Optimizing the "End of Boil to Ferment-Ready" Proc

Sat Jul 09, 2005 5:59 am

Hi all,

My job involves a lot of process analysis. For better or worse, I’m applying this methodology to the part of the brewing process that begins with the end of the boil and ends with the beer ready to ferment… I’ll start by constructing an ideal vision stating the overall goal:

The goal is to get from a boiling, sterile, anaerobic pot of wort full of hot break, hops and hop residue to a chilled, clean (break-less), oxygenated, pitched but otherwise sterile wort in its fermenter in as short a time as possible. Secondary goals include using the fewest number of components (to minimize the number of items that need to be sanitized and cleaned), and making the process as simple and easy as possible for the brewer (including cleanup). Minimizing equipment cost is not a goal, although we want to keep from going crazy on that front.

Getting there involves (in order) filtering out the crud in the boil kettle, chilling the wort to pitching temperature, removing the cold break, aerating, getting the wort into the fermenter and pitching. In our perfect world, once the wort is finished boiling, it never gets exposed to anything not sanitized, including ambient air.

1st step: Scrubbing the wort of the hot break, hops and other nasties.

A whirlpool would expose the wort to air. Anything using a racking cane doesn’t pass the test, as the place where the cane enters the kettle exposes the wort to air. This also means that you can’t use an immersion chiller unless you can build it into your boil kettle through the side.

To have a true closed system, you’ll need to have a fitted boil kettle. If there’s some sort of filter build into the kettle, you could let the gravity drain the wort – maybe. A pump between the kettle and counterflow chiller would help, but will the suction be enough? An alternative would be to somehow pressurize the kettle using CO2 or NO; that would force the liquid through the filter to the next stage. You really want to get every bit of that liquid gold possible out of the kettle.

2nd step: Chilling

In our perfect world, the wort goes in near boiling and comes out at fermentation temperature. If you want to lager, you’re talking about a drop of around 150 deg F between the time the wort leaves the boil kettle and exits the counterflow chiller. Anyone out there who can do the math to determine how many of btu’s need to be addressed to cool 5 gallons by 150 degrees?

I’ve thought about putting a very long copper coil in large cooler full of ice water with salt to use as a prechiller for the counterflow chiller and using a fountain pump to recirculate the water. It would likely be better to dump the water and refresh the ice water from the tap until the recirculated water is lower than the temperature from the tap. I wonder if it would be possible to freeze the prechiller into a block of ice using one of my chest freezers? I would imagine you could actually calculate the amount of ice and the length of the coil necessary to accomplish the temperature drop(?)

3rd step: Removing the cold break

With a counterflow chiller, the cold break comes right into the next vessel along with the wort. To remove the cold break, one thought was to run the output of the counterflow chiller into a corny keg with the bottom inch or so cut off, and let it sit for a couple of hours. But that means you’ll never get a full 5 gallons into your fermenter. Also, you’ll have to know if the cold break really amounts to an inch; either you’re wasting wort or bringing in some of the cold break. I expect that the amount of cold break would vary with each batch.

One alternative is to use a corny keg with an almost full length dip tube, but put a scrub pad at the bottom of the tube. I’m not sure if the pad is fine enough to remove cold break. If it is, you could then use O2 to push the beer from the keg into the fermenter, oxygenating it while moving it.

4th step: Pitching

It would be great if the starter could be sucked right out of its flask into the stream as the wort moves into the fermenter. The Bernoulli effect would suck the starter right in; you’d just need a valve to shut the flow whenever you want to stop, otherwise you’d suck in air. The yeast would be nicely mixed into the wort.

By using a fermenter that has a fitting at the bottom (a conical or plastic fermenter with a valve), the wort could be pushed in while simultaneously pushing the ambient air out the airlock. By letting the O2 run just a little past the end of the wort, you’d bubble it up, with the O2 doing the pushing.

5th step: Cleanup

If you can go directly from the boil kettle through the various components into the fermenter, cleanup is a pretty straightforward process of pushing boiling water and/or cleaner through the components. Perhaps some additional touchup after dismantling.

I realize this is a long post, but I’m hoping it will be a starting point for a discussion. Remember that all we care about is the outcome stated in the second paragraph; everything else is up for debate. I’m anxious to hear how the experts among us get the job done.

An interesting intellectual exercise with a potentially promising payoff. Or, could be I’m just crazy…. Something makes me think that, even if the latter is true, I’m not alone. :)

Fred
"I don’t want no trub..."
hiroller173
 
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Sat Jul 09, 2005 8:06 am

Dang you put a lot of thought into that process. personally I think you going overboard slightly on a few things. Break material, I have left it behind and added it to the fermentor 10 gallon batch split between 2 carboys same yeast and could not tell the difference or see the differece in the beer. I like the idea of a boil kettle with built in imersion chiller. I might try it or just start adding mine at the begging of the boil.
Personally I think the most economical way to do your whole process would be with a counterflow chiller, oxygenation fitting at the end of it, with a pump for moving the liquid, don't worry about the break material and just dump the yeasties into the vessel. Sucking them in is way overkill.
We all try to be as sanitary as possible, but I've seen other peoples brew setup and cpmapably my garage looks like an intel clean room, neither of us had infections and beer is just as good as the others, this actuall iritates me because of the time involved in cleaning I do and it dosen't seem to matter.

Kevin
Have torch will travel

Check out my brewery.

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/marketfixr94519/my_photos
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marketfixr
 
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Sat Jul 09, 2005 8:24 am

I guess some of the overkill comes from the fact that SWMBO is partial (in other words, she'll only drink) lagers. My goal is to make an excellent Pilsner Urquell clone, so I'm perhaps overly sensitive to wort clarity and accurate fermentation temperatures. I've just received a thermowell so that I can monitor the temperature in the middle of the wort vs. the air inside the fermenting refrigerator.

Oh well, if I'm going to be anal about something, I can't think of anything I'd rather be anal about! 8)
"I don’t want no trub..."
hiroller173
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2005 2:37 pm

Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:36 am

Hey, I have finally found someone more anal than myself! Cant wait to tell my wife! I figure we all have our own hang ups so just go with yours and keep brewing. I usually tell my wife that if I strive for mediocrity and miss, where does that put me?

As far as all your quests for perfection and sterillity, I have no advice or answers. I just brew as clean as I can and hope all ends up well. I dug my brewing stuff out of retirement a little over 1 1/2 years ago and have done 24 batches since. 6 months ago, I even converted to all grain. I have never had an infected/contaminated batch. (Knock on wood.) Go easy on yourself and enjoy the hobby.

I am curious though what temperature differences you get with your thermowell during fermentation. I plan on getting a chest freezer for my fermentations and was wondering how much temp differential to allow for.
John R.
Moondoggie's Mash House
Moondoggie
 
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Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:12 am

Hey Doggie,

Will be using the thermowell for the first time this weekend. Will let you know.

IIRC, you just got yourself a B3-1550. Mine should be shipping any day now. Stainless and virtually every option. Going to the "Advanced Homebrewing Seminar" in Durango, CO in a couple of weeks to learn how to use it (among other things). I'll let you know any t&t I pick up (note, I WON'T tell you about any t&a) :wink:

Your story sounds familiar. I brewed in the early '90s but stopped for a while for various and sundry reasons (mostly associated with moving to a new house.) I was finally ready to get back into it around 2000, so I took my second fridge (with the taps attached) and began a multiweek process of cleaning it up and painting it. When it was all ready to go, I plugged it in - and it was dead. This put me off another 4 years.... I've been back at it now for about a year and a half; spent a bunch of money on stuff I'm throwing out, but I DO have two small chest freezers for fermenting, and two medium chest freezers for lagering and serving. With the 1550 in place and a good education, I think I'm ready to rock!

Fred
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Wed Jul 20, 2005 9:52 am

Anonymous wrote:
IIRC, you just got yourself a B3-1550. Mine should be shipping any day now. Stainless and virtually every option.


My fully optioned B3-1550 is awesome! Don't have anything else to compare it to but it has made a heck of a difference in the finished product pouring out of my taps!

I know this is the wrong forum for this and the forum police might yell at me, but, as long as your shopping at B3, check out their "Fire in the Hole" recipe. Just kegged mine up last week. Holy crap is it good! So much flavor that I tell people its like drinking a sandwich. Be sure to add the oak chips.

Enjoy your new 1550! Those guys were/are great to deal with. Let me know if you pick up any new pointers on using it.
John R.
Moondoggie's Mash House
Moondoggie
 
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Location: Carlsbad, CA

Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:35 am

I tell people its like drinking a sandwich


I made the mistake of telling my vegetarian s.o. that in England they refer to Guiness as "a pork chop in a bottle". Now she won't drink it! :lol:
"I don’t want no trub..."
hiroller173
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2005 2:37 pm

Fri Jul 22, 2005 8:39 am

I made the mistake of telling my vegetarian s.o. that in England they refer to Guiness as "a pork chop in a bottle". Now she won't drink it! :lol:


OK, I take it back. See, thats why they have these forums so we can learn from others mistakes :jnj
John R.
Moondoggie's Mash House
Moondoggie
 
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