24 May 2011

Brewery Mods - Part 1

First steps in altering to the design of the brewery...

I want to move to a system of mostly hard-pipes between the brewing vessels. I find the plastic pipes, even though of food grade, are a pain to keep sanitary. A hard-pipe system will, I feel, also make it easier to streamline my brewing days, allowing me to brew a little more hands-off than the current setup. Right now I have to hand-sparge, and, as I gain more experience, I find I am wanting longer sparges, longer recirculations, longer mashes,... well, you get the idea. It seems to me that good beer wants an unhurried approach, gentle and considerate handling. And standing holding a hose over a hurricane-strength flame is not conducive to a meditational brewing mind.

Out with the old... In with the new! New plumbing in situ.
Another long-standing source of irritation to me has been the amount of wort that the system "holds on to" and is lost to fermentation as a result. The old setup has a lot of dead space. Pipework below the vessels where liquid simply sits, and that my puny little pump cannot remove (because it cannot self-prime nor pump air.)

The deal-maker is those horrible galvanised bits of pipework I used in the original design. After more than a year of use, they're getting pretty manky inside, and, even though this is the hot-side of the brewery (meaning that sanitation is not an overwhelming concern, because the wort gets boiled for at least an hour after all the nastiness, ensuring that any nasty bugs that might be in the wort at that stage get killed) I would still like everything a bit more sanitary. And I worry about Zinc and Iron disolving into my wort.

So all that nastiness is solved by replacing the inlet side of the pump, this time using Copper fittings. (Click through the pictures for larger images and more photos.)

As an aside, I have much more significant changes in store for the brewery, including the addition of a proper sparge-arm, and plumbing so that I can recirculate the mash through the kettle, thus enabling more sophisticated multi-step mashes. It has proven to be quite a challenge to design the changes in small steps that build upon one another, hopefully without throwing away too many bits and pieces. Copper pipe and brass couplings are hellishly expensive!

I believe I have managed successfully for Step 1, at least. The first step was putting together the new inlet system so that the existing mashtun and hot-liquor tank can continue to be used unchanged.

As you can see from the photo, much less dead space below the pump. I have also shifted the pump so that it is placed much closer to the bottom of the mashtun. The limitation, here, is that the outlet of the pump has to be below the lowest water level, as the pump is prone to airlocks and is unable to expell the air by itself. Liquid must fully prime the pump otherwise it just doesn't work.

Needless to say, given my superlative plumbing skills, I had a leak on one side of the elbow... So the whole caboodle had to come off the pump again, and the cause of the trouble diagnosed. The lip of one of the pipes was ever-so-slightly buckled, so no snug fit inside the elbow. PTFE tape to the rescue. One of my Life Mottos: There are no problems that cannot be solved using sufficient Plumbing Tape.

The final picture shows the newly-plumbed pump in place between the mashtun supports. (Picture is looking straight down from above – a "brewer's eye view".) Inlet from the HLT coming in from the right, outlet to the left, and inlet from the Mashtun from "above". A safety shroud has been fitted over the electrical terminals – that little red dot on the upper-left corner of the pump. I've tested, and everything seems to be working again, just in time for a brew-day tomorrow. I'll be having a go at a Belgian Dubbel, I believe...

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