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Cooling / Heating Fermenter

edited September 8 in General

I currently cool or heat my fermenters by an internal copper coil that has thermally controlled water circulated through it. Would this coil adversely affect my molasses wash. Just wondering if the flavour profile would be different.

Thanks.

Comments

  • Only in the fact that you might ferment different batches at different temps.

    Controlling fermentation temp provides batch to batch consistency.

    It also provides the ability to manage fermentation temp. Cooler fermentation yields cleaner washes with less yeast character - and higher yields.

    Ability to heat provides the ability to finish faster, meaning less microbial contribution - usually means cleaner, but in the case of rum - less funky.

    The copper itself? Irrelevant.

  • edited September 10

    Thanks @grim. It was the copper I was worried about as the fermenter stays at 28c all year.

  • Ah no worries at all, it's going to be sparkly bright post-fermentation.

  • I use a tiny pump on a 1000L ferment to push the ferment through a SD 2" PC with great results. The constant flow speeds up fermentation, and keeps the heat from being concentrated at the top few inches, the total volume is a great buffer to keep ferm temps from getting out of control.

    I have also used a 'chillzilla' with good results, but like the look and high flow rate of the SD PC... Just shut off pump when final gravity is reached, and let the yeast settle out. The two returns allow a stepped fermentation starting at 500L, a smaller yeast starter (50L from 5L gives 10x steps and fermentation is nearly instant)

    I am using small chiller in this pic, I also use a 200k btu 'hydronic heater'(aka 'modine') a a HX for cooling. You can use whatever you are already using, just outside the ferment, instead of inside...

    I monitor temp and gravity with a 'Tilt hydrometer' and flow with a small pulse flowmeter, these and the control fo flow and heat/cool can be tied into BruControl($200 software), CraftBeerPi3(free), or a roll your own arduino or pi project.

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  • edited September 11

    @CothermanDistilling, are you retuning back to the middle or top ??

  • the top, but in a stepped fermentation, the middle is the top at the first stage... "The two returns allow a stepped fermentation starting at 500L"

  • edited September 11

    Courtesy of @CothermanDistilling

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    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited September 11

    Pic

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    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I LOVE IT... but that is a big freaking pump... I use this Stainless 'MKII' Pump @ Amazon (there are cheaper versions, but chose amazon if it did not like 24x7 usage, which it seems to take in stride... very happy)

    (SD could always have a 19mm TC version made for us)

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  • FYI - I originally start drawing off the racking arm to eliminate picking up sludge, but the slight restriction in the 1" x18" or so racking arm would cause low pressure before the impeller and when the ferment was loaded with CO2, the pump would cavitate (any pump, I tried smaller and larger... the CO2 was just super-saturated), and flow would stop, which is why my rig has a cheapie flowmeter now... When I moved the inlet to the bottom, with it's direct 2" TC fitting, no more cavitation, and sludge was not a problem at all.. this thing circulates a 1000L wash over 4GPM, so it turns over the wash about every 4 hours, and keeps the yeast in suspension which ROCKS....

  • All this talk is getting me interested in making a rum. I cant really do this with ongrain ferments for whiskey. But I just love the extra flavor so much its what I want to do.

  • edited October 15

    Took @cothermandistilling advice and bought one of these today

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  • I have one of those. Great little pump. Not a huge volume but really quiet.

  • Yes, in love with the quietness, I used mine yesterday to filter the bottling tank for 12 cases of vodka and 6 cases of barrel aged Gin...

    would be cool if someone commissioned a TC version head... 19mm-3/4" in and 16mm-1/2" out

  • Sam
    edited October 14

    I found that putting stainless camlocks on the pump works well and its quick and easy to hook up and disconnect.

    Alternatively use a TC short reducer with a 1/2" BSPP thread which could screw straight on, or a 3/4" with a tread reducer to 1/2"

    Edit: which I see you have already done!

  • @CothermanDistilling said: I monitor temp and gravity with a 'Tilt hydrometer' and flow with a small pulse flowmeter, these and the control fo flow and heat/cool can be tied into BruControl($200 software), CraftBeerPi3(free), or a roll your own arduino or pi project.

    I've been trying to work out how to break out the temperature from the Tilt hydrometer so it can be used by a controller like an STC1000 to directly switch on / off a heater or cooler. I've been speaking with the designer of "MyBrewBot" and it seems this will work, although I understand it's by connecting a cheap 433MHz transmitter from eBay into "MyBrewBot", and a separate 433MHz Rx into the mains (the cooler / heater would be plugged into the Rx). When the temp requires a change of state (on/off) then "MyBrewBot" will instruct a signal to be sent from the Tx to a Rx, and the Rx stops the power to the heater. The relay is not within "MyBrewBot".

    My concern is that reviews of the remote 433Mhz Tx/Rx's are mixed. It seems this is likely to be the weak point in the control and I'd prefer a wired connection between the controller and the heater / cooler.

    Does anyone know if this is possible please?

  • Sam
    edited October 20

    @JayTee as an engineer IMO I think you might be over complicating something which has a very simple solution. The less interfaces between components etc you use the more reliable the system will be.

    Personally I use an Inkbird controller ($40Aud off eBay)

    ITC-308 Outlet Thermostat Temperature Controller @ INKBIRD

    They make a few variations of their basic temperature controller with wifi, timers etc but the base model works perfectly for controlling fermentation temperatures.

    I installed a thermoport into my 200L fermenter just above the lip of the conical section at the bottom and above where my heat belt sits, I always use a tilt as well just to monitor progress and there is never more than 0.5 degrees C difference between the “actual” temperature on the controller and the tilt floating at the top.

    Your heater and cooler plug straight into the controller and you can set the temperature differential you are happy with, for example set a temperature of 30 degrees with a 0.5 differential and once it goes 30.5 the cooler will kick in. I used 0.5 as it requires small frequent adjustments which are better than fewer larger ones as they are more accurate.

    I use these controllers in industrial applications and they are really good and really cost effective. My fermenter sits within 0.5 of where I want it like a rock and I have never had any problems with temperature and being in Australia my garage gets bloody hot!

  • @Sam - Thanks. I had originally intended to add thermowells to my fermenters, but the Tilt device is so neat, I'd like this to be involved in the control process. It just seems a waste not to use it fully? This approach also means I could run a smaller batch e.g. 500L in my 1000L fermenter if I chose to do so, without fixing the position of a thermowell

  • @JayTee there is nothing stopping you using the method I outlined for smaller ferments (just make sure the thermowell is covered)

    IMO one potential drawback to using the tilt in a larger fermenter would be that you would have to give consideration how you apply your heat as it could be possible to get a thermal differential between the tilt floating at the top and the bottom where you apply your heat which would see the bottom potentially overshoot your max temperature, this would be made worse given your location and your ambient temps being cold meaning you will be applying heat.

    Honestly I started off where you are thinking the tilt was the way to go but the solution is just to complicated and there are also a number of variables such as its accuracy in different fermentations. If you do an on grain ferment or something heavily foaming the tilt sits high in that and isn’t an accurate reflection of the temperature.

    I have used the Ink Bird set up for a range of ferments and temperatures and it’s always been bang on the money. Also if you loose power the controller has a memory so no having to reboot. Its $40 off eBay, it works but its just not fancy.

    Personally I just use the tilt as a check to make sure everything is sweet...

    Your call but just remember fancier and sophisticated isn’t always the answer, sometimes the simple ways work best... as my old man used to say to me a good engineer can build for $1 what anyone can build for $5... KISS principles have always been well worth adhering to!

  • @Sam - I'm going to cool the 1000L fermenter in a similar way to @CothermanDistilling's approach described higher up this thread. I'm hoping that the constant pulling of rum wash from the bottom to the top of the vessel will create enough turbulence and mixing of temperature to remove the issue of temperature gradient. Appreciate your comments though - thank you.

  • Yeah, I love that set up. A little OTT for a hobbyist though.

    I had a thought that if you had 2 ‘condensers’ back to back in that set up with the first one the wash flows through is cooling and the second heating you could have total control with that set up. Then it occurred to me it probably wouldn’t work as you couldn’t apply heat over and above you max temperature as you will likely kill your yeast.

    The only other thought I would bear in mind if I were you is that looking at your profile you are based in Dorset (lovely part of the world) and Cotherman is based in Florida. Possibly your temp control requirements will be different in that the ambient temp in Florida will naturally heat the fermenter above where you want it to be whereas I would have thought in Dorset the inverse would be true meaning you might be better off focusing on a system that accurately heats as I assume given your location the fermenter will be naturally cooled by the ambient temperature.

    Ultimately I don’t know your situation but just something to bear in mind.

  • Only small fermenters require heating. I remember a post from @Fiji_Spirits saying anything above 300L require cooling. @grim commented yeast > 50g would benefit from cooling. I'm currently moving from 100L fermenters (which require lots of heat) to 250L and 1000L fermenters. I'm pretty sure 250L will still need a bit of heat (in the UK), but I'm expecting to be firmly into the cooling territory at 1000L. I'm not sure there is much benefit of having dual heating and cooling for the same fermentation, because only one profile will be used (depending on the fermentation volume)

  • My 200L fermenter needs heating here in Aus so I would say 250 where you are will as well. Beyond 200L I don’t have any experience!

    Ultimately you were asking about a hard wired temperature control unit, if thats what you are after go with the Ink Bird as its cheap. Start there and experiment, once you have your hardware down pat then maybe look at incorporating the tilt. Thats what I was doing and never went any further as its accurate and simple.

    Keep us posted how you go.

  • edited October 20

    Yeah it's all about surface area. A tall skinny fermenter, though large, might still run into issues. Closer the shape begins to get to a cube (or sphere technically) - the more you see that conservation of heat/thermal mass.

    My 2000L fermenters always require active cooling during fermentation. In the summer - straight through. When the temperatures in the distillery fall to 50-55f in the dead of winter, usually only the first 36h, maybe even less. Custom metal craft "cubes", with tops, they hold heat pretty well.

    Even at 2000L I do run into issues with my very long dark rum fermentations in the winter. Long bacterial fermentations (14 days in this case) - its impossible for the yeast to keep the heat up. However, a tiny amount of wattage goes a long way in keeping temps warm. The trick is, you can't let the temp fall out of the target range, or you'll need significantly more power to get it back. Don't quote me, but 200w worth of immersion heater is what we use. If you are distilling once terminal gravity is reached - there wouldn't be a need to heat at all.

    We did a lot of rum this summer, taking advantage of the heat to switch over to sugar from grain. So maybe we won't even bother distilling rum through the winter, and instead take advantage of this years phenomenal corn harvest.

  • Sam
    edited October 21

    Obviously not suitable for a 2000L fermenter but for my 200L, I found a really low density large surface area heat belt that you can purchase by the metre. It’s really good when it gets cold, can’t remember where I got it from though.

    My cooling jacket works fine but anything much larger than 200/250L would need something like @CothermanDistilling are doing or an immersion coil, the HDPE is quite thick though so maybe stainless would work ok though.

    Like you say keeping it in range with small adjustments is definitely the way to go.

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  • Good point on the material as well. Thick poly will insulate quite a bit more than stainless.

  • @JayTee said: Does anyone know if this is possible please?

    Did you miss the "heat/cool can be tied into BruControl($200 software), CraftBeerPi3(free), or a roll your own arduino or pi project." part?

    The tilt is Bluetooth, plain and simple, it is not 433mhz... it is Bluetooth... it sends out beacons every 2 seconds with the data.. sure you can 'roll your own' with an arduino or raspberry pi taht has Bluetooth, but there is FREE software that you can load on a $10 Raspberry Pi ZeroW that you hook to a couple SSR's and BAM, you have control...

  • @CothermanDistilling - Thanks for confirming. No, I didn't miss your comment as such, but being unfamiliar with the Pi, I'm struggling to find structured online documentation building on my zero knowledge of the Pi. Everything I've found seems to assume prior expertise. For example, in the introduction of the CraftBeerPi wiki, it refers to "actors", "custom actors" & "custom kettle controller" without actually defining what any of this means.

    I was a C / Unix programmer in a previous life so I'm not scared of the idea, just trying to work out what I need to read first! There doesn't appear to be any pointers starting at the beginning. Did you read a book, or is there an online starting point which I haven't manage to find yet?

  • @JayTee said: CothermanDistilling - Thanks for confirming. No, I didn't miss your comment as such, but being unfamiliar with the Pi, I'm struggling to find structured online documentation building on my zero knowledge of the Pi. Everything I've found seems to assume prior expertise. For example, in the introduction of the CraftBeerPi wiki, it refers to "actors", "custom actors" & "custom kettle controller" without actually defining what any of this means.

    I was a C / Unix programmer in a previous life so I'm not scared of the idea, just trying to work out what I need to read first! There doesn't appear to be any pointers starting at the beginning. Did you read a book, or is there an online starting point which I haven't manage to find yet?

    have you tried CraftBeerPi ??? it is the first hit on google for 'craft beer pi', and they have a step by step guide also...

    The most active conversation is here: CraftBeerPi - Raspberry Pi Software @ HomebrewTalk startign 3 years ago, now 1600 posts... fun to crawl the entire thing ;-) I have crawled and commented on the first 30 pages multiple times

    I have attached my step-by-step install text file from over a year ago... there are bound to be changes, and want to state very clearly that I cannot provide one-on-one support, that is what the homebrewtalk forum is for...

    Pi 3b CBP install - R_Pi_Stretch (TXT)

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  • Thanks @CothermanDistilling - completely understand you can't provide one-to-one support :-)

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