2019 Brewery Updates pt 4: The Grand Revert

In the process of planning the revisions detailed in part 3, I remembered that with my next brewery update, I had wanted to implement low oxygen brewing principles. This meant going back and adding a couple more design goals – namely the ability to underlet my mash tun to mash in with deaerated strike water. Also, I wanted to fill my boil kettle from the bottom port rather than the 20cm or so from the bottom through my whirlpool port. On the want-to-haves was (and still is), a stainless counterflow chiller.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, or maybe it does, but if my intention is still to have a hose-change-less brewery, the piping gets pretty complicated with even one of these feature additions. So for awhile I contemplated a brewery design that would have me making some hose changes instead.

Somewhere along the line I realized I don’t have the time or capital to see it all through, for now at least. I still have a PhD to finish here and hadn’t done the (essential?) task of brewing in several months. The last brew day at home was in May (4 months ago)!

So what I’ve done for now is basically completely revert things and settle with a few minor but meaningful improvements. Thankfully I had resolved to not destroy my old brew stand while I was exploring all of the system changes I explored (see parts 1, 2, 3), so it was there waiting for me…

Valve swap

The most immediately noticeable change is that I swapped out the butterfly valves that control the flow into my mash tun and boil kettle, for full bore quick-clean ball valves. What I had been experiencing during lautering with my system, is that the head pressure difference between a full mash tun and empty boil kettle was great enough, and my pipe restriction/friction losses minimal enough, that I could not control the transfer rate to be as slow and consistent as I wanted it. My pump VFD, which I dreamt as a panacea to all things flow rate control, was useless here. The butterfly valves essentially can only be used in an on/off type of scenario so there was no back up solution here. I had sanitary diaphragm valves at one point in my brewery’s history, and I expect I may eventually move back to those in some way. We’ll see how this goes first.

My brewery, now with quick clean ball valves (blue handles), for some primitive flow restriction.

Plumbing isolation

What else? I added a couple butterfly valves immediately off my pump output tee. This allows me to isolate sections of my plumbing. From a sanitation perspective this offered an improvement as the plumbing between my pump and mash tun return was free to back flow while transferring wort to fermentor, and that liquid, and the plumbing holding it hadn’t been boiled/pasteurized in the same way. This also gives me a bit more flexibility should I want to partially pull apart my brewery while in use, or only use a part of my brewery (i.e. limit soiling/contamination/cleaning) say for cleaning kegs or for using my mash tun and RIMS tube for Sous Vide.

Kind of difficult to see – but two butterfly valves have been added to my pump outlet to provide some ability to isolate sections of my brewery plumbing (black handled valves seen near top of image by pump).

Gaskets

Lastly, my friend Pat sourced some PTFE/EPDM/PTFE sandwich gaskets for me. Originally I used EPDM gaskets throughout my brewery, but I found they:

  • Didn’t have the rigidity that I wanted (i.e. most hardware required supports)
  • Seemed to swell pretty quickly – short lifespan,
  • Were so soft that they were easily overtightened/deformed, and,
  • They seemed to stick hardware pieces together/were hard to remove if had been in place for any extended period of time (perhaps due to minerality of local water interacting, I thought?).

The move to PTFE gaskets addressed all of these things, but unfortunately due to some very minor alignment issues in the vessel outputs, when connected with unforgiving PTFE gaskets they either leaked or put undue stress on the ports. Just a little bit of flexibility here using a series of sandwich gaskets has remedied this issue nicely for me, and I’m happy with that!

PTFE/EPDM/PTFE sandwich gaskets are awesome.

Diagram

Updated process diagram

Conclusion

So there you have it. My 2019 updated brewery. Time to brew!

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