LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

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LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Tue May 23, 2017 5:38 pm

I own and operate a small scale (3bbl) nanobrewery. I have been very proud of my brews and we have had a lot of success but the one style that has eluded me is a lager with that German "it" quality I can only describe as honey. IMO, American versions of German styles are fine but most do not touch real German versions. I know many of you agree and that is why I am here.

I am afraid that because of our size (no where near automation level and way too big to manually manipulate things) we might be in the hardest spot of all. Perhaps not? Again, that's why I'm here. Below, I will post pictures of our process and equipment as well as highlight potential problems and solutions. I will be incredibly grateful for any and all input. Thanks in advance.

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This is our grain mill. It's not much to look at but it gets the job done. I don't see any issue with adding some water to condition the grain before milling but we've noticed that when we do a coarser grind our efficiency drops pretty dramatically. Even at our loosest settings we have never even approached what many LODO brewers describe. (Low efficiency will be a frequent concern throughout this post)

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This is the big one...Mashing in. We have no type of delivery system for grain and must mix with a paddle. I have heard that you are supposed to put the grain in first and then fill the MT through the bottom (underletting). We can do this easily but again I worry that lack of vigorous stirring will kill efficiency.
Just to the right of Jeff (orange shirt) is our HLT which brings up another concern. We can certainly boil our strike water but bringing it down to temp quickly enough would be very difficult. The way I see it we have three options:
1. Boil the water and run it through the heat exchanger and then back into the HLT until temp drops to strike level. (serious risk of aeration in the return to the HLT from splashing and also the journey through the 41 plates of the heat exchanger)
2. Bubble nitrogen through at strike temp. From what I've read 20-30 minutes of nitrogen bubbling is enough to drop DO to 0.2ppm. Also, we have a nitrogen generator that extracts N2 from the atmosphere so cost of the gas is not an issue. (will it work? If so, this seems to be the winner.)
3. Get an in-line membrane degasser http://www.liquicel.com/applications/O2.cfm (expensive!)

More posts to come. Just didn't want to overshoot any potential size limit and am therefore splitting them up.
Last edited by amcclai7 on Thu May 25, 2017 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Tue May 23, 2017 6:03 pm

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If we manage to navigate everything up to this point then we have to worry about the sparge. We developed a cheap and very effective sparge device. Its hi-temp PEX with small holes drilled into it, attached to an elbow, which is in turn attached to a pump, which is feed by our HLT. works wonderfully but creates a shower over the grain. For LODO this will not do. So we either, A. don't sparge, or B. batch sprage by adding the full volume of the sparge water without splashing. In either case I am worried about efficiency.

Here's the thing, we get around 85% on our system. I am totally fine with losing some efficiency and compensating by adding more grain. What I am afraid of is what I have seen in some expirements where people are getting 50%. Honestly, the drops I have seen from only slight variances in our process or system lead me to believe this would be the case with us. I just can't do 50% I would be willing to accept as low as 70, but much lower than that is infeasible for many different reasons.

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Here is an idea of our simple transfer system. TC fittings, silicone tubing, and chugger pumps. I am not aware of any leaks here and I do not forsee too big of a problem.

No more pictures but a few more concerns (or lack there of)
-We have the ability to boil at something of a hard simmer so as not to scald the wort
-We normally oxygenate with bottled 02 inline, post heat exchanger, pre-fermentor. We could run the wort in, pitch the yeast and then oxygenate in the fermentor through either the bottom or the keg fill port. I would be completely shooting in the dark as to how long to run the O2 but I could always check with the DO meter periodically.
-We have glycol so lagering is a breeze
-our fermentors are not pressure rated so we cannot spund. We could spund in the kegs but that would provide two problems.
1. We would have to get the beer in the kegs at the exact right gravity so as to be properly carbonated. 2. We could fine in the kegs but there would be quite a bit of sediment in there. The kegs are filled with CO2 that is not fully released before filling. (The gravity of the beer pushes the last of the CO2 out.) They are then carbonated in the kegs with pure CO2. I know this is not the German way but so long as it does not introduce O2 (I've been doing this for close to 2 years now and have never tasted an even slightly oxidized keg) it should be fine. Right?
-Finally, I am not against SMB at all, I'm just worried about eggy beer.
Last edited by amcclai7 on Thu May 25, 2017 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby Crunk » Tue May 23, 2017 7:53 pm

You may be in a tough spot being your systems size, but you can take many steps to limit O2 ingress, before having to spend money to make more permanent alterations.

1. Can you boil your water 24 to 48 hours ahead of brewday, and seal it off?

2. Is fly sparging instead of no sparging a possibility, I read you have pumps, I would assume you could make minor adjustments in hopes of staving off large efficiency drops.

3. Wort aeration inline between the boil kettle and fermentor is fine provided you are at pitching temperatures, the yeast should be active when pitched and will immediately start doing their job, pure CO2 is good for the yeast. I aerator to 10ppm while doing this, is use the blichmann in line wort aerator.

4. Can you purge your mash tun with nitrogen or CO2??

5. Spunding is the best option, of course, can you perform a fast ferment test, this would enable you to determine when it is time to spund into kegs.

I'm sure with more detailed information about your system, these guys can help, I would start by breaking your system down into categories and start by adapting one thing at at time, IE: grist and mill, hlt, mash tun, fermentors, you get the idea, I believe working one category at a time will help you adapt your system to LODO in a much more timely fashion.

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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby Weizenberg » Wed May 24, 2017 2:12 am

A 350 l system is hardly challenging to engineer, not should your mash efficiency have a huge impact on earnings.

You don't have to underlet. What is important is to not let the malt linger long enough to become stale once crushed. Even at your size, it's barely an issue because all that is done well within 15 minutes. I would mill straight into the mash tun and consider a mechanical agitator.

As far as the crush is concerned, the longer you mash the more starches eventually become free. If you have efficiency issues, then a longer mash can deliver surprising results.
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I recirculate the mash water gently through my all stainless plate heat exchanger. The pump is controlled via a VFD. Usual speeds are 800-1200 RPM (a march/chugger pump turns at 3500 RPM).

My entire system is fully flushed with boiled off water and 10mgl of SMB before I brew. That includes the cooling loop.

For secondary you can still use kegs...

Hope this helps...
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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby Bilsch » Wed May 24, 2017 1:08 pm

I think there are a lot of ways you could use your nitrogen concentrator to use toward your lodo goal. Purging lines and tanks etc but even displacing a great amount of oxygen from your grist in the tun before underletting the mash. I believe you will not need to intensively stir as before but only give it a few gentle turns with the paddle to dislodge bubbles, place a mashcap and then leave it be.
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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby TheHairyHop » Thu May 25, 2017 9:36 am

kind of off topic, but kind of on: could they constantly bubble nitrogen in the mash to maintain a low DO environment?
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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Thu May 25, 2017 10:35 pm

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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Thu May 25, 2017 10:41 pm

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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Thu May 25, 2017 10:42 pm

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Re: LODO brewing on a Nanobrewery scale

Postby amcclai7 » Thu May 25, 2017 10:49 pm

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