Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 20: The Transfer Student

I believe that in the past I have routinely mentioned transferring beer without giving much more details about the process... let's fix that! (I should say that I'm getting to the point where I'm not sure if I have written on a specific topic or not in the past... sorry for any redundancy!)

Transferring beer: Moving beer from a fermenter into a brite tank in preparation for kegging. How is this accomplished? What does it look like? Well... here we go!

First off, the brite tank has to be cleaned, then sanitized, purged of air, and pressurized with CO2 before the transferring can begin! This usually takes me about 2 hours on a relatively clean tank. Really dirty tanks require more than one cleaning. After cleaning the tank (CIP), I set up all needed parts (sample ports, CO2 diffusion stone, pressure gauges, etc.) on the tank so they can all be sanitized at one time (ensuring an adequate job on all surfaces). Sanitizing is also done with the CIP cart, circulating sanitizer through the system instead of cleaner. At the end of the cycle I stop the pump and simultaneously shut some valves to trap sanitizer in my hoses (which will be used for the beer transfer later!) After this I can hook up a CO2 line to the bottom of the tank and slowly let it fill with CO2 from the bottom up. To check to make sure that the tank is purged of air I take a nice big whiff of the gas bleeding out the top of the tank, if it burns like hell, it is CO2, and I can start to pressurize.

It is worth noting here (just like tank/keg cleaning) there are rules for moving and transferring beer. Rule #1: Move beer from a pressurized container into a pressurized container! Beer, of course, has CO2 in solution, to preserve the CO2 levels, the beer has to be transferred into a place with the same or greater pressure as its environment. Hence all this talk of pressurizing tanks... back to my story.

While pressurizing the brite tank, we are sanitizing and hooking up the hoses for the transfer. On the fermenter's racking arm, which is a tube that sticks into the fermenter in the middle of the conical bottom, we hook on "The Monster." This is really just Steve's nickname for a heavy-ass thing with 3 valves and a sight glass that we use for transfers. Attached to the monster is one of the hoses (already packed full of sanitizer), which runs through the pump face and "filter" on the CIP cart and then another hose (also packed with sanitizer) eventually goes into the bottom of the brite tank. I say "filter" because this is not the type of filter you use to make a "filtered beer" such as the BMC's. It is a "shit catcher" and will stop lumps of hops and yeast from entering the brite tank. Yeast and other particles actually make it through this filter, the point of it is in case we accidently pull a huge plug of shit from the fermenter.

Now, what we have is our system ready to go, except that our lines are packed with sanitizer... now we fix that problem. Using the side valve on the monster we dump some of the beer until it clears and is ready for the brite tank. Then we open up the valves leading to the end of the hose... chasing out the sanitizer with fresh beer! Once beer flows out the end of the hose we stop the flow and hook it to the bottom of the brite tank. Then we open up the valves, balance the pressure in both tanks, and hope to god our shit catcher doesn't clog with shit.

Here are some pictures to tell the tale:

Here is "The Monster" with its side dump tube, and a transfer hose attached.

Here is a hose, with beer flowing in it...

Here is the CIP cart with the two hoses and the shit catcher. Beer is flowing into the bottom one, through the pump face and filter, and then out the top one. Why the pump you ask? Just in case we need an extra push.

Finally! Here is beer flowing into the bottom of the brite tank! We are venting gas from the CIP arm coming off the top and down the side of the tank. This is so we maintain a constant pressure during the transfer.

That is it! Simple and Easy!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!


  1. I was going to ask about the pressure in the receiving (brite) tank. I envisioned exploding brite tanks but you went on to say that you bleed some pressure off using the CIP arms. It's like you know what we're thinking before we say it : ) Looks like you are still using the old brite tank. Any idea when the new one will come into operation?

  2. This looks like a lot of work. I always did appreciate good beer, but I appreciate it even more now than ever before.

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