Welding and Brewing

About a year ago I bought a second hand com­mer­cial TIG welder in an attempt to learn how to weld. Start­ing at the bot­tom of the learn­ing curve with weld­ing means join­ing com­par­at­ively thicker steel. Hap­pily, I’ve also been think­ing about rejoin­ing the ranks of homebrew­ers. This threw me the oppor­tun­ity for a few steel fab­ric­a­tion jobs

I wanted to start my brew­ing adven­tures with cider because deal­ing with apples seems to involve me more with lovely local pro­duce. Cider can also be brewed with wild yeasts and pro­duce some amaz­ing funky fruity com­plex fla­vours that get lost in the chem­istry like pro­cess of beer brew­ing. I was also inspired by a French work mate who, for his farewell party, pro­duced a bottle of his uncle’s secret-recipe brew to accom­pany the crepes and home-made rasp­berry jam. The cider was like noth­ing I’d ever had; cloudy and fruity, it tasted like sun­light on apple trees, it tasted like verd­ant countryside.

The first thing was to find cider apples. Clearly, Petty’s Orch­ard in Templestowe was the best option close to North­cote. Situ­ated on the banks of the Yarra and cov­er­ing 44 hec­tares, they grow many vari­et­ies of her­it­age apple and quite a few cider vari­et­ies too. There is also a Her­it­age Apple Soci­ety that col­lect and pre­serve hun­dreds of vari­et­ies of apple in a 2 acre plot on site. I spent an after­noon chat­ting to a friendly guy there about apples. In the end I ordered 40 kg of Stew­art Seed­ling apples from the guys at Petty’s.

The next step is to extract the juice from the apples. Hav­ing bought a few books about the pro­cess, I dis­covered that the best way to do this is chop them up to a pulp and then press the pulp to extract juice. I needed a pulper. There are many ways to do this of course, but I wanted a cheap, easy device that doesn’t take too much space. I saw a ver­sion online that is basic­ally a giant food pro­cessor, or if you want, a razor sharp heli­copter blade inside a food-grade bucket. A few web­sites in the UK sold them, but didn’t seem to ship to Aus­tralia, so I thought I’d weld one up myself! It’s essen­tially a steel tube with sup­ports to hold it ver­tical and it is held in the middle of the bucket by a hole in the lid. The blade and shaft are stain­less steel.

Chop­ping and press­ing is a pretty big under­tak­ing… Luck­ily I have an amaz­ing land­lord who makes his own wine and an eager helper with a bit of wine mak­ing exper­i­ence him­self, Mr Jack Dun­stan. It turns out that a wine press is not very good for press­ing apple purée (the purée squeezes out the gaps and you only extract about half of the juice), but it’s all a learn­ing process.

After fer­ment­ing for a few weeks, Jack came and helped me bottle the lot too, champion.

In the mean time, my friend Cristal wanted to upgrade the 3-tiered all-grain brew rig she got from a guy in South Aus­tralia. I helped her to weld in a drain port, an out­let, a sight gauge and thermo well into an old keg. Then a few weeks ago I went and brewed a batch with her.

Hot Liquor Tank — Wel­ded ports

Cristal in her Brew Shed — Sun­shine Brewery

Sun­shine Brew­ery Label

I also found a cheap way to con­trol the tem­per­at­ure of the brew as it fer­ments with a fant­astic little tem­per­at­ure con­trol­ler I got on eBay. Auto­mated con­trol sys­tems get me a little bit excited. Must be the engin­eer in me com­ing out.

Tem­per­at­ure con­trolled fermenter

In the end I’ve learnt a lot about brew­ing and my welding’s get­ting a lot bet­ter too. I even felt con­fid­ent enough to weld a disc tab onto Jol’s polo bike and did a really neat job. (Jol is the graphic designer who cre­ated my new logo.)

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