Friday, October 3, 2008

Building a Homebrew Gorilla Lab

To get started, I think I'll cover the lab. The basics of what you might need, some tips, and why even bother.

I mean, seriously, your not going to save money doing this. So why do it at all? I guess each person has their own reason. For me its the satisfaction of the knowledge gained. Its something fun to do, and the results are delicious.

Ok so.. Here we go!

Workspace - Clean, low air movement (away from fans a/c ducts, etc), preferably a permanent location that you can set up your experiments and leave the results in the same place (an unused closet works great). A sanatizable flat surface that is somewhat heat resistant and resistant to staining and spills.

I try to separate my work area into 3 segments. A top shelf that I store all the larger glassware and equipment that I use less often. The middle area for active cultures or experiments (as seen by the acrylic shelf in the photo), and my actual work area where I have all the items within close reach when I am working (Yes including a home brew to drink while you work ;).

Equipment - Generally you are going to need various glassware, alcohol burner, inoculating loop, microscope, storage vials, etc. Here's a basic inventory for what I have.
  • Erlenmeyer Flasks - 50ml(4), 250ml, 500ml, 1000ml, 2000ml
  • Glass Petri Dish (at least 2) - 100mm x 10mm
  • Test Tubes (6) & Rack - 15ml
  • Inoculating Loop
  • Wax pencil (marks on glass) - For labeling glass
  • Alcohol Burner - Preferably a wickless
  • Microscope, Slides & Covers - Preferably something capable of 400X magnification
  • Scale - Capable of measuring down to a 10th of a gram.
  • Test Tube Brush & Test Tube Clamp
  • 1 Dram autoclavable vials for storage of yeast samples
Chemicals - These are more like the "Soft goods" that chemicals really. But it's a general small list of things used to cultivate yeast, and build starters for pitching.
  • Dried Malt Extract (DME) - Preferably light or pilsen
  • Agar - Dried for making wort agar (I'll cover that in another post)
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Potasium Metabisulfite - For sanitation
  • Gram Staining Kit
  • Methylene Blue
  • Denatured Alcohol
For the most part that is all you need and you'll never have to buy a commercial brewing yeast again, and the best part is that you can steal yeast from just about any unpasteurized beer on the planet. As for sourcing most of this can be found on and I've used as well.

Honestly do you really NEED all of this stuff? No. Not really. I guess you could make due with a few flasks, a couple of vials and a clothes hanger, but it's nice knowing for sure what your working with. Which is where a microscope comes in very handy. Check eBay, you would be amazed at how cheep you can get a "student" microscope (I found mine for $38).

In later post I'll cover the details of what you do with all this crap once you've amassed it!

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