Founding of our QA/QC Microbiology Laboratory

The new toys arrived today! So what did we purchase and why?

  • Alex checking out the microscope.
    Alex checking out the microscope.

    Bright-field microscope (OMAX CS-MD82ES10) with a 1.3 MP digital camera built in. Combined with a hemocytometer, we will be able to perform cell counts (with the hemocytometer) and standardize our pitching rate. Everything we do needs to be consistent. So we need to start good QA/QC practice early. Speaking of starting early, Alex go in on the microscope action too.

  • Oakton Ecotstr pH meter. Also picked up calibration buffers. This is great for testing yeast viability. Set
    A future microbiologist (?) taking a his first look through a microscope.
    A future microbiologist (?) taking a his first look through a microscope.

    up a small culture, pitch some yeast, monitor how fast the pH drops. The faster the drop, the more viable the yeast culture. This can also be monitored by weighing the starter culture. As CO2 is being evolved, the culture will decrease in weight. Just need a good balance and to remember to weigh the culture immediately after pitching the yeast. A good quality laboratory balance is more expensive and will be purchased at a later date. pH meter will suffice for now.

  • A hemocytometer. Simple, a specialized microscope slide with a grid pattern and reservoirs with a very specific volume. Used for cell counts. Should be delivered on Monday.

Jess is going to go scrounging at the UC Davis surplus store for some general laboratory supplies like a pipettor or two, tips, a pipet aid, some serological pipets, test tubes, and pretty much anything that catches her eye and has a good price on it. If it isn’t at the surplus store, back to Amazon we go! That’s right, we got everything on Amazon. Also, check out MicroscopeNet, this site is where we originally found the microscope we ordered from Amazon. Why Amazon? We already have a Prime account with them. It was easy.

Brewing System Upgrades

Jess transferring sweet wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle.
Jess transferring sweet wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle.

We were frustrated with our set up the last time we brewed. What annoyed us? Clean hoses on the ground, pump on the ground, unstable set up for our gravity sparge system, and a large amount of water used/wasted to cool our wort were just a few of the things that got under our skin while we worked. So the following purchases were made: Blichmann Top Tier Modular Brewing Stand, a centrifugal Chugger Pump, a sparge arm, a whirpool paddle, and other miscellaneous supplies (tubing, quick connectors, gaskets, etc). Our first brew with the new equipment is detailed here.

The new system still needs to be optimized, but overall it was a fantastic brewing experience. We were able to move almost everything off of the ground with the Blichmann stand, and only needed to re-purpose a patio table for our ice bath. The sparge arm is over-sized for our mash tun, so the only option is to get a larger mash tun! The second pump expands our capabilities to easy adjustment of temperature of the wort to allow for rudimentary temperature program mashes and a more effective mash out. The addition of the second pump also allowed us to recirculate to an ice bath to chill our wort. This significantly reduced our water usage and time to cool the wort to fermentation temperature. The whirlpool paddle was another fantastic investment. The result was a well formed trub cone and bright wort.