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IBC totes as fermenters

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Anyone have any feedback on using IBC totes as fermenters.  We are a start up on a show string budget. 1) we can get used food grade for $100 and we get totes of molasses for our rum. Just seems common sense to use them in place of fermenters that cost thousands each.

Thoughts?

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iliasm    0

They work wonderfully, and a lot of distilleries including myself use them. I ferment grapes in them, cleaning can become an issue but with molasses, it should fairly easy since there's no solids.

Cheers,

-ilias

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PeteB    45

I currently have 7 running as fermenters.

I have enlarged the hole in the top to make them easier to clean. Draining the last solids/liquids is the main inconvenience.

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I don't know where you are, but if the ambient temperatures in the distillery are in the mid to high 80s, it's very easy for a IBC to push well into the high 90s during fermentation.  Heck, pitching into an 80f tank in even the mid 70s ambient would probably push into the high 80s.  Overtemp fermentations are going to result in higher fusel and ester formation, giving you either a lower yield, or a "dirtier" product.  Depending on what you are fermenting, and what your fermentation/yeast protocols are, you might find that you get stuck fermentations as well (>100f, yeast cell death, etc).

Generally, fermenters are expensive because they have cooling jackets, so not just a metal tank, but typically two metal tanks with the cooling mechanisms, etc.  Not to mention additional ports for racking, draining, maybe CIP for cleaning, manways, etc.  It all adds up.

There's no magic to a fermenter, you could line up a bunch of old hot tubs along the wall and use them to ferment  (Hot Tub Time Machine Bourbon sounds delish).  A blow up kiddie pool would make for an awesome sight too.  One time I had a line on a big cedar plunge pool the was supposed to go in a fancy mountain house that never ended up getting assembled.  That would have been pretty cool too.

 

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glisade    9

We use two 330 gallon totes as fermentors and put cooling coils into them to help keep temps relatively stable. These coils from Bubbas Barrels will fit inside the standard opening: http://www.bubbasbarrels.com/cooling-coil

I had Bubbas sell me just the coil with straight stainless lines, no triclamp or hose barb. The coils sit in the tote with the stainless lines poking through the tote screw lid then I run lines to a glycol chiller in parallel. I added an exit CO2 port in the back of each tote and temp gauges on each. I also added a thermowell to the back of one and put an Inkbird temp sensor into the thermowell and have the glycol chiller turn on and off based on the Inkbird temp sensor point. We go into the fermentors at about 75F and the wort usually doesn't get much higher than the lower 80s...BUT we also have some A/C in the distillery and keep it about 78-82.  So it's a combination of the two that keeps it stable. The coil alone is very undersized for this amount of wort..coil is 3-4 bbl and it sits in 10bbl of wort. But we're not trying to make a 68F ale....

Silk City is right though and to me this should only be a startup/temporary solution.

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Does anyone have a dedicated room that they hold their totes in that is temp controlled?  Seems like this would be a pretty simple way to keep them relatively stable.  

 

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Tom Lenerz    12

We don't use totes, but we have a few non-jacketed tanks. Last week we did 500 gallons of bourbon mash, knocked out about 72 degrees, and pitched. Fermentation finished before temperature got high enough to kill off our yeast. Room was between 74 and 80 all week.

If you are going to do a lot of fermenting in non-jacketed tanks, you could get a coil like suggested, or they make drop in plates, or even an external heat-exchanger. Just monitor temps on active fermentations for the first 48 hours and drop in the cooling source or run through an exchanger as needed. This would be much more efficient than  trying to air-cool the tanks by controlling the temperature. 

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ChrisSD    1

Hey @whiskeytango we have a customer that does their fermentations in single wall fermenters within a fully temperature controlled room.  I'm not sure if they want me mentioning their name, but they say it works out wonderfully!!

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35 minutes ago, ChrisSD said:

Hey @whiskeytango we have a customer that does their fermentations in single wall fermenters within a fully temperature controlled room.  I'm not sure if they want me mentioning their name, but they say it works out wonderfully!!

Well if they would be into answering any questions please point them my way.  Always like to hear how things really are working out.  

 

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SlickFloss    2

Whip yourself up 4 wort chillers (copper coils, run them concurrently off cool source not consecutively) and place them in the four corners of tote through the man way and you got yourself a pretty wicked fermenter..... Also, whip up your own CIP by modifying a tote top to take a spray ball and just detach one off one of your main vessels if you have them detachable (try clamped on) or just buy one...... and bravo! you got CIP'd fermenters for next to nothing if you do them yourself.....

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indyspirits    33
54 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

We have the coils below for $350.00 each.  The tubing diameter is 1".    You can maintain the mash temp in your tote with 1 or 2 of these.

 

What's the total length? What I really want to know is the surface area.

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