fermenting in an apartment

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Djurmz
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fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:36 pm

So I've been wanting to distill for quite some time now. I've spent many saturdays reading the site and have most of the equipment I think I'll need. I have a few years of winemaking and brewing experience behind me now and I'm ready to take this next logical step. The problem is that I have nowhere other than my apartment to distill and while I think I've worked out the necessary changes to my setup to accomodate for that (switching from propane to electric heat for starters), The trouble I'm forseeing is having multiple carboys of wash bubbling away putting off quite a smell. I'd rather not attract unwanted attention, I don't want the smell to drift to the nearby units in the building, and most of all, I'd prefer not to live with the odors being given off.

I'm a few weeks away from having a schedule that will allow some distilling and tonight I started thinking about ways to divert or filter the smell. I think I could connect a line from a closed fermentation to a simple carbon filter that hopefully will scrub the air of the most offensive odors. I've found a few things at Mcmaster-Carr that I think will work for something in the neighborhood of 20-30 bucks with shipping.

My question is: has anyone done this before? Specifically, has anyone filtered the gas escaping a fermenter to reduce the odor?

OR am I overthinking this and maybe the fermenter won't smell very bad or for very long and it's too much effort for a small problem?

Aces High
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Aces High » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:59 pm

I started off by using turbo yeasts in my laundry and they definitely give off a strange smell, so stay away from them.

I've done the DWWG & Simple sugar recipes off here and they have practically no smell (the last batch of sugar wash was 100L.. still no smell). The UJSM might be an exception as it is designed to go sour. I haven't tried it yet, but there's plenty of other people on here who will know

Ayay
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Ayay » Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:40 am

DWWG smells like baking day when I boil the wheatgerm, and like Aces says the fermentation produces little smell and it is pleasant. UJSM is stronger and slightly more disdinctive. The molasses in Pugirum produces a very strong smell - people will wonder! They all slow down after a few days.

It also depends on how much you are fermenting; 5 or 10 litres bubbling in a cupboard may be noticeable in a room but 50 litres will have to go somewhere.

Are there any existing vents like a range hood, clothes dryer or bathroom exhaust fan that are piped up the side of the building? A little computer fan and some lightweight ducting may be the answer.
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Jocko1960
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Jocko1960 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:12 am

Start small. You may find that there is hardly any odor and that it isn't offensive. Ferment in your kitchen or bathroom that has a vent to the roof.

I've been doing some 6 gal sour mash fermentations in my basement and by walking in the house from the outside you never notice a smell. The room I ferment in is far from air tight.

I think that cooking mash may produce some but none that would stand out as someting other than normal cooking or baking.

How do you plan to vent your still while you're running it?
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Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:12 am

Thanks for the quick responses. I love this board.
Ayay wrote:DWWG smells like baking day when I boil the wheatgerm, and like Aces says the fermentation produces little smell and it is pleasant. UJSM is stronger and slightly more disdinctive. The molasses in Pugirum produces a very strong smell - people will wonder! They all slow down after a few days.

It also depends on how much you are fermenting; 5 or 10 litres bubbling in a cupboard may be noticeable in a room but 50 litres will have to go somewhere.

Are there any existing vents like a range hood, clothes dryer or bathroom exhaust fan that are piped up the side of the building? A little computer fan and some lightweight ducting may be the answer.
I plan to start with some kind of sugar wash on the order of about 40 Liters. I don't expect this to smell too much, but I do want to get to the pugirum and maybe a UJSM soon after. The only vent is in the bathroom which vents to an attic space shared by all units, so I'm going to avoid that for now. I still think I want to try a closed fermentation with a carbon filter and I'm thinking I could bubble the gas up through a column of activated charcoal filled with water.
Jocko1960 wrote:
How do you plan to vent your still while you're running it?
Do you mean to vent the smells of distilling? You may need to help me out here. In my inexperience this has never occurred to me...what needs to be vented from the still?

Mr.Spooky
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Mr.Spooky » Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:23 am

iv been doing about 20 gals. at a time, 10 gals. of pints FFMW and 10 gals. of winos POSW. i have been letting these ferment in a bedroom where there are a few computers set up. (i think by shuttin the door and the computers being on all the time keeps the room at a good temp) , but when you first get home in the evening, and open the door, it smells like someones had a wine cooler party in there. but as long as there is normal ventilation, i dont think you could even smell it.
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eternalfrost
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by eternalfrost » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:19 am

5 gallons makes no smell that i can notice

my 55 gallon drum i use for sugar washes makes a noticable smell but i wouldnt call it offensive. sort of like bread dough. sweet, carbonated, yeasty smell

but 5 gallons all you really want to be doing in an apartment anyways.

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by pumpman » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:07 am

Do the people in the other units know you make wine? Sounds like you could pass it off as a wine or beer product.
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eternalfrost
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by eternalfrost » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:30 am

pumpman wrote:Do the people in the other units know you make wine? Sounds like you could pass it off as a wine or beer product.
well it is a wine/beer product until it goes into the still.

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by bronzdragon » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:44 am

5 gallons doesn't make much odor to me. It does have a slight yeasty smell or sweet smell if you're doing molasses...but I wouldn't call it an odor that someone would worry about. You make more odor when going to the john.

And as far as the odor goes when you're making your run, you could just turn on an exhaust fan or something.

~bd~
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Freedave
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Freedave » Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:02 pm

djurms,
welcome and i agree with what every one lse has said.
one more thing.
when running an apartment stove or bathroom vent fan keep in mind. the duct may or may not go directly outside. your vent may be routed inn with other apts ducts and when you run yours people in other apts may get some of your smells. i know every one should have back flow dampers but the reality is that they may not..

i found this out one night when the apart manager knocked at the door when i was running the still right there in the kitchen, with the range hood fan on. she said the neighbors smelled something burning and called her. i said "oh, sorry, i was running the self clean on the oven." she was satisfied and left without more question, but man, that was too close.
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Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:05 pm

eternalfrost wrote:<snip>...but 5 gallons all you really want to be doing in an apartment anyways.
Don't underestimate my thirst for some hooch!
bronzdragon wrote: You make more odor when going to the john.

~bd~
:lol: :lol: :oops:

Good responses all. Thanks for the input. I'm going to get a few 6 gallon carboys going this weekend and hope for the best. I think I'll still tinker with some sort of filtration system if I can get the stuff cheaply, but mostly because I just feel like tinkering. An air hose into a sealed bucket to catch any overflow and then a column of activated carbon coming out of that to filter the smell...but all this can wait for awhile. After reading the replies here I'm confident I can start some sugar washes without too much smell...

eternalfrost
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by eternalfrost » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:28 pm

Djurmz wrote:
eternalfrost wrote:<snip>...but 5 gallons all you really want to be doing in an apartment anyways.
Don't underestimate my thirst for some hooch!
its not a matter of thirst, just logistics. for a stove top size, its going to take 2 runs for each 5gallon ferment (possibly 1 with a huge-ass stove-top) your going to need something to hold your stripping runs until you have enough for the final charge. then more space to hold the final product.

now i dont know exactaly how much space you have, but assuming say an average closet for total storage. 1 or 2 5 gallon fermenters on staggered cycles with 5 gallons of NOT PLASTIC storage for low-wines, then maybe 1-5 gallons of final product storage. given this your already going to be running tight on space and this is only for one flavor of hooch.


im just saying...remember that you have to store alot more then just the fermenter, youll need in the ballpark of 3 times as much room to hold all the "supporting" liquids

Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:47 pm

eternalfrost wrote:
its not a matter of thirst, just logistics. for a stove top size, its going to take 2 runs for each 5gallon ferment (possibly 1 with a huge-ass stove-top) your going to need something to hold your stripping runs until you have enough for the final charge. then more space to hold the final product.

now i dont know exactaly how much space you have, but assuming say an average closet for total storage. 1 or 2 5 gallon fermenters on staggered cycles with 5 gallons of NOT PLASTIC storage for low-wines, then maybe 1-5 gallons of final product storage. given this your already going to be running tight on space and this is only for one flavor of hooch.


im just saying...remember that you have to store alot more then just the fermenter, youll need in the ballpark of 3 times as much room to hold all the "supporting" liquids
Thanks for the word of caution frost, truly. I don't think I'll have the room to do more than one flavor at a time, but FWIW, here's how I'm set up so far:

I have a 1/2 bbl keg attached to a brewhaus pro series essential extractor II column, digital thermometer with probe for the top of said column, and an eprouvette that is ugly, but completely functional. I have two 5 gallon plastic carboys for fermenting, 1 5 gallon glass carboy for stripped runs, dozens of mason jars and jelly jars for collection, and a whole lot of 1 gallon carboys that I currently make my wine in. Although my apartment is less than 1000 square feet, probably way less now that I think of it, it has a surprisingly large walk in closet. I'm going to move some of what I've got in there underbed to make some space, but I think it can be done. I've got 2 heating elements arriving tomorrow for the boiler and I still need to get a hole cut for the adapter plate to screw into. A few electrical connections/wire/plug and then some insulation to cover the keg and I think I'll be ready to go. I'm off to work on a few jars of fruit mascerations before my study group arrives. All this talk and work and all I really want to do is pour a glass of bourbon, but finals aren't over until next tuesday, so I'm walking the straight and narrow path until then.

eternalfrost
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by eternalfrost » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:09 pm

sounds like your well on your way. much better shape then the average joe wanting to do it in his apartment with a teapot on the stove :roll:

Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:16 pm

eternalfrost wrote:sounds like your well on your way. much better shape then the average joe wanting to do it in his apartment with a teapot on the stove :roll:
I was *this* close to being that guy. One year ago I came across an Easystill and almost bought it on impulse, but I had some time to kill and I found this site. I realized if I was going to do it, I should do it right. I've been learning and collecting equipment since then, should have some good spirits by this summer.

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Jocko1960 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:32 pm

Talking about the venting of the smell from the boiler once your run is complete and things are cooling. I get more smell then than during the fermentations.
I don't have the problem of neighbors in the same building though so haven't really given it much thought. Others here may have mo better info on it.
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dixiedrifter
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by dixiedrifter » Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:27 pm

run a simple hose or preferably NPT fitting past the trap in a sink and simply hook a hose to whatever needs to be vented to the atmosphere.

Tie that into your fermenter somehow (preferably making it a one way avenue connection) and presto-cadabara no more smell... it all goes to the roof.

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Ayay » Fri May 01, 2009 12:44 am

Yeah Dixie! You have found a way into the vent pipe that always goes up and over the roof line!

Push a hose into the sink, basin or toilet bowl so it goes past the 'U' bend and you're home and hosed.
cornflakes...stripped and refluxed

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by rad14701 » Fri May 01, 2009 5:52 am

I ferment washes of between 1 and 5 gallons (4L - 25L) in my office closet and don't get all that much off smell unless I'm using something with molasses in it like graham crackers or brown sugar... Wheat germ isn't all that bad... Any faint smell usually only lasts for 24 hours or so and then subsides...

As for smells while distilling in the kitchen, they can build up when running the same recipes mentioned above... If they are pungent during fermentation then they will also be pungent during distillation... Opening windows and running kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans, both directly externally vented, helps eliminate the smells and then I make at least one circuit through the apartment spraying a steady mist of air freshener... I've never had the smell creep outside to where it was noticeable from inside or outside the building...

Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Fri May 01, 2009 6:29 am

These comments are all a relief, truly. I'm going to proceed as normal and suffer a smelly closet for a day or two, but it's nice to know that I've got some tips should thinks get stinky or suspicious. ;) It seems I was overthinking this a little, but a guy can never be too careful.

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by dropping_planets » Fri May 01, 2009 7:26 am

i live in a very small house... my UJSM is always going, and quite often there's one or two more 6 gl. ferments bubbling next to it in my kitchen....

all i've ever gotten is ..."smells like beer" or "i smell apple cider".... only close friends come to my house so i have no worries about it..

i agree with jocko... the very offensive smell is when you open the boiler after a run... and it rushes everywhere.... :shock:

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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by LWTCS » Fri May 01, 2009 3:20 pm

dropping_planets wrote:the very offensive smell is when you open the boiler after a run
Let the unit completely cool first (if you have time) and that will drastically reduce odor from the boiler.

I usually get a bready smell from my ferments. I have only ever used bakers yeast. It lasts maybe 2 days

Bake some bread and roast up a nice cuban style (or the like) pork shoulder on stillin days.

My mouth is waterin just thinking about it.
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punkin
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by punkin » Fri May 01, 2009 7:54 pm

dixiedrifter wrote:run a simple hose or preferably NPT fitting past the trap in a sink and simply hook a hose to whatever needs to be vented to the atmosphere.

Tie that into your fermenter somehow (preferably making it a one way avenue connection) and presto-cadabara no more smell... it all goes to the roof.

What you are suggesting is a direct connection from your ferment to the sewer.

Anyone is free to do anything they like, but me personally? Not in a pink fit. :|

Djurmz
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Djurmz » Fri May 01, 2009 8:33 pm

punkin wrote:
Anyone is free to do anything they like, but me personally? Not in a pink fit. :|
Punkin,

In the roughly 8 months I've been lurking on this board, I've gotta say you're one of the more clever voices on this board and I enjoy your posts.

With that said, I've got to ask....what is a pink fit? I've never heard that expression

I know I could google it, but discourse is better in my book.

punkin
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by punkin » Sat May 02, 2009 2:36 am

Pink fit is ozzie for just about fukin never :mrgreen: :mrgreen:



Just somethin you would not do.

Goes back aways, maybe the forties, maybe before that...

Tried googling it and didn't get the origon.

Barney Fife
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Re: fermenting in an apartment

Post by Barney Fife » Sat May 02, 2009 5:25 am

To avoid the strong smell after distilling, let it cool on its own for 24 hours or more before opening the boiler.

Buy a cheap beer kit, make a batch, and bottle it. Then, if anyone ever asks about the fermentation or smell, simply say you're making a new batch of beer(UJSM does smell like beer), and offer them a bottle of the cheap kit beer if they inquire further, but tell them it's your last one(so they won't want to actually drink it). The perfect 'cover'.

By the way, keep in mind that if a fire should break out, and it's discovered that your stillin' caused it, God help you if someone was hurt or worse, in the fire. You'll be Bubba's wife for 20 years.... Personally, I wouldn't even -think- of distilling in a shared building. Ferment it in your apartment, but find some other place to do the stilling.

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