A tale of woe.

So, how’s my week been? I know what you’re thinking, “any week ‘shinin’ is a good week,”. Ordinarily, I’d agree. However, remember that time I said something like, “I have a bunch of new equipment to try out. I don’t trust it, but I have high hopes,”? Well, the Chapman steel fermenter has left much to be desired…at least in my mind.

First, if you’re a home brewer or distiller, you’re probably aware that ants, to put it bluntly, fucking love the fermentation process. Why? Well, because where there’s fermentation there’s sugar. As Forrest Gump and/or Confucious said, “Fermentation and sugar go together like peas and carrots,”.  You simply can’t have one without the other. Mashes, washes and worts all have a high sugar content in the early stages.

But we know this, why is it relevant?

Because my superfly, deluxe Chapman 14 gallon stainless steel fermenter leaks. Yep. It leaks. Don’t get me wrong, the welding is all great. The problem is around the valve. Before you ask, yes, I did tighten it. I made sure it was closed. I placed the rubber washers appropriately, and I was judicious in the application of teflon tape. I have (what I hope) is a  $2.00 long term solution. I will let you know. Tonight is all about me ranting, so let’s get it on.

Here it is, the scene of the crime. You can see the soaking wet towel in the center of a scene of insectile slaughter. Truly, the 17th of May is a day that will live in ant infamy for generations to come.

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By the way, rum is both sticky and rank when it ferments.

Lest you be concerned, I assure you that the booze is currently safe. I’ll publish some stats on it in a later post, but the rum that survived the leak fermented rather delightfully. The ABV in the wash continues to climb though I expect it to plateau and cease in the next few hours.

So, what did I do? Simple. I moved it.

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You should note a few things in this picture. First, and foremost, the fermentation has bleached the color from the rich brown to the tan that most distillers know and love. Second, you should be able to see the line where the wash was when the yeast was added, and it’s current level. At the time of this photo, I had lost around a gallon.

Here’s the wash in transit. Should any of you ever have to move fermenting liquid always remember:

  1. Keep it sanitary. The last thing you want is to lose a batch because of haste or general carelessness. This means sanitizing hoses, pumps, kettles, whatever it takes. I used my sweet new brew kettle.
  2. Limit exposure to air. Do you know what the anaerobic respiration of yeast doesn’t need? More Oxygen.
  3. Try to get as much of the sludge on the bottom as you can. Dormant yeast sinks. You don’t really need dormant yeast. Unfortunately, many of the yeast nutrients also sink. Scrape as much of the sludge as you can (in a sterile way)

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Once the booze was safely and sterile-ly in the kettle, I took a look at the fermenter:

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Sorry for the terrible photo quality here. I’m pretty sure the brain inside of my Canon lost its mind trying to figure out what I was photographing. The point is that the leak occurred not between the washer and the tank (sealed with a rubber washer), but between the washer and the valve (sealed only with teflon tape). I’m going to solve this problem and I’ll tell you what works. I will also provide some less terrible photos of the fix.

I’m getting ahead of myself. At this time yesterday, I didn’t know that the leak was persistent (after I tightened the fittings). I thought that I might have solved my issue, but I wasn’t convinced. What did I do…I trashed it. Classy, right?

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Unfortunately, it was not to be. The leak persisted and it needed to be moved once more to it’s final resting place (pre-still).

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Now all that’s left to do is wait and hope that my anal retentive sterilization was sufficient. The countdown ticks on. Hopefully the wash won’t mold.

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