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Old 02-19-2007, 03:36 PM   #1
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Default Steam mashing experiments.

Sorry this is such a long and rambling thread.

I'm brewing small test batches these days while I wait to get time to work on my new brewstand. The last 2 batches I did I used a microwave to heat the mash. I was less than enthused with the results, especially since I got low efficiency.

As some of you know, I am anxious to try mash heating with steam. Last night I did just that, brewing a cranberry ale using steam to heat the mash in a small cooler instead of using the microwave.

As some of you know I have a corny keg set up as a steam boiler. I did NOT test that this session. There isn't anything wrong with it, but it needs a minimum of 15L of water to submerse the element and it runs on 220VAC, so I used the pressure cooker to generate the steam for this session.

To test steam mash heating for small batches, I bought a 16 quart Coleman cooler and rigged it up with what I thought was a SS braid. It turned out to be a plastic braid. DOH ! More on that later.

The first thing I tested was using an old kettle to generate the steam.
http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5033269606629170626

This did NOT work well because the flapper on the kettle doesn't seal well enough, even if you push down on it and half the steam is lost. Not only that, but its a PITA to hold down the flapper.

Then I set up the pressure cooker. I removed the pressure relief valve and put a T beneath it. The pressure relief mechanism got re installed above the T. DO NOT REMOVE OR TAMPER WITH THE PRESSURE RELIEF MECHASISM ON A PRESSURE COOKER ! Luckily the pressure cooker had a 1/8" NPT port so all I had to do was thread fittings.

Although not shown on this picture, I installed a valve in the hose port of the T so that I could stop the steam flow while leaving the pressure in the cooker.

http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5033269610924137954

BTW: That hose is special high temperature hose from McMaster Carr. It works very well. I am impressed with it. I would use that hose over say a piece of copper pipe because the hose is very flexible and it insulates the steam from losing a lot of heat. I was worried the steam would condense in the hose and the heat would be lost, but that clearly doesn't happen with this hose.

The first thing I did was just submerse the steam hose in the water in the cooler. That did NOT work well at all. The pressure cooker will generate a large volume of steam and if you let it flow out the end of a hose, it makes big steam bubbles that float right to the surface and break above the water. What this means is that the steam energy isn't captured by the water. For the water (mash) to capture the steam energy (heat), the bubble has to collapse in the water. That doesn't happen if you just put a hose in the mash.

So then I rigged up a SS braided hose in the cooler. Here is a picture. Note: I later figured out the braid wasn't SS.
http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5033269606629170642

The braid seemed to disperse the steam, at least for the first 2 inches. The bubbles were much smaller and the majority of them broke before hitting the surface.

Using the braid, I could heat the mash very quickly, without even letting the pressure cooker build much pressure. I went from 48C to 78C or more in 5 minutes or so without turning the stove burner up or anything.

The steam makes a bubbling sound in the mash. It thoroughly mixes the mash where the steam bubbles are escaping.

But nothing is perfect. Problem #1 was that the braid wanted to float. It makes sense if you think about it. The steam doesn't turn into water until it is well into the mash, even if the bubbles are small. Steam is much, much lighter than water/mash, so the braid tends to float. This is a big problem. Even though my braid was plastic, I am sure that a SS braid would float as well. Think of sitting over a jacuzzi jet and your shorts filling with bubbles. That's what happens with the braid.

Problem #2 is that most of the steam escaped from the braid in the first 2 inches, resulting in very uneven heating. All the heat was released on one end of the cooler. This meant I had to stir the mash (!) to keep the temps even.

Other than that, steam heating worked excellent !

The temp was easily controlled by opening or closing the valve. There was no problem with temp overshoots. As soon as you turned off the valve, the temp stopped increasing. There was no scorching. The highest temp I measured in the mash with my digital temp sensor was 74C or 165F. The heating is very gentle. And yet the mash could be heated very quickly, especially if one let the pressure cooker build up some pressure before opening the valve.

So steam mash heating works well as far as I am concerned.

Modifications.

First, you don't need a big pressure cooker like I have. I used that one because we already owned it. One of the small 2 quart jobies would probably work fine. I only ran a few quarts of water in mine, just enough to cover the bottom of it. If you've read my steam posts, you know that pressure vessels can store superheated water and when you open the valve they will release tremendous amounts of stored energy. I wasn't doing that in this experiment because of the the small mash size. But it appears to me that even storing a few litres of super heated water works excellent.

I think a steam mash vessel needs a dedicated steam injection manifold because the steam needs to be distributed throughout the mash in a different manner than wort is typically collected. I think I am going to use a small copper pipe, say 1/4" diameter that runs right through the cooler. It will pierce both ends of the cooler. Said pipe will have 3 or 5 small holes in it to release the steam, spaced equally throughout the cooler. The holes will probably be pretty small, say 1/16". 15 PSI will really blow a lot of steam through a hole, so 3 holes like that should be good.

The steam line also needs a checkvalve on it because as soon as the valve on the pressure cooker was closed, the steam would condense in the hose and suck the mash out of the vessel. I had a hose clamping valve on the line, so I learned the close that first before closing the valve on the pressure cooker.

So, here is a picture of my first steam mashed beer in the fermentor. Its a cranberry ale.
http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5033269610924137986

The recipe is in this thread. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=22191

It was absolutely dead easy to brew with the steam masher. The only problem I had was a stuck sparge ! Details here. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=22529

I had to empty the cooler into a pail in pail sparge vessel to complete it. In spite of that fiasco, I still got a SG of 1.045 on 3.5 gallons of wort.

I'll try to add the steam injection tube to my cooler this week and brew another beer next weekend. I'm pretty busy these days, so it might not happen.

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Old 02-19-2007, 03:57 PM   #2
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Great article. I'll go with the bit on the manifold but I'd look at quite a few holes.

I'm glad to see the bit about the safety valve. I'm not sure if I'm well out of date but most if not all ove the presure cookers I've seen are just an open stem with a weight onto. (Some times adjustable)

Do you have a close up of the setup and valve?

Are you still planning on going the corny route?

How about a wallpaper stripper steamer?
http://www.diytools.co.uk/productimage.aspx/7991/7994/86/1814/2010/2011!TB_ELXLMB176
You can pick them up cheap.

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Old 02-19-2007, 04:08 PM   #3
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From another thread.

Quote:
I'm thinking that it will actually cook the mash and cause problems that way. I'm guessing that the steam is not going to be under pressure so it may have difficulty in clearing flour that is usually present in the mash. A manifold is more rigid, will help with less localised release of heat and can be modified in the size and amount of steam delivery points.
The steam did not cook the mash. The heating is very gentle, but yet effective. The steam bubble doesn't immediately burst, it travels through the mash.

The steam IS under pressure. Up to 15 PSI if you want it to be.

A solid manifold is necessary to prevent the manifold from floating.
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Old 02-19-2007, 04:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orfy
Great article. I'll go with the bit on the manifold but I'd look at quite a few holes.
I'm not sure a larger number of holes would work. It will depend on the steam flow. You'll need enough flow so that it would flow out of all the holes. It depends how big the holes are.

For a fully automated system, one should recirculate a bit. That would keep the bed temps more even.

Quote:
I'm glad to see the bit about the safety valve. I'm not sure if I'm well out of date but most if not all ove the presure cookers I've seen are just an open stem with a weight onto. (Some times adjustable)

Do you have a close up of the setup and valve?
The round thing on top of the pressure cooker with three holes is the weight for the relief valve. There are settings for 5, 10 and 15 PSI. There is a zoom in icon in the top right hand corner of the image on picasaweb.

Here is a close up. http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/MashSteamBoiler2/photo#5030346331628428626

I just put a T underneath it and a valve that went off to the side.

Quote:
Are you still planning on going the corny route?
Yes. I'll be running the corny on my brewstand. This was just a quick and dirty setup for testing and small batch kitchen mashing. I'll probably buy a small pressure cooker for doing future kitchen mashes.


Quote:
How about a wallpaper stripper steamer?
http://www.diytools.co.uk/productimage.aspx/7991/7994/86/1814/2010/2011!TB_ELXLMB176
You can pick them up cheap.
I dunno, I'd have to look at them closer. I wouldn't buy anything that wouldn't make 10-15PSI of steam. What is wrong with a pressure cooker ? Its a great steam generator.
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Old 02-19-2007, 04:30 PM   #5
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Nothing wrong with it.
I have a wall paper stripper but no pressure cooker.
It seems like you're getting to the place you want to be.

Any time scales for completion?

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