Saturday, October 5, 2019

Acerglyn 1.0

I've never encountered an acerglyn at local bars, beer stores, or anywhere else.  After reading about this style of mead, I decided I would like to try making some.  I looked at a few recipes and built my own based on them.

Ingredients

7 ounces of Grade B Dark Maple Syrup
2 pounds of Wildflower Honey
1 packet of Lalvin 1116 yeast
1/2 tsp. Fermaid K
Enough bottled spring water to reach 1.75 gallons of volume

Original Gravity: 1.082 SG actual
Final Gravity: 0.995 SG estimated
ABV: 12% estimated

Combined some water, the honey, the maple syrup, and Fermaid into a 2-gallon fermenter. Using a drill and a wine degasser, combined the ingredients and aerated the wort. Dropped in a sanitized Tilt Hydrometer which read the gravity at 1.082 SG.  Pitched the yeast, sealed the fermenter, and added a sanitized airlock. Placed the fermenter in the coolest corner of the basement.

Notes and Observations

10/05/2019:  The must went together easily enough and there were no real issues.  It will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

10/06/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.076 SG today, with the temperature at 71F.  That's 6% apparent attenuation and 0.7% ABV in around 24 hours.

10/07/2019:  Gravity is 1.065 today.  Temperature is 70F.  That's 20.7% attenuation and 2.5% ABV.

10/08/2019:  Gravity is 1.060 today, temperature 68F, 26.8% attenuation, and 3.22% ABV.   I'll probably dose the must with some nutrients today to help the yeast along, as it seems to be moving a bit slowly - slower than the Cyser I created a few minutes before it.

10/09/2019:  Gravity is 1.054 today, temperature 68F, 34.2% attenuation, and 4.1% ABV.

10/13/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.021 today, temperature 67F, 74.4% attenuation, and 8.6% ABV.

10/14/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.013 today, temperature 68F, 84,2% attenuation, and 9.7% ABV.


Cyser 1.0

With the Brewie+ down for the count again, this weekend I decided to do a couple of mead-based beverages.  First up is a Cyser, which is a combination of apple cider and mead.

Ingredients
64 ounces Honeycrisp Apple Juice
64 ounces of a generic Organic Apple Juice
4 ounces Orange Blossom honey
2 pounds Wildflower honey (plus enough to reach 1.089 gravity)
1 packet Lalvin K1V 1116 yeast
1/2 tsp. Fermaid K
1/4 tsp. DAP
Enough spring water to reach 1.75 gallons after addition of the above

Original Gravity: 1.089 SG
Batch Volume: 1.75 gallons
Final Gravity: 0.995 SG estimated
ABV: 12% estimated

Mixed apple juice, honey, and nutrients in a 2 gallon bucket fermenter until well blended using a drill and wine degasser. Dropped in a Tilt Hydrometer to measure gravity and track throughout fermentation.  Gravity registered 1.089 SG and temperature registered 70F.  Sprinkled on the yeast, sealed the fermenter, inserted an airlock, and placed the fermenter in the coolest section of the basement.

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

10/05/2019:  No issues getting the ingredients blended.

10/06/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.084 SG today, with the temperature at 71F.  That's 5.6% apparent attenuation and 0.7% ABV in around 24 hours.

10/07/2019:  Gravity is 1.036 SG, temperature is 73F, 59.6% attenuation, and 7.6% ABV.

10/08/2019:  Gravity is 1.021 SG, temperature 69F, 76.4% attenuation, and 9.7% ABV.

10/09/2019:  Gravity is 1.009 SG, temperature 68F, 89.9% attenuation, and 11.1% ABV.

10/13/2019:  Gravity is 1.001 SG, temperature 64F, near 100% attenuation, and 12.3% ABV.  Gravity has held at this level for a couple of days, so fermentation may be finished.

10/14/2019:  Gravity is 1.000 SG, temperature 66F, 100% attenuation, and 12.4% ABV.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Making Alton Brown's Immersion Cooker Fennel Cardamon Cordial

Alton Brown's "Good Eats" series is my favorite cooking show.  I love the way he explains the "why" and "how" of a recipe in detail, which helps you understand (if things don't go right) where you may have gone wrong.  In his episode on immersion cooking (also known as sous vide), he shows you how to make a cordial in an hour using an immersion cooker.

It took me a while to locate all the ingredients here in Columbus.  I ended up getting the fennel and vodka at Giant Eagle. The cardamom seeds, pods, and anise stars came from Amazon.  The Fennel fronds and bulb came from Trader Joe's at Easton.

Ingredients

32 ounces of 80-proof vodka
2 cups of fennel fronds
10 green cardamom pods
3 ounces granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
1 whole star anise

Begin by loading your sous vide vessel with hot water and set your immersion cooker to 140F.

While the cooker is getting up to that temperature, measure out the spices and fennel fronds.  Actual fronds weren't readily available where I looked, so I thinly sliced the fennel bulb to make up the difference in volume.

All the spices, sugar, and vodka go into a one-gallon zip-top bag.  Remove as much air as you can so that it will not float in the water bath.  Put the bag in the sous vide bath and leave it for one hour (or up to 90 minutes according to Alton Brown).

Take the bag out of the bath, submerge it in ice water to chill to room temperature.

Carefully pour the liquid through a strainer lined with a paper coffee filter.  Discard the solids and chill the liquid before serving.

The finished cordial, chilling in the refrigerator

Post-Preparation Notes and Observations

The cordial is mildly sweet, not as syrupy as other cordials I've tasted. There is a nice mix of citrusy flavors from the cardamom and anise flavors from the anise star, fennel, and fennel bulb/fronds.  Your taste may vary from mine, but I found it pleasant and easily sippable.  I'd liken it to a milder version of Drambuie, with a much lighter anise note than that beverage, and a brighter flavor due to the coriander. It's not something I would drink by the glassful, which at 80 proof (40% ABV) is probably for the best, but it's an enjoyable little drink.  Alton Brown says it can be stored for months, and although the color will lighten, the flavor and aroma will not.  I suspect I will be sipping on this for a while.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Pilsner Mandarina SMASH 1.0

I've come to the conclusion that the best way to bring my recipe creation skills up a level is to focus a bit on the flavor contribution of various malts. There is a lot out there on the subject already, but most experts will tell you that each of us has a slightly different sense of taste and smell. What may seem dry and lemony to me could seem very different to you.  The best way to know what the different base malts contribute to a recipe is to build a single-malt and single-hop (SMASH) beer.  To fairly compare the malts to one another, you will want to use the same water profile, mash and sparge steps, same hops, same yeast, etc.  Your only change should be the base malt.

I have a fair amount of a number of base malts in stock, along with a decent quantity of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets, and some Coopers dry ale yeast.  With the Brewie+ functional again, I should be able to create a number of SMASH beers which are nearly identical apart from their base malts.  At least this is the current plan.

Once I have samples of all these smash beers, I can use them to start constructing the malt bill for my (hopefully) ideal Belgian Tripel and Dubbel from the ground up.

Recipe

5 pounds Briess Pilsner Malt*
1 ounce Acid Malt (to adjust mash pH)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
0.5 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops 9.2% AA (15 min.)
0.7 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops 9.2% AA (5 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
9.8 liters (9800 grams) of mash water
5.9 liters (5900 grams) of sparge water

Note: In future recipes, the Pilsner malt would be switched with another base malt, such as Pale Ale, Vienna, or Munich.  If I have enough on hand, perhaps even more than one brand of each base malt.

The style is roughly between a Pale Ale and a New England IPA. I'm using only late boil additions to give the flavor and aroma of the hops without the intense bitterness.

Characteristics:
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons estimated, 2.75 actual
  • Original Gravity: 1.046 SG estimated, 1.042 SG actual
  • Pre-Sparge Gravity:  15.1 Brix, 1.058 SG (actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.036 SG estimated, 1.042 SG actual
  • Pre-Boil Volume:  not measured
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG estimated
  • IBUs: 32.7
  • SRM: 5.7
  • ABV: 4.6%
Mash Process:
  • Mash in for 15 minutes at 120F
  • Mash at 148F for 15 minutes
  • Mash at 158F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 162F for 10 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge at 168F for 15 minutes
The reason I'm doing a step mash here is to give the base malt a chance to express itself fully in the finished beer.  We should end up with something medium-bodied that has a mix of the sugars present in the malt.  The 120F rest is to break up the proteins that would cause haze later on.

Boil Schedule:
  • 60 minutes: No hop additions
  • 15 minutes: 0.5 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 5 minutes: 0.7 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 0 minutes:  Chill down to 80F, then continue cooling to ambient temp of 69-70F before pitching the yeast.
Fermentation Plan:

Since the goal here is to produce the beer quickly and easily to allow comparison with other batches using other base malts, I'm not going to do anything too elaborate here. The Coopers Ale Yeast ferments in the 68-75F range, so my goal will be to pitch the yeast when the wort is down to 70F and use my temperature control system to keep it there.  That should minimize any flavor or aroma contribution from the yeast.

As soon as fermentation is complete, I'll bottle the beer using a medium level of carbonation (either 4 small carbonation drops or 1 big Coopers carbonation drop) and allow it to condition for two weeks or more before taste-testing.  In the meantime, I'll likely brew other SMASH beers using the above approach to enable side by side comparison.

Post-Brewing Observations and Notes

09/29/2019:  I changed the gap setting on my mill today to something closer to 0.035 from a much larger setting, to see how this impacts efficiency.  I'll leave it at that setting for the next few SMASH brews to ensure a valid comparison.  

For this batch, I measured the mash and sparge water amounts by hand using an accurate scale to ensure that they were correct.  As I have probably mentioned before, I've not found the Brewie+ to be particularly accurate at loading water, even immediately after calibration.  When I do the measurement, the volume of beer is nearly always what I expect.

I had about a half-inch of water over the grain bed, which is what I wanted.  I checked the pH level early in the mash and it was higher than I wanted, so I added an ounce of Acid Malt and some pH 5.2 stabilizer. This brought the pH down into the 5.5-5.6 range.

Since ground water this year is around 74F, the best I can realistically expect the Brewie's plate chiller to manage is about 80F, so that's how I configured the setting in the recipe.  The Brewie will chill the beer down to 80F and stop. I'll leave it out at the 69-70F ambient basement temperature to cool down before pitching the yeast.  Then I'll pitch the yeast and set the temperature control system to hold the beer at 70F through primary fermentation.

The Brewie worked fine through the mash and sparge.  As it did back in July, the heating element on the boil side stopped working as it began heating wort to a boil.  Luckily I was present when this happened. I was able to quickly clean and rinse a kettle and transfer the wort into it.  However, that kettle proved too small, so I had to quickly clean and rinse a larger kettle and transfer the wort into that.  I placed the kettle full of wort onto my old induction cooktop and let it start boiling the wort.  While that was going on, I did what I could to clean out the Brewie+.  However, it kept shutting itself off, which the manufacturer suggests implies a short somewhere in the system.  Most likely it's either burnt the wires attached to the boil heater again or the heating element has gone bad (or both).  I won't know until we take the thing apart again.

Thankfully I could transfer the boiling wort back into the Brewie+ and use its Developer Mode to activate the correct pump and valves to chill the wort down to 75F before pumping it into the fermenter.

The wort ended up being about 2.75 gallons in the fermenter, at a gravity of 1.042 SG instead of the expected 1.046 SG and 2.5 gallons.  Given the hassle involved in finishing the batch, I am pleased that it came that close to the calculated values.

Beer in the fermenter prior to yeast pitch

09/30/2019: 
I had forgotten that the last couple of times I used this yeast, that it's an incredibly quick and vigorous fermenter.  It pushed its way out the airlock down the sides of the fermenter, into a dinner plate sized puddle on the floor, and a trickle several feet away.  Needless to say, a bit of mopping was needed.  Gravity is down to 1.007 SG already. I chose not to use temperature control this time, which was another mistake.  The temperature has averaged 75F since yeast pitch, ranging between 72F and 78F during fermentation.  I doubt it's going to be a great beer, but on the other hand, this was just an experimental beer... so maybe it doesn't matter.

10/03/2019:  Gravity 1.005 SG, and has held at this level since about 4am on 10/1/2019.  The beer is extremely cloudy at this stage and will probably need a dose of gelatin to brighten up, but we will see.

10/04/2019:  Gravity is holding at 1.005 SG.

10/05/2019:  Gravity has held for a few days now, so today I bloomed a half-teaspoon of gelatin in water, heated to 152F, then dropped into the beer. The beer was then moved to my mini-fridge to chill.  I'll check on it in a couple of days.  Right now, it's very cloudy.

10/06/2019:  Gravity is now reading 1.004 SG, and the temperature is down to 43F.  I plan to leave the beer alone for at least two more days before checking clarity.

10/08/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.003 SG and temperature 38F.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Santa's Reward Ale 1.0

Some time ago, I picked up a recipe for a Christmas ale called Bad Santa.  Thinking I had all the ingredients on hand, I decided to brew it, only to find that I did not have at least one of them - Munich Malt.  Since I'd already crushed some of the grains and mostly wanted to brew this to confirm that the Brewie+ is once again functional after recent repairs, I made some substitutions.  Given that I was no longer following the original recipe, I decided to rename it so as not to dishonor the original recipe's creator if this batch doesn't turn out.

Ingredients

6 pounds Swaen Pilsner Malt
2 pounds Briess Pale Ale Malt
10 ounces Honey Malt
7 ounces Vienna Malt
1 ounce Aromatic Malt
4 ounces Crystal/Caramel 10L Malt
4 ounces Caramunich I Malt
0.3 ounces English Black Malt
7 ounces Maple Syrup (post-boil, pre-chill addition)
1 ounce German Northern Brewer hops @ 4.8% AA (60 min.)
1 packet Safale S-04 English Ale yeast
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash water)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (15 min.)
1/4 Whirlfloc tablet (15 min.)
6 ounces Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate (whirlpool)
1 tsp. Vanilla bean paste (whirlpool)
13.88 liters mash water
5.00 liters sparge water

The original recipe called for light malt extract, which I replaced here with Pale Ale malt.  It also called for Munich malt, which I discovered I was out of.  I replaced that with the closest thing I had on hand, Vienna (with an ounce of Aromatic malt for fun).  I also did not have the dried cherries I thought I had, so I substituted the 12 ounces of dried cherries with 6 ounces of Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate.  I'm hoping that will provide a good cherry flavor with some tartness to balance the malty sweetness a little.  We'll see in a few weeks...

Estimated characteristics:
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons estimated (3.0 actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.085 SG estimated (1.077 SG actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.070 SG estimated (1.055 SG actual, before the addition of Cherry Concentrate and Maple Syrup)
  • Final Gravity: 1.020 SG estimated
  • IBUs: 30 estimated
  • SRM: 13.5
  • ABV: 9.2% estimated
  • BU/GU:  0.353
Mash Schedule:
  • 10 minute mash in at 104F
  • 45 minutes at 152F
  • 15 minutes at 158F
  • 10 minute mash out at 167F
  • 20 minute sparge at 168F
Boil Schedule:
  • 75 minutes:  No additions
  • 60 minutes:  1 ounce Northern Brewer hops pellets
  • 20 minutes:  1/4 tsp. Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes:  1/4 Whirlfloc tablet, 1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
  • 0 minutes:  Tart Cherry Juice concentrate, vanilla bean paste
Fermentation Schedule:
  • Ferment at 70F until final gravity is reached
  • Transfer to secondary, add 1.5 cinnamon sticks and if needed, more cherry juice concentrate and vanilla bean paste.  14-21 days in secondary.
Bottle with 1 Coopers carbonation drop per bottle and condition at least 4 weeks.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

09/22/2019:  I crushed the grain and loaded it into the machine. I then loaded the hops, Brewtan B, and yeast nutrient into the Brewie+.  I entered recipe details and then weighed out 13880 ml (13.88 liters) of water and loaded it.  I waited for the Brewie to heat that to 104F and pump it into the mash compartment, whereupon it asked for 5 liters to be added for sparging to the boil compartment.  I weighed out the 5 liters.  Replacement of the wires and valve in the Brewie allowed me to complete a full clean and a test recipe yesterday, so I'm optimistic that today's brew will complete successfully also (but there's never a guarantee, is there?).


Update 7:30pm:  The brew finished a while ago. I ended up with 3 gallons in the fermenter, which did not surprise me because I'd added a half-liter more water in the sparge step than I planned, because I was concerned about a Brewie message indicating that I needed at least 5 liters of sparge water.  I set up the temperature control apparatus and had it begin cooling the wort down from the original 76F to the intended 70F and attached a blow-off tube since the fermenter was pretty full.  As I write this, the Brewie+ completed a quick clean cycle and is now working on a full clean using some PBW to help more fully clean it out as I don't expect to use it again for a few days.

09/23/2019:  The gravity started dropping around 1:30am and by 10:30pm had dropped from 1.077 SG down to about 1.043 SG. That's roughly 44% attenuation and 4.7% ABV in about 28 hours.  The temperature has averaged 70.5F since yeast pitch.

09/24/2019:  Gravity has dropped to 1.011 SG, which is quite a bit lower than anticipated.  It represents about 86.4% attenuation and an ABV of 9.8%.

09/25/2019:  Transferred the beer to a clean and sanitized fermenter.  Prior to transfer, gravity was reading 1.009 SG - which represents attenuation of 82.7% and an ABV of 10.2%.  After the transfer, the Tilt Hydrometer was cleaned and re-sanitized.  Pure vanilla and two Ceylon cinnamon sticks were also added.  At that point, gravity read 1.014 SG, temperature read 69F.  The beer is still cloudy at this point, but there are still signs of slow fermentation.  I may treat it with gelatin later to clear it up.  The aroma was impressive, though.

09/26/2019:  Gravity is now reading at 1.018 SG, which is up from its low point of 1.009 SG. My assumption is that the yeast residue stuck to the Tilt Hydrometer affected its reading.  I can't see the addition of vanilla paste and cinnamon sticks adding 9 points of gravity.  Interestingly, the estimated final gravity was 1.020 SG. If it's reading 1.018 SG now, that's close enough to the estimate to be realistic and probably accurate.

09/27/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.016 tonight, down from the 1.018 SG last night. Temperature has been holding at 69F.

09/28/2019:  Gravity is 1.015 today.  Temperature has been holding at 70F.

09/29/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.014 today, which represents 82.4% attenuation and an ABV of 9.2%

10/03/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.013 SG, and has been there since about 8am on 10/1/2019.  The cinnamon sticks and vanilla have now had about 8 days in the beer.  The original recipe recommended 14-21 days of contact time, so I'll possibly bottle it around 10/13/2019.

10/04/2019:  A taste of the beer revealed no cinnamon flavor and minimal if any cherry.  I added the rest of my container of tart cherry juice concentrate and two more cinnamon sticks.  If this doesn't help, I may seal some ground cinnamon in a "make your own" tea bag and add that to the fermenter along with more cherry juice.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Brewie+ Repair Update (fixed on 9/21/2019, failed again 9/29/2019)

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my Brewie+ quit working properly on July 12.  I reached out to the manufacturer and was told that new wiring would be shipped to me for installation.  Unfortunately, it's now two months later and there is no wiring. There are also rumors online of the manufacturer going out of business, supported by the fact that their web site seems to go online and offline randomly and (last time I tried) I could not submit trouble tickets or send an email inquiring about the status of my repair part order.

Fearing the worst, I ordered some high-temperature wire, high temperature connectors, high-temperature silicone tape, and thermal switches of the kind used in the Brewie and Brewie+.  Earlier today, a friend and I created replacement wiring for the Brewie+ heating element and thermal switch.  We also removed the failed thermal switch and replaced it with a new one.

After reassembling the Brewie+, it booted up fine and looked to be working. Since it was long overdue for a cleaning, I started a cleaning routine.  After almost overloading the boil kettle, the Brewie reported that it thought the water supply was turned off.  I drained the machine, opened it up, and found that we had connected the pressure sensor wire incorrectly.  After correcting that, I fired the Brewie up again and went into the developer mode.  I poured a bit of water into it and watched as it recorded the presence of water.  I turned the heating element on the boil side on and watched as the temperature began increasing.  It seemed to be fixed.

The Brewie+ internals, with the fried wiring replaced
Realizing that we might have thrown off the pressure sensor calibration, I ran the calibration process to ensure that it seemed to be accurate.  When it was over, I went into the Developer Mode and added two liters of water (by weight).  The display claimed that only 1.2 liters were added.  This didn't surprise me, because I've had issues with it loading too much water since the last firmware update.

With a cleaning cycle long overdue, I started a full clean program.  The Brewie began loading water.  And loading water.  And loading water.  As it seemed about to overflow, so I cut off the water and bailed a bunch out.  I let the cycle continue, but stayed there to watch it.  It took the machine a while to heat up all the water it had loaded, but it managed to do so.

An unexpectedly large amount of water, clearly something amiss
When it appeared that the Brewie was about to start cleaning the mash compartment, I went downstairs to check on it.  Unfortunately, it had overflowed the mash compartment, onto the table, onto the shelf, and the floor.  A rather unpleasant mess to mop up.  I removed more water from the mash compartment and allowed the machine to finish cleaning itself.  When it was finished, I shut it down, wiped out the inside with clean towels, and unplugged it.

No doubt there is something still amiss in the Brewie+ since it's overloading water.  Still, this does show some progress.

Update 09/17/2019:  After running through a test procedure designed for the Brewie+, it became clear that the issue is a problem with the Outlet Valve. Most likely this is a result of the fact that I wasn't able to run a cleaning cycle when the unit failed in July.  I'll have to open it up once again and see if I can get the valve unstuck.  If I can't do that, I may have to replace it with a valve from one of the broken Brewie B20 machines I bought from eBay.

Update 09/21/2019:  After checking the electrical connection to the Outlet Valve, it became clear that the valve could close, but could not open afterward.  I removed it and replaced it with the Outlet Valve from a used original Brewie B20. That valve was not working either.  Removing yet-another valve from the donor B20 machine, I found one that was working.  I was able to complete a full clean cycle after replacing the valve with no overflows.  I was also able to successfully run a full test brew using the built-in Test Recipe, with the Brewie+ performing properly from the initial water load through the mash, boil, and wort chilling steps.  Tomorrow I'm hopefully going to brew my first batch since July 12 when the machine went offline.

Update 09/29/2019:  After running a couple of cleaning cycles and a successful brew on 9/22/2019, the Brewie's boil heater failed again today during the brew of a SMASH beer using Pilsner malt and Mandarina Bavaria hops.  I had to drain the wort out of the Brewie and boil it on an induction cooktop I have in the basement, which I used to use to heat sparge water for the Grainfather.  Using the cooktop I was able to save the batch of SMASH beer, but it's clear there is still something wrong with the Brewie+ device. I don't know if our repairs on 9/21 failed or if something new has gone wrong, such as a failure of the temperature cut-off switch or the heating element.  It will be a few weeks before I have the time to crack open the machine and figure this out.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Brewie and Brewie+ Internals

The last time I brewed with my Brewie+ was July 12, 2019.  The machine failed during that brew, leaving wort slowly cooling in the boil kettle.  I saved the batch by pumping it to another kettle and finishing it out there, but the Brewie itself was out of commission.  I contacted the manufacturer that evening for help. Two days later, I was told that parts were on the way to repair it.  It's now September 7, and those parts haven't arrived.

In the meantime, there are strong indications that the company making the Brewie has gone out of business.  I'm hopeful those are just rumors, but there are a number of facts that suggest otherwise. Although their web site is still active, their tech support system reports "Account suspended" if you try to post a case or ask a question.  Their support email address, if you email it, comes back as non-existent.  Right now, eBay is filled with a number of broken "customer return" systems that you can purchase inexpensive for parts. (These are the older "Brewie" model rather than the "Brewie+" but that doesn't seem like a good sign.)

I have a friend who enjoys repairing broken devices and appliances.  He wanted a crack at the Brewie+ in my basement, so last night we cracked it open and had a look.  If nothing else, when the repair parts arrive from the Brewie folks, we'd have a good idea how to install them.

Here's the bottom of the kettle, with the heating element removed:

Bottom of the boil kettle

And the heating element itself:

Close-up of the heating element connections

Evidence of burning at the heating element

So you can see that during one of the previous brew sessions, issues with the wiring attached to the heating element and the thermal cut-out switch caused the wiring to burn out at the connector end.  This happened badly enough on the side with the thermal cut-out switch that the terminal broke right off that switch.  I'm probably fortunate that there wasn't a serious fire.

For those curious about what the inside of a Brewie+ looks like, I'm sharing some other photos, taken during parts of the disassembly.

The Brewie+ partially disassembled, to allow access to the heating element

Close-up view of the plumbing - dirty because I couldn't run a cleaning cycle in it after it failed




Close-up of connections that had to be unhooked to get to the heating element

Close-up of the wiring on the boil side of the Brewie+

I bought one of the original Brewie units for sale on eBay.  It turned out to have suffered a serious drop and showed a lot of mangled metal.  The mash compartment was misshapen, the base plate was damaged, the lids no longer lined up, etc.  It also failed its power-on self-test, possibly due to a power supply issue.  Here are a few photos of that broken one:

The customer-returned broken Brewie (original)

Inside the bottom plate of the original Brewie

Power and control boards inside the original Brewie

At left, what I think is a pump with the lid broken, off, on the mash side

Close-up view of the internals on the boil side, note the plate chiller at bottom

Close up of the broken pump(?)

Two lights indicate a successful self-test, I presume one indicates only a partial success
My friend and I are still in the midst of trying to get the Brewie+ to work again.  At this point, we are waiting on the arrival of some replacement thermal cut-out switches I ordered from eBay to arrive.

The Brewie and Brewie+ share a number of internal components, which makes the older machine a good donor parts system for the new one.  I may buy another broken one on eBay and see if we can't get it working with parts from this one.