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tank

Setting up your stainless steel tank

Once the home winemaker has mastered the art of getting just the right amount of wine into dozens of different sized carboys, they may be wondering if there is an easier way to ferment and bulk age their wine. Enter the stainless steel tank!

While getting a stainless tank may seem like a big next step, it’s likely one of the best decisions you will make, assuming production levels are high enough. If you’re a home winemaker who has a couple carboys sitting in the cellar, your goal probably isn’t a larger tank. But if you’re making anything more than that, it may just make your life that much easier (and fun!)

A variety of sizes

Stainless steel tanks come in many sizes, from 100 liters (26 gallons) to 10,000 liters or more! Unless you’re looking to start their own large scale commercial winery, you’ll likely start your search in the 100L+ range.

Variable capacity or fixed volume

Part of the beauty of stainless tanks is that unlike carboys, demijohns, and barrels, they are oftentimes variable capacity. What does this mean? It means you don’t have to worry about constantly topping up, blending other wines into your batch to allow it to reach the neck of the vessel, the threat of oxidation, or employing inert gas to keep the head space at the top of the vessel blanketed. Some winemakers prefer fixed capacity tanks, but again, the downside is that you really need to stay on top of keeping them full the entire time you’re bulk aging.

A fixed capacity tank. These will usually have a hatch at the top rather than a variable lid that can be lowered or raised.

A variable capacity tank with floating lid

Time to set up your stainless steel tank

Setting up your tank is very simple to do. The basic setup will include a stand, valves, tasting valve, and maybe a thermometer and a thermowell. The tank may come with a stand or leveling feet which elevate it from the ground. Even the most simplistic, small tank may come with these, though some will only be basic enough that they get placed directly onto the floor or a pallet. The smallest tanks will not have a manway, since you can easily reach in from the top for cleaning or extracting the juice or must post fermentation. Some will have a valve on the bottom and some will not.

 

A thermometer gets inserted into the thermowell for constant temperature readings

What else might I need to set up on my tank?

  • A manway
  • 1 or more valves
  • Sight gauge (plastic tube on side of tank indicating volume in tank)
  • Racking port and drainage port (higher and lower ports, respectively)
  • Gaskets and clamps (most common are 1.5″ / 2″ / 2.5″)
  • Gasket and pump (for variable capacity tank)

Musto Wine Grape is happy to offer a wide range of Marchisio stainless steel tanks, from 100L capacity onward. Come see us and we will be happy to speak with you in detail about what tank is the best for you!

FlexTanks: Classic Results with Convenient, Modern Technology

For many years, winemakers have sought a way to store their wines that not only adds to the overall quality of their wine but won’t deplete their wallets or the environment. Flex Tanks are an excellent solution to all of these problems. Flex Tanks are an increasingly popular line of wine storage vessels that are incredibly space efficient, cost-effective, and also promote micro-oxidation on a level similar to a wooden barrel. 

FlexTanks are made of a rotational molded, food grade safe plastic. The polyethylene is oxygen permeable allowing for a small amount of oxygen transfer, on the same levels as a second year wooden barrel. This will allow wine to age and “breathe” as though it were in a barrel, creating a thicker, creamier mouthfeel. There are two different grades of FlexTank depending upon the winemakers goals; either the maturation weight, which allows a level of oxygen transfer on par with a second year barrel, and a heavyweight level which allows less oxygen transfer, approximately 50% less than the maturation weight.

FlexTanks are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, accommodating the space and scale of any winemaker. From small 15 gallon cylindrical tanks, to tall, narrow space saving 570 gallon tanks, there is a FlexTank for any situation. There are a number of smaller sizes, well suited for the home winemaker, including 15, 30, 50, 70, 80 gallon sizes. All tanks are formed in a way to minimize headspace and easy filling. All tanks are equipped with a lower spigot or 1.5” butterfly valve, which is easy for transfers. Most of the larger sizes are also equipped with a sampling port and breathable airlock. In the authors’ personal experience, a 300 gallon FlexTank can be cleaned thoroughly of tough debris within 15 minutes. The plastic is incredibly easy to clean and is compatible with winery alkaline cleaners such as B-Brite or Soda Ash. Most debris is easily rinsed off with a hose and the contoured base promotes easy drainage.

FlexTank also makes many tanks that are ideal for the commercial winemaker as well. They offer uniquely shaped 570 gallon “cell” model tank that has a very small footprint of 82”x29”. This tank is ideal for space saving for wineries concerned with space issues. They also make excellent 240 or 300 gallon “stacker” tanks that are cube shaped and able to be stacked up to three high, also reducing the floor footprint if space is a concern. FlexTanks are not only for aging, but can be used for fermenting as well. FlexTank offers an airlock to allow CO2 to escape throughout the fermentation. They have designed the “Apollo” and “Orion” in an egg shape, to simulate the classic vessels of Europe, often made of wood or concrete. The oval contours will help to promote yeast circulation throughout fermentation.

Along with a much smaller physical footprint, FlexTanks also leave a much smaller environmental footprint. While an oak barrel may last for a few vintages, before it is devoid of oak flavor, a FlexTank can be used indefinitely with more cost effective wooden chips to promote oak flavor and micro-oxidation. The polyethylene that the tanks are made of is fully recyclable along with any metal components (valves, framing, and ratchet lid). Also, due to the ease of cleaning, much less water is used in their cleaning process than the traditional barrel or metal tank. Overall, FlexTanks can be a large step towards more environmentally friendly winemaking practices.

Musto Wine Grape is proud to offer the full line of FlexTank products. Our staff has almost ten years of very positive experiences working with the tanks and is happy to make suggestions to best fit your winemaking needs.

 

Written by Winemaker Maureen Macdonald