What I Learned About Myself After Getting an AlcoMate Breathalyzer
As a beer, spirits, and cocktails writer, people often tell me "this must be tough" and "that sounds like a dream job!" Well, it's fun, but it's hard to tell people on the other side which actually works. Besides retouching photos and writing about something I'm proud of at the end of the night, the […]

As a beer, spirits, and cocktails writer, people often tell me "this must be tough" and "that sounds like a dream job!" Well, it's fun, but it's hard to tell people on the other side which actually works. Besides retouching photos and writing about something I'm proud of at the end of the night, the job also includes safety. It takes an insane amount of willpower to carefully manage food intake, time, and alcohol consumption to make it home safely to my family at the end of the night.

When Alcomate asked me to review their AlcoMate Revo (model TS200), I gladly accepted more than one way to get a (hopefully) good breathalyzer test in return for writing and sharing this review. After using it for a few weeks, I feel like I've learned a lot. I've tried other breathalyzers and never really found that sweet confidence point, where one shot would be way over the limit, the next one way down. What a waste of time and money!

When I first found the AlcoMate on my doorstep, I was just coming home after turning a video on Naughty Sauce with Foodbeast. After a few pints on an empty stomach at noon, I eagerly opened the case, installed the included batteries, and gave it a long, steady bang.

My first shot on the AlcoMate Revo after two beers on an empty stomach

My first shot on the AlcoMate Revo after two beers on an empty stomach

I blew it again. 0.044. I blew a third time ... same. Then I had lunch, drank a bunch of water and puffed once more: 0.032. This thing is crazy about precision! I let my kid use it to make sure he would register a zero, and sure enough he did.

Me after blowing

Me after blowing .121 at Mission Brewery in San Diego

The design is thin and solid like a cell phone. With its LED screen, blowing in your dark car before leaving an event is pleasant and discreet. Nothing says "boozehound" like blowing a breathalyzer with the car's dome light on! With one button, you simply turn it on, blow steadily when it says hit, and wait for the calculation. It takes ten seconds at most.

Here are a few events I've been to over the past few weeks and what I blew away before I left (note that .08 is the legal limit in California):

  • After a fun Halloween party: three hours, four beers: 0.045
  • After registration Four Brewers Podcast: Three shows in five hours with lots of beer and pizza: 0.024 (was .089 in the middle of the recording!)
  • Porktoberfest at Five Crowns: a cocktail, five 4oz beers including a Helldorado aged in bourbon casks: 0.026
  • Checking cocktails at Puzzle bar for a blog post: .078!
  • Private BBQ Event at Windsor Homebrew Supply with loads to share in the bottle: 0.023
  • San Diego Brewery Tour with Travelocity. Alesmith, Ballast Point, Mission and Stone Liberty Station: .121 (I didn't drive, luckily)
sss

Firestone Vertical at Windsor Homebrew Supply's Private BBQ Event (Blown A .023)

What did I learn? One of my biggest takeaways as a professional alcohol writer is drinking in moderation. Having an accurate breathalyzer like the Alcomate Revo is a great tool to not only stay safe, but also take the guesswork out of it. As I dive deeper spirits / cocktail while writing, I find it harder to guess where I am and this is the perfect solution.

AlcoMate Revo TS200 is available for $ 219 (plus taxes and shipping), and makes the perfect gift for the alcoholic in your life, not to mention the safety of your guests at your holiday season!

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Extract packs have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.

If you’re making beer, then you need to be rigorous about cleanliness during the brew. VWP is an absolutely no-nonsense cleaner and steriliser for getting everything ready beforehand. During the brew, a no-rinse sanitiser is invaluable. Between the two, spoilt and infected beer shouldn’t be a problem. You can buy cleaning products online from Brew Store and The Malt Miller.

Invest in some airtight plastic containers. Malt, kept dry and cool, should be fine for six months, but get rid of it after that – you’re only going to get stale flavours if you use stale malt. Likewise, dried yeast will keep, if sealed and chilled, but it will lose potency and reliability. Hops do not improve with age. Be doubtful of any before last year’s harvest, however cheap.

While a good book is an invaluable reference, there will be a time you come across something that flummoxes you. It’s very unlikely you will be the first, and just as unlikely someone else hasn’t discussed it. From the magisterial, if abondant, How tera Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable cercles d'entraides and blogs discussing minutiae, such as Brewer’s Friend, there’ll be something to help.

Avoid large amounts of table sugar, cane sugar or dextrose as fermentable sugars in your homebrew. They will ferment out completely and leave a very dry, almost ‘cidery’ flavour to your beer. This is what is recognized by many as the ‘homebrew’ taste. If you are looking for an easy way to improve this, swap these sugars with dry malt extract.

Most pack beers are designed to appeal to a wide range of people and therefore have a fairly simple flavour that it not very bitter. They are also generally bittered by using hop extract that adds bitterness but little hop flavour or aroma. Boil some water and add ½ an ounce ( 14 grams ) of any hop variety known for their flavour and aroma characteristics for 20 minutes. This will add a much improved change to the flavour of the beer. Add another ½ ounce ( 14g ) for the last 5 minutes of the boil to add a pleasant hoppy aroma. Simply strain the ‘hop soup’ into your fermenter with the rest of the top-up water. These simple hops additions will make a remarkable difference to your coffret beers.

tera wake a packet of dry yeast up and ensure that it is ready to start work as soon as it is pitched, try rehydrating it. Boil a cup ( 250mls ) of water for 5 minutes and then pour it into a sterilized conteneur. Wait for the water to cool down to at least 80°F/27°C and sprinkle your packet of yeast over the top. Leave this for about 15-30 minutes, when you should start to see it get nice and foamy. Once your wort has cooled enough, pitch this and it will start fermentation much earlier.

If you would really like to get things started, follow the process above but add a tablespoon of dry malt extract to the water before boiling it. After pouring the water to a jar, add your yeast when cool enough and place cling wrap over the top to protect from the environment. Leave for at least quarante cinq minutes at room temperature and you should start to see fermentation activity.

The length of time for fermentation on the side of your kit beer can is almost definitely not long enough. The manufacturers are in the of selling product and these informations will make beer, but it won’t be great beer. This should be extended out to 10-14 days.

Although your beer will be carbonated after about a week in the bottle, leave it for a few more to allow for the flavors to settle. This is especially relevant for beer made from packs as it will help remove some of the biroute found in young/’green’ beer.

In order to efficiently multiply and get to the business of converting sugar to alcohol, yeast needs a sufficient amount of oxygen in your wort. If brewing using malt extract this can be reached a few ways including by shaking the water you are using to top up your wort, or by pouring it from a great height into your fermenter.

Don’t be too worried about removing your beer from the primary fermenter as soon as fermentation has finished. The Autolysis that you are seeking to avoid will take well over a month and in most cases a solo stage fermentation is fine.

If you are looking to control fermentation temperature, place the fermenter in a large container of water to cool it and prevent temperature fluctuations. Wrapping a wet towel around it and pointing a fou at it cools it even more through evaporative cooling. A few frozen plastic bottles of water are also perfect for cooling the water and your fermenting beer.

If you insist on using a two stage fermentation, use a bottling bucket ( or something else with a spigot ) for a primary. That way you only need a length of hose to rack into the secondary. The spigot will also be far enough off the bottom that the trub will get left in the primary with little extra effort – just tilt the fermenter forward at the end.

The activity of your airlock should only be seen as one indication that something is happening. There are many others indications and a faulty seal on your fermenter could stop anything from happening in the airlock.

The starting cell count is usually quite low with liquid yeast cultures. If you make a yeast starter about a day before brewing, you can avoid some potential issues from under-pitching the yeast.

If you are trying to cool a partial boil, place the whole brew pot into a sink or tub of cold water. You may need to change this water a few times but it is far easier to cool a small bocal of wort in a temperature conductive conteneur ( i. e. your brew récipient ) than a grande amount of liquid in a fermenter. Adding your cooled wort to even colder water ( or ice ) in the fermenter will serve to cool it even further and should hopefully get you close to yeast pitching temperatures.

Dry yeast packets are perfect for new homebrewers. They have a nice high cell count and are very easy to use. Hydrating these takes very little time and will help get fermentation sérieux earlier.

Get into the habit of sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your wort or beer after the boil.

Extract packs have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.

Use a no-rinse sanitiser… This shouldn’t need an explanation and I am yet to hear of a real reason not to

Following on from above – Don’t use bleach as a sanitizer…ever. It is hard to rinse out and if any comes in contact with the maltose in your wort it has the potential to completely ruin your batch. There are so many better products available that this shouldn’t even be a consideration

Whatever sanitizer you use, put some of it in a spray bottle for quick sanitation during brew time.

Make sure you read and understand the recipe before you start brewing. Also make sure that you have all the ingredients handy before you start. These seem like simple things but the last 15 minutes can get a little crazy… especially if you started drinking while sanitizing

Beer is very resilient so don’t be too worried if you make a mistake while brewing. Although it may not be exactly the beer you were after, you will probably still have something tasty and worth drinking.

Leave the lid off your brew bocal while it is boiling. The process of boiling actually vaporises chemicals that are not wanted in the beer and they evaporate out. The lid doesn’t need to be completely off if you are having dysfonctionnement maintaining a rolling boil but should at least be enough for the steam to escape.

Keep a record of every beer that you make, no matter how simple the recipe. This record will allow you to recall and tweak your brews when all that remains in the future is a couple of stray bottles and a desire for more

Especially when starting out, keep your ingredients and brews as simple as possible. It is much easier to add to a simple recipe that is missing something than it is to remove from something complex

Start by getting a solid grasp of the sanitization, fermentation and bottling processes and work from there.

If you have a choice, choose a fermenter or bottling bucket with a spigot/tap over one without. The siphoning required otherwise isn’t but it is still one more unnecessary step.

Bulk priming your beer is a simple addition to your bottling process that will add much greater control and consistency in the amount of priming sugar in your bottles.

The quality of your beer will be relative to the quality of the ingredients used. Always go for the freshest and best quality possible. Always make sure that extract is within any specified dates, yeast is fresh and that hops are nice and green

But most importantly… just relax and remember that you probably aren’t going to ruin your beer – It isn’t as delicate as you think

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