Mr. Beer mentioned on Fark

Matthew Fedder Friday, March 23rd 2012, 11:53 AM
In a comment on Fark, a user mentioned:

"Homebrew can be Awesome - if you did Mr. Beer or one of those cheapo no boil kits with sugar - then you might have a hard time making decent brew."

WE'LL SEE! From the pre-bottling tasting, it's a bit cidery (as the Mr. Beer manual warned), and the hop/malt flavor is a bit thin. But I'm sure it'll still be OK!

Mr. Beer #1

Matthew Fedder Sunday, March 4th 2012, 1:41 AM
Mr. Beer #1 is in the fermenter!

For anyone who hasn't heard of it (I wasn't THAT familiar with it beforehand), Mr. Beer is a basic home-brewing kit. It comes with a barrel-shaped 'fermenter' with a spigot attacked, and their revenue model seems to be focused on selling a wide variety of reasonably priced (but not cheap) "malt extracts" that save you the trouble (and, from what I hear, 64000-btu-necessary) process of making wort from your malt and hops.

And I received just such a kit for a birthday present! You know who you are, thanks! :-D

The kit starts with a mysterious "sanitizing" powder, which you are instructed to use to sanitize the inside of the fermenter, a bottle opener, a measuring cup, and a spoon. Although the package has some safety warnings (and it contains 'carbonates'), they call it a no-rinse sanitizer, meaning you are to leave it inside the very fermenter that will hold the brewing beer.

It occurs to me that a) the measuring cup will only come in contact with ingredients that will later be boiled, and b) they do NOT suggest sanitizing the top of the Malt Extract cans, which contact the malt extract, and will be added after boiling (albeit only shortly).

So, onto beer #1:


8.5 quarts Target 'purified water'
1 can Hopped Malt Extract, West Coast Pale Ale style
1 package 'Booster'

And my variation from the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar

I mention boiling but not what I boil: They instruct you to boil 1 quart of water with the 'Booster' pack - a pack labeled only 'Corn Solids', and which is accompanied by warnings that you should pour very slowly to avoid 'clumping'. Boy are they not kidding! It must be corn starch - which clumps worse at higher temperatures. I ignored instructions and stirred it into pretty warm water, and had to add more water to bring down the temperature and reduce clumping.

Their handy little chart suggests how much each sugar source will increase the alcohol-by-volume of the results of a batch of beer: Each can of Hopped (or unhopped) Malt Extract will contribute 2.3%; the Booster pack, 1.4%; and the cup of sugar, 1%. So, by their predictions, the result will be 4.7% ABV.

I was going to add 2 cups of sugar to give it a healthy 5.7%ABV, but they also warn that "2/3rds of the ABV should come from malts, to avoid a cidery flavor." OK, well I'm over that limit, so hopefully it won't be too bad!

They suggest 7-14 days for fermenting, and 7-14 days for bottling. So, that means I should be putting it in bottles around St. Patrick's Day, and emptying the bottles starting in April.

Let's hope it goes well!

Vista Sleep

Matthew Fedder Tuesday, November 18th 2008, 2:31 PM
The delay between when I hit a key to wake up my PC at work, and when hitting another key to bring up the screen, is long enough that I get distracted by something else. I realize my error when the computer goes back to sleep, the screen having never turned on.

Google must be reading my blog

Matthew Fedder Monday, November 17th 2008, 9:26 PM
They now have the best maps of Argentina -- street level maps!


Why I'm voting Yes on Proposition 1A

Matthew Fedder Saturday, October 25th 2008, 11:18 PM
Proposition 1A will allow California to build a bullet train between San Diego and San Francisco/Sacramento. This project is the best option to fulfill California's growing transportation needs for the next 50 years.

You see, in California, we have a problem: Over the next 22 years, the population is expected to grow 50%; by 2050, our population will nearly double to 60 million. Yet even today, our transportation infrastructure is quickly reaching its limits. Both our intracity highways and airports operate near capacity. Nowhere is this more striking than in San Diego, where our airport will within a year will be operating at 92% of clear-weather capacity, with replacements predicted to cost over $10 billion.

In the year 2000, 600 million trips longer than 100 miles were made along the high speed rail corridor. By 2030, that number is expected to grow by 2/3rds to 900 million. While some of that can be absorbed into the existing infrastructure's capacity, we clearly must also work to increase it, or risk constraining our economy.

High speed rail can play a huge part in this for many reasons:

Developed Technology: The technology behind high speed rail was developed 40 years ago, when Japan opened its first bullet train. It has been refined and implemented in country after country: France, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Italy. There are no theoretical challenges to overcome -- we know how to build it; we just have to do it.

Low construction costs: Since we're using developed technology, relatively little engineering need be taken on. So, the train can be constructed for half the cost of equivalent highway capacity.

Low operation costs: Ridership would only have to be 1/3rd of the predicted numbers for the project to be self-sufficient, meaning the state will have broad leeway to lower fares, pay the project's principle, or buy out our public partners. Every high speed project in the world is profitable, and recent projects in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Italy all became profitable within a decade of opening.

Oil Independence: Despite the current respite from expensive oil, the long term costs of driving long distances look grim. As we speak, OPEC nations are gathering to cut production to ensure that prices don't stay below $100 per barrel long term -- and this means our "low gas prices" are as fragile as a house of cards.

As a result, train ridership projections estimate that 90% of passengers will come from automobiles. The bullet is electric, and can be powered by locally-harvested solar power -- or whatever form of electricity is least expensive at the time. Even if that option turns out to be oil, the train requires 1/4th of the oil per passenger as driving, and 1/3rd as much as flying. So as we enter an age when $100 oil will be but a pleasant memory, rail transportation will ensure that we aren't held over a barrel by high energy prices. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)

Speaking of oil:

Environment: Air quality is a major problem in California. The high speed train will save tens of millions of cross-state car and plane trips a year, potentially replacing oil consumption with solar, nuclear, wind -- really, any kind of power that proves to be feasible.

Geography: California is perfectly suited to a high speed train. With two large population clusters separated by 400 miles, our population is spread out just enough that it is grossly inconvenient to drive from one end to the other, yet close enough that the hassles and delays of airport travel make flying inconvenient relative to the time spent in the air. A train from LA to SF should only take 15 minutes longer than flying when you include door-to-door times.

Convenience: Ever driven from San Diego to San Francisco, Sacramento, or Monterey? I have, probably 7 or 8 times (enough that I've lost count). The biggest problem: Los Angeles is in the way. My options are to either add an hour and a half of travel time and try to drive through after rush hour arriving at my destination when the day's already over, or leave at 3:30 AM to get past LA before traffic hits. The high speed train will be entirely grade-separated, so a trip to San Francisco will take the same time no matter what time I leave. Plus, you don't need a gallon of caffeinated beverage to stay awake through the trip.

Comfort! Because space is not an issue, trains can offer passengers comfortable spaces -- Leg room, elbow room, reclining chairs, room to stand up and walk around, or sleep comfortably. Travel becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.

So, pay no attention to the "Reason Foundation" (a think-tank funded by oil lobbyists), or the "California Rail Foundation" (three guys who formed an 'organization' to sound official).

Pay attention to the numbers, which show how quickly this project will pay for itself.
Pay attention to the economy, which would otherwise grind to a halt costing Californians billions of dollars a year.
Pay attention to your wallet, and how much you stand to save compared to flying or driving.
Pay attention to your city's wallet, as they won't have to pay for highway and airport projects.
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