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Using a Dairy Bulk Tank

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This little brewery is starting up, and they said they got a hold of a 450 gallon milk bulk tank. Thing is, I grew up on a dairy farm which dad shut down in the late 90s, and I want to start a cidery, so I keep debating if I can convert the bulk tank into something usable. I asked the new brewery, but they said things are on the internet. Unfortunately, I have to go to work now and can't research it. Do you guys know of some good information on the topic?

I should also note it is a newer tank, which means it is bigger. 1200 gallons big. A lot of damn head space when starting out...
 

AlFulchino

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head space is your enemy....you could gas it...but this might be a case where you just get that tank now and put it aside for when your volume makes sense to use it
 
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head space is your enemy....you could gas it...but this might be a case where you just get that tank now and put it aside for when your volume makes sense to use it
I know head space is the enemy. I don't need to go get the tank - it has been sitting on my parent's farm unused now for 13 years, so it can sit a few more before I ramp up production enough to use it. The question is, how do I get it usable for cider? It had paddles with a motor, and a hole on top with a lid that covers via gravity. Not exactly a sealed environment.

I guess the thing is... imagine having something that expensive as a 1,200 gallon tank already in your possession...
 

AlFulchino

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based on your first post which had less info than the second posting, i thought your main concern was that head space and since you were just starting out, that it would not be full

since i dont have throrough knowledge of the type of tank you are speaking of, then maybe you could tell me something....the paddles and motor..are they inside the tank in a fixed position? do you plan to remove? or can they have a use?

the gravity top closure will not be suitable for anything more than a primary device

wish i could have been more help
 
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the paddles and motor..are they inside the tank in a fixed position? do you plan to remove? or can they have a use?

the gravity top closure will not be suitable for anything more than a primary device
I don't know if I need to take them out or if it is fine to leave them. I don't know what it takes to convert this thing. That's why/what I'm asking. I was hoping somebody who has done this could point me in some direction for research.
 

arcticsid

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Holy cow, that tanks is damn near as big as my entire cabin!!!! LOL. Really!
 

Wade E

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I would assume its Stainless Steel but even that will rust and pit over time and 13 years is surely enough time for that to happen. Also if there is a motor and paddles that go through then there are seals that are also probably going to need replacemnet and Im also guessing that the motor is going to need work also from just sitting there. Has this thing been exposed openly or was it cleaned out and stored somewhere, we need way mors info on this unit to even think about making a diagnosis. not that I know much about one of these things though!
 

grapeman

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What you have is a really big storage tank. No it will not likely be rusty. These things are rugged. The real beauty of it is it's ability to cool the product to a predetermined temperature. As you produce enough you will wish you had another one or two. Many orchards around here that make cider use those bulk milk tanks for cooling and storage. Now you need to pasteurize cider (flash or otherwise), but then it needs cooling before bottling or sale. The paddles are necessary to cool the contents of the tank evenly. The inside of the tank is double walled with cooling tubes running through it that cool like a refridgerator. The paddles set up a current and mix the cider. You don't need to worry about headspace as you are making cider. Now once you start turning it to hard cider and begin fermentation, then you will need a different tank for fermenting. They don't do a great job with that.

PS. I have seen tanks(and even had a 400 gallon one) that hadn't been used in 20 years that cleaned up perfectly. Hooked up the wires, checked the freon level and away she went! Just have a refridgeration man take a look at it before using.
 

Wade E

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Thats what I love about these forums, theres always someone who has done that. Thanks for the info Rich!
 
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Alright, I see that I jumped in here assuming people knew what I was talking about, so I’ll go back to the beginning.

Milk tanks are stainless steel. They do not rust, or there would be problems with America’s milk supply.

A milk truck, the ones you see on the highway, carry about 4,000-5,000 gallons, and the larger trailers carry about 7,000-8,000 gallons http://www.extension.org/faq/25769. My 1,400 tank would be about ¼ of one of these trucks. You install the bugger, and you never move it again. I would guess it stands a little over 5 ft tall, including legs, is oval but 6 feet wide, and probably 8 feet long. Let me just say that I was traumatized as a 11-12 year old when they lowered me in it to fetch a screwdriver that made its way to the back (the tank was empty). That big.

Regulations state that the milk tank is housed in its own little room, away from the cows. This is to keep things like flies and mice away. Usually, they are cinder block buildings, but they HAVE TO BE painted white, to show dirt. Most of the time, they are windowless with the exception of one wall, which is glass. That’s how it got in the room. The floors are concrete, and have a drain in them, so the floor can be hosed off of anything, including spilled milk.

With our system, we would milk some cows, and it would go into a little 7 gallon tank, which would then pump it over to the bulk tank when it was full. It would come though some pipes and then drop down via gravity though a “sock filter” (not a real sock – that’s just what it is called). It would fall into a tray which had a “sheet filter” in it, which would gravity feed into the tank. When not in use, the tray would be removed, and a hinged lid would be closed (not sealed).

A cow’s body temperature is 101 degrees, so that is about how warm the milk is. The warm milk is coming in on one end of the tank, and the refrigerator unit is on the other end. Ever take a bath and add more hot water, but it is all at one end? That’s is what the paddles were for – to mix the milk for better efficiency of refrigeration, not to prevent the milk and cream from separating. Since it is raw milk with bacteria (the filters were just to get what little dirt might be there from the cow’s body), it needs to go from about 100 degrees to 40 degrees or less to be safe from growing that bacteria. The paddle is in the milk, but the axle goes up through the top of the tank to a motor that is sitting on top.

At the bottom of one end, not the refrigerated side, was a way for the tanker to connect up. It was like a hose bib, but about 4” in diameter at the bottom. They hook up, and then turn open a valve on the tank. Afterwards, they would hook up a motor to it that would then clean the tank.

You hear about these suckers being converted into fermenters as small dairy farms shut down. The refrigeration this is not an issue in my head. The paddles… well, there is a little bit of air getting in via the axel, but maybe the paddles are removed and it is plugged, or maybe not. How would the paddles affect sediment? The big opening on the top is my biggest worry, though, the opening must remain, it is just how it is closed that worries me. The opening at the base could not be used due to the lees, but that would just stay closed and only opened for cleaning.

http://corinswalkinthepark.blogspot.com/2009/07/ridgeview-dairy-farm-in-argyle-new-york.html - I think they miss quoted the farmer on this tank because we operated about the same size farm. Farmers work in pounds, not gallons, so I think they were working with about 800 gallons every other day, which is what we did (once, we went three days and filled it because the tanker couldn’t get there due to roads, and we had to dump it. Sad sad day). Anyway, the entry for the milk into the tank is on the far end, and the bluish thing on top is the motor for the paddles. I’m not seeing the refrigerator coils, which is a little odd. This picture was taken between milkings, so the filters are not in place.
 

grapeman

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Unless you have worked with a dairy as I have, most people don't know the inner workings of the equipment, so have no real way of helping with something like this.

Do you plan on making fresh cider for sale, or hard cider? All you mention is that you want to start a cidery. Like I said, it would be great to store fresh pressed cider until bottling, but would not be very useful for fermenting in. It would also be quite large and being likely unsealed, would not work well for storage. The tank I had was vacuum sealed, but only as long as the 3 horsepower vacuum pump was running.

I agree with you that the guy in that story was misquoted and it shoul have been 7000 pounds every other day for 65 cows- that is a bit over 50 pounds per cow per day- not too bad, but some dairies are producing around 100 pounds per cow per day, or about 12 gallons average!
 

Runningwolf

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Thanks for sharing that information. I have several dairy farms around me and I found it very interesting just to know how the whole process worked. Now if the farmer can just keep his cows in the pasture instead on on the road. Wow thats a hell of a lot cider you would be making. Sounds awesome. Hey, just a thought..can you reverse the process and use the tubes you hook up to the utters and use them for bottling, ROFLMAO! :ib
 
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Wade E

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Stainless steel can rust at any weld and can also pit. When welding Stainless steel the joints will come in contact with slight metals that are not pure so those ares there can rust and harsh chemicals can make it pit. I dont know anything about anything else to do with this tank though so hopefully grapeman has given you all the answers you needed.
 

Wade E

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I know when I buy cider there is quite a bit of sediment in there so wouldnt you want that stirred up so as not to clear up and look like apple juice?
 

grapeman

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Remember Wade, those tanks have paddles in them- instant stirring.
 

Runningwolf

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Remember Wade, those tanks have paddles in them- instant stirring.
Yeah just like my SWMBO always stirring up crap. LOL Really she is a good person to be putting up with me.
 
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Do you plan on making fresh cider for sale, or hard cider? All you mention is that you want to start a cidery. Like I said, it would be great to store fresh pressed cider until bottling, but would not be very useful for fermenting in. It would also be quite large and being likely unsealed, would not work well for storage. The tank I had was vacuum sealed, but only as long as the 3 horsepower vacuum pump was running.

I agree with you that the guy in that story was misquoted and it should have been 7000 pounds every other day for 65 cows- that is a bit over 50 pounds per cow per day- not too bad, but some dairies are producing around 100 pounds per cow per day, or about 12 gallons average!
Sorry, that would be hard cider. It is just one of those things where I have this dream, and I have this tank that some would kill for - can I get the two to work together? I have time to figure it out.

Well, we had some 100 lb milk producers a milking if they had just calved (given birth), but then nine months later when you were drying them up (they quit giving milk - kind of like weaning) for better health for the next calf, you are talking something like 20 lbs a milking (a little over 2 gallons). So basically, you got to figure that you have all of the above and in between, so yeah, that figure doesn't work.
 

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