Efficiently cleaning a unitank

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ipaguy

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I recently caught a good deal on a 2nd hand 7 gallon SS Brewtech Unitank. The thing has been very fun to figure out (especially since the documentation is borderline terrible). I feel like I'm ordering new fittings almost daily to play with all the various things it can do.

I just completed my first batch and proceeded to clean it after racking. I found this to be pretty time consuming honestly, which I guess isn't unexpected, but I figure I can reduce this by improving my process. I don't have a sink nearby, and I'm trying to do this mostly in place if possible.

I have the micro CIP ball and a riptide pump. I dumped the leftover sediment into a bowl, added a small amount of water to pick up the big stuff and dumped that too. I then CIP'd for about 10 minutes with the ball using PBW, switching halfway between the dump and racking ports for the drain. I then switched from the CIP ball to the blowoff tube and cycled some more through there. I then pumped all that out and put in 2 gallons of rinse water. I cycled that through the ball and blowoff again to rinse, and then dumped.

At that point I took off all the TC connected-bits and found them to still be dirty. The ports they were connected to weren't clean either. I washed and rinsed the parts with PBW and water in a bucket, and brought the whole fermenter over to my garden hose and sprayed it out for another rinse.

It's all clean and good now, but I'm wondering if I should perhaps clean off the TC parts first? Or is there a better way to CIP more thoroughly? What about ways to reduce or catch the amount of water that falls out every time I switch ports for cleaning? Any tips or alternative processes would be welcome.
 

Qhrumphf

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A) 10 mins with PBW is short. 30 mins with hot caustic (which is a lot stronger and more dangerous) is typical but sometimes still doesn't do the job. Cycle longer and/or use a stronger concentration.

B) anything that isn't easily and thoroughly hit by the spayball (like TC ports) won't easily come clean by sprayball. I'd scrub out beforehand.
 

kegkong

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I recently caught a good deal on a 2nd hand 7 gallon SS Brewtech Unitank. The thing has been very fun to figure out (especially since the documentation is borderline terrible). I feel like I'm ordering new fittings almost daily to play with all the various things it can do.

I just completed my first batch and proceeded to clean it after racking. I found this to be pretty time consuming honestly, which I guess isn't unexpected, but I figure I can reduce this by improving my process. I don't have a sink nearby, and I'm trying to do this mostly in place if possible.

I have the micro CIP ball and a riptide pump. I dumped the leftover sediment into a bowl, added a small amount of water to pick up the big stuff and dumped that too. I then CIP'd for about 10 minutes with the ball using PBW, switching halfway between the dump and racking ports for the drain. I then switched from the CIP ball to the blowoff tube and cycled some more through there. I then pumped all that out and put in 2 gallons of rinse water. I cycled that through the ball and blowoff again to rinse, and then dumped.

At that point I took off all the TC connected-bits and found them to still be dirty. The ports they were connected to weren't clean either. I washed and rinsed the parts with PBW and water in a bucket, and brought the whole fermenter over to my garden hose and sprayed it out for another rinse.

It's all clean and good now, but I'm wondering if I should perhaps clean off the TC parts first? Or is there a better way to CIP more thoroughly? What about ways to reduce or catch the amount of water that falls out every time I switch ports for cleaning? Any tips or alternative processes would be welcome.
Hi,
I decided to use an alternate pump with that CIP and got this (1/4 HP version) on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000X05G1A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I mix pbw with hot tap water to fill a 5 gallon bucket, submerge the pump and cycle the mix with 1.5 inch ID hoses back to the bucket. I run it for a minimum of 20 minutes and partially open both butterfly valves at the same time. I then repeat with hot tap water only to rinse. I do remove the valves and sometimes there are crevices that still retain some small amount of debris but these are loose and wash off easily. Ports are always clean.

Also to make connections easier and quicker I installed quick disconnect adapters on the pump outlet, the supply hose and the CIP NPT inlet.

I reckon the pumps muscle makes the difference.

Cheers,
 
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ipaguy

ipaguy

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Thanks guys. I’ll let the CIP run longer, and I’ll consider a submersible pump. I’ve already started using camlock QD’s, which makes this all much easier.

All the material was pretty loose, it just wasn’t really covered well by the CIP. Maybe I’ll take everything off first, switch the ports over to quick disconnects and have them all drain into a bucket with a pump in it. That way they all get active draining during the CIP. Be curious for opinions on this approach.

Are you guys doing anything special for the carb stone or sample port? Boiling them each time or something?
 

msjy2008

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I avoid touching the carb stone with bare hands and boil it in a small pot on the stove.
 

Vale71

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The SSB Unitank is not really designed for CIP. You'll always have crud on the ports unless you manually clean them which I do every time. As for the carb stone it gets disassembled (there will always be beer inside the small ball valve), cleaned and dried separately and on brew day it gets boiled right before being attached to the sanitized fermenter.
 

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The SSB Unitank is not really designed for CIP. You'll always have crud on the ports unless you manually clean them which I do every time. As for the carb stone it gets disassembled (there will always be beer inside the small ball valve), cleaned and dried separately and on brew day it gets boiled right before being attached to the sanitized fermenter.
am I missing something with my new carb stone? It’s all one piece. From the stone, to the TC to the crappy ball valve. I tried to unscrew the stone but was worried I would break something.
 

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The stone is soldered on but the ball valve can and should be disassembled before every use since like any other ball valve it's a veritable receptacle for crud. To disassemble just unscrew the built in barb and then carefully remove the inner parts.
 

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I recently caught a good deal on a 2nd hand 7 gallon SS Brewtech Unitank. The thing has been very fun to figure out (especially since the documentation is borderline terrible). I feel like I'm ordering new fittings almost daily to play with all the various things it can do.

I just completed my first batch and proceeded to clean it after racking. I found this to be pretty time consuming honestly, which I guess isn't unexpected, but I figure I can reduce this by improving my process. I don't have a sink nearby, and I'm trying to do this mostly in place if possible.

I have the micro CIP ball and a riptide pump. I dumped the leftover sediment into a bowl, added a small amount of water to pick up the big stuff and dumped that too. I then CIP'd for about 10 minutes with the ball using PBW, switching halfway between the dump and racking ports for the drain. I then switched from the CIP ball to the blowoff tube and cycled some more through there. I then pumped all that out and put in 2 gallons of rinse water. I cycled that through the ball and blowoff again to rinse, and then dumped.

At that point I took off all the TC connected-bits and found them to still be dirty. The ports they were connected to weren't clean either. I washed and rinsed the parts with PBW and water in a bucket, and brought the whole fermenter over to my garden hose and sprayed it out for another rinse.

It's all clean and good now, but I'm wondering if I should perhaps clean off the TC parts first? Or is there a better way to CIP more thoroughly? What about ways to reduce or catch the amount of water that falls out every time I switch ports for cleaning? Any tips or alternative processes would be welcome.
cip doesn really clean the ports especially if fluid isnt being pumped through those particular ports during the cip process.. you still need to wipe things down, especially when using such a weak pump with a sprayball. I have a riptide and its not even powerful enough to make any of my sprayballs spin let alone with actual waterjet pressure like they are designed to work. you would have much better results with a stronger pump. also make sure your pbw is heated up to 140 degrees or more.. it works better that way... even then, as the directions state its best to leave it sit overnight soaking in the pbw. As for the carb stones... soaking then in sanitizer is all thats needed after cleaning but boiling wont hurt either.
just for reference I dont CIP at home since the equipment is all small enough to just clean more effectively by hand but we do CIP at the brewery I work at/own. I have tried 4 different pumps with sprayballs and currently wont go back to anything less than my 2 3/4hp pumps... the 17gpm pump I have was enough to make the ball spin but the cleaning action was very weak compared to the more powerful pumps. And I mean HUGE difference. with the mini sprayball I think the 17gpm pumps would likely work pretty well but the 5-7gpm riptide just doesnt have the head pressure.

I mentioned this before but they can only make the sprayball so small before the krausen and other particulates will just plug up the holes or slots in the spralball. The size of the slots or holes are a big factor in how powerful the pump needs to be but at the same time the people marketing this stuff for homebrewers know most only have 7gpm homebrewing pumps at best and well again while it works (sort of ) your doing more of a rinse and gentle spray than what you would find in a normal commercial CIP application.
 
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Southern_Junior

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The stone is soldered on but the ball valve can and should be disassembled before every use since like any other ball valve it's a veritable receptacle for crud. To disassemble just unscrew the built in barb and then carefully remove the inner parts.
So maybe I’m mistaken, but my ball valve(with a blue plastic handle) is also soldered on. The only piece I can remove is the barb.
 

Vale71

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Once you remove the barb you can pull out the first gasket, the SS ball and the second gasket, all in this order. This will let you properly clean the valve and the stem on the inside.
 

Southern_Junior

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Once you remove the barb you can pull out the first gasket, the SS ball and the second gasket, all in this order. This will let you properly clean the valve and the stem on the inside.
But there is still a plastic handle. How do you boil the carb stone? Surely they don’t intend on people unscrewing the handle every time.

thanks for helping. I’m not trying to be difficult, just genuinely confused.
 

Vale71

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For cleaning you don't have to remove the plastic handle. If you want to boil it then you have to remove it every time or find a replacement stainless steel handle.
 

Vale71

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It all depends on how willing you are to risk an infection to avoid having to unscrew the handle which takes all of 30 seconds.
 

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FWIW I clean my CF5 by opening the 4" port on top, spraying out the inside with my thumb on the hose and the bottom dump valve open. Then I fill to overflowing with strong PBW solution, put the cooling coil back in, open the sample port and the racking port briefly to make sure they are flushed with PBW and let the whole thing soak for 3 hours minimum (usually overnight)

Then I rinse thoroughly including working all the valves. Then I fill to overflowing with starsan and work all the valves, and let it sit for 10-15 mins, then rack the star san into a bucket and seal it up.

If I ferment something with Brett or a diastaticus yeast I then soak in PBW, disassemble the whole thing... Every single piece... then iodophor soak them and spray down the inside of the conical with iodophor, then reassemble. Rinse. Starsan soak like normal
 

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FWIW I clean my CF5 by opening the 4" port on top, spraying out the inside with my thumb on the hose and the bottom dump valve open. Then I fill to overflowing with strong PBW solution, put the cooling coil back in, open the sample port and the racking port briefly to make sure they are flushed with PBW and let the whole thing soak for 3 hours minimum (usually overnight)

Then I rinse thoroughly including working all the valves. Then I fill to overflowing with starsan and work all the valves, and let it sit for 10-15 mins, then rack the star san into a bucket and seal it up.

If I ferment something with Brett or a diastaticus yeast I then soak in PBW, disassemble the whole thing... Every single piece... then iodophor soak them and spray down the inside of the conical with iodophor, then reassemble. Rinse. Starsan soak like normal
Are you getting all the gunk out of all the hidden nooks and crannies? When I got my Unitank I figured all I'd have to do was CIP it for a half hour. WRONG! After spunding at 1 atm for a week or so, yeast and trub get compacted in places I didn't even know existed. That's after CIPing with a high capacity ball and a pump that puts out >17 gpm.

The only way I feel good about my cleanup these days is a complete breakdown of components after a rinse/CIP cycle, followed by a CIP with SaniClean (low foaming Starsan). It's a PITA but my beer's worth the effort.

Brooo Brother
 

Vale71

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There is actually no pressure compacting anything in the fermenter but besides that I totally agree that these fermenters are anything but CIP-capable. The manufacturers selling equipment for them such as CIP balls is just a marketing gimmick.

I clean mine by completely filling it with cleaning solution and then recirculating it between dump port and racking arm through a RIMS tube in order to get the solution to a much higher temperature than what the water comes out of the tap at. Same for sanitizing, I don't trust anything but full immersion to guarantee complete wetting of any surface for the appropriate contact time.
 

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There is actually no pressure compacting anything in the fermenter but besides that I totally agree that these fermenters are anything but CIP-capable. The manufacturers selling equipment for them such as CIP balls is just a marketing gimmick.

I clean mine by completely filling it with cleaning solution and then recirculating it between dump port and racking arm through a RIMS tube in order to get the solution to a much higher temperature than what the water comes out of the tap at. Same for sanitizing, I don't trust anything but full immersion to guarantee complete wetting of any surface for the appropriate contact time.

Yeah, pretty much agree. The cleanup is a chore, but I guess it's the price of admission. I got onto the stainless steel upgrade train a few years ago after a totally disastrous string of infections, hoping that moving from plastic (then auto-siphoning to glass) would cure my infection and oxidation woes while reducing the task of cleaning. Didn't quite work out that way. At least it cured my string of "dumpers" and vastly (IMHO) improved the quality and consistency of both my wine and beers. After 40+ years in this hobby I'm finally starting to get it right as well as finding something useful (cleaning) to occupy my spare time!.
 

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So boiling isn’t absolutely necessary?
NO, It not absolutely necessary. you can sanitize them with normal cip and sanitation as many breweries do.. Ive never boiled any carb stones at home or at the brewery and never had an infection from it. if you clean and sanitize the right after use and leave it in sanitizer or leave your tank sealed until you do so there is no risk of infection to begin with.
 
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augiedoggy

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It all depends on how willing you are to risk an infection to avoid having to unscrew the handle which takes all of 30 seconds.
Removing the handle takes 30 seconds but boiling water and using it to sanitize all your carb stones between every use does take more time to be fair. Doing so does add the extra security but at the cost of time. its up to the end user to determine if the risk is real and great enough to warrant it but for me it has not ever been an issue so I guess I'll wait for that batch someday if it ever happens and until then I will treat the stone as I do any other piece of stainless brewing equipment that needs to be cleaned and sanitized between uses.
 

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Are you getting all the gunk out of all the hidden nooks and crannies? When I got my Unitank I figured all I'd have to do was CIP it for a half hour. WRONG! After spunding at 1 atm for a week or so, yeast and trub get compacted in places I didn't even know existed. That's after CIPing with a high capacity ball and a pump that puts out >17 gpm.

The only way I feel good about my cleanup these days is a complete breakdown of components after a rinse/CIP cycle, followed by a CIP with SaniClean (low foaming Starsan). It's a PITA but my beer's worth the effort.

Brooo Brother
Like I mentioned above a high capacity sprayball requires a much larger pump than 17gpm... Ive tried since I have both a 17gpm pump and a normal cip ball (I have three different types) It will not spray with very much cleaning force. You need a fullsized brewery pump for a full sized sprayball as well as larger 5/8" or preferably larger ID high pressure cleaning hoses (we use 2 3/4hp pumps) that 17gpm pump should work better with the minispray lower flow spray balls designed for home brewers but even then you have to be concerned with the smaller openings plugging up. Remember these cip solutions were designed to be used for large tanks where reaching by hand is difficult and often stronger caustic cleaning agents are used then.
 
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TheMadKing

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Are you getting all the gunk out of all the hidden nooks and crannies? When I got my Unitank I figured all I'd have to do was CIP it for a half hour. WRONG! After spunding at 1 atm for a week or so, yeast and trub get compacted in places I didn't even know existed. That's after CIPing with a high capacity ball and a pump that puts out >17 gpm.

The only way I feel good about my cleanup these days is a complete breakdown of components after a rinse/CIP cycle, followed by a CIP with SaniClean (low foaming Starsan). It's a PITA but my beer's worth the effort.

Brooo Brother
I've disassmebled and inspected multiple times, and found no gunk, never had an infection, and my beers keep coming out good. PBW is a very time dependent cleaner. So maybe it's because I let mine soak for 24 hours most of the time. PBW can go anywhere beer can go, so there's no reason gunk should be able to hide from total submersion. I'm not using a CIP spray ball at all.. Just cleaning it like a carboy basically
 

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I've disassmebled and inspected multiple times, and found no gunk, never had an infection, and my beers keep coming out good. PBW is a very time dependent cleaner. So maybe it's because I let mine soak for 24 hours most of the time. PBW can go anywhere beer can go, so there's no reason gunk should be able to hide from total submersion. I'm not using a CIP spray ball at all.. Just cleaning it like a carboy basically
Interesting. I've never let my ss equipment soak in PBW, etc., for more that 15~20 minutes. I usually do a rinse down with hot tap water with the bottom dump valve open until the discharge water starts running clear. Then I would button everything up and run 2 gallons of PBW concentrated water through the CIP for maybe :30 minutes. The transfer port and the bottom dump (and their respective butterfly valves) would be clean and "gunk-free", but the sampling port and carb stone ports would still have deposits in need of elbow grease. I'll have to try an overnight PBW soak, at least up to covering all the lower TC ports, to see if it cleans the gunk effectively enough, though after having gotten used to how much stuff gets crammed into the sampling and carb stone ports I'm not sure I'd ever really trust it again.
 

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Interesting. I've never let my ss equipment soak in PBW, etc., for more that 15~20 minutes. I usually do a rinse down with hot tap water with the bottom dump valve open until the discharge water starts running clear. Then I would button everything up and run 2 gallons of PBW concentrated water through the CIP for maybe :30 minutes. The transfer port and the bottom dump (and their respective butterfly valves) would be clean and "gunk-free", but the sampling port and carb stone ports would still have deposits in need of elbow grease. I'll have to try an overnight PBW soak, at least up to covering all the lower TC ports, to see if it cleans the gunk effectively enough, though after having gotten used to how much stuff gets crammed into the sampling and carb stone ports I'm not sure I'd ever really trust it again.
The one big downside of the way I do it, is that my PBW bill is pretty high. I've started making my own in bulk which helps a ton, but I use about a pound per brew day.
 

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The one big downside of the way I do it, is that my PBW bill is pretty high. I've started making my own in bulk which helps a ton, but I use about a pound per brew day.
Time Is money. I'd let a looong soak do the work for me if it effectively cuts thru all the crud, verses a complete break down and cleaning after every brew session. In the past I've gotten good results with long soaks in glass carboys reducing heavy krausen rings. I'm just gun shy after numerous dumpers two years ago before retooling all my fermentation vessels with stainless steel. Just not sure if I trust all the ports and valves getting cleaned adequately without disassembly.

Brooo Brother
 

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Plus one on the extended soak. I then usually break down all the triclamps because is usually a little hunk left behind
 

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At first I tried the long soak without disassembling. With a caustic cleaner warmed to at least 75°C the Kräusen is not a problem, it will just dissolve/detach fully. What I had issues with are the middle ports. They really collect a surprisingly huge amount of yeast deposit which is a lot harder to just dissolve. Even after a long soak there was still some yeast deposit left, albeit a small fraction of what is there before the cleaning. If the ports had a conical section they would self-drain and the yeast would most likely all slide off and be removed. Unfortunately the ports are just pieces of soldered-on pipe and are anything but self-draining. I fixed the issue by removing all attachments from the middle ports (sampling valve, temp probe, carb stone) and pushing all the sediment in with a bottle brush before filling the FV with the cleaning solution.
 

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At first I tried the long soak without disassembling. With a caustic cleaner warmed to at least 75°C the Kräusen is not a problem, it will just dissolve/detach fully. What I had issues with are the middle ports. They really collect a surprisingly huge amount of yeast deposit which is a lot harder to just dissolve. Even after a long soak there was still some yeast deposit left, albeit a small fraction of what is there before the cleaning. If the ports had a conical section they would self-drain and the yeast would most likely all slide off and be removed. Unfortunately the ports are just pieces of soldered-on pipe and are anything but self-draining. I fixed the issue by removing all attachments from the middle ports (sampling valve, temp probe, carb stone) and pushing all the sediment in with a bottle brush before filling the FV with the cleaning solution.
That's exactly the procedure I started doing, excepting the caustics. Those recesses are seemingly built to collect crud and hide it from a CIP ball. I've considered installing butterfly valves on the sample valve and carb stone ports, then switch the drain lines to the CIP recirc pump to flush those ports, but that's overkill.

More recently I've been removing all TC fittings except the main transfer and dump port butterflies (which drain to the recirc pump), manually scrubbing all the other TC ports, then capping all those ports while the CIP runs. This has effectively 'surface cleaned' all the ports, including the transfer and dump ports, as well as both butterflies. After following up with a quick rinse and then a CIP cycle with SaniClean, I feel pretty good about cleanliness and sanitation. Hopefully it's not a false sense of security.

Brooo Brother
 
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