That Time I Fu#%ed Up The Centrifuge

I wrote a blog a of couple years back about the top 3 fuck up’s that the brewery had experienced.  I think this was a horrible mistake as Karma came back and bit me right in the ass by raining down the worst fuck up probably to happen at the brewery.  I hadn’t ever dumped beer or ruined a batch. I had a clean record up to two years ago.

We had been having a lot of problems with the centrifuge clogging full of hops that really started when we began brewing Finger Gun.  It was dry hopped quite a bit and what was happening was the centrifuge has a vibration sensor on it. The sensor is to keep you safe so that if the bowl which is moving at 6700 rpms becomes destabilized it doesn’t keep running and have the 850 lb. bowl coming shooting out causing all kinds of chaos.  The hops left over from dry hopping were going into the bowl in random clumps, some of these clumps were quite big and the centrifuge couldn’t discharge it fast enough. This caused the hops to stick on the wall and create enough of a vibration to trip the alarm. Once this happened you had to fully disassemble the centrifuge, pull all of the hops out and then reassemble.  It was a giant pain in the ass and required lifting the bowl out with a forklift.

It was on a day when we had to run 4 batches of Finger Gun through the centrifuge and we thought we had come up with a solution, but it was not working.  We were disassembling and reassembling the centrifuge all day to get those 4 batches pushed through. It was at 9:30 P.M. and we had just finished the last batch and were getting ready to run a cleaning cycle when it happened again.  We were pissed and tired, couldn’t believe it happened again. We dissembled the centrifuge a-fucking-gain for the fifth time that day cleared up the hops and put it back together. This is where all hell broke loose, and I lost a couple years of my life due to stress.

The caustic cycle was starting up and the centrifuge was up to about 5700 rpms when I heard the most god-awful scraping of metal and clanking.  I immediately ran over and the centrifuge was already on emergency shut down. We started looking around wondering what in the hell happened, did a bolt break loose and what was the sound?  Then I looked over at the tool chest and realized the lock ring that holds the impeller in place was sitting right by the tools for dismantling. At this point I threw up in my mouth a little bit at the realization at what was happening.  This continued on for another 45 minutes as there aren’t any brakes on the bowl so it just slowly stops spinning. The entire time the impeller was hitting and grinding on the inside. When it finally stopped we pulled it apart and the impeller was toast along with chunks of the bowl being taken out and I threw up a little again.

These are very finely machined parts and all in all it took about 3 months to fix along with having to rent a loaner bowl so that we could continue to brew.  Without the centrifuge we couldn’t transfer beer and no transfer means no packaging and no brewing. We survived and I didn’t get fired. I am not going to say how much it cost but it wasn’t cheap and still gives me nightmares.  I learned a very valuable lesson that day about always checking that everything you take goes back on. Now when fucking Ikea gives me extra bolts I freak out and puke a little.

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