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Cleaning beer stone from HLT (and heating element)

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  • Cleaning beer stone from HLT (and heating element)

    We have a HLT with an electric heating element. We also live in the midwest with water that's very high in bicarbonates. The beer stone I have been getting in my HLT is crazy. I admit I should have started cleaning it earlier...I go super anal on my cleaning and sani in general but figured the HLT was not such a big deal, it's just a giant water heater right? Well, the stone was getting really built up after 4 months into production. Got in to scrub by hand...serious endeavor! Gave up, got out, did a super hot caustic CIP followed by 125 degree acid #5 CIP for an hour. It got a lot off but there was still stone caked to the walls, and especially the heating element. Scrubbed it off the best I could today, but it was like scraping rocks off the heating coils!

    Anyway, obviously I should be doing an acid CIP more often, but what else can I do to fight this crap? Are there any water filters that will keep some of this out of our water? We are currently only filtering the cold water that goes into the mixing station to remove chlorine and not worrying about the water that goes into the HLT, because the chlorine is burned off. But I would be willing to buy a filter if it could help reduce stone. Are there better cleaning chemicals that we can use? Better regimes?

    Thanks for any advice...still not looking to clean my HLT more than once a month.


  • #2
    We're also plagued by high carbonate hardness here in NE Oregon.

    We clean the HL system--tanks (we have a HL reserve tank, where we recover as much knock-out cooling water as possible), pumps, and plumbing. Some of our pumps have scaled enough to stop running if we put the cleaning off. We shoot for quarterly cleaning, but if we brew more, it can be every six to eight weeks.

    First, a warning: don't use the elements to heat any acid or de-scaler solution--you'll be replacing elements if you do.

    We first get the HLT up to temperature, then pump the hot water into the reserve tank for use in cleaning. we then remove any loose scale and sediment in the HLT. This saves a lot of chemicals. We're using the scale to pave our driveway. Transfer the hot water back to the HLT, then dig out the sediment in the return tank.

    Now comes the chemical part--we use a dry sulfomic acid de-scaler--Wesmar DSR--as our primary cleaner. We add about 5-6 lb to our 600 gal HLT and recirculate it though all pumps, primary plumbing and the HL reserve tank. We monitor the acid strength by removing a small sample of the liquor and adding a bit of scale--if it bubbles vigorously, it's fine, if not, we add acid. Let this go for about 1 1/2 hour, testing regularly.

    Sulfomic acid fumes can get pretty strong, so be sure you have lots of ventilation.

    After the acid wash, we rinse once, re-fill, heat to about 130F, then use about 2-4 lb of caustic to remove any organics and silicates that may have built up. Rinse again, test with litmus, taste, rinse again if needed. Lots of water wasted, but we now have a shiny-clean HL system.

    Someday, when we grow up, we'll have a whole-house RO system--or maybe that's just me dreaming.
    Timm Turrentine

    Terminal Gravity Brewing,
    Enterprise. Oregon.


    • #3
      Sulfamic Acid and Choices

      I'd say Timm's method is a very good one based on my limited experience. The process he is describing is used on much larger loops.
      I have dealt with de-scale manuvers on a few pieces of equipment through the years but not been charged with maintaining any that had to be done often and were difficult to maintain. I have a small automatic water distillation unit and the absolute best cleaner that brings it back is a Sulfamic-Citric acid mix. Also the Evaporative cooler cleaner sold in this part of the country uses this acid.
      For those that are using 5 Star Acid 5, it is possible to add a high strength hydrogen peroxide available from Loeffler to the mix which is said to help with the process, but our Brewmaster did not like it and I have not laid hands on the process. The HP is dangerous to handle.
      The Sulfamic may even be a better route for us to try, even being blessed with fairly decent water.
      Warren Turner
      Industrial Engineering Technician
      HVACR-Electrical Systems Specialist
      Moab Brewery
      The Thought Police are Attempting to Suppress Free Speech and Sugar coat everything. This is both Cowardice and Treason given to their own kind.


      • #4
        Thanks for the detailed advice, guys! I'll get on this soon.


        • #5
          Warren--I'll see if I can get some citric acid to add to our regime. What concentration do you use?

          Concentrated H2O2 is scary stuff. Not only does it instantly react with most anything organic, it often does so very violently--as in bursts into flame or becomes a highly sensitive high explosive. I used to work with 90% H2O2 and had some fun with it, but normal chemical PPE isn't enough--most rubberized fabrics will react badly with concentrated H2O2. 10% is reasonably safe, just don't get it on you.
          Timm Turrentine

          Terminal Gravity Brewing,
          Enterprise. Oregon.


          • #6
            First, remember beer stone is calcium oxalate, which is created in the beer making process. The HLT gunk you're referring to is scale. San Diego water has been getting worse and worse as the drought goes on and we've been having similar issues. Acid is your friend in this situation. We found that it's better to just lengthen the time of a acid cycle rather than increase the acid concentration. Caustic will not get it off. Have you ever thought of heating the HLT (if jacketed?) with your boiler if you have one? Hope this helps!
            Last edited by PCQC; 12-04-2015, 02:39 PM.
            Peter Cronin
            Senior Quality Analyst
            AleSmith Brewing Company


            • #7
              ditto what peter said. We do a short 20 minute CIP with a mix of phosphoric and nitric, but either on their own will work fine as well. We do it once a week on friday after the last brew of the week. Our HLT hardly ever has build up, and heats quicker as a result.
              Simon Nielsen

              Lead Brewer
              Central Waters Brewing Company
              Amherst, WI