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Bottling Machine.

As you may recall, Karen and I picked this up a month or two ago.

Its a four bottle bottle filler for bottling cider, apple juice or any other liquid. Its gravity fed and uses a ballcock to govern the flow into each bottle.

I was really chuffed to get it, a couple of days before, I'd popped into the Vigo showroom and seen a similar model with a price tag of 1600 plus vat on it. I paid less than a quarter of this without the vat.

I've had this piece of equipment for  a few weeks now and although its nice and shiney to look at, now I've got to incorporate it into a system.

I need  to site it so that there's a header tank above and then be able to run apple juice down from it into the bottling machine. The header needs to be a bucket or tank with a capacity of around five gallons with a tap in it.

I'll also need to be able to pump juice into the header tank. The juice will have to go into buckets from the press and stand over night while the sediment settles before it can be pumped up to the header tank.

I need suggestions on making a suitable header tank and on which sort of pump to use. I'll be dealing with around 50 gallons of juice at a time.

Smiths of the dean; and DV fuels have many options of plastic liquid storage tanks.

For the size of operation that you going to begin with, I personally would go with reused plastic containers. One as the main tank, gravity feeding the smaller pre-bottling tank that contains an all plastic toilet type cistern valve. I would also use clear plastic hose with the reinforcing braid and stainless steel hose clips. These are readily available over the counter at Agri dealers, etc. and they are used in the food and beverage industry so there would not be an issue with hygiene certs.

The ideal situation would be to pump the liquid only once; up in to the main storage tank, and then let gravity do the rest. Less expensive set up, less chance of a leak, and less to go wrong. It would also be easier to strip for regular cleaning, and for periodic deep cleaning.

If done correctly a collection, storage, and bottling header tank for your size of operation could be made that had the floor footprint unit of a standard ISO/Euro pallet.

Now John, I now you don't have a forklift truck, but the whole unit could be moved into an out season storage area or an outside pressure washing/steam cleaning area using a manual floor pallet truck which can be picked up second hand on  ebay or gumtree, etc. for around 100. ..... and no doubt you could also find many other uses for this around the yard.

I'd be tempted to go prototype before making a fixed set up Bodger.  A foor grade plastic transparent fermenter such as this
would cost you a tenner or so.  I'd go transparent in the 1st instance so you could see when the header tank was full, therfore it's a one man operation to fill it via the pump rather than one on pump one on spotting duty.

As and when you want to expand, you can fit sight tubes to opaque tanks but that's really for when you're happy you've got the right process/set up.

As for pumps, I think you want a magnetic pump as any pulp etc in suspension would probably clog up a conventional one.

It's very easy to fit ball valves to vessels by using a tank connector.  By using a ball vallve as opposed to a proprietry tap of some sort, you can easily attach any standard plumbing fitting or hose connector to it without having to get too 'heath robinson'. As the tap is never directly at the base of the vessel, there's a method of filing down the inside of the tank connectr so that you can fix a piece of 15mm copper pipe all the way through, put a 90 degree angle on it and have the pipe go right down to the bottom of the vessel.  By doing that, and as the vessel/header tank is higher than the bottler you get a syphon effect which means that you can completely drain the tank (give or take a few drops) without having to tilt it.

You should get what I mean from this picture

Here's the Ball valve, much more flexible than a tap

If you can't get food grade tubing from your agricultural supplier, your local home brew shop will do it in all sorts of diameters.

I personally would be temped to go for john guest push fittings over jubilee clips, for ease of removal for cleaning/set up etc.

Forgot to add, you'll definately need a bench capper for all those bottles you're going to be fillling!

I've bought self sealing bottles and caps.
There shouldn't be much sediment, because the apple juice will have stood over night in buckets but having said that, i think it would be a good idea if I could run the juice through a strainer of some kind, either as its transported from the buckets up to the header tank or on its way down from the header down to the bottling machine.

2 tanks with pump between them.  One at low level and the headerar high level.  Have a filter or strainer over the low level one, tip buckets in through strainer and then once strained, pump to high level.

What are these self sealing bottles BTW

The tops are plastic one use self sealing. When you open the bottle, the top comes off but leaves a narrow collar behind below the rim.
You'll be able to see some next week.

Ahh! Gotcha


In the next week or so, I need to buy a header tank with a capacity of between 15 and 25 gallons.
The apple juice needs to stand in it for a few hours, possibly overnight, before we run the juice down into the bottling machine. I need it to have an open top but with a lid to keep fruit flies etc out but it needs to have easy access, so that the sediment can be taken out easily and the tank cleaned.
Then it needs to have a tap on it about two inches from the bottom so that the sediment thats collected isn't disturbed when the juice is run off down to the bottling machine.
Help! Finding and deciding on a suitable header tank is the main thing holding me back. Plastic is going to be my best option at this stage but if I make a go of this scheme then stainless steel will be the next step.

The tank needs to be above the bottling machine so that gravity can do its work and somewhere between the two vessels, I'll have to have a funnel with a straining sock.

Any of these of interest mate?

in a rush, for that capacity them probably smiths of dean as Gareth suggested.  It's a pity I'll have a full car when I'm down next week as I could have put a 220 litre food grade drum in the boot.

If you want a ball valve fitting I could bring the bits down with me...

Thanks for those ideas you two.

Jonty, when you are down here, we'll sit infront of the computer and order what I need.

There's always talk of food grade plastic having to be used, so we must bare that in mind.

Bodger, something like this might be worth a thought in the long run

Conical fermenters are used in brewing a lot but the prinipal would also lead itself to what you want.  You fit a tap to the very bottom of the cone and then another a way up on the side.

Beer can be drawn off from the top tap leaving the sediment undisturbed below.  The same thing would apply to pulp in your apple juice.

It could be a draw back that its actually cone shaped. The sediment would obviously go to the bottom but where could I fit the tap? I wonder how much clearance the frame gives?

Here's a picture of a pre-made one

I've found these.

I might go and get half a dozen of the 60 litre one's and use one as a header tank and the rest for brewing small batches of cider. I'll have to fit a tap at the bottom of the one I use as a header. What do you think?

They're perfect - quite a few of the brewers use them as fermenters.  Be warned that they sometimes can smell quite strongly of heir previous contents and will need a good bleaching.  

Also I noticed the 220l metal drum with a clamp lid - that's exactlt whatI've got for my cold smoker and it's spot on!!

My daughter Doodle doesn't live too far from the lovcation in the link and she'll pick me some up. I could buy a dozen of these for the price of the fermenting vessels sold by Vigo. I'll just need to fit a tap into one that fits the inlet on the bottling machine.

We can sort the tap out no problem.  Do you want to go for a ball valve type or a plastic tap?  I've seen someone offereing plastic ones with a hose barb on for a couple of quid somewhere.

To be honest, I'd be tempted to fit taps to any fermenters as well.  A tap an inch above the bottow would sort our and sedimentation and makes it so much easier to draw off the finished product rather than syphoning.  I've got taps on all mine.  It also means you can take samples for testing gravity etc witjou the risk of introducing infection caused by dipping something into the FV itself.

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