Homemade vs. Commercial and what I am doing to close the gap

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Chuck E

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On a really small scale, you can wrap copper tubing around a beer keg, then insulate with fiberglass. What always eludes me is the chiller equipment and the control system. Where do you find cheap stuff that works?
 

mainshipfred

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On a really small scale, you can wrap copper tubing around a beer keg, then insulate with fiberglass. What always eludes me is the chiller equipment and the control system. Where do you find cheap stuff that works?
My thoughts would be a solenoid and valve connected to a T stat. Somehow though I would think a thermocouple would have to be installed in the tank. Stickman also referenced a pump and I'm not sure if that would be required to be able force the fluid through the additional coil if the unit pump doesn't have the capacity. Also if using glycol line size might have to be taken into consideration since when cooled I think it would be pretty thick. But I'm no expert.
 

sour_grapes

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On a really small scale, you can wrap copper tubing around a beer keg, then insulate with fiberglass. What always eludes me is the chiller equipment and the control system. Where do you find cheap stuff that works?
I have purchased used industrial chiller units from eBay in years past. They aren't exactly cheap, but sometimes you find a bargain.
 

NorCal

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I’ve seen a few hydroponic (corrected) chillers come up on Craigslist. They are being used for indoor grows. I’ll start keeping my eye out again.
 

sour_grapes

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I’ve seen a few hydrophobic chillers come up on Craigslist. They are being used for indoor grows. I’ll start keeping my eye out again.
Did you mean "hydroponic chiller"? I was intrigued by what a "hydrophobic chiller" could be, but I think it was a simple mistake, right?

On a related note, I went to eBay to see if my advice upthread was worth anything. I didn't see any inexpensive used chillers of the sort I had in mind, but there were a lot of inexpensive new, smaller chillers that were being marketed for cooling CO2 lasers used for fabrication. They were described as "thermolysis water chillers." I have no idea what could mean or what physical principle they are based upon. Unless they meant a regular chiller that is being used to cool a thermolysis system?
 

jsbeckton

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Interesting. I work in the power plant business and in these applications a typical cooling system has just one circulating pump running with each “load” having a supply and return branch to/from the main loop. You can easily adjust the temp for each load by opening/closing the throttle valve for that particular load. Kinda works the same way that hot water radiators heat houses just on a larger scale.

Beer brewers often use a homemade “immersion chiller” of coiled copper pipe and just use cold tap water to cool down the wort quickly. The tricky part is that for a cold soak you typically need to get the must much cooler than your tap supply but I wonder if it wouldn’t be too difficult to just have 2 separate coils run in series. The first could be submerged in a bucket of ice water to get the tap closer to freezing and the second could be in the must to allow the now chilled water to remove heat.

Certainly not as efficient as working with a refrigerant but a lot easier and it’s only needed for a few days.
 

MiBor

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I got a solid state recirculating chiller (like this: SSDchiller) off eBay for around $250 and I connected it to a stainless steel immersion coil (like this: coil) for $50.
It chills 6 gal of water to near 0 Celsius in an insulated tank in about 5 hours on the lowest setting using 27% glycol. I plan to use it in the fall for an extended cold soak of my red wine this year.
 

JoP

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I have run batches using delestage with and without an internal strainer. Without the strainer the 1.5 inch outlet on my tank will plug up, but can easily be poked through from the top with a plastic rod, and once flowing freely the tank will drain without trouble. The seeds are easily removed from the bottom of the receiving pail after dumping the wine back to the fermenter. I've played around with removing the seeds in a few past batches, but I prefer a fairly tannic wine and found that removing seeds, at least with the grapes I'm using, wasn't the direction I wanted to go. I don't really want to have to add tannin from a bag. Maybe the seeds are more of an issue with extended maceration, certainly the seeds may be a problem if they are under ripe, or possibly removal is beneficial for the early to release fruit forward wine discussed in the article. Once again it comes down to the type of grapes on hand and the wine style you are after. I'll admit my wines are a bit rustic and they do take a few years in bottle to come around.
Hello Stickman,
Where did you get the drain valve?
I will try it if I can install a large diameter valve on my 44 Gal fermenter
Thanks
 

stickman

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@JoP The valve on my stainless vessel is an industrial ball valve that came with the purchase, it works well, but is not ideal as it is difficult to clean. It would be better to use sanitary type fittings and valves if possible; I just haven't changed mine yet. Sanitary fittings are available from various online stores, I've been using St Pat's of Texas. For the Brute, I just use John Guest speedfit style PEX fittings and valves available from most home stores; these can be assembled and disassembled easily by hand.

 

JoP

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@JoP The valve on my stainless vessel is an industrial ball valve that came with the purchase, it works well, but is not ideal as it is difficult to clean. It would be better to use sanitary type fittings and valves if possible; I just haven't changed mine yet. Sanitary fittings are available from various online stores, I've been using St Pat's of Texas. For the Brute, I just use John Guest speedfit style PEX fittings and valves available from most home stores; these can be assembled and disassembled easily by hand.

Thank you Stickman,

I never knew about St Pat's of Texas.

It looks like they carry lots of things others don’t, but a bit pricy perhaps.

I was able to find an affordable valve assembly on US Plastics online store site.

It is made up of three components, all FDA approved for potable water.

The prices are not bad also:



Bulkhead #16798

2" Loose PVC Tank Fitting with Santoprene™ Gaskets - 2-7/8" Hole Size | U.S. Plastic Corp.

Nipple #27095

2" Pipe x 2" Length Close Threaded Pipe Nipple | U.S. Plastic Corp.

Ball Valve #19769

2" Threaded CWV PVC Ball Valve | U.S. Plastic Corp.

I also found this article about The Delestage method for home winemakers on WineMakerMag.com by Daniel Pambianchi:

Delestage Fermentation: Techniques - WineMakerMag.com



In order to do this of course you need to raise the fermenter a couple of feet, but with a 44 Gal. fermenter weighing around 200 Lbs., I’m not Shure how.

If anyone has an idea how to achieve this in a garage with some sort of mechanical or hydraulic lift, please let me know.

Cheers
 

stickman

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There are many different ways to do it, as simple or as complicated as you like. I just put the Brutes on a table made of a piece of plywood sitting on empty pails, and dump the must buckets into the Brute once it's all set up.
 

purpletongue

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I'm going to contribute as a total newb. Apologies upfront. From what I've read in the book on home wine making I'm reading. It looks like you have fairly extensive techniques to bring that quality up. What's reiterated over and over in my book is quality of fruit. Once you know what you're doing. The end product is closely coupled with the starting product. When you talk about matching a $25 dollar commercial vintage, you might be reaching the limits of what you can do on a small scale. That being said, how much equipment do you have when it comes to acid testing (malo / tartaric)? Have you ever taken one of your hard worked wines for testing before bottling at a winery? It costs but it may be beneficial to you considering the level you're working at.

I'd say to hit that level of vintage commercial wines, aging is key, good fruit, perhaps barrel aging though I know that's a contentious subject. Again, I'd just go back to starting with the best fruit you can lay your hands on and then aging your wine. Perhaps carboy aging so you can taste it as it matures. I'm intrigued by the idea of blending. But my instinct is that won't necessarily get one to that $25 level. Unless you have the skill and varietals to work with like they do in Bordeaux. (*I'm a newb so take my comments with that in mind) Very interesting techniques you're employing though! Makes my kit stuff look like those beginner lego sets that just make a simple little car with a lego man.
 

NorCal

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I'm going to contribute as a total newb. Apologies upfront. From what I've read in the book on home wine making I'm reading. It looks like you have fairly extensive techniques to bring that quality up. What's reiterated over and over in my book is quality of fruit. Once you know what you're doing. The end product is closely coupled with the starting product. When you talk about matching a $25 dollar commercial vintage, you might be reaching the limits of what you can do on a small scale. That being said, how much equipment do you have when it comes to acid testing (malo / tartaric)? Have you ever taken one of your hard worked wines for testing before bottling at a winery? It costs but it may be beneficial to you considering the level you're working at.

I'd say to hit that level of vintage commercial wines, aging is key, good fruit, perhaps barrel aging though I know that's a contentious subject. Again, I'd just go back to starting with the best fruit you can lay your hands on and then aging your wine. Perhaps carboy aging so you can taste it as it matures. I'm intrigued by the idea of blending. But my instinct is that won't necessarily get one to that $25 level. Unless you have the skill and varietals to work with like they do in Bordeaux. (*I'm a newb so take my comments with that in mind) Very interesting techniques you're employing though! Makes my kit stuff look like those beginner lego sets that just make a simple little car with a lego man.
Great post! Lots of ground to cover. Good fruit, without question is #1. It really should have been the first on my list, but I didn’t even mention it. I did however mention in a few post later:

I have the luxury of living in a community that sells grapes to the local wineries. I get the exact same grapes that are sold the wineries. @4scoreand I have also built relationships with other commercial vineyards and pool our needs to buy grapes by the ton. For me, I can take access to fruit off the table.

As far as measurement equipment to measure the key items, I have a Vinemetrica 300, the same equipment as small wineries. I measure malo/tartaric to assure mlf completion. I also have access to the same labs.

I age in the same 60 gallon oak barrels (I buy mine from them) although they are 3rd year French oak and I add spirals to equal a second year barrel.
I do have access to all Bordeaux grape varieties; my current barrel is Cab Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot.

Is there a limit that can be done on a small home winemaker scale? Not sure there is. I think it is a matter of what you are willing to invest in time, $ and having the desire to achieve your goal.

Since I know and talk to commercial winemakers, who are pursuing that 98 point wine spectator wine I have a sense for what they deem important. We are in deep discussion on how much fruit to drop right now (beautiful clusters cut off just to reduce the lb/vine) which goes back to your initial point of having the best fruit possible.

Actual clusters in vineyard , pic taken a few days ago
76F607B4-11BA-4B01-8621-4C68E58638EB.jpeg
 

stickman

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I can only imagine that dropping fruit has to be one of the toughest things to do, for me it would be better to not watch. On the other hand, I hear plenty of winemakers say it's better to have a little of something good, than a lot of nothing special.
 
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