Feed back requested: Aquarium Fermenter

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MCasper

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I am wondering if I could get some feedback on some ideas I have been kicking around. I want to first say THANK YOU on behalf of all of us lurkers. I have yet to really post anything because I have not had a problem that I could not figure out on my own with a good ‘ole:

Google: MY PROBLEM site:http://www.homebrewtalk.com

Or other means.

That being said I am buying a house here in a few months. It is my Mother-in-law's house (she is moving out of state) so that gives me the rare opportunity of about 6 months to plan my perfect “Man Cave/Brewery” set up with exact specifications of the basement.

Here is what I am tossing around.

I want to use 4 separate aquariums built into the wall at eye level behind the bar for my fermentation.



Here is my list of my top two things I need to over come and possible solutions

1 Obviously, the light.
-Transparent UV film on the outside
-There is already no sunlight that comes into the basement, only a couple small windows on the other side of the room.
-Doors that will slide over the glass when I don’t need the ego boost from friends and family (Think roller doors, like from an old wooded desk, that roll up into the wall or
over the opening)

2 Glue/Epoxies, I would need to modify them. Seal the top, drainage underneath etc. To do this is going to introduce possible plastic/glue/epoxy etc
- Right now I got nothing for this, just a lot of trial and error over the next few months.
- Possibly modifying the design to incorporate just a window on a sterile metal container.


I understand their are a lot of logistical issues here...but please don't tell me this is not going to work. It WILL work, I just have not figured it out yet.
 

ShakerD

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LOL Awesome

Do it and take lots of pictures.

I wonder how you would seal it? There has to be a way.
 

Russonomics

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Is the basement gutted? I say this only because you will have to build an all new false wall to accomodate this aquarium setup. (Or you could reframe an exsisting wall for a lot more money and way more time/effort)
 

Russonomics

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I wonder how you would seal it? There has to be a way.

It should be sealed if he is buying a prefab aquarium... I mean you would have to use rubber gaskets on the top edge, and then make a top with corresponding gaskets to seal the top, but I dont see that being the biggest problem.

I think the hardest part is going to be getting it in and out of the fermenter... I guess you can always use a siphon but getting something above it to siphon it in is going to be a chore
 

BigTexun

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You are doing this to avoid buying a plastic fermentor bucket? Personally, I would not go there. Sanitation, temperature control, and simply the hassle of moving liquids would be enough potential problem to scare me away... Especially given the fact that you'll end up spending more for your retrofit that for the actual stuff you need.
 

BigTexun

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It should be sealed if he is buying a prefab aquarium... I mean you would have to use rubber gaskets on the top edge, and then make a top with corresponding gaskets to seal the top, but I dont see that being the biggest problem.

I think the hardest part is going to be getting it in and out of the fermenter... I guess you can always use a siphon but getting something above it to siphon it in is going to be a chore
Oh the joy of cleaning out the trub each time also.
 

JonK331

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You are doing this to avoid buying a plastic fermentor bucket? Personally, I would not go there. Sanitation, temperature control, and simply the hassle of moving liquids would be enough potential problem to scare me away... Especially given the fact that you'll end up spending more for your retrofit that for the actual stuff you need.
I agree. Why not just build some shelves into the wall to hold glass or plastic carboys? It would have the same effect and you wouldn't have the epoxy and cleaning issues, not to mention temp control. BTW - have you ever fermented in an aquarium tank? If you are heart set on doing that, you should probably try fermenting in one before you start building them into walls. However, I think your idea would be great if you use the aquariums as intended (for fish) and put your carboys or buckets away in the corner.
 

JNye

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aquariums are sealed with silicone, why reseal it? You won't be using a very large aquaruim so you can easily move it when empty, for cleaning. The biggest concern i would have is getting the wort into the aquarium, prolly just use a small powerhead/pump for this. You don't want to move the aquarium while filled, its very stressfull on the seams.
As far as sealing the top, I would simply run a bead of silicone inside the top recess that all aquariums with plastic trim have and let it dry for a week. Then get a piece of plexiglass cut to fit on top, brick on top of that. Put in a grommet and airlock and you are set.

Take pics when its done. This project seems very doable/easy.
 
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MCasper

MCasper

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You are doing this to avoid buying a plastic fermentor bucket? Personally, I would not go there. Sanitation, temperature control, and simply the hassle of moving liquids would be enough potential problem to scare me away... Especially given the fact that you'll end up spending more for your retrofit that for the actual stuff you need.
This has nothing to do with my plans. I already brew.

This is nothing more then part of an all electric set up I have planned. It will be built in a room behind the bar. The taps will be located on the back wall of the bar as well. Its nothing but my attempt at the "coolest" home set up whizzing contest :rockin:

Anyone can stick some carboys on a shelf...I want something original.\

I have already started in an 8 gallon aquarium. I have my "house" brew going in an aquarium as well as a carboy. I will use the carboy as "control" group to see if I can duplicate using this set up. I was just fishing for problems I have not thought of yet.

I do understand this is going to pose some problems when it comes to pumping out/cleaning. Its a hassle I am willing to deal with to have my "dream" set up.

Thanks for the support from the rest of you, I will be doing a Picture as well as video tour when its done/during construction.
 

Russonomics

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To me it seems like the finished product being in a clear fish tank would be the best bang for your buck.. though I dont know how carbonation would f up your tank

I just dont imagine fermenting beer to be a particularly pretty thing to most people
 
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MCasper

MCasper

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To me it seems like the finished product being in a clear fish tank would be the best bang for your buck.. though I dont know how carbonation would f up your tank

I just dont imagine fermenting beer to be a particularly pretty thing to most people
I rather enjoy it....
 
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I'll admit, it is a pretty cool idea. I wanted to toss out some considerations for you (since that is what you were asking for...):

I also think sanitation/cleaning is going to be a massive problem. With your test batch, you should try to put the aquarium in a situation as much like the permanent aquariums to see how much hassle is involved in pumping/siphoning in and out as well as cleaning. My thought is trying to get the trub out is going to be pretty difficult, especially if you can't remove the aquariums for cleaning. That goes double for the bottom corners. Additionally, have you thought about the risk of infection and what it might cost to replace an aquarium if an infection sets into the sealant, lid, etc?

Also, what plastic might come in contact with the fermenting beer? Lid? Bottom? You will want to check the plastic to make sure it is food grade so that you don't leach toxic chemicals into your beer. Aquariums are not designed to handle an acidic environment so the sealant and plastic components may not be safe to use with beer. Not only may it leach harmful chemicals into the beer but the acidity may breakdown the sealant or plastic. I'm not really sure what you have or what it is made of...

Also, what about temperature control? Will you be able to cool or heat the fermenters as necessary for your beers? Obviously you won't be able to lager in them, but what about when it gets too cold or too warm in the basement? Even if you can remove the aquariums to another location I would be concerned about the safety of moving an aquarium full of liquid. I don't know how thick the glass is and if it is designed to handle the pressure from being swung around or tipped on one side.

(Again realizing you are doing a test run) how thick is the glass in the aquarium and how much pressure can it sustain? Obviously the glass will be strong enough to support the weight of the liquid inside. However, if you seal the aquarium so that it is an airtight container and attach a blowoff tube or airlock, will it be strong enough to support the pressure as well? Also, if it is airtight, is it strong enough to contain the pressure of CO2 released out of the beer in the event of a warming temperature swing in the basement?

Additionally, square fermenters typically aid in the formation of esters and diacetyl, depending on the characteristics of the yeast you use to produce them, so you may find your beers with more ester and diacetyl flavor.
 

CDbrews

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Instead of using aquariums why not use carboys and acually build them into the wall as you planned with the tanks. Here is an example, dont laugh I know it is with paint but you should get the idea



cut a hole in the wall that just allows part of the carboy, leaving the neck and airlock hidden then. have the carboys sitting on a shelf so they are easy to remove for cleaning and then on the part you would see behind the bar you can do some nice framing around making them look quite nice. it still shows off what you want to show off and would add a uniqueness that just rectangular fishtanks wont add to it. I hope people understand what Im trying to say I know the drawings are bad
 

DannoSpeaks

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I think this is a great idea and kudos to you for trying. Seems like a nightmare logistically, so you should definitely nail the process down before building the whole set up. I also would second the idea of making sure any plastic is food grade. Good luck!
 

bja

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I also think sanitation/cleaning is going to be a massive problem. With your test batch, you should try to put the aquarium in a situation as much like the permanent aquariums to see how much hassle is involved in pumping/siphoning in and out as well as cleaning. My thought is trying to get the trub out is going to be pretty difficult, especially if you can't remove the aquariums for cleaning. That goes double for the bottom corners. Additionally, have you thought about the risk of infection and what it might cost to replace an aquarium if an infection sets into the sealant, lid, etc?

Why would the aquariums need to be permanently installed? Why couldn't they just sit on a shelf behind the wall?

(Again realizing you are doing a test run) how thick is the glass in the aquarium and how much pressure can it sustain? Obviously the glass will be strong enough to support the weight of the liquid inside. However, if you seal the aquarium so that it is an airtight container and attach a blowoff tube or airlock, will it be strong enough to support the pressure as well? Also, if it is airtight, is it strong enough to contain the pressure of CO2 released out of the beer in the event of a warming temperature swing in the basement?
The only time you would need to worry about this is if the air lock clogged. He could use a blowoff tube all the time.
 

vicratlhead51

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I think this is a cool idea, seems like a lot of extra work for cleaning and sanitization though. I don't think there'd be a huge problem with chemicals leaching out of the tank though. Anyone who's done a little aquarium hobbying knows the ph in fish tanks isn't always neutral. They're designed to take some shifts in ph and not kill the fish in them especially when conditioning a new tank. You'll want to make double sure its air tight though my fish tank leaks a little at the top seal if I fill it all the way to the brim. I'd definately run a test batch preferrably something light enough you can taste off flavors and a batch you've done successfully in the past. Then you'll know if the aquarium idea would work. If that fails I'd go with that carboy behind the false wall idea.
 

JNye

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i would prefer the vessel NOT to be airtight. I would rather have a few small leaks here and there. Won't effect anything and insures no pressure will build inthe tank. The carboy idea is cool but It just wouldn't have the same effect visually compared to one large, flat rectangular crosssection of yeast going to town.
 

JonK331

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i would prefer the vessel NOT to be airtight. I would rather have a few small leaks here and there. Won't effect anything and insures no pressure will build inthe tank. The carboy idea is cool but It just wouldn't have the same effect visually compared to one large, flat rectangular crosssection of yeast going to town.
Okay so how much does a tank cost and how many times do you think you'll be able to use them (clean, fill, ferment, clean, fill, ferment, clean) before they have to be replaced. This really sounds like the kind of thing that will work great for a very short amount of time and then will start to fall apart. I don't mean to be a naysayer but it would suck to spend all the time and money for it to work and then discourage you from brewing once it falls apart.
 

JNye

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tanks are cheap. i would guess they could last awhile. I agree he is adding a bunch of unnecesary tasks to the already tedious task of homebrewing, but that is not my problem, helping him along in this project i all I want to do. I would also rethink having 4 tanks, seems a bit much, you'd get the same wow factor with 2. With 4 you'll likely always have 1-2 empty and that might look worse.
 

castlefreak

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Those who do not appreciate the sight of fermenting beer do not belong in a "man-cave." I think this all sounds sexy!

I wonder if the silicone seals in the aquariums could hold up to some steam sterilization?
 

ongreystreet

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Even people that don't brew know what breweries look like, and people who don't own fish know what an aquarium looks like, your basement is going to look like the latter.
 

Beer_Guy

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Why not build a custom rectangle SS tank? Build it so it has a cone shape in the bottom. On the wide side install a glass sheet. Windshield rubber is water tight. Set it up on a portable stand on the other side of the wall. Trim it in with nice molding and rig up some Non-UV light.

Just picture in your head most business signs and imagine it full of wort and a glass side to watch.

Just fill it with OxiClean Free and Starsan, let soak for a week and refill. Build two and rotate them for cleaning.

window-Fermenter.JPG
 
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