Fermenting and kegging with sankes

I’m a huge fan of sanke kegs. I use them not only for serving my beer, but also for fermenting my beer. A couple months back I detailed my intended set up for fermenting and kegging with sankes – now, after a couple ferments there have been some minor changes, and I must say overall it’s been working quite well! This is a companion post to that first post on the subject that talks about how this all works in actuality.

Fermenting

I’m now making use of a 2″ tri clamp (TC) blow off tube from NorCal Brewing Solutions (found here). Works great for the most vigorous of ferments. The fermentation chamber is just a full sized all-fridge, with a heavy duty platform to handle the weight of full fermentors.

 

Sanke fermentor with tri clamp blow off tube

 

When I go to cold crash the finished beer I will replace the blow off tube set up with a TC CO2 connection. With this I will keep a slight CO2 pressure on the beer while cold crashing so that no “suck back” (of either liquid from the blow off flask, or oxygen from the air) occurs as the gases in the headspace of the fermentor cool and compress.

Kegging

Initially I was planning on using a full TC racking set up, but I am now using a simple 1/2″ NPT tee that is welded to a 2″ TC cap (also from Norcal Brewing Solutions, link) with a CO2 connection on one side, and a bored through 1/2″ compression fitting for the racking tube on the top (from Brewer’s Hardware, link). There were a couple reasons for this. One of the main ones was that the TC set up added too much height, and limited the depth I could lower the stainless racking tube to. Plus, there are no 1/2″ compression fitting – TC adapters available that I know about, so I was already going to be playing with threaded fittings, and this simplified things nicely.

 

New sanke fermentor racking set up, a 2″ TC cap welded to a 1/2″ NPT tee with gas connections and a compression fitting for the actual racking tube.

 

With a slight CO2 pressure, I purge the headspace of the fermenting keg and the transfer line and fittings. I then lower the adjustable racking tube into the beer. The beer travels through the racking tube, over towards the serving keg (which has been sanitized and purged with CO2 as well). If CO2 bubbles appear, I know I must lower the racking tube. To ensure no sediment makes it into the serving kegs, I keep the racking tube rather high – within a couple inches of the surface of the beer in the fermentor by my estimation. This has worked perfectly – and the beer is very clear.

 

Transfer from fermenting keg to serving keg in process.

 

The sanke filling head remains unchanged from my earlier post, and works quite great too. It has a butterfly valve so I can quickly stop the transfer if I need to switch to a second keg, or if sediment appears in the sight glass. Probably a bit overkill, but sightglasses make the most mundane brewery tasks entertaining, so there’s that.

 

Sanke keg filling head with TC fittings

 

Here’s what the process looks like – this video shows what happens with the racking tube is too high and needs to be adjusted downwards. I have a good idea of the transfer speed at this point and typically don’t let this happen, but it’s not a big deal if it does!

 

 

If you have any questions about fermenting in sanke kegs and racking out of them, let me know and I will try to help.

 

  22 comments for “Fermenting and kegging with sankes

  1. Jeremiah Fiegl
    December 10, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Nice work!

  2. Randy
    December 10, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Well thought out indeed!

  3. December 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Looks great! Thanks for pointing me towards the norcal racking cane! Been looking for a 1/2″ SS cane!

    P.S. This looks like wordpress, so install jetpack and enable the Like button so we can like your posts!

  4. February 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’m just starting out, would this sort of thing be good for beginners?

    • February 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Sanke kegs are a fairly affordable fermentation vessel for large volumes. So I say if you want something of this volume, it can be a good option regardless of experience level.

      • February 15, 2017 at 3:46 pm

        Great, thanks

  5. hbw
    March 16, 2017 at 11:23 am

    System looks realy great. How about cleaning kegs after fermenting? CIP rotating head?

    • March 16, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Yep, exactly. I recently made this:

      http://imgur.com/QibVBD0

      Works quite well! Just set the keg upside down on the bucket and recirculate hot PBW, then rinse. I’ll maybe do a short post on it in a couple weeks, just waiting on another stainless part so it doesn’t have any brass on it.

    • hbw
      March 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      I suppose thats the same pump seen in earlier posts. Is the presasure enought to spray/rinse all the stuff left from frementation?

      • March 16, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        It’s actually a new pump, same make, this one is 1/3 hp, the last one was 1/4 hp (for the minimal cost difference I figured I’d get the more powerful one). The 1/4 hp pump went along with the same of my old brewery. The spray is quite possible and left the keg very clean. Here’s a short video of a test in a 5L flask to give you an idea of the pressure/force.

      • hbw
        March 17, 2017 at 4:15 am

        I’m pretty much replicating your system now. Your experince helps me a lot. Thank you.

  6. TW
    March 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Really impressive process; great job. How do you source your kegs?

    • Justin
      March 23, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks! Over the last 7 or so years of homebrewing, a number of kegs have found their way into my possession… my most successful haul to date was from a BOP which was closing up. I picked up 4 50L kegs then. I use 58L kegs for fermenting typically, and a mix of 50L and 20L for serving.

  7. jason k williams
    March 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    This is a great setup, I’m really impressed. I ferment in Sanke’s and have been lusting after a conical, but after seeing this I’m tempted to go this route rather than get a conical that won’t fit in my fermentation chamber. Plus the pressurized transfer eliminates lifting an almost full keg to a higher level for gravity transfer. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • March 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Your welcome! One thing to note is that I can’t fit my racking can into the keg without pulling it out of the fermentation chamber… the combined height of the racking cane and the keg are just too much.

      • jason k williams
        March 28, 2017 at 9:14 am

        Yeah, I figured that would be the case, I’ll be in the same boat as I use a re-purposed refrigerator as a fermentation chamber. Do you ferment with the racking cane in place, or do you only put it in for transfers?

        • March 28, 2017 at 6:04 pm

          I put the racking cane in place for transfers only

  8. jason k williams
    March 28, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I also noticed you didn’t go with the thermowell option. Is there a reason for that? or just preference?

    • March 28, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      Just for simplicity. I don’t like long thermowells, bulky.

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