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Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 07:09
by Agoracritus
I recently constructed a cold smoke generator that is completely “off the map”.

Rather than going with a conventional Venturi style system, I made a an enclosed and pressurized system that heats and smolders the wood chips/pellets entirely with an electric burner.

The downside of this design was immediately obvious in that it initially produces a very humid and acrid/stale smoke.

To combat this I added an inline condenser (that is fairly complex), and after many (many) hours of tinkering and adjusting the system, have concluded that this method is a pain in the ass.

It’s very efficient, but also very complicated, requiring a lot of monitoring and adjustments during operation.

At this point, I could just bail on the design and make or purchase a conventional Venturi system, HOWEVER, it does produce the cleanest and most refined smoke I’ve ever seen/smelled from a smoke generator.

I set the temp and airflow to steam off the inherent moisture content of the wood chips/pellets (not connected to my smoke chamber) for about an hour or two. Then crank up the burner and airflow to produce a clean and dry smoke before plugging the outlet into my smoking chamber.

Although it can easily take 2-4 hours before generating the “good smoke”, and then generate a steady flow of clean/refined smoke for as much as 4-6 hours (with only a cup or two of pellets), it definitely doesn’t produce a high volume of smoke, and is relatively high maintenance to operate.

My question is about the trade off. Quantity vs quality. Anyone familiar with this dilemma?

I know this is a difficult question to answer because most hot and cold smokers are designed to create a high volume of smoke, but isn’t it possible that less is more?

I wish you could sniff the smoke I’m using. It’s actually so pleasant that it could be considered gourmet. But again, I’m relatively new to advanced charcuterie, so any thoughts are appreciated.

Re: Smoking

Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:17
by Bob K
There are a lot of topics on smoke generators in the smokehouse section. viewforum.php?f=24 To be honest even after constructing or purchasing venturi or other types of generators many have switched to the simple , maintenance free tube or Chanel type generator like the Amazin. KISS at its best :lol:
As far as smoke volume, less is better for either hot or cold smoking.
redzed wrote:
Sat Oct 29, 2016 07:04
And when cold smoking you don't want an excess amount of smoke, just a steady waft of blue smoke over a long period of time.

Re: Smoking

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 00:03
by Agoracritus
Thanks Bob,
Now I’m even more confused than ever :? :wink:

Seriously though, I appreciate your response and the link to related posts. Unfortunately, after about 6 hours of reading through questions and answers, I have even more questions. (not that that’s a bad thing. I am learning a lot, including just how much I still don’t fully understand)

For example: why does stainless steel seem to be frequently advised? (Bread proofers, etc.) I’ve made (strictly cold-smoking) boxes before, from metal filing cabinets to China hutches. I was just recently considering using a free fridge I picked up (that doesn’t have great seals) to convert into a cold smoking chamber (so I can just keep it outdoors permanently)
Is this not advisable (something wrong with plastic interior lining I don’t know about)? And either way, if I abandon my smoke generator experiment in leu of a simpler coil or tube system, how do I create the appropriate amount of oxygen for combustion in a relatively closed space, and without generating unwanted heat?

From what I’ve recently read/reviewed about “fuse” style smoke tubes/coils, they don’t actually generate much heat at all, which totally blows my mind. In fact, to further appreciate your response (Bob), why ARE there so many cold smoke gadgets on the market if it’s really that simple to accomplish? Just marketing and hype?? If nothing else, I’m kind of kicking myself for not “keeping it simple, stupid”! (I also just realized that was the “kiss” reference you made. Lol, I actually looked up “kiss smoke generators” on Amazon! :P)

Re: Smoking

Posted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 03:54
by Agoracritus
Bob K wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:17
To be honest even after constructing or purchasing venturi or other types of generators many have switched to the simple , maintenance free tube or Chanel type generator like the Amazin. KISS at its best :lol:

How’s this for simple? Free fridge + 3-1/2” hole saw (and drill), a few 3-1/2” ABS plumbing parts (already had, and not really necessary), a couple bricks and an ash container (already had). The hanging racks are the fridge shelves with the glass removed (and will hold my 16-3/4” smoking/curing repurposed arrow shaft hanging rods perfectly)! :D 8)

Total cost: $20 (for the cold smoke “tube” I ordered, that should arrive today or tomorrow) (and some sausages I gave to the gentleman I got the free fridge from off the classifieds, as a courtesy, who really appreciated and enjoyed them with his family.)

Total “build” time: About 20 minutes (not including the fridge scrubbing time, and several days of airing out, not that it was nasty or anything, just being thorough)

Thanks again Bob K, for helping me simplify things!!!

Pic #1 is how it turned out, I’m pretty sure it will work great. (if the ash catcher stifles the smoke tube, I’ll just use a 16” paving brick I already have a ton of)

Pic #2 Is “operation mode”. (I should be able to direct or dampen the smoke as needed, between the two “chimneys”)

Pic #3 Is “storage mode”. (The roof overhang above doesn’t totally keep it out of the rain, but I’ll add a piece of sheet metal on the top of the fridge if necessary)

If all goes to plan :roll: I’ll be operating it in the next day or two, (after some trial run testing, and maybe post a few more pics of the smoker in action...)

Re: Smoking

Posted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 05:47
by Agoracritus
Update: Well, the trial run was equally encouraging and discouraging.

The smoker produced a great flow of quality smoke, however the internal temperature of the chamber rose to about 20 degrees (F) above the ambient temperature after a couple hours (to 94 degrees) :?

This is way too high for its intended purpose. (As a cold smoker <70 degrees F)

If I could keep the smoke chamber within 5-10 degrees of the outside temp, I could simply operate it when temps are below 60 degrees, which usually is not a problem where I live (NW Washington state).

Ideally though, I’d like the cold smoker to operate at less than 5 degrees above the outside/ambient temp.

At this point, there are several modifications that I could try, but for now, my brain hurts. :oops:

From everything I’ve been able to research from the web on this particular subject: Either I don’t have enough intake or exhaust, or too much intake or exhaust. (Or maybe just the fridge being insulated and capturing/containing the heat, is the culprit)...

All I know for certain, right now, is that I’m at a complete loss for what to try next. I can easily increase or restrict airflow. (The size of the chamber is approximately 15 cubic feet, with an air intake of a 1 inch hole in the base, and a 3-1/2” chimney outlet, with a tube-style smoke generator inside) Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

If nothing else, I can try simply propping the main chamber door open a bit. I’m sure this would significantly reduce the temp increase, but I still need to contain and direct the smoke to the sausages in the chamber also, otherwise what’s the point?

Re: Smoking

Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 07:08
by Agoracritus
This morning, I decided to try a few things before resorting to making an exterior smoke generating box (out of an old metal toolbox) to house the smoke tube, and piping the smoke through a hole in the side or bottom of the fridge, (which I would have to buy a new 4” hole saw to accomplish with the ducting I already have, and is still a possibility If I decide to go that route. The only reason I’ve been reluctant to do that is that it’s very similar to cold smoker builds I’ve done in the past and were higher maintenance than I’m trying to accomplish this round.)

In the interest of trying to keep the system as simple as possible, I first tried putting the smoke tube in an old metal drill case (on a piece of marble tile remnant, in the bottom of the box, to avoid cooking the factory paint in the drill case) and played around with dampening the smolder with the lid. This actually worked really well!

I’m not really sure why it made so much difference over just having the tube on the paving block, but I figured it was mostly by restricting the rate of burn, and also blocking some of the radiant heat produced.

To test my “radiant heat theory”, I put the old ash bin inside the drill box, to create a double wall effect, and it worked even better. So well, in fact, that I felt confident enough to put some dry curing sausages in the smoker from the curing chamber (that I’ve been battling some unwanted mold on a couple times in the last couple weeks)

After 2 hours of cold smoking with the latest setup, the closed smoking chamber only rose to about 3-4 degrees F above the outside temp (and with a decent volume and flow of smoke). I would’ve liked to have smoked the sausages for 2-4 more hours, but the outdoor temp got to 68 degrees by about noon, and so I returned them to the curing chamber for another day.)

Re: Smoking

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 02:52
by Agoracritus
Okay. I’m going to wrap up my post-athon today. I just wanted to share my final SUCCESS!!

I’d like to share my final steps, with a few pics, before I post the finale, so bare with me...

-I decided that I want to bend down as little as possible (bad back and all), so I spent a few hours yesterday making a cantilevered shelf out of scrap lumber, mounted on the back of the outbuilding where my cold smoker will sit permanently, a couple feet off the ground (next to my curing room on the cool/mostly shaded side of the building).

-After lifting the fridge onto the shelf (with the ‘ol tractor, and some assistance from a friend), I decided to go ahead and make an external smoke generating box today and test it out.

Here’s a pic of the final setup:

Re: Smoking

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 03:58
by Agoracritus
Here it is in final testing mode. I couldn’t be happier with how well it all came together!

-The chimney created the perfect amount of induced air draft, to draw in fresh air to the external smoke generating tube (in the repurposed toolbox), with the smoking chamber getting a really well circulated volume of quality smoke, AND it’s a genuinely COLD smoke!!

(Today was a good day to test it all out too because it was a bit gusty, with periods of calm and wind coming from every direction.)

I’m going to go ahead and chalk up this venture (through significant trial and error) as a COMPLETE SUCCESS!!!

I hope I was able to share some of my frustrations and disappointments (leading up to my eventual success) in such a way to be encouraging to anyone else going through the many ups and downs that make charcuterie the real challenge that it can be. (At least in my opinion, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be the potentially rewarding accomplishment that makes it so fun, when things actually come together) :wink:

Re: Smoking

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 16:20
by Bob K
Looks good! What type of dry cured sausage did you smoke?

Re: Smoking

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 20:59
by Agoracritus
Bob K wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 16:20
Looks good! What type of dry cured sausage did you smoke?
Thanks Bob. The sausages on the left of the pic I posted earlier are an experimental batch of Landjaegers (different sizes, shapes and diameters) to see how they dry differently. The sausages on the right, are a batch of Landjaegers how I usually make them. (I don’t bother flattening them anymore. I’m pretty sure that’s just how they’re done traditionally to make them more snack/pocket size, and maybe dry a little faster, but fermenting them between boards is a pain and the casings don’t go as far)

I actually screwed up the “regular” batch in the mixing stage, but I’ll put that in a new post, maybe.