Keychain Multi Tool - Keyport MOCA 10-In-1 Key Tool review

Monday, January 13, 2020
keyport key tool

I was looking for a Christmas present for my brother and I ended up getting him a Gerber Multi-plier tool but while I was searching for his present, I spied this key chain multi tool, the Keyport MOCA 10-in-1.

I really liked the look of it and it felt useful and it reminded me of one of those credit card tools but I couldn't justify the slightly extra dollar spend during Xmas.

But I kept thinking of it. It just seemed so elegant a tool yet so simple.

So I bought it:
And when it arrived it just so happened my kids were making a castle out of cardboard for the cat and they quickly commandeered it.

And I can tell ya, the cord-cutter / box opener is nice and sharp and the blade cuts through the cardboard really well. It means it will be handy for opening up all your ridgid packages and consumables that are stuck in those overly strong plastic cases

Anyways, the cat didn't appreciate being placed in his castle and gave my son a pretty good scratch so I placed the Keyport on my key ring and went about my business:

best key chain multi tool

Later in the evening, I decided to crack open a homebrew and I used the tool to easily open my beer.

It wasn't as easy as using a larger, standard size opener, but it did the job with no fuss - which means it's very practical for parties, BBQ, etc when you suddenly find yourself needing to open a few brews.

I guess my personal review is this item clearly has got some fine potential to help out with fiddly jobs like opening packages and beers.

The Keyport is made of a single piece of 420 stainless steel so it won't break or rust or easily bend.

It's very light and at half an ounce weight, it will not make your keyset feel much heavier.

If you're a traveler, you'll be pleased to know the tool is TSA friendly, so American travelers can take this on their person without any issues - which pretty much means you can travel on a plane with the tool anywhere in the world. In that sense, it's pretty neutral, like the Swiss.

Oh, and if you were wondering about what MOCA stands for, it's: Measure / Open / Cut / Anywhere

Here's the full set of features the Keyport MOCA 10-In-1 Key Tool offers:

  • Bottle opener
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Cord cutter
  • Box opener
  • Scoring tool
  • Hex bit driver
  • 1/4” wrench
  • 5/16” wrench
  • 3/8” wrench
  • 2” ruler

The unit also fits into a Keyport pivot key organiser:
Other than myself and I presume, Batman, there's plenty of happy users. Check out these reviews left on Amazon by happy buyers:

"I got one of these for my husband and myself. Since receiving it last week, I've used it many times daily. The box opening blade is just enough blade to open those Amazon boxes, or to break boxes down for recycling. I haven't used the wrench feature yet, but did use the pretty blade and the ruler, both are handy.

I would recommend this as an addition to anyone's keychain."

"This is the best tool for pocket use. I work in a pastry kitchen and while I normally beat the side of the box until the cardboard bends and separates from the tape, sometimes the boxes are super thick and stronger. I wanted a pocket-sized box cutter, which there are plenty on Amazon. However, I came across this tool and thought it was amazing. 

The curved blade is sharp enough to cut through the tape, and some flimsy cardboard and plastic; it also comes with several other tools that may or may not ever come in handy for me. I felt this item was the safest choice for a pocket-sized box cutter. It's thick and durable looking, so I am certain I will have this item for years to come."

So, if those reviews float your boat, check out the price on Amazon.

How to start a flooded chainsaw

Thursday, January 2, 2020
how to start a flooded chainsaw

One of my youngest memories is being with a father in an orchard somewhere cutting firewood.

When we were done, the car, stacked up with firewood wouldn't start. 

We had to wait for what felt like forever for my mum to turn up to take me home while Dad tended to the car. 

And what does that have to do with starting flooded chainsaw engines? 

Nothing, except to say my dad was pretty handy with a chainsaw. He had a green Poulan and as a kid it just seemed the coolest thing in the world. 

Anyways, enough of this chit chat here are some:

Tips on starting a flooded chainsaw

Before we get into it, make sure you have fresh petrol in your engine. 

If you've got an old mixture of oil and gas that's older than a month, it will be harder for your engine to start.

We suggest you drain and add fresh petrol to ensure a good start. 

If you have tried several times unsuccessfully to start your unit, it is most likely flooded, especially so if you can smell gas. 

Flooded means there is excessive fuel pumped into the engine which as displaced the vital ingredient of oxygen for starting. 

Do not prime the engine again as you will add to the problem!

There are two ways you can try to clear the unit of the excess fuel and get it chopping wood.

The first is the easiest and most common method.  Let your chainsaw sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the fuel to evaporate from the engine and then to repeat the starting instructions.

Maybe go make a cup of hop tea while you wait. 

This method will work best with a mildly flooded engine.

The more hands-on method to start a flooded chainsaw:

  • Have the chain break on
  • Turn the choke off
  • Activate the fast idle (by engaging the throttle lock/trigger assembly or pulling the choke out and pushing it back in
  • Turn the on/off switch on
  • Hold the saw firmly on the ground as you do during normal starting, and pull the starter rope sharply until the saw starts. Do not pull the starter rope out to its full length. Employe short, brisk pulls instead.
If the engine does not start in 15 pulls then the spark plug may be 'wet fouled'. If you suspect this has occurred, remove the spark plug and look for moist wet deposits on the electrode. 

While the plug is out, here's a chance to remove any fuel in the engine via the spark plug hole. 

Here's a great video tutorial on starting your saw:

How to replace string on a grass trimmer

Wednesday, January 1, 2020
replace string on a grass cutter

How to the replace string on an electric grass trimmer

When they are fully charged and in tip-top condition, weed and grass trimmers can be the best tools to clean up the garden.

Until the string breaks!

It's not really a string, it's a 'plastic monofilament' which cuts the grass instead of a metal blade such as on a lawnmower.

Strings don't need to be sharped, they just need to stay in place, however, given they smash round and around into grass and weeds and concrete and wooden fences and rocks, the string does snap off and does need to be replaced.

As the line wears from use or breaks off, the trimmer user knocks the reel on the ground so a release mechanism allows some of the line in the reel to replace the spent part.

Newer model weed cutters can also feature an "auto-feed", where a small cutter ensures the exposed length does not exceed what can be swung efficiently.

When this line runs out, the line needs to be replaced

String replacement can be really tricky, especially if the weed whacker is used only occasionally! You can buy edge trimmer replacement string from places like Home Depot or order online from Amazon.

Here's how to replace the string on an electric weed-eater

  1. Unplug the trimmer or remove its battery pack so there is no power and no chance of the unit accidentally starting while you're replacing the string.
  2. Hold the trimmer upside-down to access the 'string spool'. Remove the spool cover by pressing in on the two tabs holding it in place. If there's any issue, consult your manual.
  3. Remove the spool from the trimmer by sliding the spool off its spindle.
  4. Now you have two options. The first is to slide the replacement spool back onto the trimmer spindle. The second option is to re-fill your existing spool by inserting one end of a piece of replacement trimmer line into the spool's anchor hole and winding the line around it clockwise. The replacement line should be of the same length and thickness as the line that was originally on the spoon.
  5. Now feed the free end of the trimmer line through the exit hole opening which is located on the spool-housing hub. This next bit can be fiddly so some patience is required. Align the notch in the spool with the exit hole to make sure the spool is correctly orientated.
  6. Push the freshly loaded spool into place. When it clicks, this indicates that it is secured in place. If your trimmer features a spool cover, now put it back on and press it into place.
The cordless battery powered Ryobi trimmer is one of the best edge trimmers on the market. Lightweight and easy to use, Ryobi string is also very easy to replace.

Other popular weed eater devices include the Greenworks range (of which we have recommended their battery-powered lawnmower ) and the stock standard but dependable Dewalt line of edge trimmer

How to do edging with a weed trimmer

Grass lawn edges can be really bothersome if you don't maintain them regularly - sure you can cut them out with a knife or edge clippers but you can use your line trimmer quite easily.  Simply angle the cutter so that it is in line with the path edge you want to trim. You'll need to invert the unit 90 odd degrees. 

Turn your trimmer on and slowly lower it down to the lawn - try not to place the string too firmly on the concrete path as this can cause immediate wear on the string and damage it. It's the kind of thing you'll get a feel for. 

Best battery powered lawn mower for yard work in 2020

Sunday, November 10, 2019
best cordless gas free lawn mower

Choosing a battery powered push lawn mower for home use

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to cut grass.

  • You've got your standard push mower that runs on gas
  • You've got manual mowers where you gotta push them along
  • You've got electric mowers that plug into the mains
  • Using a pair of scissors if you have a lot of time...

And in this modern world, you've got battery powered lawnmowers.

A battery-powered lawn mower? Really?

Yep, today's technologies mean there are batteries powerful enough to turn the blades to cut grass. If cars can drive around town all day on battery power, lawn mowers can cut grass!

Here's our top three picks which are Amazon best sellers:

While petrolheads and Obi-Wan might love maintaining their engines by adding oil and replacing spark plugs, there's many a person out there who simply wants to mow the lawns as quickly and without any stress or maintenance fuss.

An electric mower is ideal for those who are slowing down in life and don't want to have to pull start a mower 15 times before it kicks into life or run over the cable and cutting it!

With an electric lawn mower, you charge the battery, turn the mower on, and you are cutting your grass in no time.

A cordless electric mower is ideal for mowing small and medium-sized yards and lawns. With no petrol or cords to worry about, they are very portable due to their lightness. A self-propelled mower also makes this chore even easier.

How long does cordless lawn mower battery last?

While you might be able to mow your lawns in 30 minutes, a quality battery should last up to at least an hour, ideally 90 minutes.

Such a range should give you enough time to do the front and back and maybe your neighbor's lawns and the curbside berm too!!

What is the best battery powered lawn mower in 2019?

As you might have suspected, the major brands such as Dewalt, Black and Dekker, Ego and Ryobi have done their best to capitalize on the battery innovation market and so there is a fairly broad range of products to choose from.

You can cast your purchase decision into price and performance meaning you'll be able to find a mower to suit your budget.

That said, battery performance is the key measure on which you should make your purchase decision. At a bare minimum, you will want to consider a battery that when fully charged will last at least an hour. If you have a larger lawn, you'll probably want 90 minutes (usually a 7.5 Ah battery will reach perform at this level).

You'll also want to consider the kind of battery and to cut to the chase, you'll want to make sure your mower features a lithium-ion battery. They are lighter than traditional lead-based batteries meaning they are easier to push about. They also charge quickly and efficiently and will also have a longer life span. 

While batteries that are quick to charge are ideal, I reason that if you mow your lawn and then charge the battery, you'll be ready to cut next time you need to - and if that's the case, it doesn't matter how long it takes to charge the battery. Unless of course, you forget to charge it... but wait, most mowers will come with two batteries...

So with that in mind, here are some options that you may wish to consider:

greenworks cordless lawnmower best

Greenworks PRO 21-Inch 80V Cordless Lawn Mower featuring a 4.0 AH battery 

A stylish looking mower, this sharp cutter from Greenworks has the following specifications:

  • Up to 60 minutes of run time with a fully charged 4.0AH Battery
  • 4.0AH battery and charger included. 
  • Has a maximum cutting height 1-3/8 inches and a minimum cutting height of 3-1/4 inches
  • Greenworks brushless motor provides your tool with longer run-time, more torque and more power. This has the benefit of less wear and tear, extending the life-time of the mower.
  • Smart Cut Load sensing technology. Versatile 3-in-1 discharge capabilities allow for rear discharge, mulching and side discharge

Greenworks boast that this 21-inch cordless lawn mower features a durable steel deck, large 10-inch rear wheels, and Smart Cut(TM) load sensing technology. Load sensing tech means the lawn mower can tell when it's got to do some hard work (longer grass) and will amp up the power from the battery to the engine. Even though it's a handy feature, all practiced lawn mowers know you just need to simply slow down your pushing rate when tasked with tall or thick overgrown grass to minimize the chance of an engine cut out. 

Lightweight and easy to use (heck, it's a lawn mower), it has a single lever height adjustment and 3-in-1 operation for mulching, bagging, and discharging. It's so light, you can easily store this vertically, meaning more floor space in your shed!

Designed for durability and heavy-duty jobs, it features a brushless motor that delivers the power and performance of a 160cc gas engine. 

A real con perhaps is that this machine is not self-propelled. 

Don't take the manufacturer's word on all this guff, however.

Here are some genuine reviews from buyers on Amazon who have bought and used this mower. This is the real test of judgment, people with skin in the game:

'Mower was light enough to lug it down alone to the basement for Winter and back up for Spring. Absolutely no preparation needed (no gas burn off, stabilizer, spark plugs, filters, etc.), aside from blowing off old grass clippings and covering for dust (cover interchanged with snow blower).'

'No messy, smelly gas or oil needed. No nauseating exhaust! The electric motor is far quieter than a gas engine; my toddlers fell asleep fine during my mowing. There are none of the headaches of maintaining a gasoline engine: buy/store/pour jugs of gasoline, buy and keep engine oil topped off, buy fuel stabilizers, deal with spills, clean/replace spark plugs, burn off excess gasoline for off-season storage, etc.'

'The mower is very easy to push (note it’s not self-powered), so I speed-walked most of the time. It’s easy to turn 180-degrees for parallel mowing. The blades cut very near to the outer edge of the wheels (see attached picture), so there’s minimal need for overlap. There’s a rubber rear skirt to protect you from any rock or debris projectiles, which is a godsend for my large yard, full of landscape stones and sweet gum tree spike-balls.'

'The GreenWorks is superior quality in every respect, I don't even know where to begin. The single lever height adjustment is something I didn't consider that important when comparing alternatives, but something you really appreciate once you have it. The variable speed on the mower is really an awesome feature. When going through light grass you save energy, and when going through heavy grass it makes the mower not stall. The gasoline-powered mower would stall almost every lap on the lower part of our property, where the grass seems to grow thicker. The electric mower has not stalled even once, ever. By the same token, starting the mower with a button instead of pulling the cord is a dream too.'

'My experience with the mower and the blower which I purchased together has been just great. They mow and blow just like my old gas powered tools. I'm never going back to gas!!'

'Cuts grass as tall as the motor housing. Be prepared to go slow though. When I did manage to kill it in thick grass nearly as tall as the motor (well above the front wheels), it likes to wait a few seconds before starting again. Starts right up (until the battery is out of juice).'

'To turn on, you push and hold the green button on the upper-right of the handle, then grasp the green lever arm together with the handle bar, then let go of the button. When you release lever, the mower turns off completely; there is no idle. To restart, you’ll need to repeat the hold-button and grasp-lever routine. There is no cord-yanking involved.'

'I purchased the mower with the 4ah 80v battery. This is the best lawn mower I have had. We live in Costa Rica and mow the lawn year round, our property is about 1/4 acre and has a steep hill. The battery lasts as long or as longer as a tank of gas on the mower it replaces, that was a Poulan Pro 6.25 hp with California compliant emissions.'

If those reviews, float your boat, check out the price on Amazon.

snapper briggs stratton lawn mower cordless

Snapper Electric Cordless 19-Inch Lawnmower Kit with two batteries & a rapid Charger

A popular seller on Amazon, the beauty of this mower is it features a Briggs and Stratton lithium ion battery!

The Snapper XD 82V Max* 19” Cordless walk mower is built for durability and ease of use. The 19” and 21” walk models feature a steel 3-in-1 mowing deck, providing mulch, side discharge or bagging options.

You can get the job done efficiently by being able to mow up to 45-minutes** off a single charge of a 2 Ah battery. If you desire long run times, you'll need to swap out with a with separate 4Ah or 5Ah battery).

The Snapper is a very quiet, efficiently operating machine making it a good choice for anyone that just wants to get the lawns done with little fuss. 

  • Powered by a Briggs & Stratton 82V Max Lithium-Ion 2Ah, 4Ah, or 5Ah battery.
  • 3-in-1 steel mowing deck is ready to mulch, bag or side discharge. The included large grass bagger fits about 2.1 cubic feet of grass clippings.
  • Compact vertical storage capability allows you to store your mower out of the way.
  • Features easy push button starting mode and a brush less motor meaning less maintenance for you.
  • Single lever height-of-cut adjustment allowing you to choose from 7 different cutting heights.
  • Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 82-volts. Nominal voltage is 72.

  • snapper cordless lawnmower

    Again, those specs look solid enough and merit consideration for purchase, but what about the road testers, the weekend warriors who have walked many miles behind the Snapper?

    'First off, everything about this mower SCREAMS quality and durability. Batteries??? OMG. I am wondering if they're not actually ZPMs from Stargate Atlantis!

    For those of you who cannot appreciate the reference, suffice to say, they are a very good size, and have a real good quality heft to them- along with a little button to show you how much power is left. There are two of them, and they charge in less than 30 mins.

    Use one up, charge it while you use the other, or weed whack, or take a break. The choice is yours. And btw, the battery does not slowly lose power and then slowly taper off to a barely spinning blade: It goes full strength until it's depleted. I really like that.'

    'This mower cut like a champ. One pass was enough. there was NOTHING left standing. Not a blade of grass, not a weed.'

    'I was using the rear bagger, which functioned superbly. Why the bagger? Because I was certain the mulching mode would be a joke. I mean, an electric mower that mulches? Sure. When pigs fly.
    Well, the pigs have flown the coop. This thing also mulches very well.'

    'Did the whole front yard and part of the backyard on the first battery, and I am particular. I should have taken pictures of my backyard...lotta weeds, thick stalks, and weed bushes. The Snapper absolutely DESTROYED them. Keep in mind that the low setting IS pretty low. You might want to start off at the second or third lowest setting and see what your cut looks like.'

    'The batteries charge extremely fast and last the whole 45 minutes each, when they're dead, they're dead. No power loss toward the end.'

    'It effortlessly cuts my thick grass, is very easy to push and maneuver, and I'm really enjoying how quiet it is compared to my previous gas mower. I couldn't be happier with all aspects of this mower and its performance.'

    So, see for yourself how impressive it is on Amazon.

    DEWALT DCMW290H1 40V MAX 3-in-1 Cordless Lawn Mower

    best dewalt 40v battery lawnmower

    We love Dewalt. It's a tried and true brand. Have you tried their work site fan? Mint. 

    Anyways, the DEWALT DCMW290H1 40V MAX 3-in-1 Cordless Lawn Mower features a powerful 40V MAX brushless motor that can cut up to 1/4 acre. 

    The mower is a 3-in-1 battery powered lawn mower which means you can mulch, bag, and discharge clippings out the back. 

    Its metal deck gives it durability which is great for those wary of the trend to plastic models. 

    This lawn mower also features a single-lever height-adjust system so you can easily change blade height. The handle also folds to allow for compact storage.

    As you would expect from the Dewalt system, the battery is compatible with their line of 40V MAX DEWALT outdoor power equipment.

    Here are the specifications:

    • Powerful Brushless motor for high power output
    • 3-IN-1: mulching, bagging, and rear discharging all-in-one
    • Heavy duty 20 in. Metal deck
    • Single lever Height adjust ranging from 1.5 - 3.4 in
    • Folding handle and lift handles make for easy transport and compact storage

    The battery is very simply able to be taken out for charging:

    easy to change battery dewalt lawn mower

    Here's some reviews from people who have pushed the Dewalt across their yard:

    'I really like this mower. I have generally been skeptical of battery-powered large appliances, having never owned anything rechargeable larger than a cordless hammer drill. A weed whacker and leaf blower converted me enough to risk buying my first electric mower. It worked like a charm right out of the box.'

    'I charged the battery overnight and mowed the front and back of my modest quarter-acre block *just* before the battery died. I've since mowed again twice with the same result and it handled it well both times. very easy to stop and start light and with small rubber wheels so it's easy to push and turn, it has several simple but effective safety features, all controls are large, robust and easy to operate even with gloves on. No more hard starts, strenuous cord pulling, cans of gas in the shed or oil dripping on the floor.'

    'Able to mow my back yard on a single charge easily. Lightweight mower folds up for easy storage and transport. Built-in safety features is a nice bonus.'

    'This is an amazing piece of equipment. I couldn’t be happier. Hardly any setup right out of the box. Cuts better than my past gas mowers. Runs smooth and quiet. I’ll never go back to gas. I also have string trimmer, chainsaw, and handheld blower. The whole line is awesome. What's the best lawn mower battery charger?'

    If those honest reviews sound like you could be onto a winner, check out the options on Amazon.

    Battery powered lawn mower maintenance tips

    • Given these items are light, they can be stored vertically on a hook.
    • When not in use, remove the batteries. 
    • When sharpening the blade, remove the battery!
    • Keep it free of dust with a handy water proof cover.
    • If in doubt, check consumer reports for detailed recommendations. 

    What is the best pH meter for brewing beer?

    Monday, November 4, 2019

    What is the best pH tester for brewing beer?

    From brewing beer, or kombucha, growing weed or checking the ph level of your aquarium you need to check the level with a tester.

    It's incredible in this modern age how accurate testers are and what a difference they can make.

    Getting your water at just the right level can me can mean a vast improvement in your beer's flavor, the yield of your plant or extending the life of your fish (but a water tester kit might be better for that if you are starting out).

    So what is the best ph meter for testing beer?

    There are many options out there. There are handheld units which give you easy portability or desktop units which can produce some incredibly accurate results.

    If you are a home beer brewer, for example, you may only need a mid-range tester but if you are running a laboratory that is testing food for human consumption, you might just want to use one of the best instruments on the market.

    Whatever you choose, it's our firm recommendation that you never buy a cheap pH tester. Anything in the below forty dollar range is likely to no go the distance that you need.

    Users of cheap gear will find they might give a few readings initially before they become hard to calibrate or the cheap electrode parts dry out or cease functioning seemingly without cause.

    If you are looking for an all-round, accurate and dependable ph tester then we recommend the Milwaukee range. So would Alice Cooper...

    Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter for testing

    We're featuring the MW102 Standard Portable pH / Temperature Meter as it is a standard yet affordable portable meter that produces accurate results.

    The Milwaukee brand is recognized by the brewing industry as having a reputation for producing low-cost meters on which you can expect durability and reliable reading.

    Milwaukee’s Standard manufacturer advertises that their digital meters are "manufactured to be easy to use, practical and accurate. Ideal for the classroom, laboratory or for general field use".

    The MW102 is a microprocessor-based pH/Temperature meter with extended range (-2.00 to 16.00 pH). It features the standard Automatic Temperature Compensation ability, with automatic calibration in 2 points and ±0.02 pH accuracy.

    The Milwaukee device is pretty much ideal for anyone working on a fair budget who desires quick yet reliable measurements.

    The full unit comes with:
    • MW102 Unit
    • 9 volt battery -The battery life is estimated by at 300 hours and it features an auto-off after 8 minutes of inactivity meaning you wont have to worry about replacing the battery in the middle of testing. 
    • Temperature Probe (MA830r)
    • PH Probe (MA911B/1)
    • PH Probe cover (a small bottle that fits on the PH Probe when not in use that holds storage solution)
    • User Instruction Manual & Warranty Registration Card
    • 20 ml sachet of PH 4.01 Calibration Solution
    • 20 ml sachet of PH 7.01 Calibration Solution
    • 20 ml sachet of PH Storage Solution Packet
    But don't just take our word on this product, the best way to know if the Milwaukee is right for you is to check out these testimonials from an actual user of the product:

    This is a "fantastic tool to have in my brewing arsenal. I originally bought it for taking readings while kettle souring, but it's been invaluable as I dove deeper into water profile and mash pH adjustment.

    It's a bit more expensive than some of the cheaper meters out there, but you get what you pay for.

    Worth every penny in my book, and I regularly recommend it to those in the market for a high-quality meter."
    That's a firm recommendation then.

    If you want more of a quality handheld meter, the Apera may be for you :

    Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester

    If you are looking for a reasonably priced handheld ph Meter for testing water or wort then might want to reflect on the Apera Instruments PC60 Multi-parameter Tester.

    Apera's PC60 meter tests for pH, EC, TDS, salinity & temperature in an accurate, quick and reliable manner for most regular water solutions.

    Its versatility across the board means that it is suitable to use for a range of commercial and hobbyist adventures such as hydroponics, aquaculture, pools and spas, water treatment for beers, cooling towers and of course fish tanks.

    Featuring a multi-parameter probe that is easily replaceable, it sports Apera's 'Brush-Resistant Platinum Black' sensor, which means you can rely on the results for accuracy - provided of course you have properly cleaned and then calibrated the unit!

    This tool boasts the following features: 

    The flat sensor which is easily replaceable
    • Easy 'Auto Calibration' with auto buffer recognition 
    • Auto Temperature Compensation which means you can test quicker 
    • Unique High/Low Value HEADS-UP function that instantly alerts you to any results that need your immediate attention 
    • Auto recognition of stable values (with optional AUTO HOLD function) 
    • Boasts a Liquid Crystal Display with 3 backlit colors (indicating 3 different modes) for easy reading of data results 
    • Unit displays both temperature and pH readings at the same time 
    • Comes with the necessary calibration buffer solutions, calibration bottles & storage solutions
    The Apera is waterproof and dustproof and it naturally floats on water so you don’t have to worry you drop it into your fish tank or beer batch.

    A super handy lanyard is included and everything that the kit comes with easily fits in the portable carrying case which protects your gear when traveling or simply storing (see the above image.

    While these stats are handsome, a sales pitch with a testimonial feels empty...

    Here are some reviews from real users who have real experiences with Apera's tester:

    "The Apera PC60 instrument is super easy to use. It comes with everything needed to calibrate and feel confident in your readings. I even tested it against a 1000 TDS calibration solution I had and it read great! The display is easy to use and the backlight is very handy. I love that the "cap" is built in a way to put your liquid in, with a fill line, and closes securely around the pen.

    It then is able to calculate the different levels in the liquid. I no longer have to bend over and hold my pen in the nutrient reservoirs. One of the best features is the ability to set the TDS factor. This is important because PPM is calculated differently in different parts of the world. It gets very confusing."

    "Having previous experience with scientific research grade pH meters, I've maintained this pen in electrode storage solution between uses, and always rinsed the electrode with deionized water between measurement and before storage. With those precautions, both the pH and EC readings have remained on-point without recalibrating for more than a month at this point. When I do check the calibration, the instrument is never more than 0.05pH off-target."

    "The back-lit display is excellent for working under low-light (tap the power button once while the unit is on to activate), and the instrument fits perfectly into the top of 1-gallon water jugs.

    A note of warning, make sure the EC electrodes are not submerged in the electrode storage solution while not in use, only the glass pH bulb should be in the solution."

    Finally, here's a testimonial that seems pretty fair:

    "After having gone through 3 different cheap meters last year I decided to spend a little extra on this one. I am not disappointed. It's well worth the money. It's fast, accurate and covers a range of tests. I read the previous reviews and was somewhat skeptical. However, after using this product for a few weeks on a daily basis, I would recommend it to anyone.

    The LCD screen is a little small but I can read it without glasses. I found the instructions to be thorough and fairly well written. I think they must have updated their manual after previous reviews. I have backups just in case but after the first week, it became obvious I wasn't going to need them. By far the best meter I have used without spending a couple of hundred dollars."

    If you think those reviews sound fair, check out the price on Amazon.

    We've got one more tester that you might take a shining to the:

    Bluelab Combo pH meter

    bluelab ph level tester
    If you are looking for a fairly upmarket solution to measure your pH solutions then the tried and true Bluelabs brand has the measuring device you are looking for.
    The Bluelab Combo Meter is a portable pH, conductivity and temperature meter all in one.

    The meter has two probes, a Bluelab pH Probe and a Bluelab Conductivity/Temperature Probe. When taking a reading, simply place them into the solution and the selected reading is displayed on the screen.

    Calibration of the pH probe is quite simple as instructions are supplied on the back of the meter and the easy push button method makes this one of the more simple meters to use.

    The pH probe is replaceable so you can use this meter for years to come and you should be able to do so as Bluelab offer a 5 year warranty on their product which should give you an idea as the quality of the product and the faith the brand has in it.

    The Bluelab tester has the following features:
    • it measures pH levels, conductivity/nutrient (EC, CF, ppm 500 and ppm 700) and temperature (°C, °F)
    • it's lightweight and portable
    • features a large & easy to read display
    • Simple push button for pH calibration
    • pH calibration indicator
    • No calibration required for conductivity and temperature readings
    • Replaceable double junction pH probe included - make sure you look after them!
    • Over range and under range indicators
    • 2 x AAA alkaline batteries included with a low battery indicator
    • Auto turn off function to save on battery power
    Check out the price on Amazon.

    How does Automatic Temperature Compensation work?

    Many of the higher quality meters use ATC functionality. This is when the unit compensates for the response of the pH meter's electrode with varying temperature.

    So ATC accounts for differing temperatures of things like a beer's mash.

    What is the definition of pH?

    It is a measure of hydrogen in the solution and pH thus stands for 'potential hydrogen'.

    pH is a figure that expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale on which 7 is considered neutral, the lower values are more acid and higher values more alkaline.

    Probes can wear out so require proper storage

    Probes will wear out over time and you should expect that you’ll have to replace quality ones every 2-3 years even if you take good care of them.

    The probes should be safely stored in a pH storage solution to preserve their lifespan. If they are left in the open, the dry air will ruin their potential life span.

    So when buying your pH meter you should purchase a pH buffer or 'calibration kit'.

    This is why units like the Milwaukee MW102 comes with solutions but replacement calibration kits can be separately brought online. You might see them called 'reference solutions'. The Bluelab Combo Meter is very popular with horticulturalists and hydroponics enthusiasts (yes, even marijuana growers... which is fine given how many countries and states have legalized the sale of drug).

    It's is a good practice to regularly clean your pH electrode. This is because a film or coating known as the hydrated layer will otherwise develop on the glass bulb. It can cause inaccurate measurements and drifting or erratic readings if not managed properly.

    You can always use pH strips - handy for testing Kombucha brews!

    Choosing the best Total Dissolved Solids meter (TDS)

    Friday, November 1, 2019
    best tds meter

    Using a TDS meter to measure water quality

    If you've had a few issues with how your water tastes, it's perhaps because there's too much of a certain kind of mineral or nitrate impacting the water quality.

    The principal constituents found in water are usually calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium cations and carbonate, hydrogen carbonate, chloride, sulfate, and nitrate anions.

    We understand if you need to go and google exactly what a few of those things are. But the short of it is that if you have too many dissolved in your water, it will taste bad and worst, harm your health. According to the World Health Organisation, unhealthy water can be carcinogenic, contribute to coronary disease and increased mortality rates when TDS levels are too high.

    So we understand why you might be in the market for a TDS tester. And here's one of the best: While you can use a water test kit to ascertain the presence of such things, a Total Dissolved Solids meter (TDS) will help you correctly determine the extent of your probably and measure the effectiveness of any corrective measures you take (such as installing a reverse osmosis filtration system).

    A TDS meter is simple to use and most of them will give you accurate results which will allow you to make decisions on how to treat your water e.g. install a filter.

    A TDS meter works by estimating the number of TDS by determining the electrical conductivity of the sample by passing a small current through it.

    This is because the ions, minerals and other particles present give off an electrical charge which can be measured.

    The digital meter measures in parts per million (PPM). A reading of 1 ppm indicates 1 milligram of dissolved solids per kilogram of water.

    So what then is a good or bad TDS reading?

    The World Health Organization which is oft considered the expert authority on such matters suggests the following assessment guide:

    • TDS level less than 300 mg/liter is excellent
    • Between 300 and 600 mg/liter is good
    • Between 600-900 is fair
    • Between 900 – 1200 is poor
    • More than 1200 mg/liter is utterly unacceptable.

    This is not the real measure of health though. If we are talking about public safety then the minerals and metals present themselves such as nitrates are subject to their own guidelines. 

    If you are testing the TDS level after you have installed a filtration in your home, make sure you take a sample before you install the meter and write it down. This way you will be able to compare the readings and satisfy yourself that your water quality has improved. 

    Fish tanks and measuring TDS

    You can also use a TDS measure to determine how suitable the water in your fish aquarium is.

    Gotta keep those guppies healthy!

    Fish release lots of nitrates into the water and algae is constantly keen to grow and take over a tank.

    A quick check with a meter allows you to consider whether to add freshwater or to completely clean out the fish tank.

    TDS meters may be used with salt water and fresh water tanks.
    It's pretty simple to use a digital TDS meter in an aquarium - you can simply dip the electrode into the water's surface or you can take a sample and then test that.

    TDS level for a fish tank is ideally the range between 130 and 195 ppm.

    How to calibrate a digital TDS meter

    Just like when using a pH meter for brewing beer, it's really important to properly calibrate the TDS meter before use. Proper calibration will ensure that the meter takes an accurate reading.

    Here's a sweet video tutorial on using calibration solutions.

    Does a TDS meter need Automatic Temperature Control (ATC)?

    Automatic Temperature Control is quite a desirable function for TDS meters. It accounts for variations in temperature that can affect the calculation of the total dissolved solids. If you've studied a little bit of chemistry, you'll be keenly aware of how temperature can affect chemical reactions!

    You may also wish to consider the pH level of the water as well.

    Best Ultraviolet Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

    Wednesday, October 30, 2019
    Ultraviolet Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

    Review of the best Ultraviolet Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

    You've probably never drunk the water that the good people of Flint, Michigan have been forced to drink in recent times. If your water is even a small percentage as bad as Flint's, we can pretty much guarantee you're in the market for a water filtration system.

    If you've got a couple of hundred bucks to spare, then an Ultraviolet Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System might ju st be the home water treatment system you've been looking for:
    Let's start with the ultraviolet part of the equation.

    The UV light is was kills any nasty bugs that might be lurking in your water. Perhaps you've actually tested your local water supply and you're not happy with what you found. Maybe there was some coliform, E. Coli, viruses, bacteria, or other potentially gut-wrenching microorganisms and you want them gone.

    The UV filter will eliminate those bugs.

    And reverse osmosis?

    You can be forgiven for thinking its simply something that plants do.

    No, reverse osmosis is a damn clever feat of engineering that some brilliant scientist (Jean-Antoine Nollet) came up with so that you can have great tasting drinking water (and water for making beer!)

    Reverse osmosis (or RO as it is often abbreviated to) is a water purification process that uses a partially permeable membrane to remove unwanted ions, molecules and larger particles from water. A pressurized membrane system is utilized to extract biological matter from the water solution. The pressure on one side of the membrane forces the water molecules through whilst retaining the unwanted items on the other side of the membrane.

    Such a process means that unwanted chemicals and particles like lead, chlorine, fluoride, nitrates, Calcium and even arsenic are removed.

    While it's unlikely that many residential water supplies will come into contact with arsenic, long term exposure to arsenic from drinking such poisoned water has a horrible effect on the human body. It's commonly caused by mining processes or agriculture.

    Express Waters' reverse osmosis system will achieve all the above and more. While it looks like a complicated filtration system, it feature's a logically progressive system to rid the water of unwanted items:

    • The first stage is a sediment filter which helps filter out dirt, dust, sand, and rust.
    • The 2nd and 3rd stages are Carbon Block and Granular Carbon Filters which focus on pollutants like chlorine, volatile organic chemicals, and odor-causing compounds. Which means your water will taste good and not smell. 
    • These early stages help extend the life of the 4th stage, the RO Membrane. The Membrane focuses on the most difficult contaminants like lead, arsenic, chromium, fluoride, & radium of all things!. 
    • The 5th-9th stages feature the alkaline filters which are stages of mineralization, antioxidants, and oxygen to your water. One for each Active Mineral stage your water flows through.
    • The 10th stage is the ultraviolet sterilizer. The UV action can remove up to 99% of E.Coli, coliform, cysts, bacteria, and most other microorganisms 
    • The 11th stage is a Post Activated Carbon Filter which does a final pass through on your water, just before it exits the system via the faucet. This helps remove any potential lingering taste or odor.

    But does it work? Does water taste clear? Does it smell less?

    Let's check out the reviews left on Amazon by users who have installed the unit for themselves:

    "First, it was not very hard to install. It looks intimidating when you take it out of the box, but if you follow the directions, it's pretty self-explanatory by the diagram alone.. I can say about the filtered water is the quality ice it makes.. I compared the filter water with city water to make ice, and the filtered water is a bit clearer where the city water is a bit cloudier. Another note, we never use to drink tap water, have been drinking bottled spring water for decades. We do feel the filtered water tastes a lil smoother and fresher than bottled water."

    "I have no idea why we waited so long to make this purchase. Our water is better than bottled in my opinion! You won’t regret buying this product! And it’s saving us money by not having to spend money on water at the store!"

    "This unit works well. After a few days of use, I decided to purchase a TDS meter (total dissolved solids). 1st. I measured the water from my faucet and got a reading of 135. 2nd I measured from the water from the refrigerator that I recently replaced the filter on and the reading was 115. Last I measured from the RO system. I was pleased to see the TDS read between 20-24. If you decide to purchase, know that the unit leaked for a few seconds when I turned the water back on. After it pressurized it stopped. I would recommend this product."

    "This was very easy to install. I installed it in the basement directly below the kitchen sink. So not exactly typical. We also had the purified water supply line go to our refrigerator also. I was worried we would not have enough water pressure but we actually have more now than we did before we added the water purifier. Our ice cubes are crystal clear. The directions we very simple to follow. Everything is color-coded and very easy to understand."

    So if those genuine reviews float your boat, check out the price on Amazon:

    So where does a filtration system get installed?

    how to install a water filtration system
    To state the perhaps obvious, the system needs to be connected to your water system at the exit point of the water. 

    Typically this means your kitchen faucet as that's the place most members of the house will seek water from. 

    So, ideally, you'll install your kit under the kitchen sink. It's a simple matter of connecting the main water pipe to the entry point of the filter, and the exit pipe to the tap. 

    The system comes with a full instructional guide to make installation easy.

    The connections are standard fittings so installation should really be a matter of 'plug and play'. 

    Given you'll need to change filters once in a while, it should be placed fairly accessibly as per the picture.

    Given this is a filtration system, you will need to replace the filters!

    The good news is that filter changes are quick and easy with a simple design and clear labels on what to put where:

    • The pre-filters should be swapped out only twice a year: Sediment, Carbon Block, Granular Activated Carbon
    • The others are replaced only once a year: RO Membrane, Post Carbon, Alkaline

    Something to consider is the removal of fluoride from your water supply. 

    As an aside, it's worth noting that many communities deliberately add fluoride to assist with healthy teeth programs so if you are removing it from your supply, you may need to consider alternative sources for that, especially if you have children with growing teeth. The science is clear, the addition of fluoride has a strong health benefit for the community - however if you don't agree with science, a filter will help you that position.

    The Brondell osmosis system is also a pretty popular home-based water solution:
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