SsBrewtech Brite Tank

I think every home brewers dream is to own a commercial brewery at some point. For most of us, it’s a dream that will never become a reality. But what about having a commercial home brew setup? That’s doable with the first ever brite tank at a home brew level from Ss Brewing Technologies.

 

What is a brite tank? A brite tank AKA serving tank or secondary tank, is a vessel in which beer is placed after primary fermentation and filtering.  Usually set to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s used to clarify, carbonate and further mature a beer.  It’s also use for storing beer ready for kegging, bottling, canning and packaging and is engineered to be cold, hold pressure and be easy to clean. A brite tank can also serve as a serving vessel.

A brite tank vessel has never been seen at a home brew level and as innovative home brewers we have had to come up with ways to perform a brite tanks functions with the equipment we have available.  Most home brewers modify kegs to mimic some features of a brite tank (we did in our setup) but I think its important to point out that a brite tank and keg are two completely different vessels serving two completely different functions.  A keg is a serving vessel and designed only to be a serving vessel. Brite tanks are carbonation, clarifying and storage vessel with a secondary function as a serving vessel.  They have different functions in and purposes in a brewery.   I think it is important to make that distinction clear upfront because as home brewers we have this mentality that “I can just use a keg”.  You can modify a keg to perform similar functions as a brite tank, and we did in our setup, but after running a few beers through the brite tank we really got to see the benefits of a true brite tank. So lets take a look at the features of the SsBrewtech Brite Tank and compare it to a keg and take a look at the differences.

Volume & Dimensions

First thing to look at is volume and dimensions.  Brite tanks purpose are to be storage tanks for clarifying and maturation.  The Ss Brewtech Brite tank has a 15″ diameter and holds 10 gallons of beer. Your standard corny keg has a 9″ diameter and holds 5 gallons of beer.  The obvious, 10 gallons is more than 5 gallons which means less equipment used and less to clean and sterilize. The larger diameter of the brite tank has a benefit as well.  As the brite beer is being stored/carbed at low temperatures, the beer will continue to clear resulting in some more fall out and trub to gather on the bottom.  With the larger diameter, the trub will be a thinner layer than thicker trub layer within the smaller diameter keg.  So whats the benefit of that? Looking at the inside of the keg, the pickup tube is fairly close to the bottom of the keg. The thicker layer of trub would be more prone to be picked up during pours, but we will touch on that a bit more later.  The other feature that is a big separator from a keg is the site glass.  The brite tank has an external site glass with volume etchings at 1 gallon intervals.  So in a closed state when pressure transferring into the brite tank you can watch your volume levels accurately.  This is not possible with a keg, you have no visibility into the keg in a closed state so you cannot tell if you are short or about to over fill.

 

Carbonating

Carbonation is the primary function of a brite tank.  Beer is carbonated and clarified before it is packaged in kegs, bottles, cans etc.  Majority of home brewers use a keg to carbonate because that is the equipment we have.  Kegs are designed to be serving vessels and not to carbonate a beer, however, we have found ways to carbonate a beer in a keg.  There are two ways we usually carb, the “low and slow” method which takes 5-7 days to fully carbonate a keg.  The other method is burst carbing which is setting the pressure higher (20-30psi) which takes about 2 days.  There are downsides to the burst carbing method from within a keg.  You risk carb bite, which is, as described, a bite at the end which has a metallic/soapy flavor to it, and with lack of accuracy, a simply over carbonated beer.  The proper way of carbonating beer is with the use of a carb stone.  Ss Brewtechs brite tank has a built in carb stone and, just like commercial systems, is designed for proper burst carbing.  It also has a pressure gauge mounted on the top 6″ TC next to the pressure release valve which gives you the ability to monitor head pressure.  So how does this all work together?  Well exactly how commercial breweries do it, you set the inlet pressure of the carb stone to around 30 PSI, then monitor the head pressure until the desired carb limit is reached, typically 12-13 PSI.  Then turn down the CO2 to a reasonable serve pressures.  This process cuts carbonation time down significantly being fully carb in under 24 hours.

 

 

 

Temperature Control

Temperature control is arguably the most important variable for your finished product.  Brite tanks are designed to be around 32 degrees Fahrenheit at which you can carbonate beer efficiently as well as cold condition a beer to clarify it.  When using a keg to clarify and carbonate, the keg would have to be put into a chest freezer with a temperature controller that is set for 32 Degrees.  The temp probe is placed inside the chest freezer and measure the temperature of the air surrounding the keg.  So with a keg you do not know the temperature of the beer, you know the temperature of the environment around the beer.  Ss Brewtechs brite tank has a built-in thermowell with a LCD temperature display which allows you to measure the temperature of the beer within the vessel.  Definitely more accurate than the temperature around the vessel.  Ss Brewtech also has an optional internal chiller coil and neoprene jacket which would allow this vessel to be a stand alone.  You wouldn’t need to put it into a chest freezer, just connect it a chilling source such as a cooler with ice water or a more fancy glycol chiller.   The downside is the chiller coil and temperature controller are not included, they are additional purchases. You also would have to modify a cooler as a chilling source or splurge on a glycol chiller.  If you don’t want to spend the extra money just drop it into your chest freezer like you would do with the keg.  Having that type of configurability is a nice to have.  Here is a link to the SsBrewtech Chiller Coil and the FTSs.

 

 

Pressure Transfer

Oxidation is a beers worst enemy.  Pressure transferring beer from the fermenter into a brite tank / keg is the best way to reduce oxidation.  Using the Ss Brewtech brite tank you connect to the butterfly valve and fill the vessel from the bottom up.  To reduce oxidation you can spray a layer of Carbon Dioxide into the brite tank.  As you fill from the bottom up the beer will push the oxygen out of the vessel and only touch the CO2.  The same concept can be performed with a keg. You would connect to the out post and pressure transfer beer down the dip tube filling from the bottom up.  The major difference between the brite tank and the keg is the efficiency of transfer.  The Ss Brewtech brite tank has a larger center drain than the dip tube of a keg.  This allows for a faster transfer giving you more time to enjoy a beer.

 

 

Sampling

Part of making good beer is tasting it along the brewing process to ensure quality.  The Ss Brewtech brite tank makes it nice an easy to sample your beer with a built-in 2pc ball valve.  You have the ability to pull samples from a keg as well using a picnic tap, however, with a picnic tap you will end up with a little bit off loss from what is left in the line after sample.  It also is something you have to clean.  So while you can pull samples from both vessels, the Ss Brewtech brite tank is more convenient.

 

Serving

Serving is the primary function of a keg and, due to its versatility, a brite tanks secondary function.  Remember, in a brewing process the beer goes from fermenter, to a brite tank where its carbed and stored then packaged into serving vessels like a keg.  Serving from a corny keg you would have it within a fridge and either picnic tap or draft system.  The beer is drawn up the dip tube from the bottom of the keg, out through the poppet valve and into the tap.  If you try to purpose a keg to clarify beer (which is a brite tanks function) depending on the type of beer you brewed (like an IPA) you can end up with trub on the bottom of the keg and as mentioned before, with the narrower diameter vessel you end up with a thicker trub layer.  Here’s the issue, the pickup tube is only about 1/4″ off the bottom of the keg and has a diameter of around 5/16″.  When dispensing beer, in order to get the volume of beer out of the keg at the flow rate designed, the velocity of the beer into the pickup tube is increased because of the narrow diameter pickup tube.  This means increased flow and turbulence in an area where a thicker layer of trub is.  I can’t tell you how many times ive clogged my dip tube or post with a nice hoppy IPA. You ideally want to have already clarified beer in a keg ready to serve. Because brite tanks are so versatile they can be used as a serving vessel.  They are already at serving temperatures, the contents of the tank are carbonated and under pressure and is already clarified. Its function at this point can be looked at as a large keg.  But lets compare serving from the brite tank to serving from a keg that was used to do brite tank functions like above.  Ss Brewtechs Brite tank has a center drain at the bottom of the 15″ wide dished bottom.  The ticker diameter vessel allows for a thinner layer of trub on the bottom.  Also, the larger diameter center drain means a slower exit velocity and less turbulence around the trub reducing the amount dispensed. You don’t have to worry about poppet valves or clogged dip tubes.  Lastly, with the site glass you can actually see how much beer is left within the vessel.  You don’t have to pick up the keg and slosh the contents around to get an estimate of how much is left. Not to mention you just stirred up all the trub at the bottom.

 

 

Cleaning

Brewers are really just professional cleaners, or so it seems.  A keg in my opinion has to be one of the most painful pieces of equipment to clean.  From the popet values and posts, inside the dip tube, trying to reach into the keg and get the bottom, it’s just a pain.  The Ss Brewtech brite tank is so much easier to clean.  It has a 6″ opening at the top of the vessel making it super easy for you to reach in and scrub down the walls.  You also do not have to worry about flipping over the keg to dump out the dirty water and potentially leaving some behind which if left alone could cause mold or bacteria.  The Ss BrewTech brite tank has a center drain at the bottom of the dished bottom.  Just open the valve and let it drain dry.  You can also take it to the next level and use a CIP.  Ss Brewtech offers a reducer for the 6″ TC opening to attach their CIP.  Throw some caustic in 150 degree Fahrenheit water, turn on the pump and sit back and relax for 5 minutes while the brite tank cleans itself.  Automation is such an amazing thing.  There is only one downside with using the CIP on the brite tank and that’s the site glass.  While it just needs a rinse, sometimes the CIP doesn’t really get in there. So you might have to just remove it and clean it quick.  Here is the link to the CIP and the reducers.

We saw a lot of benefits and nice to haves with the Ss Brewtech brite tank when upgrading from your keg setup.  There were also a couple of downsides in our opinion.  First thing was handles, the brite tank is designed to be a stand alone vessel which means it’s not really designed for transport.  Trying to move a full 10gal brite tank is a bit difficult. Ss Brewtech does offer optional handles at an additional cost.  But again, the concept of this vessel is to be placed somewhere and used, not transported around like a keg.  The chiller coil and FTS are optional and additional money.  So in order to not use a fridge and get the vessel into a stand alone state you need to buy the coil. When put in a chest freezer it takes up about the same space as 2 cornies but access to the ports becomes a bit more difficult.  The last thing is the weldless fittings. While we never had an issue with them, they have potential to be leak points.  You have to pressure test the vessel before filling to ensure no leaks.  Something you don’t really have to worry about on the kegs, but everyone does anyway. If there is a leak when its full, you are kind of SOL.  Here is the link for the handles.

 

Overall Impression

 Our overall impression of the Ss Brewtech Brite tank is actually a lot better than we originally thought it would be.  Once we got out of the mind-set that its “just a glorified keg” we really got to see the vessel for what it is, a Brite tank.  This really shines when its stand alone connected to a FTS and cooling source.  Everything about this tank is designed for ease of use and function.  And honestly, it’s the little things that make this great.  The site glass, sample port, carb stone, thermowell, pressure gauge and 6″ TC lid. Combine all of these little features make a big impact on taking your beer to the next level.