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TableHop! Beer brewing, wine making, for tabletop gamers (and general fermentation)


I can attest to the possibility of a plugged airlock when dry-hopping. The one time it happened to me and my former roommate, so much pressure had built up by the time the we noticed the airlock was plugged that the beer shot up right to the ceiling when we relieved it…


Another non-beer addition (sorry), has anyone tried to make fermented tea or Kombucha? I dabbled a little while ago but it ended up looking too weird and I chickened out and gave up,


My half-brother and his girlfriend made their own kombucha, and it didn’t work at first. The results were…um…variable? The first batch made people ill, the second made people drunk, but he finally got a nice “mushroom” (I don’t know why they call it that, it infuriates me) and and a good tea/sugar combo made some pleasingly tart fermented tea.

I’ll have to ask him for the specifics (that may take a while, our dad is really sick and he’s looking after him, all the way across the country), but I believe it was 4 cups of sugar to a gallon of oolong tea (I don’t know the brand, but it was brewed as the package recommended for that volume of water and allowed to cool), and that weird squishy patty of yeast and bacteria they call a “mushroom” he got from a friend who’d been brewing for a long time. When they bottled it, they used clean used bottles that were originally used for kombucha, and a splash of pressed ginger juice from The Ginger People that they had sterilized in the microwave.

That gross “mushroom” developed in the individual bottles, but the result (after filtering) was just as horrifying as anything you could buy in the store.

No one get me wrong, I do drink this stuff. I won’t say any kombucha is good, but I have a strange compulsion to drink it sometimes, sort of like how some people like Clamato or cold sauerkraut juice in a can.

YEP! That happens! That happened to my roommates and me, as well. As angry and upset as we were at the time (we lost so much time making this for NOTHING, and now we have to clean this closet!) it’s still one of those stories we keep telling each other when we get together, because, honestly, it’s kind of hilarious.

Almost all home brewers have had a similar experience, and I swear, it’s funny every time.

We found that, instead of having a store-bought airlock, just having the tube exit through a large bowl or large cup on the ground (half-filled with water and a small bit of bleach) worked great. It prevented clogs since anything that got expelled just slid down the tube, and it kept harmful bacteria and wild yeast out. Even when the yeast stopped expressing CO2, since the airlock was on the floor, it couldn’t suck the water back up (which would have been very, very bad).

We ended up ditching the store-bought airlocks and used the tube-end-in-the-water method. As long as the carboy end is level with your plug (bung? cork?), you don’t have to worry about siphoning. Just be sure you have enough room at the bottom end’s containment-thing to contain any of the gunk that will inevitably barf down the line. Having the carboy on a step stool also helped counter the reverse-siphoning action when the yeast started to calm down.

I still think a standard water airlock is the best thing for beginners, and we still use them.

And as always, check it every day.
Give it a pat.
Tell it that it’s a good beer, yes yes, oh you’re so pretty and fancy, kisses muh muh muh! Ohhh, who’s my good beer? It’s you! (hugs).

I am in no way joking. Love it. This is your super-amazing, living, breathing pet, that you and your friends will eventually get drunk off of. Respect its eventual sacrifice.


I swapped out water for very cheap vodka. That way if for some reason the airlock or carboy got bumped you would drop alcohol into the beer instead of water which could cause contamination… I never had the issue of them getting clogged though, I always seemed to have had plenty of headspace. I used the basic airlocks, but if you can find slightly oversized ones then you do not have to worry about evaporation of the liquid in it, make sure she never goes dry!

Also, to help stabilize my glass carboys, I used milk crates so they would not clank about… Just plopped them right inside and they were snug and secure.

Bung is the correct answer I believe. Corks do not have holes and plug would work as well :slight_smile:


That’s a slightly more expensive solution, but not very much, and I find it more aesthetically pleasing, overall. Well played! We’ll have to do that next time!

And, yes, milk crates are just about the perfect size for almost everything. I’m 45 (or will be, soon, middle of May), and I’m still using milk crates for some of my storage and furniture! I’ve been using them since college (“uni” for everyone across the pond). Winter clothes, clean bottles, cellared bottles, homemade preserves, (and some board games, tapes, vinyl records, I could go on and on). So, yeah, the things I’ve been using since I was a teenager still work great!

Anyway, to get back to business, you can also use sulfur dioxide on the end of the fermentation lock (I still like the idea of cheap vodka, I can’t believe we’ve never used that), and it’s pretty safe and won’t contaminate the brew if it gets sucked in a little.

And this will sound weird, but it’s a thing people do, and actually seems pretty reasonable. Stick a balloon (a normal cheap-as-free latex balloon) with a bunch of small holes in it, down low at the end of your tube, in your chosen lock-liquid and container. The balloon will expand instead of getting clogged, and will out-gas without intake. Nothing can really run up, and it can gas out like a champ. I’ve never tried this, myself, but it sounds like a really workable idea, and has a lot of fans out there who’ve tried it. I’ll see if I can do this my next brew.


My second brew went very wrong, because we pitched the yeast too cold. We’re trying to find a thermometer solution. I heard about floating ones - easy to sterilise and read - but are they accurate?

Crashing the boil is the trickiest part, I find. The steriilsing is easy - all of us are far too fastidious and diligent not to clean properly.

How does everyone here crash the boil?

Bear in mind, we’re not full mash, our method is to boil 15L to 66-70, add a bag of grain, bring to the boil, add sugars and hops according to the 60 minutes (first wort at 0, second at 45 etc.) then crash to pitch the yeast. I never know what temp is best to pitch the yeast, I guess it vaires by the yeast type.

That’s our method - all advice muchly appreciated!


I always tried to get it down to about 70F if I remember correctly. I “crashed” the boil using an ice water bath method commonly used in restaurants for cooling soups and stews for storage. After I get home from work I will post photos of the tools I used for temp monitoring and cooling the wort. It is labor intensive, but if memory serves me correctly… I was able to get from boil to yeast pitching temp in about 10-15 minutes with just vigorous stirring (this also allows {in my opinion, don’t know about science on this} some air to be mixed into the wort which in theory would help the yeast grow? Can someone science this for me? I am running late to work, thanks!).


It’s been a few years, because my roommate took all of his brewing supplies when he moved out of province, but we used a copper immersion wort chiller. It’s essentially a large coil of copper piping that you run cold water through to cool the wort evenly.


The best way to do that is to not need to do that. Why would anyone even need…OK.

Maybe we are separated by a common language, here, but please tell me exactly what you mean by “crash the boil,” because from what little I’ve found online, that term applies to sparging a burned wort, and I cannot believe that’s what you’re doing, because I have so much faith in your awesomeness.


We use a cooling coil to cool the wort own before pitching the yeast. “Crash the boil” may be my bad way of putting it?


I also use a cooling coil, FWIW.


Ah! Now I see.

We just put the mash container it in a sink or a bucket or a cooler filled with ice and water. Preferably a sink, because the ability to have running water cools it faster. We incorporated it into sparging because we were (and still are) lazy bastards. We used good, clean, sterile water, and a candy thermometer to make sure it wasn’t to hot or cold before we pitched the yeast.

We never had a problem with too cold, but then again, we live in Florida?

Oh, you don’t really need a hydrometer, not really really, but I do recommend one! Yeah, sure, it can help tell you when it’s ready to bottle or keg, but it’s fun! You get to do the math to find out the percentage of alcohol after secondary (or even tertiary) fermentation! I know it doesn’t sound like fun, but when everyone’s all like “Holy crap, we made an 8.5? That’s totally bonkers bananas nuts!”

It won’t help you after bottle conditioning (sad face), but it’s still really fun.


Measuring OG is important, to make sure we hit the right notes. I’m not overly versed in the beer software we use (BeerSmith) so I’m still looking at it and working it out.

A reliable thermometer solution is required!


That is my chilling rig. For reference that is a 5 Gallon stock pot that also has a lid. The spoon has a hook on it to hang on the handle of the pot on the stove and that thermometer tip sits about 2 inches from the bottom of the pot. I think you can find those through a food service website. It has a clip on it so it can stay submerged through the cooling process. Another thing I would do was brew on very cold days in winter and if there was snow I would shove the pot in a snow bank near the house. Normally, I would fill the blue tub with ice and water and just stir like hell. Mostly ice though.


Um, this is a question that will probably yield no answers, but does anyone know where to get a glass carboy these days, in the US? It used to pretty easy in the 90s, everyone was giving them away because bottled water companies were all switching to plastic.

Plastic carboys work fine, tbh, they’re very lightweight and durable, and often as cheap-as-free. However, they get scratched easily and wear out quickly, not to mention getting even very small micro-scratches can harbor unfavorable microbes.

Food-grade plastic 5- and 10-gallon buckets work great, too, and they make a lot of those specifically for brewing, and they have HANDLES, which is great. But I do like being able to visually check on the process in a transparent container (I’m not really checking on the process, I’m just spending time with my babay! It’s sort of like watching a fish tank.)

I’m not worried about the out-gassing of chemicals, by the time a plastic carboy has been emptied at the water cooler of an office, anything that can have leached out has done so already. Glass seems easier to sterilize and dry.

And, honestly, I just think it’s more aesthetically pleasing. No rhyme or reason to it, it’s just more satisfying.


A very daft British response - what’s a carboy? (don’t all laugh and point at me, please)


That thermometer set up looks perfect. How accurate is it?


It’s just a container that holds a liquid. Clicky! You can find them at water coolers everywhere there’s an office. I like the glass ones, but those are hard to find (in my region).

No one’s going to laugh and point at you, all brewers have got to start somewhere. It may be a word that we only use over here (I have no idea).

We can still laugh and point at you, but it will probably be for other reasons in a different topic :stuck_out_tongue:


A clear glass version of a Winchester, in my language.

As opposed to a Winchester (US), which would be no use for brewing.


What is that thing? :heart_eyes: It looks like a centrifuge testing station…
nevermind, that could totally derail the topic, I’m sorry…