All-in-one all-grain brewing disaster

My second attempt at all-grain brewing turned out to be a disaster. It still made it into my fermenter (the ingredients cost almost S$70!) but my all-in-one brewing kit was almost ruined. A painful lesson which, hopefully, you can avoid.

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Taobao product recommendation – Smoking gun food smoker

Smoked food tastes good. We all know this because everybody loves BBQ and grilled food right? Health concerns aside, we want to eat smoked food once in a while. Most of us don’t have the luxury of using a smoker at home (large cabinet with wood burning at the bottom, or stove top smoker which i suspect still generates more smoke than desirable indoors), especially since many of us live in a high rise building. I was wondering if there was an easier way. Well, there is a micro smoker in the form of a “smoking gun”.

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Taobao product recommendation – Non-stick stainless steel wok

We all know that food sticks to stainless steel cookware, but now, they have figured out how to make stainless steel non-stick. The surface is made to minimize contact with the foodstuff such that the food “floats”. This is a winning combo – abrasion-proof and non-stick, plus even heating. But, does it really work as advertised? Let me show you.

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Taobao product recommendation – Sleep-wearable Bluetooth earphones

I learned about ASMR only recently. I would be interested because I often don’t sleep well. I did a search on Taobao and found that indeed there are earphones that are targeted at ASMR usage, i.e. for wearing during sleep.

To make an earphone sleep-wearable, the buds have to go in all the way so you don’t feel them when your ear is pressed against the pillow. Also, wireless is definitely a good idea. So, mostly, an “ASMR” earphone is just a Bluetooth earphone. I settled on this pair of KBF (the usual poor choice for brand name, both in English and Chinese). I got it for cheap – 70 Yuan (S$14.10). It is fairly light, promises 12 hours of music. The buds, wires and neck strap are all made of soft Silicon. It didn’t feel heavy when put on, and you’ll almost forget you had them on after a while. Yes, they do feel like they will not come in the way when used during sleep.

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Taobao product recommendation – Churros tools

Churros is surprisingly easy to make, to the point that i don’t understand how people can make a business out of selling Churros alone. The recipe is simple and idiot proof, but you do need to get the piping bag and star-shaped tip.

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All grain brewing using Taobao-bought all-in-one brewing system

Okay, to use the term “brewing system” is to give higher praise than deserved to the simple kettle plus pump i recently bought from Taobao. But basically that is all you need to do grain brewing – a kettle for mashing and boiling and a pump for sparging – the three stages involved in grain brewing.

I must begin by saying that all grain brewing is very tough back-breaking work. The mash for a 23 Litres (6 Gallons) brew is super heavy (20kg?). I’m seriously considering getting a hoist to save my back. You will have to lift the mash at least twice in the process. That said, the aroma of the mash probably makes up for the hard work. It is far superior to the stale smelling aroma you get from extract brewing.

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Taobao product recommendation – silicone cake mould

A parfait housed in a cup shape cake is like a dream, and i couldn’t resist trying my hand at making one. The major obstacle is in demoulding the cake, and i wondered if a silicone cake mould would help. In short, it works like a charm.

I made the cake using a souffle recipe, and when baked to golden brown, the cake does not stick to the silicone mould at all. Parts of the centre of the cake was not fully baked so those parts were slightly sticking to the mould, but otherwise, the cake actually developed a nice non-sticking soft crust all round. On hindsight i should have placed the mould on a rack when baking.

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Taobao product recommendation – Beer all grain brewing all-in-one kit

I’ve been brewing beer from extract since the beginning (woah it’s been almost five years just like that), and that’s probably the right place to start for beginners. It couldn’t be easier, but everyone has to progress to grain brewing at some point. The traditional method usually involves a three tier system which takes up quite a bit of space. With an all-in-one kit though, the three tiers become just one, sort of.

The Grainfather, which hails from New Zealand, is probably the first all-in-one systems in the market (apparently in 2012). Expensive (US$999), of course. Obviously, other copycat systems arrived, one of which is the Robobrew BrewZilla, from Australia. Much cheaper (US$479), but still expensive. I suppose it makes more sense to buy from the local distributor, to save the hassle of shipping, though the pricing is even higher – the Grainfather at S$1688 and BrewZilla at S$780.

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Qoo10 product recommendation – Deep fryer machine

Have always wanted to get my hands on one of these deep fryer machines. Deep frying is one of those things i used to dread because of the amount of oil used, from both the wastage and health points of view. Well, having done deep frying quite a bit by now, you could say i got used to the oil usage. Deep frying produces a texture no other cooking method can imitate (well the air-fryer comes close only for a small subset of foodstuff), so one has to incorporate it into the full arsenal of cooking techniques.

The whole idea of a deep fryer machine is to reduce the hassle of maintaining temperature and also in ensuring that everything is evenly cooked. It can also reduce the oily fumes emitted as compared to using a wok, plus it also eliminates the danger of getting hot oil splattered onto your arms. Easily justifiable purchase. Compared to Taobao, it is still quite expensive. This one on Taobao would make for a good choice actually – only 99 Yuan (S$20) for the comparable model before shipping and tax. The advantage of the Taobao product is the longish shape, so you can even fry fritters (Youtiao). Anyway, if you’re more concerned with saving space, then this Qoo10 one is still a good choice. OEM product tested and approved by Korean (pretending to be German) brand. With the use of coupon, you can get at least 10% off the price.

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Taobao shipping options 2020

A lot has changed since Taobao shopping became popular a few years ago. I would recommend doing shipping differently than before.

First up, forget about Taobao direct or consolidated shipping. It is SLOW, and relatively expensive. The air shipping could take as long as the sea shipping offered by other forwarders. Overall the shipping feels disorganized, maybe because it is handled by too many parties.

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