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!

  17 comments for “2019 Brewery Updates pt 4: The Grand Revert

  1. John Pumphrey
    September 28, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    Great update (as always), Justin. Thank you for sharing your brewing journey with us.

    Will you be providing a post-brew day update of this “final” configuration?

    Do you have plans for 2020 for us… perhaps linked to the first question?

    Thanks again for what you do and best of luck on knocking that doctorate on the head.

    • Justin
      September 29, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Thanks John!

      Brew day planned for next weekend now, so hopefully a short update of how wildly successful this has all been following that!

      As for next steps – I’ll do my best with some LODO principles with what I have – I can attach a section of 1″ ID silicone tubing to my whirlpool port to eliminate splashing I think, and extend the black loc-line in my mash tun and direct it as close to the false bottom as possible for underletting of grain.

      For more significant potential changes, I’ve been eyeing up the Stout Tanks CFC, and I may do some plumbing updates to encorporate that if I end up buying one. I also really like the vessels that Spike Brewing are offering for their 1 BBL pilot system. If they eventually offer the vessels on their own, the mash tun would be a nice addition with manway, bottom drain, and larger capacity for my full volume mashes. That would be especially appealing if they offered customization like they do with their usual kettles – that way I can add lots of sensors and things to play with.

  2. Norm Ryder
    September 29, 2019 at 8:00 am

    I am wowed yet again how you bird dog down these issues and find a solution. Thanks for posting. The bling is amazing to see. Brew on!

    • Justin
      September 29, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Thanks Norm!

  3. Scott Hilts
    September 29, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    Have you thought about the Mash King CFC?

    • Justin
      September 29, 2019 at 11:32 pm

      I’m not ashamed to admit that looks matter! Also I am not a fan of compression fittings for beer/wort contact and I’m also not sure if hot water recovered will have some kind of taste imparted? I hear performance is very good however and they’ve been as cheap as $80 in past black friday sales… hard to beat that!

  4. Scott Hilts
    September 30, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Is it the material of the compression fittings?

    • Justin
      October 1, 2019 at 9:35 am

      I thought it was the outer hose actually. I could be wrong. The tri clamp compression adapters that I’d likely end up using with one aren’t ideal either.

  5. Jeremy
    October 5, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Where’d you source your 1.5″ TC gaskets? Link?

    • Justin
      October 5, 2019 at 9:32 am

      The sandwich gaskets are distributed from Dixon’s, I got them through a local supplier. Brewer’s Hardware also carried them last time I checked.

  6. Thomas / Hop Rod Garage
    October 11, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    This one of my favourite setups out there. Really like the compact pipe setup. And its good to see that its not only me that is rebuilding the brewery “all the time” ;) Keep up the good work. Looking GOOD!

  7. Christopher
    October 20, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Justin! You might remember, I’m building a replica of your system. Haven’t fired it up yet, but in anticipating the lack of flow rate control you described with the butterfly valves, I’m looking at how I can insert the ball valves now. I like what you did with the valves right after the T on the pump for isolation as well. I don’t have the space unfortunately as I build my stand with the kettles too close together, so my option is to forego the isolation and stick the ball valves before the kettle inlet as you did. Trying to avoid ripping apart the stand. Curious what you think about swapping out the standard T after the pump with a 3-way ball valve. Figure I can keep everything as is since it’s the exact same dimensions and get my flow rate control along with isolation in one part swap. Only downside I can see is I can’t get the quick clean valves, and I’m not 100% sure if the flow control is as good with a 3-way ball valve as a 2-way. Any thoughts?

    • Justin
      October 20, 2019 at 9:28 pm

      Hey Christopher! I think the 3-way ball valve is a clever solution, I would expect it to get pretty gunked-up though and require a little extra TLC between brews. Even still – this is hot side, and recirculating hot wort through the valve will probably take care of anything you may miss… Hope the build is going well and that I’m not throwing you off with my constant tinkering – that’s just the way it goes! I probably wouldn’t have bothered with my two extra butterfly valves for isolation if I didn’t already have them sitting around.

  8. Chris
    October 20, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Ha! No, not throwing me off. Love the tinkering! I actually didn’t have a chance to work on this the last 3 or 4 months, so ended up seeing your revisions all at once. I did have an “oh crap!” moment when I first saw it, but that’s part of the fun! It was a couple days later that I saw your latest post on the revert to previous design. Loving the build! Thanks for the insights. Yes, I’m debating the 3 way valve with more cleaning, or tacking on the two quick clean valves to the kettles. Trade off is I miss that point on isolation that you mentioned, which is awfully tempting. Will have to sleep on it. Finally got around to passivating everything this weekend (maybe unneeded but I’m paranoid). Closest I’ve got to firing it up.

    Love the posts! Thanks for all the help.

    Chris

  9. EricB
    November 6, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Hi Justin,

    am following up with you on our “side discussion” about using RIMS for boiling. Haven’t brewed this way yet as I highly prefer not ruinning good worth with experimentations but wanted to post my initial findings.

    The idea came to me when I saw a BIAC setup ( Brew In a Conical ) that confirmed my initial idea. Why spend so much time cleaning so many pots when I could do it all in one container ?

    Back then, I had the HLT, MT and BK dumping it in my plastic first fermentor and then secondary glass carboy.
    Now that I have a conical, I only reduced the equation by removing 1 container to clean and possible contamination during sampling.
    BUT, I now have way more fitting and gaskets, valves and others to clean … DUH !

    How can I do better ?
    Boiling in the conical would remove one more bucket to clean ? wouldn’t it ? :-)
    BIAC conicals have extra ports to have the heating elements mounted in the conical.

    DARN ! the chilling coil is in the way of any of the current TC ports I have ….
    Why not use my RIMS then ?

    So I mounted the RIMS horizontal with its output to the bottom dump valve elbow. Input of the pump connected with the racking arm.
    WORKS REALLY WELL !!!!
    but … that was just water…

    Unlike myself with west-cost style IPAs, my Pumps tend to choke when too HOPPY :-)
    How would the RIMS react with no more “INPUT” ? well … at 100% power, the boiling tends to be very rough. Water replacing the gazeous sections around the element is very restricted in a 1.5″ pipe… even more horizontal.

    Do get me wrong …. it works ! but I would not let it go without supervision… and I think some weld joints might suffer over time because of all the vibrations of this boiling.

    I then tried Vertical RIMS straight underneath the dump port valve with some shady wood setup that I wouldn’t be too proud of publishing pictures of … :-( But what wouldn’t you do for the sake of science ?

    Vertical is WAY better. I would possibly try it with worth. The setup though gets pretty tall but I would possibly try it.

    If only I had empty kegs …

    Since I still got some time before my next brew, I also tried STEAM with a secondary loop !!! :-o
    I only had a 15psi prv on hand and wish I had a pressure sensor and gauge.
    NO, I am not a foul. Did my readings, studying and safety concerns review.

    So I did not do a complete boil using steam… Stopped the steam experimentation until my ebay order comes in
    with gauge, sensors and sight glass. maybe by christmas it’ll be in

    In the mean time ,
    Chears

    • Justin
      November 6, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Awesome update! Hope to hear more.

      My first brew with the new old set up, I was a bit too gentle with the boil and ended up with some DMS in my beer (Czech Pils). Otherwise everything worked really well here.

      Steam is really interesting to me. So are you using like a chilling coil for a steam condenser?

      • EricB
        November 6, 2019 at 11:56 am

        I am using the chilling coil of my conical fermentor. The actual temperature of the steam is currently too low as I have not yet installed the PRV.

        From readings, the steam condensers all have their INs and OUTs from “under”. When the steam condenses, it drips down. In my case, since the lines are upward, the condensate is the one responsible for the pressure increase –> temperature increase.

        When the “worth” is close to boiling, the thermal transfer gets lower since there is not as much condensate to increase the pressure.
        Amazon says my gauge should be in before the weekend… Targetting 15psi will likely generate a solid 120C.

        Maybe I should think of just “plunging” the element in the worth from the top instead of aiming for a 100% CIP solution … ????

        It would be nice if we could “paste” some pictures in our comments

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