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Thread: Meheen users unite!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Nashville
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    681

    Meheen users unite!

    We're in the process of getting a 4-head 1995 era Meheen filler going, and the thought occured to me that with all the great breweries bottling great beer on these machines, there must be wealth of knowledge on the little tricks that make them hum. In the spirit of one brewer helping another, let's get a dialog going that will help future brewers fine-tune their machines. To make an analogy, the Meheen fillers are to bottling as Linux is to Microsoft. They are relatively simple, the construction is open and many of the parts are locally available, instead of shipping from Germany or Italy.

    One of the issues we are having already is consistent bottle feeding and positioning. After spending several hours adjusting the feed plate travel, we thought we had it set, only to bend all of the flimsy plastic fill tubes the very first time we put it into auto operation.

    Also, has anyone replaced the plastic fill tubes with something stronger, like stainless tubing?

    The guys at Meheen have been fairly helpful, but I understand that there is no reason why they should spend hours talking to me on the phone about a 10 year old machine. But with all the knowledge out there, I figured some creative brewers have improved on the basic design and would be willing to share their tricks. If we figure out any we'll post them here!

    Cheers,

    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Polson, Montana, USA
    Posts
    1,089
    As far as the "flimsy plastic tubes" go, we replaced ours with titanium fill tubes, available from Meheen. I have seen (not on mine) row partitions from bottle ramp to output table, to maintain bottle alignment throughout the cycle. The owner claimed this helped a lot. He also modified his 22oz machine to fill 12oz bottles! One trick I use for smooth bottle feeding is to lube up the ramp surface and bottle index tray with WD-40 and lightly wipe it down.
    Luck to ya'!
    Dave

    p.s. email me at info@glacierbrewing.com if you have any other Meheen issues you'd like to discuss.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Boise, ID
    Posts
    233

    Mean Meheens

    Oh boy, congratulations on your "new" purchase. We run a 1994 model. I just recently had problems with the indexing of bottles, and discovered a set screw on the bottom air valve that had come out of adjustment. As far as I can tell, the plastic indexer always comes out the same distance; the variable is air to the cylinder, which controls the speed of indexing. Follow the lines back from the index cylinder to the air valve, and if it has a set screw like ours start messing with it. The manuals are pretty vauge as far as all the little adjustments, but the guys at Meheen have always been great. We still run the plastic fill tubes, but I have seen the titanium ones as well. Keeping the feed ramp clean is very important, as bottles can become dusty. We scrub all the plastic surfaces with caustic regularly, and use a silicone spray on them when dry. Someone with more free time could probably make a bundle writing and selling "Meheen fillers for idiots". Still the best machine for small breweries, we will probably never outgrow ours at 1000-2000Bbls/yr. Hey Dave- we should get together sometime and have a "bottler battle"!

    Good Luck-
    Paul Thomas

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    United States
    Posts
    31

    Wd-40?

    We run a 96 model and have been doing such since 1998. I have rebuild our unit from the chasis up about a half of a dozen times, but have never had problems indexing the bottles. It might be an adjustment of the infeed ramp. You can adjust both the distance and the pitch of the ramp which might help. Is the motion of the bottler pusher plate smooth or jerky? If you have an older unit with blue valve packs on the controler, then you can adjust the two set screws that face the infeed deck. One of the set screws adjust the forward motion and the other adjusts the return motion. Sometimes these things just go wacky, i just loosen the jam nut and turn the set screw back and forward. You want the bottles to advance fast enough to get to the capper head but not so fast that they are "over pushed" . Also make sure that you have at least 16 full bottles behind the ones that you are filling to give you enough counter weight.

    As far as the W-2 goes, i would recommend a food grade silicon spray that you can get at any restaurant supply house or hardware store. But make sure that you only apply a light mist, that stuff is very effective and does not wash off very quickly. Feel free to e-mail me directly at brad@realalebrewing.com if that does not help or if you have any other question about the machine.

    I would also recommend the "bottle piercing" titanium fill tube from meheen. They are not cheap but they last considerably longer than the plastic fill tubes

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Nashville
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    681
    I ripped out the plastic fill tubes about five minutes after starting the machine - after bending every one. We are doing a trial on using some stainless tubing the same size as the plastic tubing, and so far it's working great. It's 304 seamless stainless tubing from McMaster-Carr ($30 for six feet), and will not bend if a bottle is misaligned - it either knocks the bottle out of the way or breaks it, but doesn't bend the tubing.

    The problem we are having now is the automatic cap feeder, not keeping the cap feed tray full. It seems to depend on the flow controls on the forward/reverse motor, but I can't find the right setting. Also, the cap feed pins seem to stick occasionally and not feed the capper. I'm going to take it apart and see what is sticking.

    Also, the fobber function is doing its job, and we are actually losing about an oz of beer before the capper can cap the bottles. Adjusting the low pressure setting doesn't seem to change this. I'm going to speed up the capper arm speed to see if it helps. Any other suggestions?

    Food grade silicone spray from Grainger seems to be working great to keep the bottles moving easily.

    I'm actually starting to like this little machine. Ran five whole cases in 10 minutes today! Woo-hoo! Though I'd much rather be a draft-only brewery.

    Cheers,

    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    United States
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    31

    more meheenisms

    O.K.

    the deal with the cap sorter is make sure that magnets 1st spin backwards at a speed that will extract any caps that are jammed in the trays. Then it should spin forward at a much slower speed that is methodical in filling the trays with caps. We have found that occasionally we will have to stir the caps in the reservoir to avoid the caps getting packed down too much by the caps returning by the reverse spin.

    with the cap drop pins, just call meheen and order 8 of them.(4 for now, and 4 for later) They are not really very expensive and it's nice to have a couple around if one fails during a run you can swaps these out pretty quickly.

    I have found that having a couple spare parts for these machines will reduce your frustration with it's limitations

    When you say the fob function is working well, are you running the pulse option on your machine or is the beer just jumping out of the bottle??

    We have found that you really need to have the beer at 33 or below to get consistent fills. If it is any warmer you will have a lot of inconsistency in the fill levels and you will be unable to control the amount of beer that comes out of the bottle before the capping head comes down.

    What is important here is to understand the programming on the meheen. First, the time between when the fill head comes up to the time the crowner will come down is fixed and in not adjustable. You could adjust the speed of the crowner on the down stroke, but it is not really that big of a part of that time span and therefore you have to adjust the fill level and the low pressure sensitivity to get the fills that you need that will fob at the right rate to get it under the crowner right when it hits the top of the bottle.

    This is also a really important part!! The fill level is a number adjustable from 1-100 This entire range only makes up 1 psi of adjustment!!!! The way i understand it works is that the beer pressure sensor reads the pressure in the line right before the beginning of the fill cycle, and then the fill level setting is the adjustment between getting the pressure in the bottles to the same pressure as the tank. ie. if it reads the pressure in the tank at 17 psi then if you have the level set at 1 it would continue to fill until the pressure in the bottle was at 16.01psi. If you set it at 37 the pressure in the bottle would be 16.37psi or it you set it to 99 it would be at 16.99psi. Anyway you can see that if you want to make a significant change in the way that it is filling then you will have to make big swings in the settings. We run ours most of the time at 37, that is what works for us but we have changed a lot of things on our machine so i would recommend that you try a bunch of different setting and see what works for you.

    The low pressure sensitivity (lps) is the setting that adjusts the time that the fill heads remain in the bottle(after the fill cycle). The way i understand it, the machine lowers the head pressure in the bottle down to 10psi and the lps adjust the pressure in the bottle from 10psi all the way down to 1psi. If we have really cold beer we will run the lps between 9-10.(because we need the time between when the fill head comes up and the crowner comes down for the fob to rise up the neck of the bottle to the top) If the beer wants to jump out of the bottle (warmer beer) or if the bottles do not fob at equal rates we will lower the lps to encourage more stable fobbing or more uniform fobbing across all four bottles. We have a one fill position that just will not fob at the same rate at the rest of the bottles no matter what we do .

    Anyway i know this might be too much already but i will point out more thing that i think makes a big difference. When you are getting that machine set up in the morning and you are running you morning sanitizing cycle, make sure that you turn your counter pressure on for that cycle if you do not, you will force the sanitizer into the head pressure sensor which will wack everything out and you will have a bunch or erratic fills. No worries just stop the machine, pull the tubing out of the sensor override the counter pressure valve and blow out all the liquid in the tubing and then grab a paper towel and wick out the sensor. It has to be completely dry before you start back up so wick it out 3-4 times with one paper towel. then blow out the tubing again and then plug it back in and make sure the regulator it turn on before you start back up.


    Anyway, good luck and keep the forum updated on your experience

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Nashville
    Posts
    681
    Well, we did our first full run on the Meheen yesterday, a very long day of trying to bottle out 20 bbls of pale ale. The bottles fed into the machine well, no problems there. The cap feed assembly did ok as long as we stirred up the caps in the hopper every four or five cycles. We had some jams from caps upside down that bent up the cap push slides, but we were able to bend them back into shape.

    We couldn't go any faster than 20 cases an hour no matter what I tried. The problem is excessive foaming and I can't understand what is going on. Before you say "warm beer", let me tell you we got the brite tank down to 34 F overnight, we are using the recommended 3/4" hose with 1/2" insulation for a feed line. The problem doesn't seem to be caused be warm beer to me - watching the bottles fill, it's cold, still beer inside the bottles until they are full and the fill sensitivity switch makes.

    Here is what I don't understand. As soon as the fill valve closes, the CO2 valve is "bumping" the beer still under pressure in the bottles, before the snift valve opens! I can see the CO2 valve pulsing as soon as the fill valve closes, before the snift valve opens. I'm positive this is happening, I stood by the machine for 12 hours yesterday trying to figure it out. As you can imagine, this pulse foams up the still beer like crazy and we lose a couple oz out of each bottle, either out through the snift valve if the low pressure set point is low, or all over the bottler if the low pressure set point is set higher. Either way, we lose a couple oz of beer out of each bottle no matter how slow the fill rate is or how low the low pressure set point is.

    The Meheen manual has a typical pressure curve shown in the back, and it shows that this CO2 pulse should be happening when the pressure in the bottle reaches the low pressure setpoint, which would make sense. But it is happening before the snift valve even opens to start bleeding off the pressure. Again, after watching it for 12 hours I am fairly confident about what I am seeing. Is this how the machines are programmed now? Is there any other explanation for why this would be happening, besides a program problem?
    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    [url]www.yazoobrew.com[/url]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Nashville
    Posts
    681

    getting better!

    Cooking with gas now!

    Talked to Dave Meheen and discovered our machine must be a 1994 model based on the old dial interface. He said the CO2 pulse could be turned off by switching to reset, and then some combination of clean, auto, and sant switching. He just couldn't remember the proper sequence. I found that we could turn off the CO2 pulse at the end of the fill by doing this: reset, clean, auto, sant, auto, clean, auto, then run. Yeah, it was a stroke of luck to find the right sequence, like a blind pig will find an acorn every once in a while.

    So that helped us get better fills, and I discovered something else that may be obvious to others but was like a flash of inspiration to me. I was running the fill sensitivity very low, like 0.40, to try to completely fill the bottles because of the varying fill levels we were gettting. Well, this was filling the gas-off lines and the little "fob pot" with straight beer, that was taking forever to vent and let the pressure in the bottle get down to the low pressure setting, and also affecting the fill rates of the bottles in the next cycle.

    I found that if I set the fill sensitivity to where the fill valve shut right at the instant the beer got to the fill height, and didn't let much foam get into the gas-off tubes, then I could really speed up the fills and still get even more consistent fill heights and fobbing than the way I was doing it before. We went from a cycle every 34 seconds (painful to watch it was so slow) to one every 15-16 seconds, which would be close to 40 cases an hour. That seems to be in the ballpark of what other brewers say they can get with the Meheens.

    Once we figured that out we started to rock and roll. Now I'm wondering if I could get into the program and speed up the time delay before the capper comes down. Maybe I should just leave well enough alone.

    I still don't understand how the fill sensitivty works. We ran it at 0.75 pretty consistently, but every once in a while it would start to fill a set of bottles and I guess decided it was already done, and keep moving bottles through like that until I lowered the setting to 0.70. Seems really sensitive.

    Anyway, that's been our experience so far. I've heard of some brewers claiming speeds of 55 cases an hour, so I guess there is still room for improvement.

    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    [url]www.yazoobrew.com[/url]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Niagara on the Lake Ontario , Canada
    Posts
    2

    Meheen filler

    We have just purchased a used Meheen machine and although the initial set up caused some grief, we now have the machine up and running well. Not fast but well.
    It is interesting to hear some of the maintenance issues and what the potential solutions are.
    I will keep reading this forum to keep imformed.

    Greg Jeffries
    Taps Brewing Co Inc.
    Niagara on the Lake
    Ontario.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    711

    One killer Maheen.

    We just started using a 6 head filler a couple months ago. It runs like a champ. These are some of the improvements I can see that could be done. The tray that catches the crowns that fall off needs to be about twice as wide to catch all, I would love to have a load on table twice as long but I understand there would be other issues with that many bottles pushing down. I wonder if a wide, leveled conveyor at the top of the load on ramp running very slow might work? The out of index issue seems to only happen when we let the bottles on the loadon side get too low. But it is nasty when it happens. We have the titanium rods that either bust the bottle or the filler rod gets pushed all the way up to the top of the machine and usually cuts the hose. So we must cut the hose an inch shorter and push the rod back down. There is also at least 5-7 gallons of blowoff per 100 cases, I hate to lose beer but I guess it is the cost of bottling. We are running it pretty fast (60 cases per hour) which seems to be about as fast as a carbonated beverage can be done. But we are still learning. Oh and some sort of blead off valve at the top of the manifold so one can bleed air and water off the main intake hose all the way up to the top. Those are all my amature engneer takes on our wonderful Maheen.
    Joel Halbleib
    CBO "Chief Brewing Officer" / Zymurgist
    Bluegrass Brewing Co
    636 East Main St
    Louisville, KY
    www.bluegrassbrewing.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Nashville
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    681
    more updates on our Meheen...

    We had a great trip out to the GABF this year, just talking to the guys at Avery Brewing in Boulder, who run three different Meheens, was worth the money spent getting out there.

    They run two 12 oz machines, look like vintage 1995 and 1996, in tandem. They claimed that they regularly got 50-55 cases an hour from each machine or over 100 cases an hour total.

    They had made many modifications to the machines that caught my eye, and lots more that a couple of their brewers kindly pointed out to me.

    1. They had redesigned the gas-out tubes so that the beer could escape more evenly from the bottles. It's hard to describe, but instead of all the outlet tubes being in series, they were more in parallel so that the gas could escape evenly, which they said really improved fill height variation. They did the same with the CO2 inlet tubes.

    2. They had replaced many of the pinch style valves with more reliable poppet style valves, such as the valves on the fob, off-gas, and CO2 inlet.

    3. They had attached a CO2 jet pipe over the row of bottles just ahead of the bottles being filled. This pipe injected CO2 into the bottles during the fill cycle of the bottles ahead, using a solenoid powered by the air supply to the fill valve. They said the CO2 before filling really helped their bottle airs.

    4. They ran their bright tank pressures and CO2 pressure at about 25 psi and 45 psi, respectively. I know, I asked them about the warning from Meheen about not exceeding 30 psi for the CO2 pressure, but they said it had never caused a problem.

    So, on the first run after we got back, I tried some of these tricks. I rigged a bypass hose from the inlet side of the CO2 fill line just before the bottles, to the outlet side of the bottles, so that it was essentially filling and venting the bottles from both sides instead of from just one side. We ran the bright tank pressure up to 20 psi, and the CO2 pressure up to 40 psi.

    The fill level heights were much more consistent, and we decreased the cycle time to just under 15 seconds, or about 42 cases per hour. The only problems we had all day were jams on the capper and cap feeder. We also have problems with the beer in the bright tank warming up as it gets lower in the tank, I guess from the reduced surface area of the cooling jacket in contact with the beer. So towards the end of the day we had to slow down the fill speed to about a 16 second cycle. Can't wait for winter for a change!


    If anyone wants to put together a show for the Discovery Channel called "Pimp my Meheen", let's do it!
    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    [url]www.yazoobrew.com[/url]

  12. #12
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    Aug 2005
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    27
    the avery guys are gods

  13. #13
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    Mar 2003
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    Nashville
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    One more thing we found out the hard way...

    We have one of the older models that uses a capacitance sensor to tell when the bottles are filled. I think it measures the capacitance in the head chamber before filling, and then waits until the head chamber gets beer in it and the capacitance changes to shut the fill valve. The capacitance is measured using two little springs that make contact with the fill head when down.

    We have to grease our fill head pretty regularly, every run, to keep it sliding up and down smoothly. Well, we began having problems with inconsistent fill levels. It actually seemed to change if someone had their hands on the machine or not. What we finally found out was that a little bit of grease from the grease fittings on the fill head was making a contact with the spring connections, and causing some kind of short circuit. When we cleaned the grease away from this spring, the fill levels magically went back to normal. We actually had to increase the setting of the fill level sensitivity after this.

    Another thing I've found is that we can fine tune the speed of filling by adjusting the height of the fill tubes slightly. If a bottle is filling faster than others, you can lower the tube slightly and slow it down some. If one position is filling slower than the rest, you can raise the tube slightly to get it faster. Problem is, if you have a misfeed and the tubes get knocked up, you have to start all over again.

    The stainless tubing from McMaster Carr is working great. I found that if I honed out the ends of the tubing to make a more even transition for the beer, it helped with foaming in the bottles.

    One last thing - once you get the machine running fast at a bright beer tank pressure of 25 psi or more, the fill hoses begin threatening to blow out right above the fill valve when the fill valve closes. I mean, they expand to twice their diameter for a second like a little balloon. Thanks to the magic of duct tape, we fixed this - just wrap a piece of duct tape around the hose between the fill valve and the block above - the duct tape absorbs the energy and the hose doesn't expand. It would be nice one day to slip some braided stainless hose covering over these hoses, but for now the duct tape works fine.
    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    [url]www.yazoobrew.com[/url]

  14. #14
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    Feb 2005
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    United States
    Posts
    31

    Fill tube height

    Linus

    We have not been able to verify this information, but Adam Avery mention to me that they did some experiments with fill tube height adjustments and they found that if it is exagerated too much that it effects O2 levels considerably. If you have a Zahm air tester you could pull a couple of bottles off the run then make an adjustment to the fil tubes and then take another reading and see if there was a difference in the two O2 levels

    and as far as the tubing expanding what tubing are you running on the fill tubes? Our is a opaque tygon tubing and we have not seen that problem

    brad farbstein
    real ale brewing co

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Nashville
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    Hi Brad,

    I believe our tubing is the same as yours. The brewers at Avery had mentioned that we should expect to eventually blow the tubing out at that point if we boosted the bright beer tank pressures to 25 psi like they do. And we got pretty close to blowing the tubing out right above the fill valve before I put the duct tape on.

    That makes sense on the fill tube heights. I found that it doesn't take much adjustment to affect the fill speeds. We run them at the recommended 1/2" or so above the bottom of the bottle, and make minor adjustments as the machine runs.
    Linus Hall
    Yazoo Brewing
    Nashville, TN
    [url]www.yazoobrew.com[/url]

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