The squeaky bottom bracket gets the grease

My trusty steed had developed a squeak.  I’m talking one of those squeaks that drives you up the wall… squeak… squeak… squeak… It appeared to be in the left side of the bottom bracket or in the left crank arm.  For those of you who may not have any idea what I am talking about, my steed is a circa 1985 Nishiki Olympic steel road bike that I converted to fixed gear, and for those of you who don’t know what a fixed gear is… a fixed gear is a bike that has the rear cog fixed to the rear hub.  If the bike is moving, so are the crank arms.

So, my squeaky steed….

This squeak was driving me nuts, it would only show up after I have been riding for a couple of minutes and the turning of the cranks generated some heat in the bearings.  And, let me tell you, on a bike that you cannot “free wheel”, every time the cranks go around and I get a squeak… I was about ready to kill it.

Instead of killing it, I thought it would be best for some maintenance.  You see, I bought this bike years ago while working in a bike shop, from a customer who had destroyed one of his wheels.  I bought it off of him, because the cost of a new wheel was more then the bike was worth to him.  So I offered him the cash that I had on me… $58.00.  I then proceeded to spend about $300.00 on components to make this bike rideable…. boys with their toys… Oh yes, not killing my bike.  I took the crank off and disassembled the bottom bracket, the spindle that the crank arms attach to.  I do not believe that the bearings had ever been serviced, with close to 30 years on the parts… it needed some attention.

So, I replaced the old grease with new synthetic, super high speed, incredibly expensive bicycle grease.  And, to my great please (of course) I no longer have a squeaking steed.

The moral of the story, with a couple of tools and a little know how, I saved myself the cost of having to pay someone else to work on my bike, freeing up those funds to go toward other necessities.

To rack or not to rack… (to secondary)

This is another one of those age old questions, do you want cheese on your burger, do you want a rare or a medium steak, do you rack your beer to secondary?  There are arguments for and against.  So, which I do prefer?

I have been brewing beer for one year, almost exactly.  In that time I have brewed nine batches of beer, with number 10 coming this Sunday.  There is one thing that all of these different beers, from California Common to a Double IPA to an Imperial Oatmeal Stout to a 12% Belgian Strong Ale, aside from using malted barley, yeast, and hops, I have racked every batch into a secondary fermentation.  For the non homebrewers out there, racking is the process of siphoning liquid from one vessel to another.  The idea is that you move the beer off of the spent yeast and other particles that have settled out, to give you a “clearer” brew.

Some believe that unless you are making a high gravity beer, alcohol percent over 8, that you do not need to take this step.  They argue that the additional contact with airborne wild yeast and bacteria, the chance of an infection getting into your beer is greatly increased.  The idea behind racking a high gravity beer is to remove the dead yeast cells and other left overs from the fermentation so as not to leave any off flavors behind in the beer.  Higher alcohol liquids are a very harsh environment, this is the reason alcohol is used to extract essences of herbs… IE vanilla.  Over the past year, there have been several podcasts that have addressed this topic.  Some argue that the flavor is even better in beer that has not been racked to secondary.  To this, I cannot speak, as I have never excluded this step.

One additional situation where racking a beer to secondary is a good idea, is when you “dry hop” a beer.  Dry hoping is a technique that was derived from the long trip the English supplies used to take in the colonial days to get from England to India.  The beer was spoiling before it could be delivered.  So, the brewers started loading up the barrels with hops to help “preserve” the beer for the trip.  Dry hopping creates a rather citrusy, floral character in the beer that the soldiers became quite fond of… and the rest is history.  The idea is that you want to remove your beer from the left overs from fermentation so that they do not interfere with the character derived from the hops.

Personally, I like to transfer into a secondary.  At this time, I only bottle my beer, I do not use kegs.  I know many who keg that do not rack into a secondary, the act of transferring into a keg… actually is a secondary, of sorts, so… it is a bit redundant.  I feel that the concern of contamination is virtually eliminated with good sanitation practices.  So… for me, I will rack and produce a clearer beer.

I’m back, and the mead is jammin’

I’m back and recharged.  Been quite a couple of weeks.  There was a surprise birthday party we were invited to, part of the surprise was us flying to San Jose on one day’s notice.  Followed the next day with 350 miles of driving, out to the Grand Canyon to see the annular solar eclipse.  Got some good pictures through the 12″ Dobsonian telescope.  Just didn’t seem to be able to find the time to sleep.

On a positive note, I did make a new batch of melomel, honey wine with fruit, in this case one pound of cherries with three pounds of honey and about 2/3 gallon of water.  I don’t have any wine yeast unopened at the moment so I thought I would throw in a tsp of standard Red Star bread yeast.  Let me tell you, the fermentation is sure more aggressive then I expected.  This fermentation has a larger krausen then any other that I have observed.  It is possible that the large krausen is a result of the larger amount of yeast I pitched.  I also started the fermentation at a lower temperature then I normally start mead.  I started at 65 degrees, instead of 72 or 74.  Not knowing what characteristics the bread yeast will impart on the wine, I wanted to give them every chance to be mellow and produce fewer phenols and fusels.  I imagine I will rack into secondary after 8 weeks and then age there for 3 or 4 months.  I may make another batch with 1/3 pound of kumquats I harvested from my tree this afternoon.  I think I will make this a combo mead, with some fresh thyme and mint leaves from the garden.

Taking the week off

I’m sure by now you have noticed that there have not been any posts this week.  Too much going on, been too busy.

Today, water line to the water cracked.  Tomorrow…. Lord knows.

This weekend I am taking my sweetie to the Grand Canyon for some R&R and to watch the annular solar eclipse on Sunday.

Hope you have a great week.  I will return next week.

It’s Friday, how about a beer… and/or some wine?

So, when I got home from work today I thought I would crack open one of the Belgian Dark Strong Ales I made back in November ’11.  Wow, the EtOH is still a touch on the heavy side, taste wise anyway… it is 12.5%.  It really grabs your tongue.  It needs another 6 months in the bottle and it should really be good.

Not a bad way to start the weekend.  Strong beer, cat purrring in my lap, sittin’ on the porch listening to the sounds of the city as it winds down it’s week.  Time to relax and let the slime of the week slide off of me.  I think I will grab some cambozola and open up a bottle of red.  The cambozola cheese and red wine remind me of Remmy from Ratatouille, when he describes the flavors you get when you eat two strong flavors together.  It’s like a symphony in you mouth.  Flavors exploding on top of each other, fighting to reach your tongue.  Wow… good stuff.

For red, I preffer a younger, stronger, more up front flavor.  Something with nice strong tannin structure and acidity.  Lately, my varietal of choice has been a component of many a Bordeaux wine for quite some time, Malbec.  I was first introduced (at least as far as I can remember) to Malbec at a little winery in Temecula by the name of Doffo.  If you are in the area, I definitely recommend it.  Their Malbec was quite exquisite.  So, ever since I have looked for it… and have not found one that I really didn’t like.  It is said that Malbec is one of the best kept secrets of Argentina.  If you like red, and haven’t tried Malbec, I would recommend it, you will be glad you did.

If you partake in the vino, raise a glass.  It’s the weekend, and Mother’s Day weekend, at that.

So, as a send off for the week, salute!

Dealing with burnout

Seems like I have been burning the candle at both ends recently.  I don’t feel like I am accomplishing everything that I need to get done.  This week feels like I have hit a wall.  The day just seems to come to a close before I am ready.  Today’s post is the 41st post for me.  Has it really been two months since I started penning these thoughts?  For someone who was never really fond of writing, I was more of the numbers/science/history types, this experience has been quite educational.  It is another way of working through some of the myriad of information in my head.  Just putting these thoughts down tonight, seems to have eased some of the tension.  This project was somewhat forced.  I am testing a theory that goes along the lines of the old saying, “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

One of the things I have learned these past four years is, that feeling burnt out and losing motivation, is normal.  Everyone has doubts sometimes.  When it happens, we need to double up out focus on what is important to us, and what our goal really is.

Tomorrow is Friday, and this weekend is mother’s day.  See you tomorrow!

Love of an animal

I grew up with a wonderful golden retriever.  I live with a loveable fur ball of a cat.  I’d have a dog now, but don’t have the space for one where I currently live.  Either way, the love that you get from our furry friends is amazing.  Whether a dog or cat, I imagine there are some other options out there, but for today… dogs and cats, they will love you.

They each have their advantages and… well… not sure if there are any real disadvantages.  Cats tend to be on the prima donnas, but that’s ok.  This one, who is purrrrrrring away in my lap at the moment, is by far the most intelligent feline I have ever met.  You can see it in her eyes.  There is a brain in there, starring back at me.  Even when she brings us presents… the occasional mouse… it just shows that she cares.

Dogs, mmmm, yes dogs.  “Man’s best friend”.  Don’t tell the cat, but I prefer dogs.  They would wrap their tongues around their heads if you give them an ounce of love.  I believe that dogs have a better sense of humans then cats do.  If you are feeling down or not well, they more often then not will come up to you and rest their head on your leg or foot and stare up at you with those eyes… you just can’t help but smile back at them.  I have heard it said that dogs can smile… or some form of it.  I believe this is true.  They spends their lives with humans, they are bound to pick up some of our intricacies.

All it takes is that one look, or the need for them to be close to you, for you to realize how special our four legged friends are.