First attempt with steam infusion

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Cookiebaggs

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Well, after reading the numerous threads on steam infusion mashing, I was sufficiently interested enough to build my own system. :D

I was able to cannibalize my parents pressure cooker that they had used for canning salmon but have not used in a long time. It had a 1/8 inch NPT thread already tapped into the lid for the gauge so retrofitting a shut off valve was just a simple matter of buying a nipple, a tee, and 1/8 inch ball valve.

I was able to get 1/4 inch rigid copper with 90 degree and tee fittings to construct a manifold for my 10, gallon square Coleman drink cooler along with the flexible high temp silicone tubing.

I will attempt to step mash a 10 gallon batch of Octoberfest on Saturday. I am using 27.75 lbs of grain at a 1.12 qt per lb ratio. (all I could fit with dough in at 104 degrees)

As a precaution, I have two mash schedules. One for the steam infusion and one for a triple decoction if the steam system fails to work properly. I will follow with pictures of the setup and a report on how things went.

Special thanks to Brewman, flyguy, Yuri, and kladue for posting their experiences and ideas. You guys rock! :rockin:
 

rdwj

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Keep us posted. I'm interested in building a steam setup, but would like to hear all of the experiences I can before diving in.
 
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Cookiebaggs

Cookiebaggs

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I'll definitely let you know how things go.

I did a trial run on the system with 5 gallons of water at 70 degrees and found out a few things.

1.) The pressure cooker on the stove really couldn't heat the water with the steam at 20 for crap. The pressure in the kettle dropped rapidly with the valve wide open and the water moved up only 2 degrees from 70 to 72.

2.) A bigger heat source, my burner, made a huge difference in how the system preformed with only water. I was able to open the valve part way at 20 and keep a sufficient source of steam at a constant pressure of 15 and heat the water up to 130 in 10 minutes.

3.) After the water in the MLT reached 140 degrees, all the water was blown out of the manifold and pure steam just cranked out of the holes. I believe this was because the copper finally heated up enough to blow the liquid out of the lines. The "hopping" sound of the manifold stopped after I hit 140. I was now pushing all steam through the manifold.

Of course all of this was with water. Add the thermal mass of the grain and I'm sure the steam will perform better with a lower heat source, a higher starting temp (104) and a smaller temperature rise between steps.
 

FlyGuy

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Hey, that's great. I will be really curious to hear how you make out.

Just a word of caution -- I suggest trying out that system first on 10 gallons of water. I am not sure how large a pressure cooker you are using, but my little 1.5 gallon pressure cooker might have some difficulty with a 10 gallon batch. Brewman ! or Yuri could probably tell you from the specs of your pressure cooker and heat source how well it would work on a big 10 gallon batch.

If it were me, I might try with a 5 gallon batch first, and see how things go. Or at least, if the 10 gallon batch doesn't work, be mindful that there are limits to using a pressure cooker, and you might have to go to a bigger steam system like brewman ! or Yuri.

Anyways, good luck and I will be watching carefully to see how your brew goes!!

:mug:
 
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Cookiebaggs

Cookiebaggs

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I have a 4 gallon pressure cooker and I put about 2.5 gallons of water in it for the test.

Thanks flyguy! But that's why I have the triple decoction mash schedule ready to go. If I fail to raise the first temp from 104 to 122, I'll just pull decoctions and go from there.
 
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The fact that you were getting liquid out of your manifold tells me one of two things:

Either you had the pressure cooker too full, and it need to vent some of that water off before you got steam (which can be dangerous - water doesn't "give" as easily as steam in the event of over-pressurization).

OR

Something I've found when initially heating my system is that I have to purge the pressure several times before I have usable steam. I'm assuming that the air inside the boiler expands and pressurizes the system before the water is up to temperature. If I allow it to continue heating without purging, it exceeds my target pressure of 10-12 psi while the water is still relatively cool.

Welcome to the world of steam!
 
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Cookiebaggs

Cookiebaggs

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I guess I mis stated, I wasn't ever getting liquid out of the manifold, I just never got the whole thing to blow steam until I reached about 140. I had steam coming out of the holes that were closest to the hose connection all the time.
 

FlyGuy

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Cookiebaggs said:
I have a 4 gallon pressure cooker and I put about 2.5 gallons of water in it for the test.

Thanks flyguy! But that's why I have the triple decoction mash schedule ready to go. If I fail to raise the first temp from 104 to 122, I'll just pull decoctions and go from there.
You will definitely be able to raise your mash temp, but it will just be a question of how long it will take. And the bigger the mash, the longer it will take.

With a 4 gallon pot, I bet you will be fine. And yes, you DEFINITELY need a good heat source to drive all that steam pressure. I noticed a 30% difference between two similar-sized burners on my stove (one must not heat as well as the other).

One more thing -- Yuri's caution about not over-filling the pressure cooker is a very good one. But if you under-fill the pot, you won't have enough 'thermal inertia' to quickly raise the mash temperature. Brewman ! has worked all that out. I hope he chimes in, too.
 

FlyGuy

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Yuri_Rage said:
Something I've found when initially heating my system is that I have to purge the pressure several times before I have usable steam. I'm assuming that the air inside the boiler expands and pressurizes the system before the water is up to temperature. If I allow it to continue heating without purging, it exceeds my target pressure of 10-12 psi while the water is still relatively cool.
I noticed the same thing, although I never put it together until you mentioned this. Thanks Yuri.

Another potential reason to purge the air out of your pressure cooker/boiler prior to heating the mash is to vent out any oxygen.
 
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Cookiebaggs

Cookiebaggs

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Brewman mentioned the fact that his cover was curved and that prevented him from overfilling as there would always be enough headspace. I will fill the pot to 1
inch below cover latch to be safe.

During the test I kind of freaked out when the temp got to 140 because the popping in the manifold just abruptly stopped. I thought something had gone wrong but that is when I realized that all the holes in my manifold were now blowing steam!
 
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Cookiebaggs

Cookiebaggs

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I noticed the same thing, although I never put it together until you mentioned this. Thanks Yuri.

Another potential reason to purge the air out of your pressure cooker/boiler prior to heating the mash is to vent out any oxygen.
Thanks! I will try this.
 

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It just occured to me that a boilers ability to create steam, and correct me if i'm wrong, is limited by the surface area of the boilers water..

Think of it like a wire, the smaller the wire the less current you can carry, the larger the surface area of the boilers water, the more energy that can be released via steam.

So theoreticly a boiler with a 12" dia. would only be able to create 3/4 as much steam volume as a 16" dia boiler... More steam = faster temp changes or more heating potential..
 
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MadWeezel said:
It just occured to me that a boilers ability to create steam, and correct me if i'm wrong, is limited by the surface area of the boilers water.
I'm pretty sure you're wrong. Heat is not stored or particularly concentrated on the surface of the water, it is stored throughout the vessel and released upon a pressure decrease significant enough to cause superheated water to vaporize rapidly. You do need a bit of room for the steam to expand into as it is created - the water can boil violently as pressure decreases, so the steam outlet needs to be above the potentially turbulent surface of the water.

EDIT:
Didn't mean to sound too abrasive...and I do understand what you're saying. Theoretically, a wider boiler might produce steam slightly more rapidly. The volume of steam produced (and hence, heat potential) would be identical given the same volume, temperature, and pressure, but the rate at which it's produced may increase slightly with surface area. In practice, I doubt the difference would be significant.
 
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Cookiebaggs

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I'm pretty sure you're wrong. Heat is not stored or particularly concentrated on the surface of the water, it is stored throughout the vessel and released upon a pressure decrease significant enough to cause superheated water to vaporize rapidly. You do need a bit of room for the steam to expand into as it is created - the water can boil violently as pressure decreases, so the steam outlet needs to be above the potentially turbulent surface of the water.
Exactly! The water in a pressure cooker is heated to 240 degrees at a pressure 15-20 psi. Water in an open pot boils at 212. When you open the valve, the energy is released via steam until the water in the pressure cooker is equal to 212.

So if you have your pressure cooker on a large heat source, you can open the valve part way and still maintain the water temp above 212 to keep a constant supply of steam energy.
 

brewman !

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The volume of steam that gets produced is actually a function of how much water is in the boiler. Thats because all the water goes from 240 to 212 and the more water there is, the more steam gets generated. It has nothing to do with the surface area.

I would play around with heating water until it works somewhat well. The mash will heat better than the water, but its easier to get a feel for things before moving to an actual mash.

If its not heating fast enough, I would check the hose size and valve restriction. That faster you can blow down the boiler into the mash vessel the faster you can heat the mash.

My setup made some really big popping sounds too. And my water heating trials weren't all that successful. Things work much much better with the mash.
 

kladue

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The snapping and popping sounds you are experiencing are from the condensed steam/water flashing into steam in the plumbing. It might be worth the effort to make a jacketed steam feed line inside the mash tun to reduce the condensation and popping noise. Try placing a 1/4"(3/8" OD) tube inside a 1/2" (5/8" OD)tube, drill a 3/8" hole in end cap fittings, solder end caps to both 1/4" and 1/2" tubing to keep the water out. Another tip would be to place holes at bottom of steam dispersing manifold to let the condensation escape instead of collecting in the tube and create the popping noise. There will always be noise when you are warming up the manifold until the condensation rate goes down.
When you heat cold water in the pressure cooker you liberate the dissolved air in the water, you need to vent the cooker until you see steam at the vent then let the pressure build.
 

brewman !

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The snapping and popping sounds you are experiencing are from the condensed steam/water flashing into steam in the plumbing.
I kind of doubt that.

When I built my system, I was all worried about the steam condensing in the feed line like you are suggesting. It turns out that the steam flow rate is fast enough and the thick walled silicone tube I use doesn't have much heat loss. Thus the steam doesn't condense any great amount in my line.

The snapping and popping are steam bubbles collapsing in the water. For some reason this action is much more violent in water than it is in the mash. Maybe because the mash is heavier and more viscous ?

In any event, I wouldn't worry about it too much now with water as the snapping and popping will probably change once you work with the mash.

It might be worth the effort to make a jacketed steam feed line inside the mash tun to reduce the condensation and popping noise.
The heat lost with the thick wall silicone tubing I recommend isn't that great. I wouldn't use copper tubing though.

Try placing a 1/4"(3/8" OD) tube inside a 1/2" (5/8" OD)tube, drill a 3/8" hole in end cap fittings, solder end caps to both 1/4" and 1/2" tubing to keep the water out.
I think this is unnecessary.

Another tip would be to place holes at bottom of steam dispersing manifold to let the condensation escape instead of collecting in the tube and create the popping noise.
If its like my system, the noise happens in the water, not in the manifold. If I turn my valve open enough, I can actually get bubbles breaking on the surface and releasing steam above the water. However, this doesn't happen with the mash.

There will always be noise when you are warming up the manifold until the condensation rate goes down.
When you heat cold water in the pressure cooker you liberate the dissolved air in the water, you need to vent the cooker until you see steam at the vent then let the pressure build.
I didn't have to do any of this. I just brought the cooker up to pressure and opened the valve when it was time.
 
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Cookiebaggs

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I think what I was hearing was the steam working to push out the cold (70 degree) water from the manifold. I had bubbles at the holes that were closest to the tee but not the entire manifold. It wasn't until I was able to raise the water temp in the MLT to around 130 when the noise stopped and the steam was venting through the entire manifold. I'm sure it helped when fathest part of the copper away from the steam line got heated up.
 

kladue

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Sorry if this offends you but after nearly 30 years working with low to high pressure boilers, piping, and equipment i might have picked a little bit of knowledge about steam and what it does.
 

brewman !

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I think what I was hearing was the steam working to push out the cold (70 degree) water from the manifold.
Open the valve up more. It will blow all the water out. I don't get it.

I had bubbles at the holes that were closest to the tee but not the entire manifold. It wasn't until I was able to raise the water temp in the MLT to around 130 when the noise stopped and the steam was venting through the entire manifold. I'm sure it helped when fathest part of the copper away from the steam line got heated up.
So you had no bubbles coming out of your manifold when you were doing this ? If you didn't, I'd say your steam rate is too low. Open the valve. Let it rip !

Sorry if this offends you but after nearly 30 years working with low to high pressure boilers, piping, and equipment i might have picked a little bit of knowledge about steam and what it does.
These are simple systems. A pressure cooker, a valve, a piece of hose and some sort of a manifold. It isn't rocket science. Flyguy and I both observed the same thing when bubbling steam through the water.

As far as I can see on my system there isn't any condensation in the hose and there isn't any need to insulate things. Just open the valve, the steam bubbles in the water and that makes cracking and popping noises as the steam bubbles collapse. That's it. That's all the happens. There isn't anything else. :confused:

Maybe someday I will make a video.
 
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Cookiebaggs

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Everything went really well yesterday! :D

http://good-times.webshots.com/album/558855272baVjZz

Mashed in at 104 and heated up the pressure cooker. The step from 104 to 140 took just over 12 minutes with a wide open valve, keeping a constant pressure of 15.

I went from 140 to 158 in about 7 minutes and from 158 to 168 in 5 minutes.

The manifold seemed to work well with bubbles visible all throughout the mash. However, stirring the mash is a must when injecting steam to distribute the heat and avoid hot pockets.

I ended up with an efficiency of 75% and an OG of 1.061.

I really liked how this system works. Steam infusion mashing in a cooler is a great way to step mash.

Steam rocks! :rockin:
 

brewman !

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You are steam masher #4, Cookies.

Myself, Flyguy and Yuri are the first three.

Its funny that we all seem to have the same sort of comments.

I'm glad it worked for you.
 

FlyGuy

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Thanks for the update and the pics, man. That's an awesome setup you put together! Sounds like everything worked really well -- fantastic job. So I guess you'll be using it again??? :D
 

brewman !

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I've done 4 steam batches and repeatability is a non issue. As far as I'm concerned, its dead simple to hit temperatures. The only issue is, like everyone is saying, STIR the mash. The steam bubbles tend to localize the heat creating hot spots. They way around that is to stir, stir, stir, during heating. Other than that I leave it sit.
 
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Cookiebaggs

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Thanks for the update and the pics, man. That's an awesome setup you put together! Sounds like everything worked really well -- fantastic job. So I guess you'll be using it again???
Most definately!
 

WortMonger

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That is one tight setup cookies. You did a great job. I am curious as to why you went from 3, to 2.6, to 2 degrees per minute while heating? I also didn't understand if you kept the burner going to maintain a constant 15 psi (I am assuming you did, :) , but I would like to know)? Such a sweet setup. Where did you get that big green cooler and how big is it? That thing is sweet with the drainway in the bottom like that.

I keep reading and keep reading and am loving the way steam is coming into the homebrewing scene. All the guys that made their systems and posted their results made me a true believer in steam. I have always been scared of pressure cookers since I was a kid but I had to do this. I just made a maxcold cooler setup (HLT and MT with s.s. screen manifolds) for a friend's wedding gift and am waiting for him to get back and post some pics of it for me (no camera at the time and he's in europe for honeymoon). He is used to a pressure cooker and saw instantly how safe it was to brew doing what you guys had talked about in your posts, so I was like "I will build him a small 5 gallon steam system and then upgrade my brewery." I still haven't broken down and bought a cooker yet, :( but I will now that I am back from his wedding. His system turned out great, I even went so far as to make a copper tubing stirrer rake that turned via a sundial icecream machine motor. Funny how it seemed so easy on that scale and on mine it seems so hard (procrastinator). I am in kegs for tuns and trying to figure how to make the stirrer and stuff right now, and the fact that it is inside and 82*F with no a/c that is hindering me from pulling the trigger on my new steam setup.
 

Cede

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Pressure cookers are safe as long as you dont mess with the safety valve.

Well, I hope to be in the next steam brewers here ;)

I'll ask my wife to take pics while I'm building the steam generator.
 

dstar26t

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1/4" ID x 7/16” OD crush-resistant, high temp. silicone tubing (McMaster Carr #3184K1)
 
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