Home brew, first attempt

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yopappamon   10 kW

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Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 01 2014 8:20pm

I just racked my first home brewed beer. It smells really fresh. I think it is turning out quite well. I bought an ingredient kit for my first go.

Those of you that do this regularly, where do you get your ingredients? Do you have any recipes to share?

I did an English dark ale. Might want to try a light brew next.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by Kingfish » Jun 02 2014 10:42am

Congrats on your first brew! I remember mine quite fondly, although historic memory tells me it was not very good other than to me: I made a lot of mistakes, the knowledge of how to properly brew was not well presented for the hobbyist, and we argued over details that made little difference when our understanding of process was flawed. The good news is that much has changed in 25 years :wink:

Supplies:
  • I would search your local area for a Home Brew Supply Store where you could physically walk in and browse, meet like-minded people, and share thoughts.
  • Second to that is to search the web for the top-flight mail-order HBSS. I cannot recommend any; it’s been far too many years since I ordered – plus my local was pretty good about keeping me stocked.
There are a number of forums that share recipes. Myself, I’m trained as a BJCP judge – so I tend to follow the amateur/professional classifications for the 5 types of Beer, Mead, & Cider. You’re starting out doing kits and that’s fine because you will build experience that way 8)

From one homebrewer to another, I offer this basic advice:
  • Do not use plastic buckets or airlocks: Ferment in large glass carboys and have a blow-off tube to a mop-bucket instead. It’s way more simple to maintain and keep clean, plus there is no harbor for bacteria. This is probably the #1 least-expensive improvement that can make that will have a gigantic impact on the quality of your production.
  • One other easy thing that you can is to create a stable fermentation and storage area: Keeping the brewing environment stable from large temperature variations is essential to producing clean-tasting brews with any sort of repeatability. In the Pacific Northwest, we tend to avoid brewing in July-August because most of us do not have air conditioning, and in fact – older homes will have a basement which is fine for most of the year. The problem is that if the beer is stressed during fermentation then it can develop an off-flavor or two that is difficult to eliminate post-process.
Everything else is gravy…
Cheers! KF
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The hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 02 2014 6:08pm

Thanks KF, I was hoping you would chime in.

Please explain the blow off tube. I did get a glass carboy, I'm doing a secondary fermentation in it now. This time I did the primary in a plastic bucket, part of the kit. I'll have to look up a better supply store, I'm out in the sticks and I got the first kit from the local Ace Hardware. They have a beer and wine supply area.

Which would be better, a basement at 62 degrees with no variations or a main floor den at 70-75 with regular fluctuations? The kit says 64-72 and I was concerned the basement was too cool.

I'm still working through my first hard cider run, kind of bitter but I like it. I'm gearing up for a big cider run this fall.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by Kingfish » Jun 03 2014 1:23am

Blow-off tube:
Imagine a 6.8 gallon carboy. Plenty of room for a 5-gallon batch of beer. Take a 4-foot length of polypropylene tubing of a diameter matching the carboy outlet and place the other end into a 2-gallon mop bucket. Except for the carboy, the items can be found at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or local HBSS. The tube will need a cleaning brush which can be purchased from the HBSS. That’s it.



Watch 2 seconds of this video and you’ll get the idea! :wink:

Cellar Temperature:
Cooler is always better than hotter, and in your case I’d invest in a method that keeps your carboy warm. There are a couple of paths:
  • Warming blanket or wrap, thermostatically controlled
  • Build a fermentation box: Mine was 2x4x4 feet, insulated with 1 or 2 inch high-density foam, and heated. The heater in Portland (PDX) was a simple 60W incandescent with a whisper fan blowing on it for circulation. In Seattle (SEA) we need a bit more heat in the basement and I opted for a 100W space heater on a thermostat.
To conclude:
It is always better to be cooler than hotter cos cooler temps make for a cleaner-tasting beer (such as German Lagers) whereas a hotter environment will produce fruitier esters and heat-stressed flaws.

Always hoppy to help :wink:
My 1/2 full-pint, KF

PS - I just love watching anything ferment, especially Cider!

Yeast - and more importantly Zymurgy, is the study of such, and is an interesting form of Life... without which we would all be non-existent.
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It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
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The hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 03 2014 10:02am

Ok, I get it now. So why is that better than say a rubber plug with an airlock on a carboy?

What is the proper temperature for fermenting? I have a temperature controller that I would use.

Found this place about 20 minutes from my work, looks like just the place to get supplies.

http://hopmanssupply.com

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by Kingfish » Jun 03 2014 2:42pm

Rubber Plug: Well – it’s not the plug that’s the problem; it’s the dinky airlock. A moderately common problem with homebrew fermentation is rapid expansion of the krausen which can clog the airlock, build up too much pressure, and then suddenly release (or explode). The entire problem is eliminated by having a clear path to a bucket. It’s very much like how the professionals do it by using a hose from the conical fermentor to the floor drain. And it’s only two parts: Hose & Bucket. Super-easy to maintain: Just swap the water every day – and don’t put sanitizer in the water!

Fermentation Temperature: Entirely dependent upon the type of yeast you are using. I would follow the supplier’s recommendations. Generally Lagers are 45-55°F, Hybrids are 55-65°F, and Ales are 65-72°F. Although there are processes that effect flavor that can transcend these ranges. Cooler = Slower, cleaner, less estery; Warmer = faster, bolder & fruity.

A lil' OT: In my early years living in the SF Bay Area I did ales only because I had little control over the brewing environment and mainly did my fermentation in the kitchen which hovered around 70-75°F. Later – when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, we build a “fermentation box” which was insulated from the coolness and kept a pretty stable temp between 68-72°F, and we made a lot of great beer this way for a number of years. Towards the end I purchased a 3x3x5 chest freezer with a precision temp controller and I had total control over the environment year-around which was important during the summer months when it was too hot to ferment properly.

In addition I could “crash” the beer at the end of the fermentation cycle and clarify it: The final racking would place the beer into a 5-gallon corny (instead of bottling), and then I’d drop the temp down to 28°F, holding for a week, and that was enough to get the yeast to go dormant, fall to the bottom, and be easily removed. The beer matures much faster – plus we can artificially carbonate at the same time. Incidentally I use the same method for making crisp clean cider! :wink:

The HBSS store you found looks to fit the bill perfectly; I like it 8)

Cheers, KF
* My 2WD Garden Wall
* Kinaye MotorSports
* Primary ride: 2WD Disc 9C 2806-equiv / Dual Lyen 12FET / 20S7P LiPo.
* Epics: Going to California: 2011 8)
* 50-mph, 101, 10k-Club. 12,527 miles-to-date, 7037 as 2WD.

It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.
The hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 04 2014 7:12pm

That's one thing that's perplexed me is I've never seen that much venting during fermentation. Not sure why, but very little bubbling of the air locks.

I made a trip to that store yesterday. Picked up a couple of kits and some other supplies. Carboy handle and lifter, stainless pot, cleaners and sanitizers. The proprietor was very helpful.

They have yeast for cider too. But it's live yeast so I'll have to come back closer to apple harvest.

Can't wait to try my first batch. Got another week for the second fermentation, the another week or two after bottling.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by Kingfish » Jun 05 2014 12:42pm

When it's all said and done, a typical ale... a "pale ale" for instance... will ferment in about a week tops; that's both primary and secondary (if you use glass it can all be done in one step). My ciders went the quickest - being done with primary in 3 days, I kid you not! That ol' hose was burping like a machine gun at the height of it; a dinky airlock wouldn't last for something that strong. Use the 6.8 gallon carboys when doing 5-gallon batches so there is plenty of room for the foamy krausen. :)

To give your yeast a boost, create a yeast starter the day before and breed-up the cell-count by 3 to 5-fold. That's super easy to do with little additional expense, and it will help finish your ferment quicker with less opportunity for corruption.

As a rule, when the ferment takes longer than a minute to burp, then you're done. However this does not hold true for strong beers and lagers which require more time, thus you are left with taking a sample: The Hydrometer is a PITA, and I have broken more of them than I care to count. Recently I did an assay of all my brewing equipment (I'm preparing to sell it off to make room for more EBike studies), and I found 4 glass hydrometers! That's pretty hilarious cos I always had to have spares in case of breakage :lol:

Image

The funny thing is - I stopped using hydrometers back in the 90's and instead have been using the Refractometer with ATC (a similar unit shown above). At the time mine cost $75 USD, but now you can find them on Amazon for about $25-30. In comparison, a hydrometer runs about $7 and are very breakable always at the wrong time, plus you end up wasting a pints' worth of goodly brew each time you measure. Being that the Refractometer is today so inexpensive - I would strongly advocate the investment as it only takes one drop to make a measurement, and you can use it in all stages of brewing.

Happy for you; wish I could taste your new brew. We'll have to do it virtually together :wink:
Cheers! KF
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* Primary ride: 2WD Disc 9C 2806-equiv / Dual Lyen 12FET / 20S7P LiPo.
* Epics: Going to California: 2011 8)
* 50-mph, 101, 10k-Club. 12,527 miles-to-date, 7037 as 2WD.

It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.
The hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 08 2014 8:52pm

Image

Bottled in some old 'medicine' bottles.

Image

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by gogo » Jun 09 2014 9:39am

How do you sterilize the lids on those bottles, and are the bottles pressure friendly? I use 5 gal. Cornelius kegs and a a tank of CO₂ in order to avoid the hassles of cleaning and bottling. I've got a dishwasher that is dedicated for hot cleaning and final rinsing, but I only used it for bottles once. Now it just cleans equipment.

I've only done mail-order kits and since I like hoppy beer I add 50% more hops to the kit, both bittering in the mash and finish aroma. I get exclusive access to my neighbor's hop vine. :)

My neighbor had an ornamental apple tree that used to drop about 500 lbs. of apples every year. I thought about fermenting and distilling them, but it was removed before I got around to it.

I'm told its easy to make 'young' wine with concentrated grapes.
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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 09 2014 9:13pm

Yeah. Sterilizing. Didn't do anything other than a soap wash on this one. Bought some sterilizing solution from the brew store. Will use it next time.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Jun 23 2014 8:18pm

Turned out pretty well.tastes good.

Next batch is about to happen. Couple of questions.
You would recommend doing all fermentation in a glass carboy? How would that work between the first and second ferment? Drain into a bucket, wash out the yeast, then put back into the carboy?

Can I give the left over grain to my chickens?

I have a liquid refrigerated yeast. Should you activate that before hand?

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by Kingfish » Jun 24 2014 11:37am

I stopped doing fermentation in plastic buckets back in 1992. Fermentation should be done exclusively in glass carboys or stainless steel, unless you want to try old world methods for old world flavors… and their assorted problems.

Racking:
  • Plastic breathes, it gets scratched, it gets infected easily, it is a bugger to clean, and it degrades with time. The only good use I have for plastic in my brewing process is for the blow-off hose to the bucket. True, I use a common plastic cooler for the mash – but then the wort gets boiled right after that. :)
  • If I need to rack off then I’ll use a second glass carboy for that and I try my hardest not to aerate the fledgling brew.
Feeding:
Spent grains make great chicken feed. But if you have cows, horses, pigs, or sheep then I’d cut it by 50% or more with traditional fodder.

Liquid Refrigerated Yeast:
The best use for this is on the day before the brew, take the yeast out, let it warm to room temp, and then create a yeast starter. I know of two types of liquid yeast: The Live sample, and the “smack-pack” (White Labs vs. Wyeast). The Smack-pack requires smacking to break the inner bubble so that the yeast and nutrients can blend and get started. By itself, the smack-pack or the Live yeast can provide enough inoculant to instigate fermentation, however your chances of stupendous success with the least chance for off-flavors is profoundly higher if you create a yeast starter the day before brewing.

The Starter:
  • You will need 1 pound of the lightest Dry Malt Extract (DME) you can find.
  • A pint or liter sized Mason jar that is sturdy, clear, and with a good single-piece stainless steel lid.
  • A sauce pan.
  • Your active yeast that is ready to go.
  • Optional: Oxygen and Sintered Stone (expensive, but makes up for it in success).
  1. Begin active yeast; whichever one you have, and make it ready to use the Day-Before.
  2. With the Mason jar, make it clean and sterilized.
  3. With a small sauce pan, take about ¼ cup of DME and gently dissolve it into 1.5 cups of boiling water, and let that go for 5 minutes before removing from the heat. Cool this as quick as you can in an ice or cold water bath until it reaches about 72°F/20°C (or whatever temperature the yeast instruction have given).
  4. Pour the malty-water solution into the Mason jar and add the yeast. I use a sanitized stainless steel spoon and stir.
  5. If you have the Oxygen and Sintered Stone then using about 2 psi, dip the stone into the mixture and gently swirl for 30 seconds. If you have the Aquarian pump and Sintered Stone, you’ll need to do this for about 90 seconds. If you have none of these, steal the lid on the jar and shake it vigorously for 2 minutes – but take care when you loosen the top as there might be pressure.
  6. With the lid on the jar, adjust so it is tighten just a tiny bit; we want it to be loose so it will breathe, though we also want to keep critters out.
  7. Place the jar in a dark, light-tight cupboard that is at a constant temperature (matching the suggested yeast instructions). Optionally, you can place a towel or a bag to cover the jar if light leaks are an issue. Mainly you just want a dark warm womb environment where your yeast can go forth and multiply!
  8. In 24 hours your yeast should have expanded 4 to 5 times. When you are ready to add it to your carboy, take the yeast-in-solution, swirl it up so it is completely blended again, and decant into your carboy.
  9. If you had the Sintered Stone, you would repeat the process again here and save yourself some muscle strain. Otherwise – cap the carboy and shake it vigorously for about 5 minutes. For 5-gallon batches, a 6.8-gallon carboy gives you a lot of room for this process.
  10. Fit the blow-off tube to both carboy and bucket and wait 12-hours. By then you should see some fermentation activity. And in 24 hours it should be rip-rocking along, perking up a storm.
My Ciders were the fastest ferments I’ve ever seen and would be finished with Primary in 3 days; that blow-off tube sounded like an underwater machine gun – really astounding for what can be accomplished given the right conditions with a little biology.

With Pale Ales, it goes so fast that I can ferment in one Primary carboy and rack straight to Corny. The point is with bred-up yeasts, simple beers are done in days – at a pace similar to professional breweries, and the beers will taste clean (providing all other aspects were good).

For such a simple process that takes maybe 30 minutes, the effect and success on the brew is profound.

Did I mention that I was a proponent of yeast starters? :lol:
Just checking, KF
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* 50-mph, 101, 10k-Club. 12,527 miles-to-date, 7037 as 2WD.

It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.
The hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by yopappamon » Dec 11 2014 9:43pm

My apple harvest was a bust this year. Very disappointed no cider.

We had some spare 3/8" stainless tubing at work that they gave me, so I bent my own wort cooler. Worked very well this last batch.

Has anyone tried malting your own grain? It would be very cool to make a batch end to end.

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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by MidTNJasonF » Jan 06 2015 4:22pm

Looks like most of the activity on this thread was older until the post last month.

I did a quick skim and while I agree on a few points posted above I have some different opinions on several. I have been making beer, wine, cider, and mead for a decade or so now. Mostly at home but have stepped into the commercial craft beer production world a bit in the last couple years. I win more awards for my ciders and mead than anything else but I have also won a fair number with my beers as well.

RE: Plastic: Don't fear it.
Sure you do have to handle it correctly but I eliminated all glass from my brewhouse years ago. I ferment in plastic better bottles, Spiedel fermenters, and even plastic conical fermentation vessels exclusively. Never clean with a brush and do not pour liquid over 180° F into them. Do not let caustic or alkaline cleaners sit for hours in them.

I have seen the stitches required to put hands, legs, and feet back together again after a glass carboy has shattered. Glass has no place in a brewery (home or commercial)

RE: Ale yeast fermentation temperatures: Cooler is better for most styles.
I and most of the brewers in the homebrew club I helped start years ago ferment our clean ales in the 62° to 65° F range. The range specified by yeast companies is specifically called out to maximize yeast reproduction and attenuation. It is not necessarily the ideal temperature for flavor. English Ale styles that allow more ester production are typically fermented a bit warmer 65° to 68°F. I do not ferment over 68° F unless I am doing a Saison or similar farmhouse/Belgian style. I ferment most of my beers and ciders in a temperature controlled fridge.

RE: Transfers and secondaries: Don't do them.
Unless you are adding fruit, purees, spices, extracts or similar things you do not need to transfer your beer from primary. Additional transfers do nothing but risk the introduction of oxygen or wild yeast and bacteria. Do not let someone scare you with the term yeast autolysis. Yeast autolysis has been widely disproved in small batch homebrew fermentations. You can leave beer on the lees for two to three months with zero negative effects. Commercial brewers with tall cylindrical fermenters that induce a great deal of static pressure on yeast cake/lees do have to worry about it and take measures to prevent it. i.e. turning beer over quicker, dumping yeast from conical ports after primary fermentation, ect.

My fermentation schedule is:
-Pitch yeast at fermentation temperature.
-Ferment for 3 to 4 days with a blow off tube.
-Place an airlock after high krausen has been achieved.
-About day 7 to 10 when activity in the airlock has significantly slowed or stopped check the gravity.
-If final gravity has been reached I will raise the temp to 67~68° over the course of two days if the beer style benefits from a diacetyl rest.
-If it does not require a diacetyl rest or after the two day diacetyl rest is complete I cold crash the beer to ~30° for about two days.
-Day 12 to 14 I transfer to a keg and condition/carbonate for about 7 days.
-Now it is time to drink.

RE: Transfers in general: Get a CO2 tank and regulator or use the one from your keg system.
Once my wort is in the fermentation vessel it does not see oxygen again. I transfer from my fermenter under 3~5 psi of CO2 Pressure. CO2 goes in the top through a two port bung or cover and the beer comes out a stainless racking cane with a line to a liquid ball lock fitting on a clean, sanitized, and purged keg.

I even transfer to and from my oak barrels with CO2 pressure for beers that I barrel age.


The bottom line is the three biggest critical areas for producing great tasting beer are:

1)Yeast Pitching Rate/Health - if you are not pitching the correct amount of healthy yeast (starters!) your beer could be better. Learn to make starters and use the Mr. Malty yeast pitching calculator. Oxygenate your wort before pitching. Use the proper amount and type of yeast nutrient.

2)Fermentation Temperature. - If you are not controlling it your beer could be better. Do not be fooled by ambient temperatures. Even if your room or basement is a constant 68° F your actively fermenting beer could be as much as 5 degrees warmer. Fermentation creates heat. Besides your ambient temperature is probably not as consistent as you think. Swings of more than 2 degrees matter.

3)Using Fresh good tasting ingredients - This includes water. - If you would not eat it or drink it than don't brew with it. Taste your grain, does it taste fresh and crisp? If not then don't use it. Stale grain = stale wort. Do the hops smell bright and fragrant or stale and cheesy? Keep your hops in the freezer, preferably vacuum sealed. You should at a minimum be carbon filtering your water to eliminate chlorine/chloramines. Depending on mineral content, total hardness, ect. you may need to be mixing your filtered tap water with Reverse Osmosis or bottled spring water. When I brewed in an area with extremely hard tap water I carbon filtered and blended it with 50% Reverse Osmosis water, especially for clean light beers.

That last one depends on you being an all grain brewer. If you are an extract brewer replace number three with the following:
Extract brewing - Full wort boils. Do not boil 2 to 3 gallons of concentrated wort and add water to reach 5 gallons. Boil the full volume of wort from start to finish. This means you need a pot in the 6.5 to 8 gallon range for 5 gallon batches and a burner capable of getting ~7 gallons to a rolling boil. Stop using canned liquid extract, replace it with dry malt extract. Add 1/4 to 1/2 of your malt extract to the water from the beginning, this is important for hop utilization. Add the remaining malt extract in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the boil. Remember if you are using extract someone has already chosen your water and malt for you and mashed it. They have already created wort, boiled it, and processed it into extract. You have inherently less control over your finished product with extract. You can make great award winning beer with extract but you should tailor your process and recipes to extract not blindly follow traditional brewing practices, especially commercial ones.

Last but not least it is fun, it is a hobby, it is beer. It just ain't that serious folks. If you like the end result and so do the people you share it with keep making it. If you think it could have room for improvement than try to adjust your processes.

I am a BJCP judge and have been entering fermented beverages in competition for years now. I take the stuff I enter seriously and I take the job of judging other peoples beer in competition seriously but when it is just me and my buddies kicking back with a few beers it is time to RDWHAHB (Relax, Don't Worry, Have A Home Brew).
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Re: Home brew, first attempt

Post by xenodius » Feb 16 2015 10:13pm

I build up minerals on ultrapure water out of my lab (R < 1x10^-19 Ohm) and use a plastic bucket for primary. Local water is far too basic. My last beer I put on sauv-blanc soaked french oak in a carboy for a week and a half after primary.

Since I do belgian beers almost exclusively, my temperature needs are different than most. I typically do primary at 67F ambient, unrestricted & uninsulated, then 2 days after I lose krausen I ramp, depending on the style, up to 77-85F. Per Brew Like A Monk. I want all those "dirty" esters and phenols. =) I'd have to change everything if I wanted to brew a pils!

My favorite local brewer just shared their recipe for their belgian session IPA with me, theirs has a lovely fresh cantaloupe/melon fruit character. Can't wait for summer. :D

Best thing I ever did was make my starters on a stirplate. Holy CFU. About 6x better than shaking! An important step for sure.
Oh, and of course, a recirculating immersion chiller.

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