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Old 01-25-2008, 07:31 AM   #1
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Default Brewing with electric questions plus ideas

I read about the High Gravity system that use a low density 4,500 watt electric heating element in their 15.5 gallon HLT and a 3,500 for their brew pot. From what I understand they run their system at 220 volts for brewing up to 15 gallon batches.

Questions I have:

Would the heating element cause scorching the wort being run at 220 volts vs 120 volts?

Is there enough heat from 3,500 watts on the brew pot to allow a rolling boil without scorching? This with a converted keg operating in a 60 degree F environment.

What I am thinking is why not weld in a 1 1/2" by 15" long stainless tube into the lower section of a keg with a cap on end plus a step down fitting to 1" pipe thread for the 4,500 watt screw in heater and run it on 220 volts. Have a short sight gauge connected to this tube that extends outside the keg filled with anti-freeze allowing for the sight level plus expansion of the anti-freeze when heated. This way you can have a high electrial heating with 220 volts plus a large surface area from the 1 1/2" by 13" long stainless tubing allowing for heat transfer without scorching.
I have propane plus natral gas in the patio but rather have a electrically heated and PID controlled system.

Am I thinking on the right track here?
Only at a paper design stage here.

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Old 01-25-2008, 10:46 AM   #2
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Take a look at a thread called RIMS set ups. One of the posts is from Kladue. In it he shows some nice calculations for heating elements. As for the wort scorching, as I understand it, it is all about surface temperature on the element. In the boil kettle it doesn't matter so much because the thermal dynamics say the fluid will have a natural flow across the element. In a mash tun, the fluid is thicker, and not as viscous, so you would need something to stir it or the keep the fluid moving across the element. You could also use RIMS, HERMS, or steam infusion in the mash for temp control. As for the elements go... Think extra low density. Fifty watts per Square inch, this keeps surface temps on the element manageable.

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Old 01-25-2008, 12:17 PM   #3
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If you look at dry type water heater elements by camco http://www.camco.net/Menu.cfm?SupCategoryId=10200&SubCategoryId=237&Pro ductId=2355, they are made to go inside a tube instead of directly into the liquid. The down side is the wattages are limited to about 2,000 watts or less.

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Old 01-26-2008, 05:11 AM   #4
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I ran across heating elements as low as 30 watts per sq inch.
After reading the "RIMS set up" threads with one reply stating 50 watts
per sq inch "should" not cause scorching, this did not sound like a 100% scorch free system. Nothing would be worse that spending time and money on a brewing system with built in problems lowering the quality of the bier.

As for the dry type of heating element granted the wattage is too low, that system still is not a consideration even if it had 6,000 watts of available heating. Thanks for the reply anyway as i'm still open to any suggestions.

I even considered going to a 3 1/2" diameter thin wall stainless tubing 14 1/2" long inside the keg allowing 169 sq/in surface area including the end cap. With a 4.5 KW heating element on 220 volts results in 26.62 watts per sq/in. The question I have will 3 1/2" x 14 1/2" thin wall stainless tubing transfer 4.5KW of generated heat without causing the 50/50 anti-freeze water mix inside the tubing to go into a boil?
Still in the paper designing stage with untouched kegs so no mistakes applied to kegs.

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Old 01-26-2008, 12:04 PM   #5
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This is just a guess, the element in a chamber with antifreeze will probably boil the antifreeze because of insuficient heat transfer without forced circulation. It would help if one could use a pump to induce flow over the direct contact element to move the heat and reduce element surface temperature to a point low enough to prevent scorching.

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Old 01-26-2008, 01:14 PM   #6
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Not all that knowledgeable here but I do have experience using a standard 120 volt 2000watt element (both heat stick and kettle mounted). I have never detected any scorching! I even have used the stick to adjust mash temps (constantly stirring) w/out scorching the "high gravity" first runnings.

My field experince, and what I gather from what I've read is that fears of scorching are overstated. Of course ymmv.

Mike

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Old 01-26-2008, 01:26 PM   #7
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anti-freeze isn't the best material for your plan. I'd use an oil with a high smoking point. Like synthetic hydraulic oil, or maybe even peanut oil.

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Old 01-26-2008, 01:54 PM   #8
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Sounds like a lot of work to avoid a something that may not even be a problem, meanwhile constructing something that will require a field test to assess functionality. I don't think anyone here can do better than guess at what the heat transfer will be like, but I tend to agree with Kladue, that it won't be great.

As for whether a 4500 w element will maintain a rolling boil, depends on how much wort, and I'd be much more concerned with how long it took to bring it too a boil:


4500 watts = 15,363 Btus

3500 watts = 11,949 Btus

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Old 01-26-2008, 05:21 PM   #9
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The boil rate is independent of how much wort you are boiling. Once the wort reaches the boiling point, you need 970 BTU to vaporize a pound of water.

A 4500 watt element will heat ten gallons of wort about 3 degrees F a minute assuming no heat loss to the surroundings and assuming the wort has the same specific heat as water.

Making the same assumptions as above, it takes an electric heating element running at about 3600 watts to boil off wort at a rate of 1.5 gallons per hour, which is a typical boil rate for most of us. One gallon per hour boiloff requires 2400 watts of power.

Echoing others above, lots of folks have success using elements in direct contact with wort, and some in contact with the mash. I would use your obvious ingenuity to build an electric RIMS or HERMS system to heat mash.

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Old 01-26-2008, 06:38 PM   #10
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All good replies I must thank you all.
I want to have over 10 gallons at the end of the boil so the total volume before boil must be around 13 gallons, just a guess figure to heat up.
On using oil vs anti-freeze that sounds like a great idea as there would be no pressure cap to increase the boiling point of the anti-freeze.
Now Amsoil synthetic ATF has a flash point (vapor) of 428 degrees Fahrenheit, way above what I would have to worry about. I will add a gear case sight gauge for filling, heat expansion and sight.
As far as extra work for myself you all know labors free besides it's the building of the project that counts. A little more welding than just welding half of a one inch coupling into a keg besides I have the welding equipment and not paying to have it welded plus have one odd manufactured keg that I can experiment on.
On the High Gravity Home Brewing and Wine Making Supplies forum they show a build your own electric brewing system with a 15.5 gallon HLT kettle heated by 4,500 watts at 220 volts and the 15.5 gallon boil kettle heated with 3,500 watts at 220 volts. They claim 30% boil off hence only a 60 minute boil time.

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