Heating VCSS for MLF

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fafrd

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Last fall, I kept carboys in the kitchen to get through MLF (my first vintage).

This fall, I want to press into the new 200L VCSS I have in the basement and try to get through MLF in that.

The basement is cool enough that I am going to need to warm the tank 10-15 degrees above ambient to keep MLF from stalling.

I'm all ears for any better ideas to achieve this, but at the moment my plan is to rig up a cheap electric blanket around the tank with a PID controller, wrap another insulating blanket or foam camping matresses around that, set the PID to 70-degrees, and see where it stabilizes after a few days.

I'm planning to position the temperature probe between the electric blanket and the side of the tank so I don't need to worry about hot-spots exceeding 70-degrees.

An alternative I've seen is to use a 'seedling mat' under the tank. That would only allow heating from the bottom, but as long as the tank is well-insulated, it shoukd eventually get the temp up to 70-degrees.

Anyone used a PID and either an electric blanket or a seedling matt to leep a tank full of young wine warm enough for MLF?

Any better ideas I should be considering?
 

Boatboy24

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My initial thought was to just duct tape a brew belt (or two) to the lower part of the tank. It may take a couple days to get it up to temp, but it should be good once you're there.
 

JohnT

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I would go with a simple space heater and warm up the ambient temp of the basement.
 

fafrd

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I would go with a simple space heater and warm up the ambient temp of the basement.
The basement is an almost infinite heat sink. Aside from the $$$s involved, I'm not sure it will ever get the temps where I need them to be.

This heat control business is all about reducing heat loss through insulation.

It'll be alot easier to insulate my VCSS from the room than the room from the outside ground...

I'm likely to end up with more carboys this fall despite having a VCSS now. For those, I may rig up a large insulated box and use a heat lamp to maintain temps (an idea I believe I saw somewhere here on the Forum ;)).
 

fafrd

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My initial thought was to just duct tape a brew belt (or two) to the lower part of the tank. It may take a couple days to get it up to temp, but it should be good once you're there.
A brew belt or it's equivalent could be an option, and since I have the PID, I suppose I could avoid overheating. My concern with a brew belt is the hot spots it will create and I'll need to insulate the tank anyway.

An electric blanket or one of those seed mats seems easier and more uniform.

A 20" x 20" seed mat pits out 45W, so I suppose I should run some numbers to understand what peak temperature it can put out and how long it would take to raise the temperature of 60 gallons of wine 10-degrees...
 

Johnd

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Get some 1/2" insulation board, build a little enclosure using tape to attach four sides and top. Put a little ceramic heater with a thermostat inside.
 

fafrd

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Get some 1/2" insulation board, build a little enclosure using tape to attach four sides and top. Put a little ceramic heater with a thermostat inside.
For carboys, that's a goid idea and I may look into it. For the VCSS, it seems impractical and wrapping the thing in a blanket or setting on a heat pad with insulation around the tank seems easier...
 

Boatboy24

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My concern with a brew belt is the hot spots it will create and I'll need to insulate the tank anyway.
I've never been too concerned w/ hot spots. You will still have a fair amount of movement in the tank between CO2 bubbles and occasional stirring. And I think the warmth from the brew belt itself will create some circulation.
 

JohnT

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The basement is an almost infinite heat sink. Aside from the $$$s involved, I'm not sure it will ever get the temps where I need them to be.

This heat control business is all about reducing heat loss through insulation.

It'll be alot easier to insulate my VCSS from the room than the room from the outside ground...

I'm likely to end up with more carboys this fall despite having a VCSS now. For those, I may rig up a large insulated box and use a heat lamp to maintain temps (an idea I believe I saw somewhere here on the Forum ;)).
Sorry. Not knowing your setup, I though that this would be an easy solution for you.

Couldn't you tent your tanks under a tarp and still go with a simple space heater? My guess is that you only need to heat the wine to over 60 degrees and for only the period of MLF.

Not knowing the price of brew belts, and not knowing if brew belts were designed to accommodate a 200l VCSS tank, wouldn't this be a cheaper/simpler solution?
 

meadmaker1

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I use a tarp tent with an aquarium heater 5 gal water jug.
Stack carboys around it.
Very safe, very consistant heat.
Space heaters burn down too many homes in my area, so be careful.
Been looking for tall narrow containers. The 5 gal takes up room for another carboy.
Would like to have 2 or 3 spaced between, and narrower containers should fit in spaces between carboys, large pvc pipe doesnt exchange heat fast enough, copper big enough to costly, iron pipe too bulky. Thinking large flower vases but some kind of lid would be nice.
 

fafrd

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I use a tarp tent with an aquarium heater 5 gal water jug.
Stack carboys around it.
Very safe, very consistant heat.
Space heaters burn down too many homes in my area, so be careful.
Been looking for tall narrow containers. The 5 gal takes up room for another carboy.
Would like to have 2 or 3 spaced between, and narrower containers should fit in spaces between carboys, large pvc pipe doesnt exchange heat fast enough, copper big enough to costly, iron pipe too bulky. Thinking large flower vases but some kind of lid would be nice.
Aquarium heater in 5 gallon water jug / carboy is an interesting (and seemingly very safe) way to add heat, but not for my VCSS.

In any case, a simple insulating blanket will be needed to reduce heat loss through the tank. To add heat, an electric blanket wrapped aroubd the tank on a seedling mat placed undefpr the tank seem alot easier that trying to rig up a tent around the VCSS.

I'm probable going to end up with more carboys than I'd like to admit, and for those, your aquarium heater idea is interesting. I'm probably going to throw together an insulated box to hold carboys and was planning to use 1/2" concrete baseboard with a ceramic heat lamp from an old lizard cage heating the baseboard.

But an awuarium heater in a carboy full of water woukd work nicely if I have a space empty...

My MLF stalled last winter and did not reactivate until spring - this year I want to help assure it gets completed before Thanksgiving ;).
 

stickman

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What ever you do, just be cautious about heating the tank from the bottom, the layer of lees at elevated temperatures can generate some funky flavors. Heating the side of the tank may be all that is needed.
 

fafrd

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What ever you do, just be cautious about heating the tank from the bottom, the layer of lees at elevated temperatures can generate some funky flavors. Heating the side of the tank may be all that is needed.
Good advice - thanks. I'll steer away from the seed matt for that reason and focus on either a belt or a blanket.

If I get around to building an insulated box for carboys, I'll forget about using concrete baseboard and use thin piece of wood below the carboys instead. For heat, a spare carboy with an aquarium heater could work nicely or alternatively I'll rig up a ittle coffee-cup heating element I have in a small vessel of water.
 

fafrd

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How will you contol temp.
PID. I've been controlling temps for years, starting with my first Barbeque Guru.

I can drive any 110V heat source and the only question is where to locate the temperature probe.

I'm in no rush to get to target temps (it's wine, right ;)), so I'm thinking I'll locate to temperature probe between the heat blanket and the surrounding insulation. At first, the VCSS itself will always be much cooler than this but this way there is little/no risk of any hot spots or applied heat ever exceeding target temps and eventually the tank will warm up to this artificially-imposed 'ambient' temerature.
 

fafrd

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PID. I've been controlling temps for years, starting with my first Barbeque Guru.

I can drive any 110V heat source and the only question is where to locate the temperature probe.

I'm in no rush to get to target temps (it's wine, right ;)), so I'm thinking I'll locate to temperature probe between the heat blanket and the surrounding insulation. At first, the VCSS itself will always be much cooler than this but this way there is little/no risk of any hot spots or applied heat ever exceeding target temps and eventually the tank will warm up to this artificially-imposed 'ambient' temerature.
So in case anyone in the future may find it useful, I thought I'd report back on my results in this area and the solution I ended up using.

I used 5 4' 1x12s I had lying around to cobble together a makeshift wooden enclusure surrounding my 30-gallon flex tank. Placed a small space heater within the enclosure controlled by a low-cost PID and dropped the temperature probe down from above so it was above the space heater and probably about halfway down from the top of the tank.

The PID stabilized the temperature in the box at 70-degrees C which was about 10-15 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature in my cellar.

While chromatography indicated 'no' Mallic Acid in the wine, Accuvin test strips indicated there was still about 75 mg/L of Mallic acid present.

After 3 weeks in the makeshift box heated to 70-degrees, the Accuvin strips now indicate Mallic Acid is zero mg/L (or at least well below 15 mg/L - the strip was much closer to the white 0 mg/L color than it was to the lowest 30 mg/L light purple color).

I had dosed this wine with 50ppm of SO2 in early March after racking (incorrectly thinking MLF was done) and free SO2 was down to 20ppm when I started heating the tank.

Experiencing firsthand how much more smoothly MLF completes when the innoculated wine is maintained at the corrrect temperature, I'm planning to build a large box out of polystyrene sheets to maintain my carboys at 70-degrees following primary this fall...
 

BlueStimulator

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Interesting read when you build it take pic as you go it would be fun to see your progress
 

fafrd

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Interesting read when you build it take pic as you go it would be fun to see your progress
Here is a pic I snapped of my set-up (as I started to dissassemble it - the front cover has been removed).

The PID controller is on top and I timed this photo for when it was heating. The green light on the PID controller indicates 12V output is active, which is driving 120V switch on the floor (where 'ON' is indicated by orange light). The 120V switch drives the small space heater in front of the tank.

It all worket like a charm and maintained ambient temperature surrounding the Flex Tank within 1-degree C of target...

image.jpg
 
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