This handy device is set into the boiling wort to sanitize it, and then you take the pot off the stove and set it in the sink or outside and hook up one end to a garden hose of cold water. The other hose runs somewhere that you might appreciate having some nice hot water, like a hot tub. Alas, maybe next time. This time, I had to use the "make-do" approach.
After I poured the wort into the fermentation bucket, I added more filtered water to bring it up to the 5 gallon mark. I took a sample out to test for the specific gravity.
This basically tells you how much dissolved sugars there are in the water, which reveals the potential alcohol level. You take a sample after the fermentation, subtract the difference, and then you can have an idea of the actual alcohol level.
By the next morning the vodka in the airlock was bubbling away, sort of like your kid breathing. And just like a new mom, I found myself checking the nursery, err, closet to see if it was still breathing.
I'll be checking back in for the next step, transferring to the secondary fermenter!