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CDrew

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I am reluctant to start a thread where I don't have any of the answers, but there was discussion on another thread that lead to this one. So this is a chance to ask questions and hopefully forum members with experience can chime in. I used CO2 extensively when brewing to move and dispense beer and so have some experience with that.

I am interested in setting up a gas system and so was @mainshipfred, I'm sure there are others. As I see it, pressurized inert gas could be used several ways in a home winery:

1-Blanket wine to keep it away from Oxygen in the air (realizing it's very temporary)
2-Purge containers prior to adding the wine for storage
3-Fill the head space of a partially filled storage container
4-Move wine around in your winery in much the same way that vacuum can (very interested in this)
5-Potentially a wine on tap system (not personally interested in this)
6-Counter-fill bottling (curious about this too)

I am sure there are other useful things...

With regards to gasses that could be used, I'll share the limited amount that I know, and hopefully others can add on:

CO2--
Advantages: It's inert, cheap, readily available, lots of hardware knowledge on the brewing side. It has the particular advantage that at relatively low pressure, it undergoes a phase change to liquid, and so a full tank is full of liquid CO2. As it changes back to gas, you get 4X the amount of gas vs a gas like Nitrogen or Argon in the same size tank. Also, the tanks and regulators are relatively inexpensive (Tank and regulator under $150).

Disadvantages: It will dissolve in your wine if you leave the wine under pressure (like a wine on tap system). I think a purge or a blanket would not be an issue, but would love to hear real world experience.

Nitrogen (N2):
Advantages: It's inert at "normal temperatures", and reasonably easy to get at your local welding store. It would work great for a wine on tap system. There are units you can buy to generate basically pure nitrogen, but I'm not sure that's cost effective for a home winery (actually, I'm certain it's not!).

Disadvantages: No phase change so you need a big tank or very high pressure (actually both). I have seen some wineries use nitrogen in those huge insulated thermos type tanks where you do get a phase change, but I don't see that as practical at home.

Argon:
Advantages: Truly an Inert gas, Heavier than air but still mixes completely with it.

Disadvantages: Like nitrogen requires a high pressure tank, and relatively expensive

Argon/CO2:
This is available in a 75/25 mix for welding that I think would have all the disadvantages of Argon, and none of the advantages of CO2. Despite that, I'm considering using it since I have a Mig welder that already uses this gas. Anyone have any experience?

Compressed Air:
Go with me here.....Let's say your primary interest was to move wine around pushing it under light pressure (1-2 psi) from one vessel to another. Anyone do this? As long as you didn't cause much agitation, wouldn't this work? It's cheap and super easy to generate at home (a bike pump would work I think). This may be a bad idea but I'm putting it out there for discussion.



I would love to hear what others are doing. I realize that inert gas systems really are not necessary at 60-100 gallons per year, but making wine at home isn't necessary either! So if you're using compressed inert gas in your winery, what are you doing with it and what are the DETAILS of your set up. Please comment and post pictures.
 

mainshipfred

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For me there are more questions then answers. It's my understanding restaurants have large CO2 tanks that are connceted to their soda machines to carbonate the soda. Not sure how beer and canned or bottled sodas are carobnated. Since we degas anyway would a blanket or pressure to push wine at a preliminary stage dissolve carbon in the wine and would it have any affect in the wine if it did? The other thing discussed in the prior thread was dissolved oxygen and the ability of inert gas to reduce it to an acceptible level. I do know that in a commercial bottling line the bottles are sparged with N or AG prior to filling.
 

CDrew

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I ordered today the parts to vacuum OR pressure rack with Sanke kegs (and also compatible with my Intellitanks). Sanke kegs are available everywhere, hold 15.5 gallons (there are other less common sizes) and are a beer industry standard. I only have 1, but will have more in the future. They are very easy to adapt to stainless wine making tanks. So ANY gas will work to pressure rack, but the same fittings will allow you to vacuum rack too. Vacuum racking has specific advantages as it limits oxygen exposure and avoids buying compressed gasses. But compressed N2 or Argon do allow pressure racking with no Oxygen exposure.
 
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CDrew

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I have an argon tank and I think I’ve used it 3 times in 5 years. I haven’t seen much of a need, as the exposure that my wine sees during its lifecycle is very minimal.
I read through some of your threads-do you use a pump to move your wine around or do you use vacuum? For instance, how do you fill one of your barrels? I guess I'm looking for the perfect solution to move 15 gallon quantities. So far I've been using a vacuum pump, but I was thinking it would be fun to push it with an inert gas too.
 

NorCal

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I read through some of your threads-do you use a pump to move your wine around or do you use vacuum? For instance, how do you fill one of your barrels? I guess I'm looking for the perfect solution to move 15 gallon quantities. So far I've been using a vacuum pump, but I was thinking it would be fun to push it with an inert gas too.
I use both, but I always fill from the bottom up when pumping, to limit exposure. After the wine has completed mlf, I'll rack, I may rack again in the spring and one more time before bottling. If you look at the exposed area, multiplied by the amount of time it is exposed over the course of that year, it ends up being a pretty small number.
 

CDrew

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I got a CO2 system yesterday to provide a "push" to various aspects of wine making. 20 pound CO2 tank with regulator. 5/16 gas outlet that is easy to adapt to everything. That, combined with the allinone vacuum pump should move wine around pretty reliably. I'm working on the fittings to purge 15 gallon tanks (Sanke and Intellitanks).

The plan is to apply max vacuum to the receiving tank, then fill with CO2 to atmospheric pressure, then fill with wine. Necessary? Probably not. But it's been fun to figure out the ins and outs of the sanitary fittings. I have a racking scheduled in January of my 2018 70 gallons since I think the oaking from the Stavin wine cubes will be about done.

As a side light to this, it really seems like the Sanke 15.5 gallon tanks are ideal for wine bulk aging once the guts are removed. Even new ones are only $135 and used ones are less. They are stainless, don't need to be stored in the dark. easily sanitized, can take an absolute vacuum or 30 psi easily. I'm surprised they are not used more in home winemaking. Looking forward to getting a few more.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the vacuum/pressure set up, and the Intellitanks to store bulk wine and for bottling the same. Also interested into incorporating the Sanke kegs into all of this as just storage vessels.
 

mainshipfred

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When I spoke to the winemaker he told me he uses straight food grade argon. I don't know the difference but that is what I'm going with. I'm also considering a 40 lb tank and a tank sparger which is similar to an aquarium air stone. All this is probably not necessary but it can't hurt and a tank with my volume should last a long time.
 

CDrew

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Where do you buy "food grade" argon? Hopefully the welding store carries that too. Will look forward to pictures of what you do with it and how. I'll try and do the same when I rack everything.

I assume the 40 pound tank is the standard welding size tank. Any bigger and it will be awkward to move around your wine making shop/basement. One advantage to CO2 is a 20 pound tank weighs 45 pounds and is only 3 feet tall with a flat bottom, so it's very easy to handle.

Edit-Is it really 40 cubic feet?
 
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mainshipfred

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Near me Roberts Oxygen and Airgas has it. Don't know how large a 40 is but it will be stationary and all the wines will be mobile. I tried to post a video of the sparger but the link had an issue.
 

stickman

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This is the argon cylinder in my garage, it holds 335 cubic feet, I don't use it very often with the reds I make. I think white and rose wines may benefit the most from inert gas protection, and possibly a delicate red like Pinot Noir. Heavy reds need a little oxygen, especially early in their life, so my first several rackings are not protected. If I decide to filter I'll use the argon to purge through the hose, pump and filter housing all the way into the receiving tank, I also use the argon to purge bottles before filling. I use use a sintered stainless sparger to provide laminar delivery of the argon, and an in-line carbon filter at the end of the line is used just to provide some insurance that any trace organics are reduced. My corker has been modified to top bottle headspace with CO2 before the cork is inserted; this was done years ago mainly for white wine, but I do use it this way for reds now.

All of this is not really needed, but I started this practice back in the day when I was excited about making improvements and experimentation, but most of you know now that I currently take a more laid back approach.

Please note the chain, it is important to prevent a high pressure cylinder from falling over with an exposed valve and regulator.

Argon Cylinder.JPG
 

mainshipfred

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This is the argon cylinder in my garage, it holds 335 cubic feet, I don't use it very often with the reds I make. I think white and rose wines may benefit the most from inert gas protection, and possibly a delicate red like Pinot Noir. Heavy reds need a little oxygen, especially early in their life, so my first several rackings are not protected. If I decide to filter I'll use the argon to purge through the hose, pump and filter housing all the way into the receiving tank, I also use the argon to purge bottles before filling. I use use a sintered stainless sparger to provide laminar delivery of the argon, and an in-line carbon filter at the end of the line is used just to provide some insurance that any trace organics are reduced. My corker has been modified to top bottle headspace with CO2 before the cork is inserted; this was done years ago mainly for white wine, but I do use it this way for reds now.

All of this is not really needed, but I started this practice back in the day when I was excited about making improvements and experimentation, but most of you know now that I currently take a more laid back approach.

Please note the chain, it is important to prevent a high pressure cylinder from falling over with an exposed valve and regulator.

View attachment 52603
I've seen those regulators with the glass. What is the purpose? the one I'm getting has 2 guages. Also why CO2 when corking and not Argon?
 

stickman

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Mine is a single stage regulator, yours is a two stage which is a little better and allows you to regulate the pressure lower than mine. The glass thing is a rotameter flow gauge so you can see how much is being delivered, another gauge in the basement is calibrated for lower flows in liters per minute, knowing the flow rate allows you to determine how long to purge a particular volume tank etc.

CO2 for the corker was just a convenience issue, the gas is cheap, the bottle, regulator, and corker are portable, and the small amount of CO2 that would be contained in the headspace is negligible, and since CO2 is soluble in wine, a partial vacuum quickly develops beneath the cork.
 

Tom Martin

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For me there are more questions then answers. It's my understanding restaurants have large CO2 tanks that are connceted to their soda machines to carbonate the soda. Not sure how beer and canned or bottled sodas are carobnated.
I volunteer at a local Cidery sometimes to help with canning and the carbonate and chill the cider in the bright tank before canning. So when it goes into the can it is ready to drink.
 

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I feel like we have misses one choice. The purpose of flushing with N2, argon, etc is to remove O2 and improve shelf life. As someone who had access to food plant/ pilot plant equipment we sometimes created a vacuum.

My answer to removing oxygen/ flushing oxygen was to build a vacuum corking tool out of plumbing fittings. (I already used vacuum for transferring so I had a small vacuum pump)VacuumCorker7Asst.JPG
 

joeswine

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I use nitrogen all the time is my equalizer until he can get the product back down if possible but nitrogen is my go-to
 

mainshipfred

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Been using my new argon set up a few times now. When racking I've been purging the empty carboys. Started purging the lines and AIO botttle but thought a small 3/8 tube wouldn't make much difference and the bottle is under a vaccuum so not necessary. Filled 25 bottles and purged the bottles before filling. But I also got a Vinmetrica DO analyzer for Christmas and tested and sparged a batch I was afraid I did too many splash racks on. The initial reading was 17% so I sparged with a 5 micron sparger (also have a 2 micron) for a test and the reading droped to 13%. Don't know exactly how long or at what pressure but ~15-20 minutes of additional sparging brought it down to 2.4%. I also have a few barrels that need transfers and topping up but I'm still trying to determine what to put in them so I just purged with the argon. Inert gas might not be a necessity but it can't hurt. With all this being said my tank new was at 1900 psi and just under 1850 now. Next go round I might switch to Nitrogen since a tank will probably last a long time.
 
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