Author Topic: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks  (Read 23629 times)

Offline punatic

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Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« on: July 14, 2011, 03:51:21 AM »
I am looking to ferment mead in larger volumes than five gallons.  My bees have been busy.  I have a lot of honey.  Does anyone have any experience with fermenting in medium density polyethylene cylindroconical fermenters like this one.  If so, how well do they work?  Worries, concerns, thoughts?
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 04:33:02 AM »
I have no experience with those, but I'm interested to know how it goes if you get one.

I might be inclined to just go with some really big buckets (aka trash cans) instead though.  Much cheaper and easier to store.

Then there's these . . .
http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/19683/103207/Macro_Bin_-_Half_Ton
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Offline narvin

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 01:57:41 PM »

Then there's these . . .
http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/19683/103207/Macro_Bin_-_Half_Ton

Square fermenters!  My inner monk just had a fantasy about fermenting 4 bbl of Saison in one of those.
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Offline oscarvan

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2011, 02:03:23 PM »
I am looking at one of those very vessels, except for a different purpose. I do double batches, and chilling in the brew kettle slows me waay down as the HLT and MT have to wait unused for the two hours that the BK is tied up, instead of it all being busy. So, I'm planning of getting one of these conical tubs, put the mother of all coils in there and use it as a chiller. The great added benefit is also that the cone will help collect trub and I can easily dump the first quart with all the gook in it, and then splash away into the fermenters.

And, if ambient temperatures are right, I could also ferment in it.

In discussing this with a knowledgeable person he pointed out that, most likely, this tub is welded and not seam free like our buckets. He expressed concern that these welds may not be as smooth as we would like and that they may have crevices that can harbor bad bugs......

With that in mind I was going to look at one of them before I bought.....

BTW, I think I sourced them cheaper here.....

http://www.plastic-mart.com/category.aspx?cat=19

« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 02:05:06 PM by oscarvan »
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2011, 02:37:13 PM »
Long-term, I would have contamination concerns using something with a threaded fitting. I know of some breweries that have used them for a cheap short-term increase in capacity and had issues.

How would you clean it? It's too big to do by hand, but doesn't have a CIP ball, so you'd have to mock up some sort of fitting to get a ball on the lid.

All in all, I'd go with a trash can.
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2011, 02:42:13 PM »
The company that manufactures the tank in the first post is in my in-laws home town.  Literally next door to my mother-in-laws house.  

They do roto-molding for the most part for this kind of tank (getting into blow molds and other types for other kinds of tanks) so there should be no welded seems.  As others have said the threaded fittings may cause issues after a time though.

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« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 03:30:09 PM by Slowbrew »
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Offline micsager

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2011, 02:54:01 PM »
I am looking to ferment mead in larger volumes than five gallons.  My bees have been busy.  I have a lot of honey.  Does anyone have any experience with fermenting in medium density polyethylene cylindroconical fermenters like this one.  If so, how well do they work?  Worries, concerns, thoughts?


I bought one of these, built a rack in my fridge for it, installed a couple ball valves, and decided that there was just too many places for bugs to hang out and ruin my beer.  Never used it once. 

Offline euge

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2011, 10:35:30 PM »
Is MDPE considered food grade plastic? My concern is leaching something into the mead, though that might be more of a consideration at high temps. And can the plastic handle the acidic environment without contamination to the mead?

Do smaller scale wineries/vintners use something similar? I would use what they use.



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Offline richardt

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2011, 11:03:32 PM »
MDPE vs HDPE?  Are they equivalent?

Offline a10t2

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2011, 11:18:24 PM »
MDPE vs HDPE?  Are they equivalent?

Other than the density, I'd say so. ;D
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Offline punatic

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2011, 01:27:39 AM »
Yes, the difference between medium density and high density polyethylene (MDPE vs HDPE) is density.  Yes these tanks are used by wine makers; albeit larger volume tanks.  The spec sheet on the tanks made from MDPE and HDPE rate them as resistant to ethanol.  The promotional materials state these tanks are FDA approved food grade, and are popular with bio-diesel manufacturers, wine makers and beer brewers.

The comments about cleaning the tank and the threads being a contamination concern are interesting.  I'm not being argumentative, I want to consider the pros and cons before spending any money.  Freight to Hawaii  at least doubles the cost of equipment.

I was thinking that these tanks would be used for fermentation and clarification.  The valve at the bottom being used to remove sediment as needed instead of pumping to another vessle.  Mead would go staight from this kind of tank into the bottling equipment.  The turn around time for a new batch going into the tank would be 6 months more or less.  At that rate cleaning and sanitizing the tank and threads could be more time and labor consuming, but not cause as much of a problem as it woukd for a two week turn around time for batches of beer.

Does anyone have any firsthand experience with mead/wine making in these kind of tanks?  Garbage cans are not really an option.  This is research for going pro. I can't seem to find any 250 gallon garbage cans.  The rectangular ones Tom linked to are interesting, but I prefer a closed tank for long term.  Conical for sediment removal too.

The thought process is - limit capital investment in the beginning.  When the business model proves to be successful spend the money to upgrade to stainless.   If the business model doesn't work - losses are reduced.

Did I mention that I have a s***load of honey, and more on the way?
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Offline richardt

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2011, 02:34:32 AM »
I know there's a difference between MDPE and HDPE density-wise, but what I meant was is there a difference as far as oxygen permeability goes (especially when compared to glass or SS)? 

With regards to mead fermenting for 6 months in MDPE--I'd be a little concerned about oxidation.

Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2011, 03:14:07 AM »
I have been fermenting in plastic conical with threaded fittings for years.
I also have 350 Gal plastic fermenters in the brewery.
Those are fitted with CIP ball for cleaning.

To answer your question. They do work just fine. How do you plan controlling the temperature?
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Offline punatic

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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2011, 03:45:24 AM »
I have been fermenting in plastic conical with threaded fittings for years.
I also have 350 Gal plastic fermenters in the brewery.
Those are fitted with CIP ball for cleaning.

To answer your question. They do work just fine. How do you plan controlling the temperature?

I am in Hawaii.  At elevation 2000 ft. MSL ambient air temp fermentation is no problem year round.  A shaded building with interior walls in the fermentation room should hold steady in the low 70s F.  Maybe a couple of window unit type ACs for hot days.  Lucky thing... residential electricty cost 48 cents per kWh on my last home electric bill.  Commercial power is even higher.  We are going with PV panels ASAP.  The payback period for PV is very short here, especially with the tax credits available.

I remember seeing pictures posted here a few months ago of someone's brewery.  I think they had something to do with the construction of a walk in cooler.  In those pictures I saw ar least one of these MDPE  cylindroconical type of fermenters.  I was hoping that someone who uses them would respond. 

Are there any flavor problems with the first batch(es)?  Do they need curing prior to production?  The spec sheet lists MDPE and HDPE as having "suspected" stress cracking possible with long term exposure to ethanol containing liquids.  Have you seen any of that?

Thank you for responding.  Your input is greatly appreciated!
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Re: Large Volume MDPE (plastic) Fermentation Tanks
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2011, 12:28:07 PM »
The thought process is - limit capital investment in the beginning.  When the business model proves to be successful spend the money to upgrade to stainless.   If the business model doesn't work - losses are reduced.

There are several other threads on PB, but this is the one I was thinking of: http://probrewer.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=5359
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