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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2004 * Archive through August 30, 2004 * One barrel brewery, cooling the fermenter < Previous Next >

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Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 128
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 04:57 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Posted this as a sub-thread. I hate when that happens...

In my dreams, I am going to build a 1 barrel brewery. The fermenter won't fit in a fridge, and with that kind of volume, I believe ambient air cooling will not be sufficient to keep internal temps below 70F. You've figured out by now, that I will be doing ales. So I am bouncing around ideas for internal cooling.

The simplest idea is to suspend a 25' coil of copper (yes, copper) tubing in the center of the fermenter (plastic 40 conical from USP) just above the yeast "pile". Another coil will sit in a 5 gallon container of water, probably a corny, in a fridge next to the fermenter. I am still debating the need for the second heat exchanger, and may just pump the water directly out of the corny.

I will have an insulated jacket, much like a winter coat, made that will cover the whole thing down to the floor, and will insulate the cold water supply and return lines as well.

The pump will just be a little A/C fountain pump plugged into a Ranco or Johnson fridge controller, the probe of which will be in a thermowell inside the fermenter.

Possible? Efficient enough? The beauty is that I think the whole rig can be had for less than $400.

I am also thinking that the wort could be pumped into the fermenter at about 190F, left there to sanitize the whole thing, and then cooled there. The cooling coil would then be increased to 50' minimum, and would be supplied by a 55 gallon drum at room temperature until the wort got down below about 85F, then the supply switched over to the refrigerated water. I think that this would be much less labor-intensive, and pretty easy.

Am I a genius, or completely delusional? Is 5 gallons of 40F water enough of a thermal battery to remove active fermentation heat from 31 gallons of beer? I am pretty sure that after day 3 it could keep up, but those first couple of days are what concern me.
 

John Stegenga
New Member
Username: Bigjohn

Post Number: 6
Registered: 06-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

you could modify that and use glycol, keeping the corny in the freezer...
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Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 129
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yeah, I've heard that before and I like the idea, but where do you get glycol, and approximately how much does it cost? I don't want to use automobile antifreeze, either.

I know it isn't as efficient, but couldn't I also use salt or alcohol in the cooling water to allow sub-freezing coolant?
 

Tom Meier
Member
Username: Brewdawg96

Post Number: 171
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

get propylene glycol, its non toxic, you can even get it in USP grade.
http://www.dow.com/propyleneglycol/app/foodflav.htm

I think your idea is a good one except for the initial cooling. This will require a massive amount of cooling that only tap water can provide.
 

John Stegenga
New Member
Username: Bigjohn

Post Number: 7
Registered: 06-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Probably yes on the alcohol, I would not use salt due to possible corrosion...Glycol is not that expensive - $25/gallon? you mix it 3parts water to 1.
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John Shaw
Junior Member
Username: Johns

Post Number: 57
Registered: 08-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:34 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sounds like a great idea, but I would be concerned about keeping the connections (through the conical wall) from leaking and sanitized. And it also sounds like a b!tch to clean when you're done. A couple other people on this board have tried something similar

http://hbd.org/discus/messages/20001/21366.html
 

Ric Heinz
Junior Member
Username: Rheinz

Post Number: 73
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:51 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

If you're in any kind of damp climate, the cold water line is going to sweat like crazy, resulting in mold and mildew. You will need to seal it from the environment with some type of air tight insulation.

Ric
Brewing in NW Houston
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 341
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 06:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

While propylene glycol antifreeze (sold for about $35 per gallon as being safe for pets) is not specifically rated for food and beverage use, I wouldn't have a problem using it for a homebrew fermenter chilling application. Of course I would want to very carefully test any system for leaks before use, and I would continue to monitor it closely. If you are more paranoid than I am you can buy food grade glycol coolant from an industrial distributor.

I suspect that a reasonably feasible system could be built using a small fountain pump and housing the glycol/water reservoir in a freezer. It would not be difficult at all to control the system with a refrigerator controller.

The problem I see with an internal cooling system is in cleaning the coil. To be practical it would have to be removable, and even then it would be a pain to remove, clean and reinstall after each fermentation. This is primary reason commercial fermenters have externally jacketed cooling systems.

By the way, external insulated foam jackets for fermenters are notorious for harboring mold and mildew due to the condensation they trap.


(Message edited by BillPierce on August 24, 2004)
 

Geoff Buschur
Junior Member
Username: Avmech

Post Number: 82
Registered: 06-2004
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 06:21 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I am in the planning stages of doing a similar "Immersed Cooling Coil" but I want to use R-134 instead. Yep, build a refrigerator inside of the conical.

 

Tim W
Junior Member
Username: Timw

Post Number: 99
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 06:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Do you have the room to build a homemade walk-in cooler instead? Would be cheaper to build, useable for many things and no cleaning issues.
 

Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 130
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 07:49 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I was going to hang the coil from the lid, so that I can unscrew the lid and pull out the entire assembly. I don't have a link for the US Plastics (Ace Rotomold) conicals handy, but check it out to see what I mean. They are 12" in diameter.

The thermowell will also be attached to the lid, going right down the center of the coil. I planned on having plenty of space between the coils, and to probably use 1/2 inch tubing for rigidity. Just soak it in PBW to clean; shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

I was going to use foam plumbing insulation for the supply hoses, it is readily available. I hadn't really considered condensation, but it is a big enough issue to warrant consideration. Thanks for pointing that out.

I am surprised nobody took issue with the copper coil. My backup plan is to get stainless tubing, but I have heard that copper isn't a problem in fermenters, so maybe that's why nobody said anything.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 345
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:02 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Why would you think copper should be a problem, Joseph? It has excellent heat transfer characteristics and certainly is preferred for chillers.
 

George Schmidt
New Member
Username: Gschmidt

Post Number: 23
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:02 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

There's a long running thread on NB about the conical fermenters. If you haven't seen it:
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?t=12776
 

John Stegenga
New Member
Username: Bigjohn

Post Number: 8
Registered: 06-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You could build a "cool room" around it. Some 2x4 and the 1" pink foam.

Run the cold line from the freezer upward through some 1/2" pvc pipe. Angled up from the floor to the top this will function as a moisture drain line. The return line does not need this protection as much. Just put a bucket under the place where it enters the 'cage' you've built.

You can also cool the 'cool room' with a tiny window A/C. With minimal effort you could probably keep the cool room at 65(f), which would also allow you to do lagers.

John
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Doug W
Junior Member
Username: Pivorat

Post Number: 43
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:29 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Window A/C with the digital Temp display goes down to 61ish in my "cold room" ....... Thou basement ambient temp is about 66 or so.
 

Richard Nye
Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 205
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:46 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I thought you should avoid contact between copper and fermenting (or fermented) wort. Not sure why, but that's what I've heard.

Same goes for brass.

Any truth to this?
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 350
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:55 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

There's no problem with copper in brewing. As for brass, it's safe if the small amount of surface lead is removed by soaking in a solution of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
 

Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 131
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:41 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I also thought copper was OK. Wasn't it the only thing beer was brewed and fermented in for the last few centuries? I believe that the FDA just recently pooped on it, however (Dan could be wrong about that).

I had heard that brass was not very OK, although I do have a brass dump valve (I figure the blanket of trub that sits over it protects my beer). Zymie once said that you should put a piece of brass in a cup of beer for three days, then taste it, and you WILL taste brass. I take his word for it and so I try to keep its use to bare minimum in the fermenter. I haven't had a problem using it in brewing vessels, however. The contact time is too short to make very much impact.

I was also expecting to refute anyone who pooped on the copper idea, unless they had some pretty good backup. Thanks Bill.

As far as the thread on the NB forum, I think those guys are making a mountain out of the "lid does not seal" molehill. My opinion about airtight fermenters is fairly well known.

Also, the 40 gallon UPS conical has the bottom nipple molded in, so there is no step or gasket issue. The thing is damn near perfect for the job. The only thing I don't like is the four indentations that run up the side for keeping it in the stand... and that is only a minor nitpick at best.

The one thing that I like about this quantity is that I can mill a 50 lb sack of grain and vary the amount of water used to alter the OG. I hate measuring out grain. I know it is easy, but there's something I just really dislike about it.

The only other thing that concerns me is that I won't be able to drink 30 gallons of beer before it degrades. This is the primary reason I am hesitant, other than needing $1,100 to build a new brewery, and only being able to get about $700 for my current stuff. Anybody got a line on a 40 gallon stainless or copper kettle?
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 358
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:46 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Joseph, you might keep scrounging scrapyards and eBay for 55 gallon stainless drums. They do show up occasionally at affordable prices.
 

Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 132
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:19 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks Bill. I know about them, but I wanted something a little smaller. This is a dream after all...

But that's probably what will happen when all is said and done. I have seen 40 gallon kettles for making apple butter. I'm sure they can be used for other things. And there are also those milk jugs made in India, but I don't recall the capacity.

BTW, I am planning on using two home-modified 35 gallon plastic barrels for the HLT and the MLT. I figure the capacity is large enough that the mash (single infusion) won't cool appreciably in 45 minutes. Will just heat the sparge water in the BK and transfer it before sparging. However, I might also modify a keg for the HLT. 15 gallons is enough so that I can batch sparge. If I overheat the first 15 gallons (to boiling), then I can add it to a few gallons of cool water already in the MLT to get the first batch quantity.

Definitely going one-tier and pump with the stand; that's almost a no-brainer.

(Message edited by poonstab on August 25, 2004)
 

Bill Aimonetti
Member
Username: Zuchinnicat

Post Number: 225
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:33 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Joseph,
Where are you located? I have a 40 gallon Groen steam kettle I would let go cheap but it is very heavy would need to be picked up in NM.
 

Joseph Listan
Member
Username: Poonstab

Post Number: 134
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:41 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Uh, North Carolina. I don't think the shipping would be cost effective. But thanks anyway! That would be sweet...

There is a scrapyard in Roxboro, which is about an hour from me. Once I get my bucks together (I am perpetually broke), I will pay them a visit if I can't find anything else
 

John Stegenga
New Member
Username: Bigjohn

Post Number: 11
Registered: 06-2003
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 08:48 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Oh Bill A.! That would be a wonderful kettle... hard to get set up, but steam heated!!! But I'm just as far (almost) as joe... in Georgia.
Make a fundamental difference!
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Kent Fletcher
Intermediate Member
Username: Fletch

Post Number: 460
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

As to the Copper and Brass issue, it's finished, carbonated beer where there's a problem. Of course, the vast majority of all beer faucets are made of brass, mine included. If I havene't pulled a beer from one for a while, I waste the first few ounces, as they will definitely taste like the faucet. Of course, SS faucets are now on the market, but they cost more than twice as much as brass.