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Pump Recirculation instead of Agitator

With our 200L and 380L SD boiler, i was thinking of using a march pump magnetic drive (or chugger) to recirculate the mash since we didn't get the boilers with agitators. Anyone have any experience with this? Pros, cons? any safety issue with having a non non-explosive pump so close? thanks


  • I use a chugger mag drive to circulate on my 350 gallon boiler during a run. I have had no issues. The only concern I would have is if your space is not well ventilated. In theory you could build up enough vapor in the air to ignite via the spark of the non explosion proof motor. If you space is always being power vented this will not happen.

    My other thought is to make sure the pumps location is on the opposite side of the still from the parrot. So no spills or accidental parrot eruptions (think vodka volcano) could splash high proof directly on the motor.

    I lost cooling water to my product condenser once and did not notice. All of a sudden started pushing steam vapor all the way down and out the parrot causing the alcohol in the parrot to erupt into the air like a volcano.... About 8 feet into the air.... I was very glad the pump was no where near the splash area from this eruption.

  • @RedDoorDistillery said: ... I lost cooling water to my product condenser once and did not notice. All of a sudden started pushing steam vapor all the way down and out the parrot causing the alcohol in the parrot to erupt into the air like a volcano....

    And I thought I was the only one!
    We should form a club RDD for those with near-catastrophic-but-survived.

  • Your new panel will fix that Lloyd

  • That's the hope @olddog. The extra sensors were surely for that.
    It's kinda scary when you realize that you've lost cooling water circulation. By the time you realize it you are stepping quickly to shut things down!

  • I would be more inclined to inject either air or steam, (possibly hot air) to aid warm up times as well as increasing circulation. Once the wash has started circulating by convection you should be OK.

  • edited March 2014

    Myles - Are you talking about commercial or hobby for steam injection? Not to hijack the thread, but based on some discussions, I talked to my commercial plumber about direct steam injection, he said that steam for contact with food or beverage, and especially distillation, he wouldn't use anything but "Clean Steam" which is one FDA grade above "Culinary", which would require very specialized equipment, sanitary steam filters, stainless boilers and stainless piping, automatic blowdowns, serious input water filtration and descaling, specialized chemicals, cleaning processes, etc. When I asked how much I nearly fell off my barstool, we're talking about adding extra decimal places compared to the price of standard low pressure steam. This is a guy who does commercial work, building food and pharma plants.

    So I wonder how any commercial guys are realistically doing this at smaller scales, just looking at the numbers, a low pressure boiler and a steam jacket were considerably less expensive. If you've got a system that also includes condensate returns for jackets, I'm really not sure how you keep the whole thing clean enough.

  • Hi @finespirit I also saw the need for some sort of agitation/recirc so I have done a very simple fix which (so far) has done really well. I fitted a couple of tank fittings into the base of the boiler, connected an old chiller pump that I had lying around (fairly low pressure). I literally just pushed a piece of 10mm plastic pipe into the tank fitting that is the 'out' side of the pump and it works a treat. It takes the coldest water from the base and directs it straight at the heaters. When doing a run there is a definite difference if I switch the pump off. Activity slows down. Not rocket science, but I'm sticking with it. I started out with plastic push fittings and just put up with the slight leaking here and there but I have since done a proper job and 'hard wired' the pump in with copper pipe etc. - no leaks!

  • Wow great stuff guys. @olddog what panel are you talking about. I would be interested in something that would safeguard my safety :-)

  • No steam. Simple pump recirculation.

  • FWIW, I've been frustrated in my efforts to find a traditional agitator that fits the 2" triclamp fittings in my 380L boiler so I tried pump recirculation attached from the bottom to a top spray ball in an effort to fix a scorching problem with the 4500w elements. Didn't solve the problem, but I think it must have helped. Watch out for the resulting foam though.

  • I don't get why there are no agitators on triclamp. Frustrating...

  • There are sanitary/triclamp agitators - they aren't cheap though, as the main market for them is pharma.

  • Well, they are also low hp, and not geared, since if they were of any substantial HP and geared, they'd probably just tear the triclamp ferrule off the tank.

  • You are probably right @grim. The boiler factory will make a 380L boiler with 2mm SS but adding an agitator they insist on a 3mm skin.

  • @ finespirit it was the reference to mash that threw me off in the first post. You can circulate liquid to agitate the solids in the boiler. However, if you are pumping the mash itself, that could be a bit more difficult.

    It all depends on what is going through the pump.

    I wouldn't expect there to be an explosive risk in this (potentially remote from the boiler) application, and the pump and motor are likely to be ventilated anyway. I would be inclined to put the pump and motor in an enclosure with a ventilation system, as you may need to thermally manage the motor.

  • Thank you @myles. Yes i wasn't very clear concerning the mash. It is the distillers beer being recirculated without grain in the boiler.

  • That is no problem at all then, and it can even be assisted with a HERMS system to temperature control the circulating beer. =D>

  • edited April 2014


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