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Using my wood boiler to boil wort (beer)

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by buddha, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    I have been heating with my OWB for two years now and I have been curious about adjusting the boiler for use in one of my hobbies - Brewing Beer.

    When brewing beer I need to bring wort to a boil. To bring it to boil I was thinking about adding a pressurized loop (relief valve at 30psi) with the pressurized loop all copper so I dont have pex failure.

    I want to separate the boiler water from the wort, but I am not sure what heat exchanger would work best in this situation. I would like to use an immersion coil but I am not sure what dia and length I would need. Does anyone know what the BTU output of a 1/2OD (3/8 ID) X 25' ft coil would be? The pump is a grundfos 1/25 at up to 17gpm.

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  2. MarkW

    MarkW Member

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    I would think it would take quite the heat exchanger to get a good boil for proper hops utilization and carmelization, if your recipe needs that.

    I do want to use my OWB for a HERMS system and heating strike water.
  3. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    I use the upper chamber of my shut down boiler and make use of the latent heat to raise bread dough and to sterilize seed starting soil.
  4. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    What type of OWB are you running that can hold thirty psi without risking a repeat of the Medina debacle?
    Fred61 likes this.
  5. NCFord

    NCFord Member

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    you can't do it right? boiler temps are only 180 to 200. How are you going to boil something with that low of water temp? Are talking of raising the temp, thus the psi to achieve this? Thanks allot of energy to brew a batch of beer.
    I don't keep track of how many batches of beer I can brew with a 20lb propane tank, but its more than a few. If you do work something out let us know. Good luck.
  6. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    I am running a Heiss Heater Gasification Boiler. It is basically a gasser made of refractory cement and copper pipes. It is setup to work as a pressurized system or open system. I am not sure how much pressure it will take, which is why I listed it above at 30psi to see if it would work. Is 30 psi too much for copper? Isn't it essentially 15 psi already due to elevation?

    At the risk of showing my ignorance, I have to ask. What is Medina debacle?
  7. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    Water boils at 212 at 15psi (which is the normal pressure at our elevation) and at 250 at 30 psi. By pressurizing the boiler loop I should be able to reach temps above 212 which would hopefully be enough to boil wort.
  8. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    If my math is right it actually takes more BTUs/hr to heat to mash temps than it does to heat from mash temp to boiling. Temp delta is a big factor driving BTUs and the difference between ground water (150-55=95) and mash to boil is greater (212-150=62)

    That said I am not sure my math IS right. The equation I used for BTUs/hr is GPM*500*delta T which would put
    mash at 712500 BTUs and Boil at 465000. I know this equation cant be the end of line for this calculation as simply slowing down the pump would change the value greatly and it doesnt factor in the materials and temp of heating liquid.

    I am hoping someone with a better grasp on thermodynamics can help out a bit.
  9. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    I am just going to say that I don't like this one bit. I don't see how the relatively minimal energy savings could out way the potential for a situation that falls in the category of dangerous, harmful, destructive, damaging, terrifying, etc.

    I am all for brewing your own beer but no need to add this kind of risk to your hobby, IMO.

    Relax_Don_t_Worry_Have_a_Homebrew__blue.jpg

    Noah
  10. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    I appreciate your concern, the reason I posted this was to learn before I did something stupid. Could you elaborate on what you find bad? I certainly dont want to create a dangerous situation but I have a hard time scraping the idea on a blanket statement.

    I understand some people are concerned with pressurizing the system which is why I included a relatively low pressure 30 psi relief valve. If 30 psi is too high to be safe, I suppose I could leave it as an open system and run steam through the hx, blowing it off as it is produced.
  11. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Pretty sure the reference was to the Medina boiler explosion. Nasty happening as is any boiler explosion.

    Pretty sure as well that the concerns mentioned are in relation to the temp & pressure you may be considering in this case. IE if anything goes wrong, say a safety fails well then you have a bomb & bombs like to go BOOM. Not something you wish to have happen outside of a lab setup for just such things.

    FWIW I would not try this just on the safety issues, the pressure & temps you may approach would require a power engineer up here.

    Think of it this way if it fails badly what will it cost to replace the OWB & that's probably best case scenario on a boiler failure.

    IE you only kill the boiler.

    Read about the medina explosion & you will understand why so many hesitate to give you a nod of approval.
  12. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    Is the copper tubing in the boiler L or M rated? Do you have any numbers that will tell you what the intense heat seen by this tubing does to the rating. Most pressure ratings give you X pounds of pressure at X degrees. Higher temperature really derates the capacity.
  13. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    I see your point, doesn't sound nearly as scary as a big tub of 230-250 degF water ready to flash. Still I think that when they set up to boil water with water it's done with steam jackets and well-engineered purpose-built vessels. The online brewing community can offer a lot of very good ideas, I'd study up there and see if there may be something more conventional that would work well and economically.
  14. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

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    A "turkey fryer" tripod burner and a 20lb. tank of propane will boil many batches of beer for short money and is also invaluable come canning season for processing fruits and veggies.

    I found mine at the dump in perfect working condition but they're probably inexpensive new at W-mart.

    Instant control of the heat is very useful in preventing wort boil-overs. And where does one get those Papazian bottle caps?
  15. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    Buddha,

    EW's comment here addresses my biggest concern.

    Your boiler is not designed for this type of use. That said, I can't offer any real sciency explanations as to why you shouldn't proceed....I just know overheat protection should not be taken lightly and a high mass boiler has little ability to cool quickly if needed. And a PRV should be the last resort for an overeat situation, IMO.

    I like Dave's suggestion. I also really like the idea of an outdoor kitchen with a wood cook stove. My wife is really getting into brewing beer(YES!) and we also do a lot of canning. We recently acquired an old Meal Master that I hope to set up this spring/summer. Looking forward to keeping the house cooler during canning season. No AC needed here in the mountains but I think about it sometimes when we have excessive internal heat gains from cooking.

    Not sure they are available for a reasonable price. This is all I found:http://www.ebay.com/itm/RELAX-DONT-WORRY-HAVE-HOMEBREW-CAPS-/160920885183
    $9.95 (with shipping) for 20 caps!!!!

    Noah
  16. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    My burner is rated at 140,000+ btu. It takes most of an hour to bring 13 gallons of wort to a boil from mashout temp (180ish). I would like to see how long it takes to do that with a 230° coil, but I doubt that it would even boil.

    Interesting thought, but from safety and practicality standpoints, I'd leave it at a thought.
  17. MarkW

    MarkW Member

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    I run an electric keggle w/4500 watt element. I get a proper rolling boil on a 5 gallon batch at 70% output. It is stable, repeatable and above all, safe.
    I dont know enough to go into the ramifications of running your system at temps such as you are suggesting. However, I cant help but wonder how large your heat exchanger would need to be in order to get a good boil. And personally, I wouldnt want to have to clean it.
    As I said before, it makes perfect sense to heat strike water and maybe use for mashing/step mashing. I'm just not sure the returns are there to justify the risk for the boil.
    BTW...happy brewing!
  18. buddha

    buddha New Member

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  19. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    I'd do a little searching here on Hearth and elsewhere regarding your choice in boilers. I would not consider taking your boiler anywhere near 30psi. Our more mainstream boilers consistently run in the 20-25psi range but, forgive my frankness, ours are manufactured using a very different set of standards compared to the Heiss units. By all accounts I've read on the Heiss setup these are just one step above a DIY boiler. I would not tempt fate. Keep those pressures as low as possible. My two cents only...be safe.
  20. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    Thank you for the advice. I know some guys are using pressure cookers as steam generators, which is why I started thinking of doing this. Seeing how the copper in my boiler is brazed, I figured I would be fine with a relief valve. I might have to rethink this and at the very least run this by a professional if I decide to move forward.

    I have read some bad reviews on older models, but they are improving constantly and their service has been pretty good. I had an older model and it had a problem that required replacement under warranty. They didnt have my model in stock so they rushed out their gassification model for me to use until they get one made for me.

    I have had a couple issues with my boiler, but Heiss has worked to make it right and in two years the investment has already paid off for the boiler so I cant really complain.
  21. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I think you have a type of heater that is going to be very difficult to control because the heat is in the mass rather than in the water. Once you get the heater up high enough to reach 212*+ how are you going to throttle it back and keep from going waaaay past where you want to be?
    The other thing is that running pumps at temperature above 210 or so is very hard on them. Many are rated for a max temp between 220-240*. Beyond that they are toast.
    While I admire your resourcefulness, I would not risk the integrity of your boiler for the sake of DIY beer making.
    maple1 likes this.
  22. buddha

    buddha New Member

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    I will probably scrap this idea, however, if I did proceed I was planning on leaving the pump off. This would create steam and enough pressure to pass through the HX and vent to the atmosphere. I am no longer planning on a pressurized loop. Open Storage tank is higher than the boiler so water would run to the boiler by gravity.

    I asked the manufacturer about using the model I have to generate steam and they said it would work. They actually have models that are made for steam applications.

    Also, if I was to proceed I would have a licensed contractor make any safety adjustments and approve the plan.
    heaterman likes this.
  23. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    With the process you are planning to get into, I think you're barking up the right tree with that idea.
  24. outdoorlover83

    outdoorlover83 New Member

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    I have a heiss and its way better the steel one i had. Their quality seems great! Maybe read up on the new ones.

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