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Recirculating Single Vessel Breweries

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black_labb

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I'm starting this thread for my own recently built system but I think with the number popping up we might as well keep a single thread for them here as I suspect we'll be seeing alot more. This could keep most of the information available or linked to from this thread for people looking into designing or building a recirculating single vessel system.


Along with many I've just put together a single vessel brewery. The system uses a hermit/brown pump to recirculate from the bottom of a keggle to the top of the malt pipe. The malt pipe is a bigW 19L pot that I took an angle grinder with a 1.2mm cutoff disc and made slots to hold the grain back. The wort return is a loop of 1/2" copper pipe around the top of the malt pipe.

The heating is a uxcell 2kw stainless element. This is controlled by an Auberins PID ramp/soak controller switching a SSR on and off. This automates the step mashing.

I've brewed with it twice so far. First went well, though I forgot to measure out the water into it and couldn't be bothered reheating the strike water. The lack of volume, inefficient attempt at a fly sparge and a few other things meant the efficiency was in the high 60's. I was also a bit unsure of the grain as it was a bag I had crushed for me a while ago to compare the difference between proper crushing and my corona grain shredder.

Second brew I did full volume and seemed much more promising. The grain was shredded ala corona mill which didn't cause any issues which was great. Haven't measured the exact SG as it is still in the cube but going on the boil volume and the preboil SG it is in the high 70's-low 80's efficiency wise which is perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately the pump died just as things reached mashout temps. I did a quick "sparge" with 2L of 75* water pored through the malt pipe while it drained into the kettle as things came to the boil.

Unfortunately the cube was giving me trouble and didn't end up sealing (threads and seal on the lid are farked, that cube is being retired to lagering and fermenting from now on). I had to head off yesterday as soon as the brew was finished so I returned today with a reliable cube and brought the wort back up to 90* and recubed it as I wasn't ready to pitch yeast. I have no Idea what to expect from the 30g of challenger I used at flameout before the first cubing. I'll probably dry hop with some to make up for any lost aroma. As things go I'll probably nail the best northern brown and never be able to recreate it without recubing.

I still need to do some tweaking on the system before I'm completely happy (and have a look at the pump) before I'm happy to call it completed but I'm happy with how it works and it just needs some adjustment.

Things I want to change

- Add an overflow protection: A simple tube sitting in the malt pipe that connects the bottom of the malt pipe to a point below the rim of the malt pipe. This would mean that when the wort reaches this point it would flow directly to the bottom of the malt pipe instead of overflowing. This would mean that the mashing wouldn't need to be watched and just set the flow to more than you need so that the level above the grain is consistently kept at the level determined by the return pipe.

- Put pump power supply into the control box that can be connected by a 1/4" jack, as opposed to alligator clipping a laptop power supply to the pump wires. Once I've got that sorted I'll add an on switch for the pid, pump as well as an on/off/pid control switch for the element and then clean up the control box.

- Attach pump to a more permanent position, probably with the motor pointing up to avoid it from stoping like it did (assuming it starts to work again once taken apart and cleaned).

- Replace the wort return ring of copper flex pipe with a return that drops vertically from the centre onto a dispersion plate (or whatever the correct name is). This seems like a slightly better system to me but it requires me to drill a 1/2" hole into the glass, or build a new lid, so I'm not in too much of a hurry.

- I'm thinking about making the temp controller modular where I can build it into a box with plug inputs for a number of element outputs so that I can use the controller on a larger system. Only issue is that the controller would have to plug into a different powerpoint and circuit for each 10A of power. This would put the controller in the middle of a network of many wires just to do a double batch. Might just be better to build a second one of these and run them simultaneously as a 19L pot for a malt pipe is cheap, but getting something for a bigger system gets pricey, nevermind the expense of a bigger kettle.

- Possibly weld a malt pipe extension on for doing bigger beers. I suspect I'm going to struggle getting much more than 6kg of grain into the malt pipe. Though I may end up building a bigger system just because I can and use that one for the bigger beers.

Sorry for the lack of photos. I wasn't very motivated for photos once the pump stopped running and much less so when the cube failed to seal and sucked air on me. I'll grab some more photos of the malt pipe and internals soon. The malt pipe looks like the wort is cloudy, though it is actually clear but has bits of grain floating on the top. Even with a terrible crush level the wort filtering through the grain bed is beautifully clear.



A few thoughts I have on the system


- I was expecting to be using the pump to do some fly sparging, but without being albe to restrict flow out of the malt pipe the water does not spend enough time to really dissolve much sugars while passing through the malt pipe. A near full volume mash in seems better then running 1-2L through the malt pipe to dissolve a bit extra seems about right.

- compared to BIAB you will have much less trub. Adjust the pickup tubes location to reflect this.

- Step mashes are very easy, especially with the pid controller.

brew_system1.jpg


brew_system2.jpg
 

Fat Bastard

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- compared to BIAB you will have much less trub. Adjust the pickup tubes location to reflect this.
I run a hybrid BIAB recirculating system using a solid sided bag instead of a bucket/malt pipe type arrangement, although it's not a true 1v system because I have no room to lift the bag, so I pump the wort to a 30 litre bucket before sparging and then return the wort back to the mashtun/kettle for boiling.

I seem to have quite a bit of trub in the bottom of the kettle before the boil, the brown pump obviously does not have enough guts to draw the heavier material out and back into the mash. I just tip it into the sink before returning the wort to the kettle, but this is a bit of a pain. Do you get some trub remaining and is it really worth worrying about? The first brew I did with the system I forgot to remove the strainer from the end of the pickup, so my recirculation was basically useless, and I can't tell the difference between it and the identical brew I did a week later minus the strainer, getting proper recirculation. I'm planning on overcoming this by fitting a second valve to the kettle for recirculation and wort transfer only and retaining the existing valve and strainer arrangement for draining to the chiller.

Would be interested to see your pickup arrangement.

Cheers,

FB
 

black_labb

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I have a simple copper pickup tube right now. I haven't noticed the brown pump having issues recirculating solids to be filtered back through the grain bed at the moment. I used to have a couple of litres of solid trub per brew after decanting the wort off with 2 days of chilling the extra in the fridge (the extra clear wort went towards yeast).
 

black_labb

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A quick disassembly of the pump hasn't shown any clear issue. There seems to be too much interference around the magnet housing.
 

Fat Bastard

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I have a simple copper pickup tube right now. I haven't noticed the brown pump having issues recirculating solids to be filtered back through the grain bed at the moment. I used to have a couple of litres of solid trub per brew after decanting the wort off with 2 days of chilling the extra in the fridge (the extra clear wort went towards yeast).

I guess if you're lifting the bag from the wort at full volume, you couldn't possibly notice it anyway, unless your wort is crystal clear and like water!

When I drain I see this in the last litre or so left.



The wort going into the top of the bag is absolutely sparkling, but this last little bit is pretty muddy.I guess if it's too heavy for the pump to pull out, it won't even get into the fermenter. I'm just a bit concerned about it getting into the boil and possible undesireable flavours resulting from it.
 

black_labb

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It's possible that I had similar in the bottom of mine. I've been boiling in the same vessel so by the time you have hot break and hops settling out after the whirlpool I wouldn't notice it in the trub. I have noticed that there is much less trub than when I was doing biab. probably 50-90% reduction (seriously, and probably closer to the 90%).

I think that the only way to filter all of that through the grain bed would be to have the pump sucking from the middle with a convex bottom (keg?). The convection currents from the element wont mix that in as they sit under the element.
 

black_labb

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Here are the insides of the system. The angle grinder slots are quick to do but a pain to clean up all the burrs as it is half inside something. Fortunately it is finished, just need a working pump again.

brew_system3.jpg


brew_system4.jpg
 

Fat Bastard

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How much space do you have underneath the malt pipe and do you get much lag in the system with the probe mounted directly over the element like that? Mine holds about 10 litres below the bag rest/false bottom and the wort coming out of the wort return lags around 1 degree under the temp from the probe, but the system equalises in 10 minutes or so. The theory of my location for it was to have it the same distance from the element as the pickup . I've got another to plumb into the outlet, but that'll make everything more bulky and harder to move. Brewing in a tiny kitchen means everything has to be put away post brew.
Anyway, here's some pics of my current system, which isn't strictly single vessel, but probably partly within the scope of the thread.

Solid sided bag with false bottom visible below voille


Recirculating the mash




Clear Wort


Draining the mash to holding tank. The little urn supplies sparge water and gets pumped into the mash via the recirculation system. The little Aldi urn holds 7 litres and gets emptied once for 4-5.5kg grain bills, twice for anything over that. It adds complexity to the system, but it's the only way I can consistantly get 30 litre pre boil volumes without overflowing the mash tun during the mash. I've done up to 9.5 kg of grain for 1.085sg brews successfully. Normal brews with around 5kg bills normally get over 90% efficiency, although for some reason I got much lower than that last time. The only thing I did differently was to not stir the mash halfway through. Everything else was the same as the previous 5 brews (90-93% efficiency) apart from that.
You can see the whole reason for this convoluted brew rig well in this pic. There isn't enough clearance above the vessel to lift and hang a bag. With a 9kg bill, it's only just possible to lift the drained bag out of the vessel and wrestle it into the sink on the right of the pic. A malt pipe arrangement would be my preference, but I think a solid sided bag is probably the next best thing.
 

Fat Bastard

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I get quite a bit of channeling with the bag. I just push the grain bed back against the walls with a spoon and flatten it with a potato masher. Unorthodox I know, but I guess it's called mashing for a reason!


Ghetto sparge distribution. I need to do something about this. It's a poor arrangement.


Boiling


Whirlpooling via wort return


Draining. I wish I had a better option than letting the cooling water run down the sink.


A 30 buck pump can get a better trub cone than I can!
 

husky

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Heres mine, has a stainless inner basket inside a 75L vessel. I have tried with and without the BIAB bag and its definatly easier to clean up with it. Recirculates through a RIMS system controlled by a PID. Very simple and minimal effort to run. Possibly too simple and easy, Im now thinking of 3V so I have more stainless to play with.





http://www.aussiehomebrewer.com/forum/inde...80&start=80
 

black_labb

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Fat: Looks like a good system, too bad you can't just lift the grain out.

Husky: that bench looks too empty. build another 2 identical setups!!
 

Fat Bastard

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Cheers Labb, it's taken me a while to acheive some sort of consistency with it!

Wish I could just lift the bag too. stuffing around waiting for it to drain and pumping the wort back adds a good hour to the day all told. Including clean up, my brew days run to 8 hours, provided nothing goes wrong! The hard work starts once the fermenter has beer in it.

Do you guys stir your mash at all? I found on my last brew, I didn't stir halfway through like normal and undershot my gravity by 0.012! I can't think of anything else that would have caused it. Used the same grain, with the same crush and had adjusted the pH with EZ water just like prior brews where I got over 90%, including an identical brew 2 weeks prior.

cheers,

FB
 

BlueSky

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Do you guys stir your mash at all? I found on my last brew, I didn't stir halfway through like normal and undershot my gravity by 0.012! I can't think of anything else that would have caused it. Used the same grain, with the same crush and had adjusted the pH with EZ water just like prior brews where I got over 90%, including an identical brew 2 weeks prior.
I am very interested in answers to this question too for my forthcoming 'recirculating-pot-in-pot' system. Do you stir regularly or just at each step of the mash? Recirculate constantly or just periodically?

Great thread btw!
 

black_labb

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I've stirred a bit but more out of curiousity. I don't think it is too neccesary with recirculating setups as the constant movement should have the wort find it's way into and back out from each spot, but stirring should make sure of it. I don't expect stirring to cause much of an issue. I run my pump constantly while mashing. My system as is suits full volume as the sparge water runs through the grain quickly to do an effective sparge.
 

tavas

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Do you see much of a reduction in hot break material? I am using a modified 2V BIAB setup, whereby I mash in an esky at 2.5l/kg, then dunk sparge into my urn into the remaining water. I get about 4lts of hot break after the boil, even with whirlfloc and/or Brewbrite.

From what I read on here and seen on Youtube, this seems like a lot. I was thinking of setting up some sort of recirc to try and clean up the wort to see if that makes a difference. I realise I am bordering on 3V but don't have room for a HLT.
 

black_labb

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Tavas, that's almost exactly what I was doing before and was getting the same result. As I mentioned above the trub at the end of running this system is much less. It almost looks like its hops only instead of trub with flecks of hops. I'm leaning towards a 80-90% reduction of trub.
 

tavas

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Thanks black_labb

Sounds like its worth pursuing. I have the brown pump and a Woolies pot so no additional gear required. Just need to make it work. Could even get rid of the esky tun.
 

seamad

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Just pumped out a tripel today, pretty well tested my systems limit.
Had 5.76 kg of grain in the pot with about 50 mmm freeboard.
Five step mash, noticed wort squirting out between pot and top filter plate when checking pH at 63 rest. Removed plate as thought mesh was blocked, wasnt. Did it all back up again and same thing. Turned pump off then on and noticed the filter plate bulging , never had that before, slowed flow down to about half and all worked. Must have been the volume of grain causing the warping of the plate?
Was a bit worried about effeciency but got 1066 wort at 75% effeciency before adding the sugar , so alls well.

Reckon that 6 kg will be the limit, not that i make a lot of big beers

Cheers,sean
 

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