, and massive speakers that make the house shake. Try to imagine the full immersive experience of Master and Commander, feeling the rumble as the sound of the cannon balls from the Acheron hit the Surprise in the opening battle of the movie. At least it sounds cool today, give it a month and I’ll convince myself the cost is too much.

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Who wouldn’t want something like this in the basement?? (Source)

As fun as it sounds to talk about these things, I begin to die inside as I pencil out realistically how much these things are likely to cost. One of my other interests in life is building an investment portfolio. I’ve starting one and I’ve done ok, but everything I’ve read indicates that starting early and being disciplined with investing is the best strategy to building a secure portfolio that will build it’s value over time. Time can be your best friend or your worst enemy, because the later you start to build a portfolio, the less time you have to grow it. Even just with savings, it’s been shown time and time again that the earlier you start saving, the more you gain from compounding interest rates.

So therein lies the dilemma that is James Lindeman. I have quite the imagination in terms of projects to take on, but I’m kept at bay because of my desire to maintain financial security. This usually means my desire to save and reduce my outstanding debt puts the kibosh on lavish purchases and large projects.

There’s a lot of debate as to what’s a good purchase versus what’s a bad purchase. There’s also a lot of debate as to the best way to go about planning your financial future. There’s multiple ways of doing it, it really depends on the person and what’s important to them.

For the next couple of months, I’m going to be focusing on a number of topics that I’ve been thinking about lately. This ranges from buying a house, investing in the stock market, types of investing, budgeting, debt payoff, savings, and many other things. While a lot of it may be common knowledge, I want to at least get some of my ideas. Considering my next couple of months will likely not include any large purchases, it’ll be my main focus point.

Thanks for reading!

The Keezer Build: Pt. 1

It took me long enough, but it’s high time I wrote up my keezer build. I seemed to to a lot of talking about it, but finally it’s time to at least write up a general “how I did it”. I built my keezer in a similar fashion to the keezer that’s detailed on Homebrew Academy. It’s your best source of information if you’re looking for specifics on building a keezer.

It’s easy to drive yourself mental with the options you have when it comes to kegging your beer. I’ve discovered there’s no shortage to how much control you can have over your homebrewed beverages. For my keezer, I wanted to be able to do the following:

  • Serve three different types of beer
  • Carbonate a keg while serving with other kegs.
  • Keep the construction relatively simple.

After much debate in terms of whether I build a collar versus building a more elegant bar style keezer with the coffin box on top, I decided in the end to do a collar style build. This build is already a step past what I’m used to and considering I’m making a draft system for the first time, the collar style build is the easiest way to go.

Planning

One thing I find is that I try to plan things to the n’th degree. I like to know exactly what I’m getting into when I take on projects like these, since ones like these tend to come with a price tag. With a general idea for keg sizes and the dimensions of some freezers I had in mind, I made a 3D model in Google Sketchup to see what my collar build would look like in terms of dimensions.

Isometric View
Isometric view of Keezer
Overview of Keg placement
Better Idea of Spacing Between Kegs
Pipe System
View of PVC Network for Air Movement

This gave me a good sense of realistically how many kegs I was going to be able to fit in. I had tried to convince myself that possibly I could fit all four kegs on the bottom, but it was going to be really tight. Basically, I had to accept that I was likely only going to be able to fit three on the bottom and maybe a low profile or 2.5 gallon keg on the compressor hump.

Since I’m a neurotic engineer, I try to estimate my costs as accurately as possible, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from the wisdom of others would take on projects and document them on the web, it’s that no matter how hard you try, you’re always going to spend more than you think. Taking this into account, I made an initial bill of materials, then multiplied the total cost by 1.2. Not surprisingly, I spent more than this. That being said, the actual cost was relatively close to the 1.2 multiplier on the estimated cost. I was only over by about $50. Good lessons to remember for the future.

With a digital representation of the keezer, it was time to jump into the real build.

Getting the Materials

To build a keezer, you need the main ingredient: a freezer. You’ve got a number of options, there’s usually a good number of people looking to get rid of freezers on craigslist, however I have a $100 gift card to Lowes and they had the size of freezer I was looking for. In the end, I picked up a Idlyis 7.1 Cu-ft freezer for $109 after the gift card.

I had struggled to find exact dimensions of the insides of freezers online. One good way to easily determine how many kegs will fit in a freezer is take some cardboard and cut out circles the size of the keg diameter. Then, go to Lowes, or Home Depot, and put them in the bottom on the freezer. This quickly tells you how much space the kegs are going to take up in the freezer you’re looking to buy. The image below shows using the templates on the floor models at Lowes.

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Keg Cardboard Templates in Idylis 7.1 CU Freezer

 

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Loaded and Ready to Go

Considering now I had a freezer and two kegs, I was committed at this point. I took a trip down to the local homebrewing store Adventures in Homebrewing. It’s wonderful living so close to Adventures in Homebrewing, the team there is incredibly knowledgeable and helped direct me to everything I needed for the keezer build.

Below is a rough bill of materials. Since I bought some tools for the first time while doing this, my costs were a little bit out of whack, but below is a fairly good review of how much the Keezer cost.

Material/Component Cost
2 x 6 Lumber  $          5.83
Beer Line (15 ft, 3/16″ thick)  $           13.13
Beer Line Disconnect (x 3)  $           15.87
Beer Shanks (4-1/8″, SS)  $           79.47
Carbonating Beer Line  $           16.42
Castors  $           11.51
CO2 Tank (10 lb) – Reconditioned Tank and Fill  $           90.10
Computer Case Fan  $             5.17
Computer Scroll Fan  $             7.09
De-Humidifier  $           31.75
Double Body Regulator  $         105.99
Fasteners  $           11.26
Faucets (Perlick, 630SS)  $         114.48
Freezer  $         109.88
Gas Ball Locks (x3)  $           15.87
Gas Line (12 ft, 9/16″)  $           10.05
Gas Manifold  $           41.33
Hose Clamps  $           11.72
Insulation  $             5.81
Miscellaneous  $           17.30
Oak Trim  $           31.86
PVC  $           18.54
Shelving  $             5.24
Swivel Nuts (1/4″)  $           12.69
Tail Piece Assembly (x 3)  $           15.87
Taps Handles (x 3)  $           12.69
Temperature Controller  $           61.42
Wall Wart  $             5.30
Weatherstrip  $             3.47
Wire Connectors  $             2.52
Grand Total  $         889.61

The above doesn’t account for the fact that I needed some extra tools and materials as well. If you don’t do much woodworking, you’re probably going to need a good palm sander, along with a wood stain and a varnish. My total cost after materials ended up being about $100 more than what’s listed above.

There’s places you can save money, like finding a freezer on craigslist for less than $50 if you really look around, or by going with chrome material instead of stainless steel. The double body regulator is a big cost, if you don’t mind carbonating a keg then serving it separately, you can save about $45 going with a single regulator. Depending on what you want, you can probably do this a little bit cheaper. I wanted to be able to carbonate and serve at the same time, the double body regulator lets you split off two separate pressures, so I can have a high one for carbonating, and a low one for serving.

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My Trip to Adventures in Homebrewing

Building the Collar

The first steps involved getting the collar built. Removing the lid is a bit of a challenge because the hinges on the back are spring loaded, so I had to be careful when taking the screws out. Once they were out, I measured the top of the open freezer and cut the 2 x 6 lumber to create the base of the collar. I used basic screws to hold the collar together.

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Then, I reinstalled the lid onto the back of the collar, since I wasn’t going to be putting any oak trim on the back. If you really wanted to go basic, you could stop here with the collar, seal the insides, and drill faucet holes. However, the nice thing about the oak trim is that it creates a glove for the keezer that gives it a nice polished look when combined with the staining.

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Oak Trim Installed

Using brass nuts and screws, I fastened the oak trim to the 2 x 6s. The oak trim hangs about 2 inches below the bottom of the collar and lines up with the top of the 2 x 6 interface with the lid.

One of the issues I ran into is that I discovered after I attached the oak trim was the the front face had a crack that ran right though the center. This irritated me as oak trim is not exactly cheap. Oh well, first hangup. No biggie, back to home depot more oak.

There was a silver lining because I used the cracked piece as a template for mounting my beer shanks. I used the cracked piece to determine the size of spade bit I needed to use (I think it was 7/8″, though I forgot to take down the size I used!) & I got a chance to see what the taps would look like on the trim. I also used the cracked trim piece as a template when I made the mistake of using a spade bit for the beer shanks that was a little bit too small. As I said, the cracked piece ended up working out pretty well 🙂

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Silver Linings Cracked Trim
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Test Fitting the Faucets

Once I got a new piece of oak trim, I drilled the holes and attached the taps to test the fit. So far pretty good!

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Test Fit of Faucets.

Staining the Collar

The whole reason I got the oak is that I wanted the outside to be stained. I like the stained look of oak, so I ended up getting a cherry red stain and glossy urethane finish. This took about a week to do, since I did 3 coats of stain and 4 coats of urethane.

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Staining the Collar
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Urethane Coat Drying

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I like the red color, and I didn’t want to go too dark with the stain as I wasn’t planning on doing anything to the fridge. I had originally thought of painting it black, but it’s something I can do in the future if I really want to.

Air Movement

While the collar was being stained, I built the network of PVC tubes that would move the air. In retrospect, doing the PVC tubes is overkill, but I wanted to go the extra mile. If I really want to I can always remove it later.

I wasn’t able to find the exact PVC tube sections I had in my sketchup model. So I improvised and made the PVC network a little more curved with a few extra 90 degree elbows and a four way connection.

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Cutting the PVC

In the end, I think it turned out alright. The PVC size I use was 1-1/2″, but the truth is you can use any size you want, you just have to make sure to account for the keg height change with respect to putting the PVC in the bottom. So if you use 2″ PVC tube, the top of the keg will be 2″ closer to the top (plus a little bit if you put something over the PVC). If you’re collar height was based on the keg sitting on the floor, the lid might not close!

Once the PVC sections were cut and fitted together, I tested out how the fan would sit on top of the reducer section right at the top of the PVC network.

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PVC Network All Assembled

For the wiring the sits on top of the pipe network, I found some cheap wire shelving at home depot. I used a dremel to cut out the sections of the shelving to fit above the pipe network. It was a cheap solution, but it worked great!

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Shelving Sections Cut to Shape
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The Shelving Fits Perfectly!

One thing I noticed (which I’ll discuss in part 2) is that the fan hardly moved any air at all. For the time being, it worked as a good surrogate part to place everything so it fit.

For Part 2

In the next post, I’ll go through some of the smaller details as I finish up the build, such as insulating, routing hoses, and sealing, along with plans for the future. I’ve got two beers finishing up fermentation, so I hope to be enjoying some nice draft out of the keezer soon!

More to come soon!

Online Dating: My Experience

Online Dating

So another not so secret aspect of my life is my dating life. You’d think it was secret, because to be honest, it’s been pretty much non-existent for the last couple of years.

I’ve put in some work to try and correct this, but I haven’t put in the necessary work. It’s like doing anything in life, if you want to be good at something, you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t and learn from your mistakes. Not to paraphrase the most generic and irritating statement in corporate America, but you have to work smarter, not harder. While I completely agree that this is the most ineffective statement you can hear from your boss at a 9-5 job, there’s a little bit of truth to this statement. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a bit counterproductive. If you need comic relief from the 9-5 grind, look here.

When it comes to my dating life, it’s been challenging just getting a foot in the door. Back in 2013 I worked in Northern Alberta doing shift work for a construction company. My shift was 10 days on, 4 days off. This meant that I only got 8 days of every month where I was back in civilization.

Long story short, I tried online dating. I tried the free ones, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. Delving into online dating is not the easiest thing, I felt incredibly self conscious. I’m effectively trying to sell myself as a potential match for someone over cyberspace. It’s a marketing exercise for romance.

In short, doing the free online dating options churned out very little in terms of actually meeting people. I found the time invested in it didn’t produce the results I was hoping for.

Then my circumstances changed. Lo and behold, I find myself engulfed in civilization 24/7! I’m in a steady job working a 9-5 schedule, new city, a chance to try again. Perfect! Now things will turn around…right?

6 months later, I found myself in more or less the same place. Nothing was happening in terms of dating. So what are my options?

Lets try online dating again! It didn’t work before, but lets try something different. Perhaps there’s too many people who aren’t serious about dating using the free service, maybe a paid service will invite people more intent on finding a relationship.

After researching all possible non-free options to the n-th degree, I decided to give match.com a try. After all, it had a large online presence, it has a layout that allows you to sell yourself effectively and the price wasn’t outrageous compared to the other paid online dating services.

Well, after culminating a lovely profile that detailed myself, my interests, what I was looking for, and some attempts at nice looking photos, I was set. It’s me and my insecurities, but I can’t stand taking photos. I’m never happy with the expression on my face or the pose I’m taking, or some factor of the photo.

Anyways, back on topic. Before I go much further, I’m realistic about what online dating results are usually like. Finding romance online is by no means guaranteed. You don’t just put up a profile and expect the messages to come pouring in from the women. Nor do you expect every woman you message to send you a message back. The inherent nature on online dating turns into a numbers game.

Being an engineer, I naturally want to quantify everything. What’s my returned message ratio? What’s my date percentage of women who messaged me back? What’s my time invested versus date output? How many views do I get based on my photo set? I had actually thought of doing an analytics project that tracked everything, my profile pictures, my message lengths, my compatibility scores, pretty much everything that could be quantified.

Don’t worry, I came to my senses. This is a ridiculous and time consuming way to approach this. The time investment in developing a system for doing this kind of analysis is probably better suited to a master’s student in computer science and data analytics.

dating_pools
Source: xkcd.com/314/

My Experience with Match.com

Once I got going and started sending messages, I found it took a lot of sent out messages before I got messages back. I found that the majority of the women I talked to, the response eventually petered out. This was usually to a difference in interests, or communication styles, or even just response times.

I found conversations petered out pretty quickly if all I got back what a short one sentence answer that barely answered the original questions I asked without an additional question to continue the conversation. I don’t need an essay or your life story in the second message I get back from you, but it certainly helps the conversation going if there can be at least questions coming from both sides.

There were the cases where I thought I had some good back and fourth messages with some women, and then out of the blue they just completely stopped responding.  Now I get it, I’m not the only person they’re talking to, I’m not going to be completely compatible with every single person I meet, nor am I going to connect with every person I have a conversation with. It just felt a little disheartening to feel like there was the possibility of meeting someone in person, only to get absolutely no response when I asked if they wanted to meet when you think it’s a positive direction in the communication. Also, I get it, it’s really hard for people just to say “no, I’m not interested.” As much as I would love people to be this direct, I know how hard this is. I’m not going to pretend I can do this myself.

The Results

Long story short, I tried a lot of different things and basically found that varying the parameters that were within my control on the system didn’t lead to drastically different results. After 6 months, I basically ended up messaging over 200 people, and met 2 people in person. The rate of return on time invested was not to my liking.

One date was actually not too bad, one was a dud, and there was the potential for a 3rd date, however I got a lovely text saying “I’m not ready for a relationship, I got pressured into joining match.com by my friends, but I’m more focused on other things.” This had been after three attempts to try and meet up. While I did appreciate the honesty, it left me disappointed and further cemented my thoughts towards online dating. There are many other possible reasons for this response. I leave you to use your imagination.

After 6 months, there was an option to renew my membership. My decision was a resounding no. I’ve just found online dating in general hasn’t worked for me and for now I’m not prepared to dump more financial resources into online dating.

My choices to not renew are NOT due to Match.com. The services, website layout, and communication systems provided by Match.com worked quite well in terms of functionality.

That being said, I did figure out a few things should I ever choose to throw more money into the system.

  • Short messages as intros are the most effective for getting a response. You don’t need to craft an insanely complicated message as an intro, but you do need to say more than just “Hey”.
  • Don’t waste time messaging back and fourth after 3-4 messages, try to meet in person. If you’re lucky enough to receive a response and you’ve gotten a dialogue going and things seem good, it’s only more time wasted on cyberspace to continue a long and draw out back and fourth conversation.
  • There’s no point in trying to convince yourself that you’d work with someone who has a different lifestyle than you. If you only work out twice a week, like dogs, and live off beer, spaghetti, and pulled pork, then a vegetarian who diets hardcore, works out religiously, and has a cat is not likely going to look at you and say “I really want to meet this person!” (I’m not saying my diet is this bad, I’m saying be honest about your lifestyle)

This is more directed towards women on Match.com, but I’m sorry, you need to vary your intro a bit. (Part of my rant, sorry, I have to go here.)

“I’m adventurous, I like exploring new places and getting out and about. I work really hard, I’m very career oriented and I love what I do! I’m looking for a man who enjoys going out, but also enjoys relaxing on a Friday night eating pizza and binging on Netflix. He has his life together, knows exactly his direction in life, and is funny.” (While not necessarily expressed, he’s also got a 6 pack, is over 6 feet tall, and is uber confident and charismatic.)

In short, online dating has not worked for me. Before I keep going, I recognize there’s a million things I can do differently to improve my experience. I could accept my insecurities about myself and stop caring what other people think. I can accept the fact that online dating is inherently a numbers game. I can accept that online dating is a marketing exercise, and much like marketing, the right resources and tools will generate better results. For example, I could have invested in the “profile makeover” that Match.com offers. I could have invested in the “top spot” options that Match.com offers to increase visibility. I could quit complaining about my woes and meet some people in the real world. The latter seems like the most feasible option.

All and all, this was my experience with online dating. Perhaps my perceptions will change depending on where I’m at with my life, but my current experiences with it have so far not been favorable.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Here’s a funny comic as a reward.

enhanced-11279-1397674447-1

I don’t normally do rant like posts, but I felt like getting this one out. I’ll be honest, if you’re reading this you could probably find a million things to pick apart with the logic I present.  I know lots of people have had a lot of success with online dating, leading to marriages and life long happiness, especially using the services I’ve named in this post. This is a personal review of my experience to date purely for entertainment purposes.

 

A Long Update

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but a lot has happened since then. This post is going to be a bit long, considering I have a lot of catching up to do. In short, there’s been a lot of updates in two weeks, so without further adieu, my last two weeks.

Red Bull Rallycross

Last weekend, Red Bull set up a rally cross track in the middle of Belle Isle State Park. Saturday and Sunday featured a number of rally cross drivers battling it out on a windy track that involved jumps, tight turns, and drifting around the fountain in the middle of the track.

Drifting Action
Drifting Action

DSC_0112

Catching Some Air
Catching Some Air
There Were a Few Crashes
There Were a Few Crashes

I can’t say I know too much about the sport, but it was interesting to see the rally cars and how they were built. They had VW Beatles, Ford Fiestas, and Subaru WRXs all stripped down and tuned up to create impressive light weight rally cars. The acceleration of such a small car was really impressive since they have an incredibly high power to weight ratio.

The weekend after, I took a trip back down to Belle Isle as it provides some beautiful views of the Detroit Skyline and Windsor. It’s also nice to be close to my home country, I feel somewhat patriotic when I remember I’m so close to home.

Bridge to Belle Isle
Bridge to Belle Isle
Belle Isle
Belle Isle
Detroit Skyline
Detroit Skyline
DSC_0105
James Scott Memorial Fountain
Detroit Riverwalk
Detroit Riverwalk
William G. Milliken Park Lighthouse
William G. Milliken Park Lighthouse
Downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit

The Riverwalk on the Detroit River front is full of lots of nice parks, benches, and a nice long walkway that’s terrific for walking, biking, or (in my case) longboarding. There’s a lot of places you can stop by and just enjoy the riverside. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back for a little bit and enjoy the views. I am certainly more in favor of stopping to smell the roses every now and then. It’s so easy to get distracted with so many things in life that sometimes it’s necessary to just take a step back and enjoy the moment.

Telegraph Cruise

The same weekend as Red Bull Rallycross, there was a classic car cruise on Telegraph Road that ran from Redford all the way to Taylor. I felt like a kid in a candy store as there was no shortage of beautiful classic cars. You didn’t have to go too far to find a line of cars parked and set up to show. There were Ford Mustangs, Mercury Cougars, Chevrolet Chevelles, Dodge Chargers and Challengers, A couple of Chevrolet Corvairs, Plymouth Dusters, Pontiac GTOs, Oldmobile 442s, and many more varieties. It would take me forever to list all of them.

Classic Cars Lined Up to Show
Classic Cars Lined Up to Show
Telegraph Dodge Jeep and Chrysler Dealership
Telegraph Dodge Jeep and Chrysler Dealership
More Cars at the Dealership
More Cars at the Dealership

Of course, there was no shortage of classic Chevrolet Corvettes, one of my favorites.

For a long time I’ve looked at buying a classic 1970s Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. (My colleagues at Ford might scorn me for such blasphemy. A Chevrolet Product?!?! What’s wrong with you?!?!) I could go on for a long time about my love of Corvettes, but that can be saved for later topics. There’s lots to write about. (I do have a love of Mustangs as well, but there’s a number of factors I won’t get into here that will likely prevent me from owning one any time soon, such as a cost of a 1968 Mustang Fastback. However, I digress.)

Corvette C1
Corvette C1
Corvette C1
Corvette C1 Ready to Race
Corvette C3 Convertible (1974 or 1975)
Corvette C3 Convertible (1974 or 1975)
Classic Corvettes Makes Me Happy
Classic Corvettes Makes Me Happy

There was the option of just sitting on the side of Telegraph Road and watching the classics drive by. There was no shortage of people staked out for the day, with lawn chairs, shades from the sun, and in some cases, bar-be-ques. Hey, you gotta eat, right?

Nice Mustang
Nice Mustang
The Rusted Crow Rat Rod
The Rusted Crow Rat Rod
Corvettes!
Corvettes!

This isn’t the only cruise that happens around the Motor City. Coming up on August 15, the Woodward Dream Cruise will be happening, where more than 40,000 classic cars and custom cars are on display for Detroit to see. If I thought this was a lot of classic cars, I’m about to be in for a big surprise. I’m praying for good weather!

I have an appreciation for classic cars. Whether it’s the old school design, the big engines and raw power, or the (relative) capability to work on your own car without needing a computer science degree, I like the flair and appeal of a classic car.

Will I ever own one? Who knows, time will tell. But I can tell you for sure, it’ll be all over the blog if I decide to get one!

Finally Got My Beaglebone Black!

Of course, returning to geekdom for a little bit, I finally bit the bullet and decided to purchase a Beaglebone Black (BBB). Ever since it came in the mail last week, I’ve been trying to navigate the basics, trying to figure out how it works.

Beaglebone Black, Power Supply, Case, WiFi Adapter, and the book "Exploring Beaglebone"
Beaglebone Black, Power Supply, Case, Micro SD Card, WiFi Adapter, and the book “Exploring Beaglebone”
Beaglebone Black Nicely Packaged with a USB Connector
Beaglebone Black Nicely Packaged with a USB Connector
Beaglebone Black
Beaglebone Black Up Close
Looks Like It Works!
Looks Like It Works!

As I’ve been planning out my time-lapse rig, I was trying to figure out which micro-controller I go with to interface with my DSLR and the time-lapse rig. There were two options I was debating, one of them called a Raspberry Pi, and the other one the BBB. They’re both low cost micro-controllers which have multiple input and output ports. These controllers allows you to interface with many different electrical components, sensors, and even electronic devices (I.E. my camera) at the same time. This kind of platform is really good for developing hobby electronics projects without needing to develop a complex electrical interface, as the input and output system is all in one controller. It’s like a small credit card size computer. A good description and comparison of both the raspberry pi and the BBB can be found here.

Ever since I’ve started playing with it, I’ve discovered that there’s going to be a lot of frustrating nights as I try to learn the Linux Operating System. The BBB comes preloaded with the Linux distribution Debian, but if you want to, you can flash the BBB (Erase the operating system) and put a different operating system on it. You can interface with the board using Windows and Mac, but this differs from the actual operating system on the board, which has to be Linux based (as far as I know). Maybe someone will correct me, I’m completely new to the BBB and have yet to figure out all the intricate details.

I’ve tried to figure out Linux before when I tried to make a home based server. I’ve used the operating system “Ubuntu” in the past and it worked ok, but I discovered there was issues working the users and file permissions, so I didn’t spend much time on it. To a seasoned Linux user, this may sound like bad reason to throw  in the towel so early, however I had lost interest early on when my job changed to shift work and I didn’t have time to learn it.

To start, I’m working my way through the BBB book I purchased called “Exploring Beaglebone” by Derek Molloy. The first chapters go over the basics of navigating the software of the micro-controller and of using a Linux operating systems.

Next Up

In the coming weeks, I’ll be detailing the home brewed beer that I’ve started. I’ve got myself a beer brewing kit and I’ll be brewing up a storm in the upcoming weeks as I try to develop my beer brewing skills.

Also, once I get a better grasp on my BBB, I’ll start looking at possible concepts for a time-lapse rig and my attempts and interfacing my DSLR to my BBB to create a time-lapse function. Hope you liked the post!

 

Welcome to My Broken Skateboard!

My first post on yet another attempt to start a blog!

The blog is meant to be a view into my lifestyle as I experience a new city, working in a new industry, and pursuing new and exciting challenges.

Enjoy following along as I describe my experiences in my numerous facets of life, whether it’s hearing me complain about being injured, discussing new projects I’ll take forever to start, or just general life observations.

Hope you enjoy the blog! I’ll put up more details as I start to get things sorted out.