Tag: frugal

Simple compost aerator from toilet rolls

compost aerator

Aerator thrown into the compost bin

A homemade compost aerator is a simple, sustainable and very green trick to help speed up your composting using old toilet rolls. The old trusty toilet roll, there are so many things one can do with them in addition to finding their way into the recycling bin!

We have previously used them as bio-degradable planters for our seedlings or brown mulch for our wormery to name a couple of great uses. Though our dog has really found a love for left over toilet rolls, she fetches them from the bathroom and brings them to us and sits down, asking for permission before chewing it to pieces. Ever so cute!

UPDATE (04/07/13): Picture of the toilet roll terror added to the bottom of this post.

Scrimpers choice! Don’t have to spend a penny.

homemade toilet roll compost aerators

5 Simple steps using our old toilet rolls as compost aerators

We came across a post a few months back about creating toilet roll aerators; now for the life of me I cannot find the site to be referenced here. If anyone else can provide the link, I will add it to this post.

The post highlighted the issues with getting plenty of air into the compost mix to aid the bacteria, to increase the speed in which the matter breaks down. Normally we would do our best to turn it over, but it can be quite difficult to do at times, unless you have a rotating composter tumbler or a Dolmen Compost Mixer and Aerator. But as we are trying to be frugal scrimpers, keeping costs low and making the most of what you have, we thought this is worth a try.

The author pointed out the benefits of creating small air pockets within your compost and that they could be created by folding in the ends of your old toilet rolls and chucking them onto the heap and covering.

Easy peasy homemade compost aerators

Without trying to waffle too much, in a couple of simple quick and easy steps we created our first compost aerator tool:

  1. Fold in the top inch of both sides of one end of the toilet roll
  2. Then fold in the two flaps to partially close the end of the tube to create a little structure.
  3. Do the same to the other end
  4. Voila, done!
  5. Throw them into your compost bin and gently mix a little compost on top.

They will eventually get crushed (obviously), but they should continue to act as small air pockets until they rot away. I believe the idea is to continually keep adding them as you add more matter to break down.

Have you any results to share with your compost aerator?

Despite our compost looking good on our last bin raid, we have only been doing this for a couple of months, so we have nothing conclusive to add yet. Though each time we have a spare toilet roll, we have been adding them into our compost bin and on occasion yes we have been giving one to our dog to chew lol.

Has anyone any experience with this trick?

We are interested to find out how effective this trick is for anyone else’s compost breakdown or if they are any other great composting ideas.

UPDATE: Toilet Roll Terror – Asking for permission to chew
Our dog holding a toilet roll

Toilet roll terror

A couple of days after I posted this, we were sat outside in the sunshine and she came up, sat infront of Sherrie carefully holding her precious find. Then she will lift her paw ever so gently to ask if she can have it. I could not resist adding this cute little pic.

 

Brewing our own light beer

DIY microbrewery kit

DIY Beer Brewing! Frugal living…

I have been keen to learn how to make my own beer and for Christmas my sister bought me a wheat beer microbreweries kit. I know it’s a kit with the premade syrup already provided, so the process is much easier than preparing the hops. But I figure, you have to start somewhere learning the basic principles how to “home brew” and this kit just gets the ball rolling.

My efforts most likely will not be as tasty as the beer you buy from the shops, but hopefully this will get better with practice, plus the amount of beer you get, for the money you spend, is a much better Return On Investment (ROI) for only a little effort.

How much does it all cost?

Typically once you have the microbrewery equipment which will set you back around £30-£40, most of the beer kits produce roughly 40 pints and your costs to brew your own beer from a kit is typically:

  • £11-£16 for the beer kit
  • £2 for the extra 1kg of brewing sugar

*From time to time you will need to purchase new sterilising powder or find a suitable alternative.

With both options there are always the more premium brands/sugars that will cost a little extra, but typically it costs around £16.

How much can brewing your own beer save you?

For a pint can (568ml) of Stella Artois in the supermarkets we are looking at roughly £1.25 to £1.59 per can, depending on the bulk buy deals available at the time. If you quickly run the numbers for 40 pints we are paying somewhere in the range below for the equivalent amount of booze:

  • 40 pints x £1.25 = £50!! Or 40 pints x £1.59 = £63.60!!

So already investing a little time, energy and money upfront you can save yourself a staggering 68% – 75% off the cost!!! Or let me put it another way, for the money you would spend on buying beer in the off-licence for 40 pints you could brew between 125 – 159 PINTS!!!

Ok so the art here is to obviously master the brewing process, so that it tastes really good but that’s just a case of practise making perfect!

Ok I’m interested, but how easy is it?

Well I won’t lie, it was my first time home brewing so I was a little anxious that I got it right and aside from a few little mistakes it was surprisingly easy. Anyway before I get ahead of myself, let’s run through the steps!

Brewing your own beer, step…

  1. Sterilising the brewing equipment

    Step 2: Sterilising the brewing equipment

    GET ORGANISED
    Apparently I needed help, so I had no choice but to recruit a keen assistant, my father in law Paul. So we set about getting all of the equipment and ingredients together as featured in picture at the top of this post.

    1. 25 Litre fermenting bin & lid (bung & airlock beneficial)
    2. Paddle
    3. Syphon
    4. Steriliser
    5. Hydrometer & Trail Jar
    6. Thermometer
    7. Beer kit & Sugar (or malt extract)
  2. pour in the syrup

    Step 3: Pour in the Syrup

    CLEAN & STERILISE
    One of the most important steps is to clean all your brewing equipment in warm sterilised solution in your kitchen sink and let it soak for a good 10-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Otherwise you might end up with fluffy foul smelling growths in your precious nectar!

  3. Top up with cold water & get the temperature

    Step 4: Top up with cold water & get the temperature

    POUR IN & MIX
    Ah the easy bit, pour in the syrup then add the sugar (or malt extract), top up slowly with 2 litres of boiling water whilst stirring with your paddle.

  4. Get the gravity reading

    Step 5: Get the gravity reading

    TOP UP WITH COLD WATER
    Then whilst stirring pour in 20 litres of cold water to create your wort. If necessary top up with a little extra cold/warm water so that its temperature is between 210C-270C (700F-800F).

  5. GET YOUR (OG) ORIGINAL GRAVITY READING
    Ok before we put in the yeast we need to get our initial gravity reading using our Hydrometer and trail jar to later determine our alcohol content.

    1. With a sterilised jug fill up half a pint of wort (liquid) and slowly transfer into the trail jar until you are about 2 inches from the top.
    2. Slowly lower in your hydrometer, giving it a spin with your fingers as you release to remove the air bubbles.
    3. Let it get its buoyancy and look where the numbers settle on a level with the liquid and note down your (OG) reading. Some people online recommend taking the reading twice to be sure it’s correct.
    4. Pour all the remaining wort back into the fermentation bin.
  6. ADD IN THE YEAST
    Now slowly pour in the yeast whilst stirring away with your paddle, once it’s all mixed in your just about done.
  7. fermentation

    Step 7/8: Find a warm place for fermentation

    LID IT
    There are a couple of different methods here open and closed, but we prefer the option that is less likely for errors (closed) which is also easier for carrying. The downside is that our microbrewery did not come with a bung and airlock to keep things simple; luckily we already had a spare with our winemaking equipment. So prior to sterilisation we drilled a hole in the lid to fit the bung and airlock (these can also be purchased separately)

  8. STORE IT
    Find a nice dark and warm location for the beer to ferment for approximately seven days. For optimum results, it is suggested to leave it in an ambient temperature of 210C -270C. We placed our brew in our airing cupboard, as it was the perfect environment for fermentation.
  9. CHECK IT
    After a week, I did a (FG) final gravity test, I got a reading of 11. We are supposed to do two readings in two consecutive days and if the readings are the same then we are ready to bottle up. However, after running through the calculations I realised my beer was only 3.3% Alch Vol. So I decided to leave it for another week.

I was hoping for a reading of 10 or less, but after leaving it an extra week I decided it was time to bottle up, as the alcohol content was not going to get any higher. Next time I will probably add more sugar for a stronger brew!

How to calculate the alcohol content?

Well it turns out that it’s pretty easy using the formula below:

OG – FG
7.46
+ 0.5 = approx % alcohol by volume (ABV)

Formula Key:

  • OG = Original Gravity prior to adding the yeast
  • FG = Final gravity after fermentation

So in my case the readings were:

  • 10321010 / 7.46 + 0.5 = 3.45% ABV

Not very high I know, but I have learnt not to be stingy when adding the sugar and add more! As we don’t have a keg to store the nectar in, we had to use plastic bottles that came with the microbrewery kit, so now comes the fun part.

Bottling up your brew!

I think the hardest, most time consuming part of this process is the sterilisation of all the bottles and caps, it can be quite laborious as they also need rinsing properly. Once everything is sterilised, including the syphon (which I forgot to do at first) then we’re all set to bottle.

It can be a one man job, though it’s easier in a two man team, in my case I had a last minute substitute from my father in law, to his beautiful daughter Sherrie! I think this was the part he was most looking forward to, the bottling and sampling! Make sure you are in charge of controlling the flow of beer through the siphon; any extra spillage will accidently fall in your mouth!

So you don’t get too bored reading this, I will hurry along….

We added in 7 grams of sugar into each empty bottle, filled it up with beer, sealed and carefully tipped upside down several times before storing it away in an upright position for its secondary fermentation.

After a week, you are good to go! Pop it in the fridge to chill and voila, sit back and enjoy!

finished beer

The Finished beer! (sorry about the poor photo)

It does recommend leaving the beer to mature in flavour, or keep a couple of bottles back of each batch to mature for several months.

Going further

We are keen to try out different kits and maybe even make our own wort syrup one day. As you can tell we are certainly not experienced beer brewers, but it goes to show that anyone can do it if you are willing to give it a go and it will save you a lot of money over time!

Cheers to all of you scrimpers out there!!

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments about our beer brewing, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.

 

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