8 Helpful Homebrew Components You Should Consider Buying

So you have your homebrew equipment kit and you’re ready to make some delicious beer. Or so you think. Though equipment kits come with everything necessary to get you through your first few brews, after becoming more familiar with the process, you may want to consider grabbing a few extra components that can help make the process even easier.

1. Improved Temperature Monitoring

Bi-Metal Thermometer

Maintaining proper temperatures throughout the brewing process is critical. If your wort gets too hot or is not hot enough the entire batch can be ruined, and unfortunately, you wouldn’t know it until it was too late.

We recommend getting a trust-worthy brewing thermometer, such as a Bi-Metal Thermometer. This thermometer is able to give you faster readings than your average mercury or silver-based device, which is particularly helpful during the brewing and cooling stages.
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18 Frequently Asked Questions About Kegerators

Here at Kegerator.com, we know everything there is to know about kegerators and draft beer dispensers. Because of this we tend to receive a lot of questions from people that are interested in buying or troubleshooting their kegerator. Here are the eighteen most frequently asked questions that we receive.

Kegerator
  1. What is a kegerator?
  2. What are the different types of kegerators?
  3. What are the different types of kegs?
  4. What parts are included with a kegerator?
  5. What size keg will fit in my kegerator?
  6. What kind of coupler do I need?
  7. What do I need to tap my keg?
  8. At what temperature should I store my keg?
  9. How long does a keg stay fresh?
  10. How many kegs can I tap on one CO2 tank?
  11. Can I use my kegerator outside?
  12. How long should I wait before using my kegerator?
  13. Is a kegerator freestanding or built-in?
  14. Can a freestanding kegerator be built in?
  15. Can I build my own kegerator?
  16. How do I troubleshoot my kegerator?
  17. How do I defrost my kegerator?
  18. How do I clean my kegerator?

If you have any other questions about kegerators, please leave them in the comments down below or give our customer service department a call at 1-866-950-8710.
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Kegerator Parts List & Definitions

Kegerator Parts Guide

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REVIEW: Mean Old Tom by Maine Beer Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Maine Beer Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American-Style Stout
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 40
Hops: US Magnum, Centennial
Malt: American 2-Row, Midnight Wheat, Roasted Barley, Caramel 40L, Chocolate, Flaked Oats
Appearance: Deep Mahogany, Smooth Tan Head
Aroma: Sweet Malt, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Molasses & Spiced Sweetness
Flavor: Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts
Availability: Rotating
Pairs With: BBQ & Smoked Meats, Gouda, Rich Chocolate Desserts

After a rather busy in-house week finishing up the American Brewers Guild brewing course I am back reviewing. I’ll be up here in Vermont for five weeks, which has made a whole new selection of beer suddenly available to review. Makes things fun and I get to try stuff I’d never get my hands on back home. So, with much excitement and some passing trepidation (where to start)… I dip my toes.

The Maine Beer Company started out small. I mean really small. David and Daniel Kleban started with just a one barrel system (a barrel is 31 gallons), and this was before the term “nanobrewery” was a common part of brewing language. They grew fast, pushed hard by an ever growing tailwind of outstanding small-batch recipes and word-of-mouth praise.

The Maine Beer Company label is what caught my eye first and probably part of the reason I picked it up. All their labels are classy, clean, and very understated when compared to the garish wash of color and artwork that confronts you when standing in front of your local beer selections. This one stands out because it is neither garish or colorful. It is simple.

Mean Old Tom has a cranky looking face drawn on a pristine white background and the name of the brewery and beer presented in simple font. The backside of the label gives a little note about how they came up with the name. That’s all there is to the label. Nothing else. And this simplicity makes their beers easy to recognize and find on the shelf.
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4 Essential Components of a Beer Brewing Ingredient Kit

Hops & Beer

Once you have your equipment and you’re ready to start brewing your own beer, you may be looking through the ingredient kits wondering, “What is this stuff?” With words like “extract”, “hop pellets” and “yeast” being thrown around, you may be feeling a little hesitant towards drinking a beer made from such things.

The truth is, all beer is made from 4 essential components, and these ingredients, or a variation of such, are what you can expect find in a typical beginner’s ingredient kit.

Main Ingredient 1: Malt Extract

Extract kits use either a dry or syrupy liquid malt extract as the base for the beer instead of grain. Both the dry and liquid malt extracts are developed from a process called malting. This process extracts sugars from the grains creating a concentrated extract. Liquid malt extract is often referred to as LME and likewise dry malt extract is often referred to as DME.

The major difference between the two is the amount of water left in the end product. Due to the difference in water content, dry and liquid malt extracts cannot be interchanged. If you’re using a recipe that calls for dry and you have malt, you can use this simple conversion to convert from one to the other: one pound of dry malt extract is equal to approximately 1.2 pounds of liquid malt extract.

Main Ingredient 2: Yeast

Yeast will be included in each of the extract recipe kits as well. Yeast is crucial to the brewing process as it converts the sugars into alcohol. The yeast may come in either a dry or liquid form. Since yeast is a living organism, it is arguably the most important ingredient in terms of care and attention. You must be sure to not allow the yeast to get too warm or too cold.

Main Ingredient 3: Hops

Hops

Each kit will also include the hops, which is one of the four main ingredients in beer. Hops contribute bitterness to the beer and balance the sweetness.

Bittering hops are used in the beginning of the boil process. Flavoring hops are also included and are added in the early stages of the boil. As the name suggests, these hops add flavors to your brew. Depending on the style, aroma hops may also be included. They are added later in the boil process and contribute an extra layer of aromas to the beer.

Main Ingredient 4: Water

This may seem obvious, but water is arguably the most important ingredient in your beer. It is best to use filtered water rather than just water from the tap. We go more in-depth about different types of water for brewing in this linked article.

Situational Needs: Priming Sugar, Grain Bag

Priming sugar is an ingredient that will always be included in extract kits, but isn’t always needed. Priming sugar is added to your batch prior to the bottling process. Adding the priming sugar ensures that the bottles will all be carbonated the same. The amount of carbonation can be controlled by the amount of sugar used.

Careful, though, too much priming sugar can lead to a bottle full of foam or even bottle bursts. If you plan to keg your beer instead of bottling, then no priming sugar is necessary.

Beer Ingredients

A muslin bag may also be included in some specialty kits. This bag is used for holding the hops or special ingredients during the boil. The bag ensures the flavor is captured without the ingredients being completely submerged into the brew.

Special Extras: Specialty Grains and Powders

In addition to the malt extract, some kits may also include specialty grains, which can be actual crushed grains or milled grains. These grains allow you to add depth and complexity to the color and flavor of the beer that you won’t get from the extract alone.

A few examples include chocolate malt, biscuit malt, malted rye, etc. Some of the kits will also include additional special ingredients such as oak chips or oak powder, which add even more depth to your beer’s flavor profile.

We hope this provided a good overview as to what you can expect from your ingredient kit. Good luck and happy brewing!

More About Homebrewing:

The Importance of Cleaning Your Draft Beer Components

Cleaning your draft components is crucial. Failure to do so can lead to buildups of yeast, mold, and beer deposits in your lines and ultimately result in funky tasting beer. Although your first cleaning may seem tedious, it gets easier. As long as you know what to clean and what tools to use to clean it, equipment cleaning will become a quick and easy routine you hardly think twice about.

What Components Do I Need to Clean?

  • Faucet(s)
  • Keg Coupler(s)
  • Beer Line(s)

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From Smeg-to-Keg: How to Convert a Smeg Refrigerator into a Kegerator

Converting an old refrigerator into kegerator isn’t a new concept. But generally, when people undergo this DIY project, they choose an old and ugly fridge that has decommissioned for the dump. But, that’s not our style. And it may not be yours either. This is why we chose to convert a Smeg refrigerator into a kegerator… or as I like to call it, a “Smegerator”.

Before we get started, here’s a quick video reviewing the process. I also wrote out detailed, step-by-step instructions below.

This is how we did it.

Please note: These step-by-step instructions will loosely work with that old, ugly refrigerator you bought off of Craigslist or have sitting around in your garage.

But for this specific DIY project, however, we will be specifically referring to the Smeg refrigerator featured in this article.

The only difference that may pose a problem for you is the amount of insulation that your refrigerator has. And yes, that did cause a minor, and unexpected, headache for us.

Additionally, when you buy a refrigerator-to-kegerator conversion kit, similar instructions will be included.

Gathering Your Tools & Components

The first thing you need to do is buy a Smeg refrigerator, as well as collect all the components you need. You can go about this a couple of ways. Either order all of the pieces separately, or order our “Smegerator conversion kit.” I’d recommend the conversion kit, as everything you need is right there and you won’t have any surprises in store for you (like we did… but more on that later).
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How to Upgrade Your Blowoff System

The three-piece airlock features a very simple yet ingenious design. It was created as a one-way airflow system that allows CO2 to exit the fermentation vessel without allowing outside air to enter. It’s always done a more-than-satisfactory job at what it was designed to do but things have changed. You’re brewing more seriously now and the three-piece airlock is no longer suited for your needs.

Three Piece Airlock with a Floating Bubbler

Like many, you found this out the hard way. It all started when you realized the importance of yeast health and made the move to yeast starters. You did everything right, except what you weren’t prepared for was an extremely aggressive fermentation.

In fact, this was the most active fermentation you had ever witnessed. It wasn’t just CO2 gradually finding its way out of the fermenter. No, this was something different where the cradle within the airlock looked like it was about to explode.

Before you knew it kraeusen started to flow up into the airlock and because you didn’t want to risk contamination of your batch by removing the airlock you were left to sit back and watch it all unfold. The headspace within the fermenter simply did not provide enough room for the mass amount of kraeusen that was forming.

As the kraeusen worked its way out over the next day or so you noticed that it had not only completely filled the airlock but had also run out through the holes of the cap out onto the fermenter lid and even onto the floor. Then, you were left with a huge sticky mess that was rather difficult to clean up.

So, you reconsider your use of yeast starters altogether knowing that it may end up like this every time. Well, don’t do that because going back to life without a yeast starter is just plain silly. Instead, there’s a much better solution that happens to be very simple — changing your blowoff system.
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REVIEW: Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, OR
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 30
Hops: Cascade, Tettnang & Bravo
Malt: Carapils, Pale, Wheat, Chocolate & Crystal
Appearance: Pours Dark, Dark Brown with Glimmers of Red on the Edges
Aroma: Roasty Malt; Cocoa; Coffee; Chocolate; Hints of Pine
Flavor: Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Grilled/Smoked Meats; Robust Onion Soup; Coffee or Chocolate Cake

This is an interesting one. Not only is this an old beer, first brewed in 1988, but also this is Deschutes flagship beer, a position you will rarely find the porter style occupying. In 1988 Gary Fish opened Deschutes as a brewpub, the first in Bend, Oregon. He named his new business for both the county that Bend is in and the magnificent Deschutes River that flows through the town.

Deschutes, like any other brewery, has had its share of lows. In the winter of their first year they had to dump ten consecutive batches of beer due to bacteria contamination. They found the contamination was due to a flaw in their brewing design that had the grain mill directly above the mash tun, and airborne grain bacteria from the grain dust kept drifting down into the mash.

After they got this not-so-little hiccup remedied, people started to notice how good the beer coming out of this new little brewery was. They sold 310 barrels of beer in the first year.

Jump ahead three years and business was booming. Gary Fish likes to say they did so well, so fast because of their attention to detail, quality ingredients, and a sense of community that the brewery worked hard to foster from its very beginnings.
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A Beer Geek’s Guide to Beer Flights

Ever since my first introduction into the wonderful world of beer flights I’ve been hooked. In my opinion there is no better and easier way to cover a lot of tasting ground then through a beer flight or two.

At its core a beer flight is simply a sampling of several beers. This form of “taste presentation” is better known in winemaking, but is also used in the culinary industry, and is becoming prominent in craft brewing as well.

History

Reimagining an Origin

The history of beer flighting is obscured in the past and understandably vague. Wanting to sample a brewer’s fare probably became prominent along with the increased availability of different beer styles.

It’s easy to picture a discerning customer stepping into a brewpub, looking over what was available, and saying something like:   “My good man I have yet to taste of any of this finery you have listed. Be a good fellow and pour me a short draught of each that I might know which may be to my liking.”

Beer Flight Tasting

The proprietor, slightly dismayed, but savvy enough to see a new potential money maker, carefully pours four samples. “Today, my friend these are on the house. Tomorrow, it will cost… oh, as much as one ‘a me pints.”

He smiles broadly turns to the slate displaying prices and carefully chalks in a new service.

Though fictional, this account shows how easily beer flights could have come on scene, and likely did, again and again, in different places and different times. However, we can assume, safely I think, that the practice became commonplace sometime after the noun “flight” started to be used to describe it.

It’s all in a Word

It could have been called a bevy of beer, an army of ales, a leap of lagers, or a raft of brews (which would have been clever seeing as the tray a beer flight is commonly served on is called a paddle), but no, it became known as a beer “flight.” Why? A closer look at the word flight might give us some clues.

Flight, meaning a sampling of a certain food or drink, doesn’t seem to be in use before the late 1970’s. There are two distinct and separate “flight” nouns. The older of the two means “the act of flying through the air.” The newer noun which has a different origin than the first is defined as “the act of running away.” The likeliest source of the word’s use, in the context of “a sample of something,” stems from a definition of the first usage, stated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a group of similar beings or objects flying through the air together.”

It’s interesting to note that a connection could also be made, especially in the case of beer, to another definition of the same flight noun, that of, “a series, resembling a flight of stairs.” A beer flight is usually drank from lightest to darkest (we will explore this more in a moment). As you work your way “up” the color spectrum in a beer flight it isn’t hard to imagine each sample as a step, and the whole as a flight of stairs.

Beer Flights

Beer Flight Basics

The Glassware

The glasses used in beer flights can range in size from 2 ounces to 6 ounces. Personally I prefer the lower end of this range because it allows me to try more samples without worrying about getting “three sheets to the wind,” just because I wanted to try a couple beers.

The glasses themselves can be several different shapes. In my own experience beer flights are often served in an economical, single shape, such a mini-sized pint or stange. But, as beer flighting has become a more common practice the variation of glass shape has also increased. I’ve seen mini mugs, snifters, and pilsners out there. And though I’ve never seen a brewpub do it, it would truly make my day to see a beer flight served with each beer style matched to a mini version of its appropriate glass. That would be pretty cool.

The Paddle

How the samples get from the taps to you is also wide open to creativity. I’ve seen flights simply delivered on a tray and lined up on the table. I’ve seen several variations of the classic wooden paddle. At one place I was served my flight on a two inch tall round cut from a stump, with shallow holes drilled to accommodate the glasses. I’ve also seen metal wire stands where the glasses are held in wire circles either in a horizontal display or a vertical display (in this case the steps become real).

The Price

The price of a beer flight is going range a bit. It will depend on the number of samples and the price of the beer you decide to sample. In most cases though, a four beer flight of 6 oz. pours and a six beer flight of 3 oz. pours will both cost around 5 dollars. Thus, the beauty of the beer flight, taste 4 to 6 beers for close to the price of a single pint.

One Rule to Rule Them All (Almost)

The one rule usually adhered to when enjoying a beer flight is sampling the beers lightest to darkest. Generally the lightest beers have a gentler character, lower ABV, and lower hop bitterness, then the darker beers. If a dark beer is sampled before a light “quieter” beer, it is likely that much of its character will be lost behind the forward charisma of the dark one.

The only place this rule doesn’t really apply is when tasting multiples of the same style. If they happen to have a wide enough variance in ABV arrange them from lowest to highest, if not… well, use your best judgment. If there is little difference between color, ABV, or IBU’s, don’t worry…just diving in is allowed.

Beer Flight Set

Purpose: It’s all in the Flight Formation

Unfamiliar Territory

Beer flights are a great way to widen your beer knowledge or help a friend broaden a narrowly focused viewpoint. I am often disappointed when I go into a place that has great beer selection but doesn’t offer flights. If the only option I have is regular pints I usually stop around two, maybe three on the outside. On the other hand, if flights are an option, I can try anywhere from 3 to 6 (depending on glass size) times the number of beers I could otherwise.

How you make your beer selections, in this case, is completely your own. You may pick beers from the far flung ends of the spectrum. Here you are searching for styles you have not tried, be ready to for the strange and wonderful.

What Beer Am I?

This formation is all about a search for the siren singing your name. You walk into a bar not sure what beer you’re in the mood for. It’s time to hunt. Whatever strikes a chord in you- add it. This is palate music for your mood and there is no right or wrong.

Are you torn between the mellow smokey feeling of a good porter, the coffee and dark chocolate of a robust stout, the biting bitter of that IPA, or is it the crisp cleanness of a summer Lager that calls to you? Find out. Sip them all, listen to the whispers, and you’ll know which deserves the space of a full pint and more attention.

Shades of a Single Style

If you really want to educate yourself about the nuances of a beer style try this formation. First, pick your subject of study. Do you want to explore the differences between several breweries’ year-around IPA’s or are you looking for a real challenge… how about the oh-so-subtle variances between a group of light lagers. Whatever you choose it is guaranteed to be an astonishing education, one that will help you work through what you like and don’t like in a style.

Brewer’s Showcase: Horizontal Flight

Most breweries and brewpubs offer flights of the beers brewed on premise. This is a good way to learn what a local brewer offers, whether their brewing practices are up to your discerning standards, and which of their family of beers is worth a pint.

You can even explore a given Brewery on your own, either at home, or at a quality taproom. Pick a brewery you’d like to know better, select four to six of their beers and create a flight. This formation will give you inordinate insight into the different flavors the brewery offers, which beers you’d spring to buy a six pack of, and which are better left on the shelf.

A Rare Gem: Vertical Flight

This flight is unusual and hard to find outside of wine tasting. A vertical flight is sampling different vintages of the same beer. You need a special ship to go vertical, something dark, secretive; a beer with a higher “fuel” load and the needed complexity to age well. Porters and many Belgian beers come to mind here. It is a great way to experience how a beer ages and how it might change from on brewing year to the next.

Imagine being given the singular opportunity to try Alaska Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter (The most award-winning beer in Great American Beer Festival history) from its first brewing in 1988 up to the present. Now, that would be a flight worthy of a new name – hum, I wonder… maybe a Pride of Porters.

At any rate the very fact a brewery or brewpub is willing to do a vertical means it’s a beer of worthy note, and an experience you won’t soon forget.

Homeschooling your palate

Don’t think you need the hullabaloo of a bar or taphouse to fly a formation. A good way to entertain a few friends at home is by putting together an “in-house” flight plan. Here you can share notes and ideas about different beers, take as much time as you like enjoying the flavors, and actually talk without having to yell. Most of the above flights can easily be put together at home; horizontal flights, shades of a single style, or a set of completely random, but new beers.

The fantastic thing about doing this at home is the amount of control you have. You can do a little research, learn more about the beers you select, and broaden your selection criteria.

You could choose a set of beers with the same general base malt, but fermented with different yeasts, or a set of single hop IPA’s that each use a different hop variety. This flight is only limited by what you want to explore.

Homebrewers Best

This one is much the same as “homeschooling you palate.” The difference? It’s your beer! That’s right, if you happen to brew your own beer, flighting offers a great way to present your beer and impress your friends.

It’s also the best way to learn from brewing experimentation. Being able to taste a brew over several recipe changes can help you understand how each addition or subtraction is affecting the flavor profile in the finished product.


The Business Side of Flighting

From a business prospective, beer flights are definitely an added draw for customers. I’ve been to more brewpubs, bars, and restaurants that don’t offer this service then do, and in most cases the ones that didn’t, did not get as much of my business as they might have. Most taphouses are more than willing to pour you free samples until you find a beer you want to pay for. This is great, but the establishment is missing out on an opportunity and the customer is missing out on an experience.

From the glassware used, to the “paddle,” to tasting notes, insider information about the beers, even suggested food pairings; a creative and well-presented beer flight can produce a very unique experience. No place can justly ask a customer to pay for one or two tap samples, but present them as something singular and it becomes a service the customer is happy to buy.

So, go out and log some beer flight miles. You’ll get the chance to broaden your palate, learn the nuances of a single style, and entertain friends. As for me, well I’ll keep searching for my ultimate beer flight experience, that grail where styles are matched to their appropriate mini-glass.

Maybe one day….

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