Increasing fermentation capacity

Any hardware used for mashing, fermenting or aging.

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stillanoob
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Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Tue Jun 09, 2020 8:45 am

Howdy All,

I am looking to increase my long term fermentation capacity for cider to distill into brandy. I would like to get away from glass and would like easier ways to transfer it.

I have one unmodified 15.5 gallon keg that is still stock. Somebody must have figured out how to attach a fermentation locker to one of these and then co2 could be used to pump the contents out. I guess there would have to be a way to siphon product into the keg. It would be nice to avoid a pump. Anyone have an easy button I can press on that?

I also have two kegs that I modified to brew kettles years ago. The have had a circle cut out of the top and a 1/2" nipple welded into the bottom. I was thinking of maybe finding a stainless bowl that fits the top cut out, drilling holes for bolts, adding a seal and then attaching the bowl to the top. I would figure out a way to add a fermentation lock to the bowl. It would be easy to drain and fill but the whole bowl and seal things seems a pain.

I suppose if using an unmodified keg is easy I could buy a couple others. Or if there is another option for non-glass fermentation I am all ears.

Thanks!

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by zed255 » Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:16 am

Nothing wrong with 20 or 32 gallon brutes (trash cans), or plastic barrels (used olive or other food use, preferably with removable top) for fermentation. Glass carboys are a PITA for anything but secondary / clearing and low wines. The keg option would be tougher (more robust) but if it were my choice I'd make sure there is an option installed for cleaning them out, removable cap or lid of some sort.

I use various fermenters. I have four 6 gallon buckets, three 20 gallon brutes and a 55 gallon barrel. I also have about eight glass carboys. I place my larger vessels in a place that is elevated from my work space so siphoning is faster and easier.
Last edited by zed255 on Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by Bushman » Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:20 am

I use 6 gallon plastic fermenting buckets. This works well for me as two buckets equals about the amount you want to fill a 15.5 keg boiler. The other reason I like this size is it fits into the cart I insulated to use for controlling temperatures in my fermentation area.
See post on portable fermentation cart:
download/file.php?id=34699&mode=view

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:21 am

I do use Brutes for primary fermentation. However, they are unsuited to long term fermentation and with the temperatures of my cider house fermentation takes a long time. Because of this I rack to glass, which also leaves behind apple debris. I think this is all to the good, the cider turns out great. But glass is a pain. Hence the search for a stainless alternative.

Edit: I should add that I am looking for 40-50 gallons of capacity. I already have 50 gallons worth of glass but that is employed for the annual production of drinking cider. In order to be able to have sufficient stock for distilling I need to double my capacity.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by Windy City » Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:48 am

If you are looking to invest a little more for some stainless check out these guys.
I have used both these companies and have no complaints.
Bubba's did do some welding/modifying to two of my tanks.

https://www.usedstainlesssteelbarrels.c ... l-barrels/

http://www.bubbasbarrels.com/catalog/st ... 55-gallons

Hope it helps
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by NZChris » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:33 pm

Have a talk to your local scrappy. He might be happy to keep something aside for you.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by seabass » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:46 pm

There are a few off the shelf sanke fermenter conversion kits out there. I made a few and use them for beer fermentation. It's a triclamp cap with a stainless racking cane, thermowell, and half inch stainless tube with a ball lock gas attachment thread on it. They're great because you don't need to modify your keg. Which means that keg can also be a thumper. These work great, but that's still only a 12ish gallon batch.
20190205_173225.jpg

For increased capacity, I went with the 24gal buckets from a home brew shop. It was $39. Works great for me since it fits in my chest freezer fermentation chamber with a keg fermenter next to it when I need temp control.


20200608_204524(1).jpg

stillanoob
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Tue Jun 09, 2020 2:22 pm

Windy, some of those look about right. Not cheap but not bad. The shipping might put it above my reach though.

Chris, we don't have a local scrapyard. I am looking around on the net but would have to make a two hour drive to really hit a scrapyard and I dunno if they are open yet. Still, they will be open at some point.

Seabass, I will look around for the fermentation conversion kit, seems about what I am looking for. The 12 or so gallon volume works for my setup. I just can't see using plastic for a 4 month or more fermentation.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by jonnys_spirit » Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:14 pm

Try Flextanks for longer term bulk storage in various sizes.

Cheers!
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by pope » Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:39 pm

seabass wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:46 pm
For increased capacity, I went with the 24gal buckets from a home brew shop. It was $39. Works great for me since it fits in my chest freezer fermentation chamber with a keg fermenter next to it when I need temp control.
Those are nice looking buckets! I have some of those 20-gal brute wine fermenters but yours look much sturdier.
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by seabass » Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:58 pm

pope wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:39 pm
seabass wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:46 pm
For increased capacity, I went with the 24gal buckets from a home brew shop. It was $39. Works great for me since it fits in my chest freezer fermentation chamber with a keg fermenter next to it when I need temp control.
Those are nice looking buckets! I have some of those 20-gal brute wine fermenters but yours look much sturdier.
Thanks. They're definitely sturdy. I wish the lid sealed, but other than that it works well.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:13 pm

The flex tanks do look cool. I guess they are OK for longer term fermenting, they are for wine after all. I have always had a thing about plastic for long ferments. I like the look of Seabass's but it does not look like it seals for long term fermenting.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by The Baker » Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:20 pm

Cubical containers used to deliver ingredients to bakeries etc.
From say ten to twenty-five litres.

You can probably get them free.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by The Baker » Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:21 pm

The Baker wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:20 pm
Cubical containers used to deliver ingredients to bakeries etc.
From say ten to twenty-five litres.

You can probably get them free.

Olive or cherry barrels. Seventy or eighty litres. Not free but good value.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by tader » Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:50 pm

Stillanoob, you might try Nor Cal Brewing solutions. He has a couple of keg conversion kits that look pretty nice to me.

https://www.norcalbrewingsolutions.com/store/index.html

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by malt_gt_milton » Wed Jun 10, 2020 12:12 am

Bushman wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:20 am
I use 6 gallon plastic fermenting buckets. This works well for me as two buckets equals about the amount you want to fill a 15.5 keg boiler. The other reason I like this size is it fits into the cart I insulated to use for controlling temperatures in my fermentation area.
See post on portable fermentation cart:
download/file.php?id=34699&mode=view
Bushman,

Really like your design! I'll bet it works great, so much better then belts, aquarium heaters etc. Nice work and thanks for sharing. :clap:

mgtm 🥃
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:58 am

Tader, those look like just the thing. Since I have one keg, there is 15 gallons of storage. Now for the other 30...

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by zach » Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:12 am

I'm using a 23 gallon stainless milk can I found on amazon for $90. Also seen on ebay.

I added a 1 1/2" tri clamp bulkhead fitting for a drain and another on the lid. The tri clamp on the lid is difficult to assemble because the center section is lower than the surrounding area.

I'm using it for mashing, fermenting, and as a thumper.
31Pisqjcu4L._AC_ - Copy.jpg
31Pisqjcu4L._AC_ - Copy.jpg (11.73 KiB) Viewed 1250 times

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by jonnys_spirit » Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:58 am

If kegs are readily available you can seal it with a 2" TC end cap and sand down the bottom ridge on the teflon seal. The TC fittings have a number of connectivity options. I use a vacuum system to rack wines between glass carboys but there's no reason that I know of that you couldn't use similar with a keg - It should be rigid enough especially if you have a valve to tune the vacuum pressure. If a pump is out of the question you can rack out of and into a keg with a gravity siphon. Good news is that you don't need to modify the keg but you will want to top it up and seal for bulk aging and to prevent oxidation. I think a pump would be a good tool in any case for racking/transferring and kegs.

Cheers!
-jonny
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by stillanoob » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:34 am

Wow, this thread is being very helpful. Thanks folks!

Jonny, I am very curious about your vacuum system. A pump isn't out of the question. It's just that I have been screwed on brew day before by pumps and have come to prefer avoiding them if possible. However, this isn't the same as the RIMS setup that I used to use, no pumping hot liquids for one thing. So I will consider a pump. C02 pressure pumping is another option although none of the options I have configured for that have worked all that well for glass carboys. Another good reason to get away from them.

Zach, the price sure is right on the milk cans. Since I can't weld SS I would have to add the cost of adding fittings. But I really like the size and that it has a good size top lid to take off for cleaning.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by jonnys_spirit » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:45 am

Check this out - https://www.allinonewinepump.com/

I have their vacuum system that I use often and I purchased a second vacuum pump as a secondary for backup and so I could set up two stations - https://www.rocker.com.tw/product-3.asp ... ory%20Pump.

I have purchased a number of the AllInOne fittings for various carboy scenarios - Racking, Transferring, Bottling, Degassing, and Bulk storage under vacuum. You don't need to use CO2 positive pressure. Vacuum racking pulls O2 out (and CO2) and allows you to place your racking cane where it needs to be to leave sediment behind.

Not necessarily inexpensive but I have about 15 carboys that I use for wine (and whiskey beer) and I use this to transfer and bottle all the time. Worth it alone for the bottling but I also almost never have to lift a full carboy.

I don't use this system for high ABV spirits because of the plastics in the vapor/vacuum path but I do use it to transfer into carboys from the ferment vessel and for racking/degassing aka "splash-racking" and clearing.

Cheers!
-jonny

EDIT:
I also use this vacuum system and a whole house filter to polish some wines after they have fully cleared through a 1 or 5 micron filter depending on what I want. I think this would be an ideal system for better carboy useage and maybe even with kegs.
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i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by RedwoodHillBilly » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:27 pm

zach wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:12 am
I'm using a 23 gallon stainless milk can I found on amazon for $90. Also seen on ebay.

I added a 1 1/2" tri clamp bulkhead fitting for a drain and another on the lid. The tri clamp on the lid is difficult to assemble because the center section is lower than the surrounding area.

I'm using it for mashing, fermenting, and as a thumper.
31Pisqjcu4L._AC_ - Copy.jpg
That looks interesting. Even if it is built with 201. SS 201 is cheaper than 304, and since it is a low nickle alloy it will be less corrosion resistant, but probably just fine for our uses.

This would be a good size to use as a mashtun/fermenter/thumper for stripping on the grain for those who already have a 15 Gal keg boiler. I like this combination as a way to do distilling on the grain on the cheap. I do it this way with a 55 gal drum as a MFT and move the clear beer to a 30 gal stripping boiler and I don't have to bother with "squeezing" or lautering with my grains ground to flour. I also think that I get more flavor and higher efficiencies this way. It's cheap enough, it might be worth me buying one and documenting the build for those who are already using a keg boiler.
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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by Kansas » Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:01 pm

I'm having trouble finding the 23 gallon milk can for around $90. Anyone have a link?

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by RedwoodHillBilly » Wed Jun 10, 2020 7:00 pm

Kansas wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:01 pm
I'm having trouble finding the 23 gallon milk can for around $90. Anyone have a link?
John Barleycorn must die.
"and little Sir John in the nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last.
The huntsman he can't hunt the fox, nor so loudly to blow his horn
and the tinker he can't mend kettle nor pots without a little barleycorn."

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by NZChris » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:53 pm

The first place I ask if I want something is my local pub. If there is a suitable disused SS container/whatever available there is a good chance that someone there has one, or knows someone who knows someone, etc.. The price may be a jug of my finest UJSSM/whatever.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by zach » Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:44 am

RedwoodHillBilly wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:27 pm

It's cheap enough, it might be worth me buying one and documenting the build for those who are already using a keg boiler.
I'm not far from being able to do this. Just ran a cleaning run with vinegar on the thumper and a new keg boiler last weekend. I have a batch of all bran to ready for a sacrificial run.

The downside of this cheap milk can is

1) The lid is flimsy. I'm thinking about building a new lid with a stainless bowl.
2) The placement of the lid clamps are not perfect and lid will not hold pressure. I had to use additional clamps to pass a pressure test with 2' of water pressure.

Despite the downside I purchased a 2nd unit as I have hopes this fall to being able to scrounge some grape pomace from a local winery and this will be an easy way to transport the pomace home.

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by Kansas » Thu Jun 11, 2020 7:38 am

zach wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:44 am
RedwoodHillBilly wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:27 pm

It's cheap enough, it might be worth me buying one and documenting the build for those who are already using a keg boiler.
I'm not far from being able to do this. Just ran a cleaning run with vinegar on the thumper and a new keg boiler last weekend. I have a batch of all bran to ready for a sacrificial run.

The downside of this cheap milk can is

1) The lid is flimsy. I'm thinking about building a new lid with a stainless bowl.
2) The placement of the lid clamps are not perfect and lid will not hold pressure. I had to use additional clamps to pass a pressure test with 2' of water pressure.

Despite the downside I purchased a 2nd unit as I have hopes this fall to being able to scrounge some grape pomace from a local winery and this will be an easy way to transport the pomace home.
Can you share a link?

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by zach » Thu Jun 11, 2020 9:14 am


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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by Kansas » Thu Jun 11, 2020 9:19 am

Sorry, my ad blocker made me not realize that I was already given one. I thought I was just quoted for also wanting a link! Do you think the lid would be sturdy enough to support a column with a 2" TC attached directly in the middle?

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Re: Increasing fermentation capacity

Post by zach » Thu Jun 11, 2020 10:30 am

The lid is flimsy. It has a center section that is 1/2" is lower than the surrounding area.

It is difficult to install the tri clamp on the 1 1/2" ferrule on my lid. I had to use a regular nut instead of the wing nut that comes with a tri clamp as there is not enough clearance with the lower section. Get an extra long ferrule.

I would not try to support much from the lid. I use an 18" section with a LM head. I wouldn't go any taller or heavier. My plan is to operate it like a pot still.

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