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Aquarium airstones?

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urbanraven

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On another site (and in a few recipes I've seen on this site) that I frequent, someone mentioned utilizing airstones, similar to the kind used in aquariums, to oxygenate the must prior to pitching the yeast. Now, being the lazy bastard that I am, this sounds more enticing than the stirring or shaking I've been doing, and possibly more thorough, as well.

Is this common practice? After use, how does one ensure that the porous surface of the stone is well cleaned? Guess I'm just curious as to the overall effectiveness of this method.

Always lookin' to learn more!
 

danb35

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One manufacturer of such airstones recommends boiling to sanitize, but says that Iodophor or Star San will work as well. If you fill up the hose with whatever sanitizing solution and then blow it out under pressure from the O2, I'd imagine that should get it pretty clean.
 

lostnbronx

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Some of the stones designed for the homebrewer are actually made from stainless steel, with a bazillion microscopic holes in them -- don't ask me how they get 'em in there (laser?). Stainless could be cleaned a lot easier than stone or ceramic in this case, I'll wager.

-David
 

Dmntd

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Stainless is much cleaner, easier to clean and will last longer then ceramic. Air stones are made by compressing and bonding small ceramic/stainless beads together, in much the same way fuel injection filters are made.

Anthony

I doubt and aquarium stone would hold up to boiling, I would also think it could add an off flavor to the must, who knows what exactly they're made out of.
 

lostnbronx

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Dmntd said:
Stainless is much cleaner, easier to clean and will last longer then ceramic. Air stones are made by compressing and bonding small ceramic/stainless beads together, in much the same way fuel injection filters are made.

Anthony
Ah...compressed and run through a sintering process, maybe? I worked at a sintering shop for a short while many years ago. When I die and go to hell, I believe I'll be working there again. :p

-David
 

danb35

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I probably should clarify that the instructions I had were for a stainless steel airstone, purchased from a homebrew supply store.
 

Rathpig

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I goggle'd it because I am currently in the market for one of these.
(link without any edorsement, merely informational.)
@ $34.99

http://www.annapolishomebrew.com/shopcoolstuff.asp

is the best price I quickly found for the whole regulator to stone kit.
But look around because the price gets much higher than $35 for the exact same thing, Annapolis just happens to have the current price leader. ;P

The stones go for $15-20 each, but are "brewery" designed so its what is needed & makes the $35 look somewhat cheap cause you need a regulator also. Tanks are $6-12 and may be hard to find ~ or use granny's O2 tank, you only need a bit to start off the ferment, one good broil.

Starting O2 is important, so I am going to the expense of adding it into my system.

If the $35 cost is the slightest concern in your current brewing budget then do what I've been doing for 10+ years - you can shake and stir for free, or open ferment.

either way, add O2 and pitch live yeast seems to be the secret.

Brewers make the wort & must, yeast make the beer & mead.
(Grapes, alone make wine.)


Rathpig, Esq.
 

hedgehog

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Ok,
my 2cents on this..
I think the air stones are a cool idea, but COULD have lots of trouble if you aren't careful. My luck never quite runs that well, so this is something that I doubt i would ever do. but...
Firstly, the airstones would be majorly tough to sanitize, and rinse. Lots of nooks and crannies for the "evil critters" to hide in. Depending on what size pores you have in the stones, there could be air pockets protecting the nasties from your sanitizers. Or just plain pockets of nasties, hiding under the nasties who got killed by the sanitizer. And then you gotta get them and your cleaning solutions outta there.
Next, I imagine this scenario... So now you have this really cool spiffy sanitized air stone. Got any sanitized air or O2 around?? I definately don't. and if I could find any, definately can't afford to get some. And once again, I have seen a "harmless" tank of O2 do some nasty stuff, so I definately wouldn't want to mess around with one. Ok, so I would most likely cheat and just pump some air out of the room into there. I doubt I could figure a way to hook a hepa filter onto the pump, so there would be potentially a bunch of nasties getting a free ride deep into the heart of the must.. right where you want the yeasts to be.. just sounds kinda bad to me.. granted.. just shaking the living daylights out of the jug isn't much better, but considering all the effort involved, it makes me wonder.
more rambling and a few thoughts on this cool, but impractical for my personal use idea..
hedgehog
 

Fortuna_Wolf

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ok, right.
This is what you do. BOIL the airstone to sanitize it. Every part of it doesn't have to boil - as long as it gets up to around 190F it will be sanitized. Most of the airstones you see for aquariums are sintered glass, IMO, they will stand up to boiling water.

Use an aquarium air pump. We don't need anything but the smallest air pump, which might cost 5-10 dollars. In line, we filter the air. Two ways to do this that I know of, use a medical HEPA syringe filter (get it from a medical supply store) or, get a plastic tube and pack it with moistened cotton balls. Either way should be easy and you have a cheap supply of filtered air.

The only question remaining is, how long do we oxygenate the must? Do we just oxygenate it before pitching? One day? Three days?
 

urbanraven

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Thanks for the answers so far. :) Excellent help and learning more all the time.

Fortuna, the articles I've read all have it at only a matter of 15 minutes of intense bubbling of oxygenating prior to pitching.
 

lostnbronx

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hedgehog said:
Firstly, the airstones would be majorly tough to sanitize, and rinse. Lots of nooks and crannies for the "evil critters" to hide in. Depending on what size pores you have in the stones, there could be air pockets protecting the nasties from your sanitizers. Or just plain pockets of nasties, hiding under the nasties who got killed by the sanitizer. And then you gotta get them and your cleaning solutions outta there.
Next, I imagine this scenario... So now you have this really cool spiffy sanitized air stone. Got any sanitized air or O2 around?? I definately don't. and if I could find any, definately can't afford to get some. And once again, I have seen a "harmless" tank of O2 do some nasty stuff, so I definately wouldn't want to mess around with one.
Pure O2 is actually corrosive -- it's almost as reactive as fluorine. Flammable materials will spontaneously combust in a high O2 environment. I wouldn't be too concerned about critters surviving in an airstone that's running high levels of O2 through it. And boiling would be the easiest and surest route to sanitize, whether air or O2 was used.

On the other hand, I'm with Hedgehog in questioning the overall usefulness of this setup -- especially for small (less than, say, 20 gallon) batches. I mean, it's whatever makes you comfortable, but I can't see that an airstone could produce demonstratively better results for batches like this than diligent stirring/shaking does.

Of course, the attractive part of mechanical aeration is the fact that you don't have stir or shake it!

-David
 

Dmntd

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At this point I use a balloon whisk to aerate those must I make in an open bucket primary. I aerate before pitching the yeast and two or three times a day until I rack to secondary. I would run an air stone at least three days into the primary fermentation, but start aerating as soon as the must was cool.

Anthony
 

Brewbear

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Airstones are a cool idea and I have seen them mentioned, specially in beer recipes.
I think that a lees stirrer does a good job of airating and it works great on a cordless drill.

Just my 2 cents.....

Ted - counting pennys
 

Dan McFeeley

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I prefer the airstones also, especially after reading some of the prolonged discussions on aeration on the Homebrewers digest. It really takes a *lot* of shaking and stirring to get O2 into a must, v/s an airstone which delivers it much more effectively. Plus, it's a small investment. You can get a decent airstone for a reasonable price, and it only takes a small filter and aquarium pump to power it.
 

Fortuna_Wolf

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I personally prefer not to use a bucket as a primary, nor do I want to attempt to stir my must several times a day for 3 days. It just seems too risky to introducing infection and it wouldn't be as effective as an airstone. I'm seriously considering using the airstone on my next batch.
 

Dmntd

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I have no doubt the body of an aquarium air stone could withstand boiling, the plastic stem however may not.

In liquid gas exchanges happens at the surface, this goes for water, wine, beer, mead, whatever. An airstone works by breaking surface tension, allowing the gas exchange to happen at a faster rate, more agitation = better gas exchange.

In test I ran In 2 - 135 gallon fully planted aquariums, where tank 1. had a 6' air diffuser running the length of the tank connected to a deep water air pump and tank 2. had a 6' spray bar set just below the surface, angled to agitate the surface using the return flow from the filter, tank 2 had 37% more dissolved O2 then tank one after only 2 days of operation.

Stick an air diffuser in a bowl of egg white, turn the air pump on. In 1 hour you'll have bubbly egg white.

Beat the egg white with a whisk, in less then 3 minutes there will be some much air dissolved (trapped would be more accurate) in the egg white you can shape it in your hands.

As to air filters look about 3/4 of the way down this page http://www.northernbrewer.com/chilling-etc.html

Anthony
 

Oskaar

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Hey Anthony,

When using an oxygen diffusion stone (wort aeration stone) of 2 microns or less, the oxygen is readily adsorbed into the must and need not act as a surfactant in order to oxygenate the wort. There is so much surface area created that the oxygen is rapidly adsorbed and the yeast suspended in the must can adsorb the oxygen readily and happily.

I understand your point about he whisk and the egg white, but you're using two different processes. One is mixing and physically agitating the egg whites with a whisk, the other is just letting a stone sit in the egg white and flush it with oxygen which will not yield the same result. I know when I'm whipping up a meringue a whisk is the way to go, but when I'm oxygenating my must a diffusion stone is much more efficient than stirring, swirling or whipping.

Cheers,

Oskaar
 

Rathpig

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Well I have ordered my airstone kit. Since I just stepped up to the 15 gal conical, I could see no other way to really oxygenate the must. And since I have the set-up, the 5 gal batches will be getting a blast of canned O2 instead of a spin n' slosh.

In my mind, the cost versus the positive potential makes the O2 blaster an easy sale, especially if you are doing bigger batches than 6.5 gal carboys.

It is not something a new brewer should think they need, but at under $50 I see no reason not to put this high on the want list of every brewer.

R.,
 

rondha001

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Personally, I'd opt for an air pump over air stones. I own a Tetra Whisper Air Pump (Non-UL) and am extremely glad with its functioning. Been in operation for over a year or so without any problems whatsoever. With a capacity of 100 gallons and it does its job efficiently. Known to be one of the best air pump around, it is not only lowly priced, but it puts up outstanding functionality too.

I'd sincerely appreciate if you could kindly please share your feedback. :)
 
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