Last night, Brian and I took the ice to play some hockey for the first time in about a year and a half. We both started playing hockey several years ago, but opted to take some time away from the game for our own reasons. Last night, we made our triumphant return to the ice to take part in Hockey North America’s Adult Beginner School.

Are we technically beginners? Not in the strictest sense, but we are fairly darn close. We’ve played a little bit, but we are by no means hockey stars. Plus, this gives us a chance to join a new team right from the ground floor. I think we would have loved to play with our old team again, The Beermen, but after we left they picked up a bunch of really good players and now they think that they are all awesome and stuff. Whatever fellas.

They are still a bunch of good guys (for the most part) and I wish them no ill will, but it would have been nice if their captain would have at least responded to our request to return to the team before picking up another 8 ringers this year. Again, whatever.

Moving on. Enough sporty talk. Time for some nerdy stuff.

Last night was a blast. I really enjoyed the return to the basics. But I have to say, an hour and a half of skating drills really can wear a guy out. I felt fine on the ice, but as soon as I stepped into the locker room I could feel the muscles starting to tighten up. This morning I am the walking personification of pain, soreness and stiffness. Parts hurt that I didn’t even know that I had. My hair even hurts.

But I would have it no other way. I hurt, but I know I did something worthwhile to get this point.

On a different note, we were able to put the new brewery control panel through its paces over the weekend. In general, I would say the test was a great success. All the switches worked like they should, and all the twinkly lights worked like they should too.

The only snafu that we came across was with the settings of our automatic temperature controllers.

In general, I have to say that the STC-1000s that I installed into the control board are pretty nice little pieces of technology. But they have one short fall that, if left alone, could create a minor issue for our brewing set-up. The controller has switches that control two different plug-ins, one for heating and one for cooling. This is great, except their is a time delay built into the system for kicking on the cooling side. The delay is built into the controller to prevent refrigerator compressors from kicking on and off to the point of causing damage. The delay is adjustable, but the lowest it can be set to is 1 minute.

For most purposes, this would probably be acceptable. But not ours. At least not for how I have envisioned the brew house to function.

Here’s the issue.

Once everything is installed, wort from the Mash Tun will drain via gravity down to our lauter grant. Float switches mounted inside the grant will switch our pump on and off automatically. That wort will need to go somewhere or the grant will overflow. Which would be bad. It would not only waste precious wort, but it would make a terribly sticky mess on Brian’s floor. Neither of these results is in any way, shape or form the least bit positive.

Solenoids connected to our pump output valves automatically control where the wort goes during our mash process. When the temperature controller senses that the wort needs to be heated, the valve that leads to the heat exchanger in our hot liquor tank will open. When the wort is at the proper temperature that valve should shut off and a second valve that leads directly back to the top of the MLT should open. Should.

With a one minute delay, there is no guarantee that that valve would open before the wort had surpassed the point of no return, resulting in spillage, much anger, and maybe even a few tears.

I think that I have found a solution to this problem. It came to me on the drive home from Brian’s. My mind was very active on that drive home, so much that I accidentally made two wrong turns and missed the interstate exit to get to home. As a result of this internal brainstorming, the normally 15 minute drive to my house took about three times longer than it should have. But I digress.

The solution, I think, is relatively simple. Instead of using the STC-1000s cooling switch to control the recirculation power output, I am going to bypass it entirely by connecting the heat switch to a spdt relay. The relay will be set up to provide power to the recirculation valve under normal operation. When the heat switch is triggered by the STC, the relay will kick the power over to the heat exchange solenoid. When the STC kicks the switch off, power should automatically revert to the recirculation valve.

As a result of this auto switching relay magic, wort should constantly and consistently recirculate through the mash tun, and nary a drop should be spilled from the grant.

As long as my hockey induced pain doesn’t impact me too much, I am planning to make the upgrade to the control panel tonight. Keeping my fingers crossed that this works.