Aeration with an Aquarium Pump

The next item on the agenda was aeration (oxygenation) of the wort. This is done after the wort has been transferred to the fermenter, but prior to pitching the yeast.  The two most common methods of doing this are:

1.  Small Oxygen Tank and an Oxygenation Wand
2.  Aquarium Air Pump and Oxygen Stone

I chose to use the second method so that I do not have to keep replacing or refilling an oxygen tank.  Of course, this method takes a bit longer.  Because the atmosphere is only about 20% oxygen, the diffusion stone must be left running in the wort for approximately 30-120 minutes (even 5 minutes of aeration is better than shaking the carboy). Standard rule of thumb is approximately 30 minutes per 5 gallons of wort.

Not only will I be using an inline Sanitary Filter, I’ll make use of a simple check valve to keep any moisture out of the filter.

Here is my parts list:

Tetra 77848 Whisper Air Pump, up to 40-Gallon – $10.99
Elite Silicone Airline Tubing for Aquarium, 10-Feet, Blue – $6.30
Pawfly 6 PCS Aquarium Air Pump Check Valves Red Clear Plastic One Way Non-return Check Valve for Fish Tank – $5.42
Sanitary Air Filter,Ferroday Water Fittings for Beer Brew Keg and Homebrew (4pcs of Pack) – $10.99

I bought my Carbonating Stone from my LHBS (Homecrafted) so that I could have it the day I needed.  Here’s the same thing from Amazon:

Carbonating Stone with 1/4″ Barb, 2 micron – $9.96

I already had the airline tubing (I have aquariums), so I didn’t have to purchase that.  I spent $27.40 on the build and am happy with that price.  The total cost for everything needed is $33.70.

Yes, you can save a few bucks and go with a system such as this:

Eagle Brewing FE380 Aeration System – $24.95

but you wouldn’t have spare filters, a check valve (and 5 spare), and who knows what the length of tubing is – OR the model of the pump.  Is it under-sized?

It seems that there are differing schools of thought on just about everything when it comes to aeration.  The only constant being that it is needed.  I swung for the fences and chose the pump that is sized for 40 gallon aquariums.

I’ll be setting the length of the hose to be able to reach the bottom of my fermenter.  Keep this in mind before cutting the hose.  I use the Speidel 60 liter fermenters and the opening in the lid is a perfect fit to use the Sanitary Filter as a ‘stop’.  I’ll insert a picture of this toward the end of the post.

Here’s a look at the Sanitary Filters in their packaging:

And the Check valves:

I read all the warnings about the stones.  DO NOT touch the stones with your bare fingers.  The oils from your skin can clog the pores in the stone.  Keeping this in mind, heated the end of the air hose and then  I held the stone in its shipping bag (small ziploc inside the shipping box) while pressing the hose over the barbs.

Then attach the check valve to the hose, heating the end of the hose slightly to fit onto the valve:

*Note the orientation of the valve.  If inserted in reverse, the oxygen flow would stop at this point.

Then heat the ends of the hose to place the Sanitary Filter inline.  The barbs are larger than the hose, but if you are careful, this does work.

Make sure the hose is well above the barb and then heat it again to allow it to shrink a bit

From there, attach the hose to the pump.

The reason for the check valves was due to an error on my part.  When I first sanitized the hose and stone, I didn’t get all the liquid out and it got into my filter.  You can see the liquid in the filter in the picture below.

Here’s a shot of the filter sitting on the hole in the lid with the stone dangling into the fermenter.

As you can see, the stone dangles down to the bottom of the fermenter.

I’ve got enough hose to be able to set the air pump on top of my fermentation fridge to run.  I can close the door and the seal gives enough to not pinch the hose.

I let this sit for an hour and a half with the beer I transferred that day.  This gave me a 2 inch white foam on top of the wort.  Once I pitched the yeast, the fermentation got very active real fast.

This picture is 18 hours after pitching.  Notice the liquid in the airlock.  The krausen almost overflowed.  I’ll need to use a blowoff tube for larger batches like this one.

I replaced the airlock with a clean one filled with sanitizer.

And there you have it – an inexpensive aeration system that just works.

To sanitize the stone, it’s recommended to run the pump with the stone submerged in sanitizer for 5 minutes.  If the stone is clogged, or if you have touched the stone and fear that there are oils on it, boil the stone for 1-3 minutes.


As an aside, the pump came with this little needle valve:

It’s so tiny and cute that it took a massive amount of restraint to NOT use it. Be proud, though.  It has not – and will not – be used on this build.

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