Monday, December 10, 2012

Phase 3: Plumbing

The entire idea behind this section is simple. Take stuff from point "A" and move it to point "B". The straightest possible solution would be the straight line, but it's not necessarily the most efficient. I already had a March Pump, and I wasn't really planning on buying another one. At this point in the process I don't think the wifey really was all concerned about my spending, but another pump is a pretty big deal. I was doing pretty well flying under the radar at this point and I wasn't screwing that one up.

If I wanted to make this design as inefficient as possible, I probably could use 6 pumps, and a crap load more connections, disconnects, copper, etc. Instead I was able to design the whole system to use only one pump. There are a number of transfers that occur during brewing:

1) Fill hot liquor tank.
2) Fill mash tun.
3) Circulate mash through hot liquor tank.
4) Sparge mash using hot liquor tank water.
5) Lauter mash into boil kettle.
6) Chill wort.
7) Drain kettle into fermenter.

I was able to take care of the mash circulation and sparge using one pump and a bunch of solenoid valves. I also plumbed it in such a way (by accident) that I could send a shot a water through the pump to clear out any air that had nested itself into the pump head. The fills and the chill are taken care of solenoid valves that control the water supply from the garden hose. Lauter to the boil kettle is taken care of gravity, oh sweet gravity. Currently there's just a solenoid hanging out because I'm still using my immersion chiller. I decided that the plate chiller was too much of an addition to design/purchase into my system at this point. When the chiller gets installed it will have its own pump circulating hot wort through it. You can see a lot of the system in the picture. Once I finish writing about the construction, I'll be taking many more detailed pictures and placing them all in one spot for the world to see. Major purchase items for this section:

15' (about?) of 1/2" copper
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" copper elbows
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" push / 1/2"FPT fittings
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" push / 1/2"MPT fittings
4x 1/2" copper tees
4x 1/2" FPT/ 1/2" Barb Fittings

Again, I already had the pump handy, and I had already built my hot liquor tank some time ago, disconnects and high temp hose purchased previously as well. At the start of this phase I was going to make an attempt to hard solder the entire thing without using unions. The unions are stupid expensive for what they are, but the best price to go with is at McMaster Carr. It wasn't worth the effort, and the entire thing would be physically impossible to take apart. I ended up installing a valve backwards, so that turned out to be very important. If you don't know how to sweat copper, practice and test a handful of fittings first. Use flux. Check to make sure the solder worked its way around the fitting. At the end of sweating all those pieces together I ended up with 4 leaks. I think that's pretty good considering the 100+ joints that I sweated. None the less seeing those leaks develop was both frustrating and disheartening. Do it right though. Separate the joint carefully, sand, and re-sweat the joint. You only have to get it right once. If you don't get it right, it will leak your entire pitiful brewing life.

The entire process wasn't overly difficult. Just tiring and time consuming. It's slow and tedious work, but worth it. In summary, lessons learned:

1) Buy a hose fitting and a few caps. Use this to test your joints frequently before assembling the whole mess.
2) I started with polysulfone disconnects. New they worked great, but as they aged the seals broke down  and became difficult to connect/disconnect. I'm currently switching to cam-lock fittings and they work great.
3) A lot of valves only work one direction, keep that in mind.
4) Use unions to make it easy to service.
5) Design in a method to purge air from the head of your pump.
6) Make sure to throw in manual valves where you plan to remove your kegs. Otherwise you'll disconnect it and all the fluid will run out before you get to where your going.

I hope this information is helpful! I can't wait to do a beereview again! If you have any questions please feel free to comment below. I'll get right back to you, and I can take pictures of requested areas.

Areas of R2-DBREW, you sick bastard.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! 

    I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

    Man and Van Guildford