Home > Brewing > Turtlecove Brewing – Tour Part 1

Turtlecove Brewing – Tour Part 1

Man this is one busy time of the year. Between work and the holidays I haven’t had much time to noodle in my shop. Last week Susan and I hosted Thanksgiving at our home in Melrose, Florida (aka Turtlecove) and having a couple of extra days there, I decided it appropriate to make Saturday a brew day. I hadn’t planned on brewing so we also made a quick trip in to Gainesville on Friday to purchase brewer’s yeast at my local homebrew store (LHS) Hoggetowne Ale Works. Like a kid in a candy store I purchased a “few” other items to the tune of about $130!

Since I didn’t have any time in my shop this week, I figured I could write briefly about how I brew at Turtlecove. Home brewing has some similarities to woodworking in that although the science and techniques are universal, the tools and processes individuals use vary widely. I would venture to say that no two brewers’ gear looks exactly the same because the majority of these systems are homemade. I love the quote I found by fellow homebrewers at “TexanBrew“, I think it describes homebrewing in a nutshell.

Brewing beer is neither complicated nor expensive. It’s the responsibility of the brewer to make it as complicated and expensive as their wives will allow. Great beer is made in small pots in a kitchen; our beer is made in larger pots in the garage. People have been brewing spectacular beers for thousands of years; we’ve been brewing mediocre beers for a few months. Since we’ve been brewing for months, we’re naturally experts.

I can add nothing to better describe the craft or the mentality of the brewer.

The Process in Outline Form

  • Malted grain is cracked (basically rolled) using a grain mill
  • Water is heated to a temperature such that when the malted grain is added it steeps at the predetermined mash temperature usually in the range or 150-158° F. I commonly mash at 152° F.
  • Enzymes in the malt slice up starch molecules in the grain producing different types of sugars. It is this sugar that the brewer’s yeast will ultimately consume.
  • The mash liquid containing these sugars is called wort and it is run into the boil kettle for the next process, “The Boil”.
  • In order to get all the sugary goodness from the mash, more hot water is added to rinse the grains. The rinse water  is also collected to bring the volume of  liquid wort in the boil kettle to the desired pre-boil level.
  • Boil times are typically 60-90 minutes during which a variety of hops are added at predetermined intervals. Boiling the wort serves many complex purposes and the addition of hops at different times during the boil and of different varieties also serves complex purposes.
  • The boil has to now be cooled to a predetermined temperature so that the brewer’s yeast can be introduced to their new home. This is typically between 45-72° F depending on the yeast used and the style of beer.
  • Yeast are added and the Good Lord does the rest of the work to actually make beer
  • After fermentation beer adjuncts are often added to the beer to add distinct flavors. Common adjuncts include oak, fruits, peppers, spices and in the case of homebrewers almost always fresh hop cones are added.
  • The final step is to bottle or keg your beer and to carbonate and chill to serving temperature

Like making furniture, brewing is not for the faint of heart. We brewers find that once our brew day runs smoothly we often add an additional piece of equipment or additional step in the process to further complicate matters. If things DON’T run smoothly, we do the same thing.

Some of the Turtlecove brew gear

“The Beer Bitch”

This is the nickname my friend gave my brewing system before I was married with step-kids. My wife doesn’t appreciate the moniker and my children think it “swearing”.

Turtlcove "Beer Bitch"

A three tier stand welded from angled steel. Each level contains a propane burner. On top the uppermost burner sits the kettle for making hot water called the hot liquor tank or HLT. In the middle is the kettle for mashing generally called the “mash tun”. The mash tun has a filter at the bottom so the wort can be separated from the grain and run into the lowest kettle. The lowest kettle is the boil kettle and I have instrumented it with the most capable burner because it takes a lot of heat to boil 15 gals of liquid for 90 minutes. In this photo the top two levels are shown. Brewing occurs on the back porch which provides me a view of  Turtlecove and the back yard.

Moving Brews

Three tiered brew systems are designed to allow gravity to move liquids between kettles. From the hot liquor tank through the mash, boil and finally into the carboy used for fermentation, the liquid can be drained downhill. That works and I made a lot of beer using this method until my beautiful wife bought me a pump for Valentine’s Day. Pumps add new capabilities, allowing liquid to be moved between kettles and even uphill if necessary. Brewers often purchase two pumps and they often mount them to their brew stand. I saw an article in “Brew Your Own” where a fella housed his pump in a tool box and I immediately loved the idea. My pump is portable, it can be placed where it is needed and can be stored inside out of the weather.

Turtlecove Toolbox Pump - front view

Turtlecove Toolbox Pump - inside view

You can certainly get creative with this, I happen to have this toolbox at the house so I decided to go with it. This box even has a little room to store items that could come in handy on brew day e.g. hose clamps, spare o-rings, GFI adapter, etc.


Now that I was pumping boiling liquids around I decided to upgrade to high temperature tubing and polysulfone quick disconnects (QDs). My method for connection was to place male QDs on all of the hard points and to make up hoses with female QDs on both ends. Thus I can connect any thing to any other thing using any of the 4 identical interconnect hoses.

Polysulfone Quickdisconnect

Here’s a closeup of the male QD on the pump outlet. Notice the nifty bleeder screw on this ball valve. One of the problems with pumps is that they must be primed with liquid and this is another reason why a movable pump is a good idea. I can lower the pump below kettle level and open the bleeder to let off air in the line. When I get a steady flow of liquid from the bleeder, I can close it, open the ball valve lever and turn on the pump! This sounds elementary but believe me, many brewers including myself have been very frustrated with pumps that didn’t!

The Lab

I set up my utility room for the dual purpose of laundry and an indoor work-space. When I had the house built I wasn’t even a brewer but I liked the idea of an air-conditioned space where I could work inside so I rearranged things to line up my washing machine on side and a narrow counter along the opposite wall. I also had a laundry sink installed. This now houses my brewing equipment, provides a counter on bottling day and a wet sink for cleaning equipment and glassware.


Inexpensive mash paddle made from a small canoe paddle. As a fledgling woodworking I think I could now do better 🙂

Two Scales and a Stir Plate

Scales for weighing heavy stuff like grain (right) and light stuff like hops or bottling sugars (left). Rear left is my stir plate which is sort of homemade “commercially”. Stir plates are traditionally used to grow up yeast starters for brew day.

Bottle Tree

A bottle tree holds you bottles after you washed and sanitized them on bottling day.


Misc glassware. The flask can be used on the stir plate but in reality I make large starters in the big brown jug and it doesn’t work on the stir-plate.

Immersion and Counter-flow Wort Chillers

The shelf above the laundry sink holds copper coils which are used for cooling the boiling wort to a temperature low enough to “pitch” (add) your yeast. The coils on the right are immersed in the beer and cooling water is run through the coil. The device on the left is referred to as a convoluted counter flow chiller which is actually two coils in one. Cooling water is run though the outer coil and the hot wort is run through the inner coils in the opposite direction (thus counter-flow). It is this counter-flow the allows the difference in temperature (delta T) to remain as high possible and thus it is a very efficient device for cooling. My wife also bought me this awesome gizmo. Again I point out the male QDs on all the “hard points” allowing all this to be quickly plumbed together.

In-line Thermometer and Sparge Ring

This is a neat contraption. The copper ring is set upon the top of the grain bed and hot water can be let in such that it “sprinkles” through the grain bed. The thermometer lets me know the temp of the liquid being added and is removable so it can be used in several phases of brewing. Although not my idea, I made this version of the “through-mometer” myself from parts.

I’ve run out of time for this post but I will continue my tour of  Turtlecove Brewing in my next post.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Brewing Tags: , ,
  1. January 6, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Wow it looks like you are all set up to make some really great brew.
    Cheers EH!

    • January 6, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I really can’t complain as Turtlecove is fully equipped to make brew day comfortable. Of course we brewers continue to fiddle and if things get too easy we simply up the complexity to compensate! Apparently, it’s what we do!

      • January 8, 2014 at 6:19 am

        Yes! I agree we need a change once thing start to be to comfortable. So We are brewing two types of beer at my friends house in Shanghai on Saturday morning and I will post right after we are done….
        I look forward to your next post!

        Cheers EH!


  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: