Author Topic: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?  (Read 10317 times)

Offline rkausch

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Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« on: January 12, 2012, 04:22:33 PM »
Ok, so, first things first, I'll admit, I'm a bit obsessive, and do some off the wall stuff, because I think it's fun.  No, this project isn't "necessary", but I'm getting a kick out of it.

So, I'm rebuilding my system, to make it easier to use on brew day.  I've decided to hard-plumb all the connections with solid pipe, and am having some trouble deciding what material to use.  My system is basically a 3 kettle system, in roughly the same layout as a Brutus 10, with all the kettles side by side, at the same elevation from the ground. 

The purist in me says "use stainless steel pipe", because that's what all of the connections, valves, etc are made of, and dang it, it looks pretty.  Problem is, it's not easy to find (unless I'm not looking in the right places), and rather expensive (IIRC, Grainger wanted to sell me a 10 foot length of Schedule 5 at around $40.00).

Well, the economist in me says "use copper", as it's most likely cheaper, and I can find it easily (home depot, etc). 

So, I know that copper kind of acts as a nutrient for the yeast if present in the boil kettle, which is a good thing, and stainless steel is easy to keep clean. 

So, are there any good reasons to use either approach? 

Thanks in advance!
Rob

Offline Gribble

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2012, 04:44:50 PM »
I did mine with copper, sweat all the fittings and used 1/2" SS camlocks.  I found the copper easy to work with and the build went fairly well.  Cleaning isn't a hassle.  On the wort side I run acid 5 and pbw about every 3 brews and it stays just as clean as the day i put it all together.
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Offline EHall

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 10:35:32 AM »
SS would be the best way to go and definately looks great. Copper is safe... its in the plumping in your house! So either way will work, I think you need to shop around locally for SS tubing... any kind of welders or metal shops in your town?
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Offline rkausch

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 12:02:55 PM »
Thanks for the replies...

Quote
Cleaning isn't a hassle.  On the wort side I run acid 5 and pbw about every 3 brews and it stays just as clean as the day i put it all together.

Interesting note about the cleaning frequency.  I would have thought you need to clean with PBW after every brew.  Do you just rinse with water on the non-PBW cleanings?

Quote
any kind of welders or metal shops in your town?

I live in the south eastern Denver area, and have a couple of metal shops I've used over the years for standard steel box tubes (that's what I built the rest of the brewery out of).  I need to call around though for other sources. 

I can't claim credit for the idea on this, but I'm going to tie everything together with a "patch panel" with quick disconnects, so I can route any liquid source, through a pump, to any liquid destination.  Here's a pic of the patch panel as it was being built:


Offline Gribble

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2012, 12:45:23 PM »
Quote
Interesting note about the cleaning frequency.  I would have thought you need to clean with PBW after every brew.  Do you just rinse with water on the non-PBW cleanings?


Sorry for the confusion, no pbw after every brew and acid 5 and pbw after every 3 for beer stone accumulation.

Nice patch panel.  Just make sure if you're using 809 March pumps I would install a bleeder valve on the outlet side to pop the air bubble.  Even with my pumps at the lowest point in the system I still have one hell of a time priming with no bleeder valve.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2012, 12:49:12 PM by Gribble »
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Offline another1

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2012, 06:31:33 PM »
with the patch panel, wouldn't you be concerned about the amount of liquid loss, i.e. the shorter the pipe the more beer that doesn't get left behind?
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Offline Gribble

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 07:22:04 PM »
Yeah you'll lose a little bit, but depending on where your pump is and how long your pipe is the loss is minimal
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2012, 01:57:08 AM »
Bleeder valve?
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Offline Gribble

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2012, 02:57:47 AM »
yeah.    even if the pump is at the lowest point of the system if you're pumping back up the air bubble can stick in the pump head making it extremely hard to prime, however on the outlet side of the pump install a t with a valve so you can bleed the air out of the pump allowing it to prime easier.
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2012, 03:24:42 AM »
yeah.    even if the pump is at the lowest point of the system if you're pumping back up the air bubble can stick in the pump head making it extremely hard to prime, however on the outlet side of the pump install a t with a valve so you can bleed the air out of the pump allowing it to prime easier.
Ah, cool! I had never thought of that. Thanks for the tip! I guess you just open it up until wort (or water?) comes out?
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Offline BazBaz77

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2017, 10:25:17 AM »
I know it's more expensive, but I prefer sanitary stainless when it comes to my system.  I get my fittings from stainless steel fittings . com, so the prices are a little bit better.  I'm kind of OCD about bacteria growth though lol.  I do have a few friends who use copper pipe and they haven't had any issues so far.

http://www.stainlesssteelfittings.com/Sanitary_Fittings_stainless_s/2035.htm

Offline coolman26

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2017, 07:35:49 AM »
IMO, there is only one way to go. Stainless will not oxidize. It will not cause Fenton reactions with the wort. If I were building my system again, it would be stainless only. I’ve had trouble with Fenton reactions with all of the copper I had in my system. It cause the finished beer to oxidize prematurely. I would be chilling with stainless also. Copper is cheaper and easier to work with for sure. I second the bleeder on the pump. I come out of the outlet with a tee. I put another ball valve and a street ell to aim into a container. Priming is never an issue. All this is just my opinion. If you do go with copper, I would research the use of Brewtan B.


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Offline Phil_M

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2017, 07:57:26 AM »
I'm considering a hard-plumbed stainless upgrade to my new-to-me homebrewery. Stainless is really the only option, and Mcmaster-Carr is your friend. Copper doesn't hold up well to brewery cleaners, in my experience, and would certainly be a huge issue if you ever want to brew low oxygen. While not all my brews fall into that category, it's an option I don't want to give up.

My idea would omit your patch panel idea, and instead use a system of valves to re-route flow as needed. The basic idea would be to keep everything in simple loops, with removable caps so the straight sections can be easily cleaned. I'd still use short silicone hose "jumpers" to go from the kettles to the "frame" though.
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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2017, 09:09:17 AM »
I can't imagine having a stainless diverter panel fabbed and then plumbing it in copper to save a few bucks. Just one man's opinion.
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Offline Bilsch

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Re: Hard-plumbing the brewery - Stainless Steel or Copper?
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2017, 12:46:23 PM »
Onlinemetals.com is a great place for stainless tubing in many sizes and wall thickness. T-304 seamless stainless tube is a good choice and thinner wall like .02 is easier to bend.