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Compost Tea Brewer Design Questions

Michael Newby


Joined: Apr 06, 2011
Posts: 129
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
    
    6
I've been looking into the different designs for compost tea brewers and it looks like one of the most important design factors is to make sure that you are getting plenty of dissolved O2. This is where my question comes in: I know it's not really the bubbles adding that much dissolved O2 but the overturning/agitation of the water exposing more surface area. With this in mind I was wondering if anyone thought that having a section of riffles that the water flow over after an airlift pump would do any good? Seems the churning action of the water over the riffles would really maximize gas exchange, more than a vortex with enough riffles, but maybe I'm missing something. I'm getting ready to put together a 55 gal brewer and thinking I'll have to give it a try.


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John Redman


Joined: Jan 24, 2011
Posts: 196
Location: Perkinston Mississippi zone 9a
    
  23
I found that to much agitation, or maybe to aggressive agitation actually killed off beneficial microbes. In my case an air stone clogged and was producing large bubbles near the end of the stone where the tube enters, it killed all the nematodes I was trying to save. It can't hurt to try what you described, we love experiments at permies (especially if they include pictures).
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 1976
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  61
Michael Newby wrote: I know it's not really the bubbles adding that much dissolved O2 but the overturning/agitation of the water exposing more surface area.


Actually...bubbles DO increase the dissolved oxygen in the water. And the smaller the bubbles are, the more surface area they have. It's the amount of air/water interface that you have that is important, because oxygen will move from where it is plentiful to where it isn't. One diffuser stone that puts out lots of tiny bubbles can easily have the effective area of a lot of riffles.

Now if you make your riffle area porous, like pumping and dripping the water over pumice stones, then that will also increase the surface area of the water exposed to air. I make my compost tea in 5 gallon buckets and use the smallest aquarium pump on the market with a 1" diffuser stone. It puts out enough air to make the bucket go from anaerobic (stinky) to aerobic in just an hour or so. Let your nose be your guide. If your process is foul smelling, then it probably isn't getting enough air through it, and you need to think of some trick to increase the amount of air -- bigger pump, more diffusers for smaller bubbles, spongy media with lots of surface area, etc.
Matthew Fallon


Joined: Jan 07, 2010
Posts: 307
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
    
    1
i cant link to it from my kindle reader, but there is a youtube vid where the guy uses a solids handling sump pump to make a waterfall type setup in his 55gal brewer. he also added a venturi vacuum in line to suck air into the flow. the reasoning was that waterfalls create the most difused oxygen in nature. seemed like a great application of biomimicry and i was going to follow suit until i priced the pump.most were over $150 . for now I've settled for a 5gal bucket and $30 60gal aquarium air pump with four air stones. two long bars and two standard cylinder type. i want to get a microscope so i can see what im actually producing... any recommendations, or other ways to gauge?.


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Michael Newby


Joined: Apr 06, 2011
Posts: 129
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
    
    6
John Elliott wrote:... think of some trick to increase the amount of air -- bigger pump, more diffusers for smaller bubbles, spongy media with lots of surface area, etc.


That's really what I was thinking of with the riffles - another trick to increase the surface area of the water exposed. From doing my diligent internet research, it would seem that for large brewers (rain barrels and bigger) the consensus for aeration is pumping the water somehow, not just relying on the bubbles to turn the water over. I personally am leaning towards an airlift pump with a vortex, but I like playing with different ideas just because.

I guess the thing I'm really wondering is can you reach maximum O2 in the water stream with just an airlift and a vortex, or would adding another step be warranted to squeeze a little more in. I really wish I could afford one of those O2 meters but it was hard enough buying the heavy duty air pump (Ecoplus comm. 7, it's a beast).

I'm thinking should be able to brew 250-300 gallons at once in my water trailer with the air pump I got and using all the other tricks for aerating the brew. I couldn't get all the parts I wanted at the little local hardware store to make a proper airlift, so for right now I just made a quick and dirty brewer with a 55 gal plastic drum with the pump blowing through a 16 port manifold held down with a rock - man that baby was going! Maybe a little too vigorous but it looked an smelled sweet after about 30 hrs. I'll try to get pictures of the next batch going.
 
 
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