MES MODS and AMNPS: better smoke when MES is OFF

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by jesse t, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. I have the 30" analogue MES with just the one small vent in the right upper rear.  I have been struggling with keeping the AMNPS lit.   Additionally, even if it stays lit, very few of the pellets turn to ash.  Mostly, they just turn black but retain their shape.  I suspect this is from inadequate air.  I have already added an aquarium pump at the bottom pumping air in through a 1/4" pipe, but I think that drilling a few larger holes on the bottom and on the side.  So, I actually have two things I'm looking for feedback on:

    1.  The hole for the aquarium pump is low on the right side. The AMNPS usually sits on top of the stock (unused) chip tray.  The outlet vent is rear right near the top.  Does anyone have any thoughts about the number/location of additional vent holes? 

    2.  Usually, when I'm done smoking, I will take out the AMNPS and separate the burning pellets (if it's still going) from the unused pellets to save them for next time.  Last night after I was done smoking game hens for dinner, I checked to see if I needed to separate the pellets, but there was no visible smoke coming from the AMNPS.  I removed the birds, closed the door, and turned off the MES.  10 minutes later, the AMNPS is chugging perfectly along, producing the kind of smoke I have been after!  It continued, burning the remaining pellets to ash. No water in the pan.  So, I'm wondering why the AMNPS works so much better after I'm done smoking and the MES is off than it does when I'm smoking at 225.  The physical ventilation system is the same in both scenarios, so I assume that the heat changes something... but what and how?
  2. This is just a guess...

    I think that the pellets got nice and dried out after being in the MES during the hot smoke and then the extra air they got when you opened the door to remove the birds got them going again. They continued to burn with the door closed because the air is sufficient when the pellets are very dry but not sufficient when the pellets are not very dry. You can try microwaving the pellets before use and see if that helps.

    Another cause may be that you are not lighting the pellets well enough the first time. You have to blast them with a propane/butane torch really well until you think they are well lit and then blast them some more for good measure. Then let them burn/smoke outside the MES until you have 1 inch or so of hot coals at the end before putting the AMNPS inside the MES. This is what I do.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  3. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I know Todd has some specific MES instructions - have you seen them? I know he and the family are up at the lake this weekend. 
  4. I should have mentioned that I did microwave for 1 minute prior to lighting.  I actually lit both ends and blasted them for a good 45 seconds then let them burn while I rubbed down the birds, which took a good ten minutes.  The door opening could definitely be a factor, though I opened it about 30 minutes earlier in the smoke for roughly the same duration to adjust meat thermometers.  One side of the AMNPS was still producing some smoke at this time, but the door opening didn't noticeably increase the smoke output and it wasn't visibly smoking 30 minutes later when I pulled the meat and turned the MES off.  I appreciate your very pertinent input, but am not convinced that drier pellets and door opening are the only big factors here. 
    I have the owners "manual" paperwork and have conversed with Todd previously.  He was the one who introduced the aquarium pump idea to me.  I don't know that I've seen a comprehensive MES specific handout from him, though.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  5. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Give him a shout Monday - I think there is some adjustment to the chip loader to get more oxygen - don't have the MES so I am not sure on details  
  6. It is surprising to me that so many of us use "Masterbuilt" electric smokers and further that

    so many of us have on going problems generating adequate levels of smoke. 

    Seems to me there is are real opportunity for the company or the maker of AMNPS to develop

    a "workable" workaround for this product.  Masterbuilt did try with their "retro-kit"  which is a

    small improvement over the original.

    I'm not an engineer but I wish some of you out there would give it a try.  I for one would be 

    willing to pay for a solution that really worked.

  7. Steve, I think it's just a matter of figuring out proper placement and ventilation in the smoker.  My model has very little ventilation in its design. I don't think that could be engineered away in an aftermarket smoke generator like AMNPS. If fire isn't getting enough air, it's going to go out.  I saw someone post in a different thread how it would be nice to have the heat for the smoke different than the heat for the meat, somehow insulating one from the other.  I suppose Bradley does this in a way, if I understand the premise.
    Thanks Scarbelly. I expect that he'll see this thread, but if not I'll PM him and see what he thinks. The analogue model has no chip loader. By design you would have to open the door to load the chips.  There is only one small ventilation hole in the back.  That's why I'm thinking about drilling some more holes in it. 
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  8. Thanks, Scarbelly.

    Any other thoughts will be appreciated.
  9. The AMNPS is a solution that works very well with the MES. That is, with the true "digital electric smokehouse" MES.  With the MES you can get enough air inside the box by pulling out the loader and chip tray a few inches. On the other hand, the Masterbuilt analog smoker (which is being called a MES in this thread but is a completely different design smoker) does not have the same loader/chip tray arrangement and it is more difficult to get sufficent air inside this box. I understand that the fixes for the analog model are to either drill a few extra hose in the box or to use an aquariam air pump. Just saying that there are solutions that work for either model smoker. I have a MES and the AMNPS works great in it. Just saying...
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
  10. I need help, too.

    I have the same model that you have. 

    Masterbult Analogue Smoker-30"
    model # 20070210 

    For other reading this, It is NOT the same as the MES 30

    I am having the exact same problems that you are having.  Either the pellets smother out or the burn to a black(which tells me that I'm mostly getting creosote since they are not burning hot enough?)

    I emailed Jeff and his response for smoking cheese is to leave the door slightly cracked, which is ok.  Another suggestion was to but a fan near the top, rear exhaust hole to create a ventury type draw

    Have you or anyone done anything to correct these problems?

    I really don't want to be drilling holes everywhere, but if that is what is needed, I will

    thanks, Brian
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
  11. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The Masterbuilt Analog Smoker only has one small hole for intake and one small hole for exhaust.  You need more intake air for proper combustion.  Roller added an aquarium pump to his MES Analog, and has had great luck.  I've also had other customers drill 2-3 additional 1/2" - 3/4" holes towards the bottom for more air intake.

    If anyone is having issues, drop me a note or call me and we can figure it out together.

    Sometimes is altitude or humidity, or something as simple as placement inside your smoker
    The MFG. thinks there is nothing wrong with their smokers

    The original AMNS was designed out of my own frustration with my MES 40.  About a year later the AMNPS was born.

    The Tube Smoker was created after my frustration with my Traeger Pellet Grill

  12. Let me know when it's a good time to call you.  It seems you have a lot on your plate dealing with others and sales/marketing and of course, your family(BTDT).  Today is not necessary

    I'm on the west coast at less than 25' elevation and temps are reasonable at this time of the year.  right now it's 73*, with 44% humidity and wind at 3mph. (1:15pm pacific time).

    I'm struggling to get a good white pellet burn on a dry run.  Salmon goes on about 3-4 hours from now.  Temp is running 130+/-

    The smoker is a Masterbuilt Analogue and I'm using a PID with relay to control the heating element.  I've done no mods because Cabelas told me if I'm not happy, I can return it.

    I like the idea of this unit doing lower and higher temps than the MES 30/40, so I'm really trying to stick with what I have

    BTW,Today,  I'm using Smokehouse pellets(cherry w/ alder base) because I didn't have any of your alder.  The last batch came out too stong and a little bitter creosote taste from the poor burn.
  13. I have been having better luck lately.  I already had the aquarium pump going but it wasn't enough.  I drilled some extra small (1/4") on the back and 5 or 6 the same size in cluster on the lower right, below where the AMNPS sits.  I got a USB powered variable speed computer type fan that I can plug into a standard outlet via an adapter.  I use whatever is around to set the fan on at the correct height blowing at the cluster of holes I drilled. I'm still working on the sweet spot as far as fan speed, but I'm able to get a complete and steady burn.  Main problem so far was burning too fast, but I had the fan going pretty fast.  Definitely prefer that over lack of smoke.
  14. kundoggy

    kundoggy Newbie

    All I did is turn hook on the closure latch on the left hand side twice counter-clockwise (losen it a little).

    I got 5 hours out of the expected 5 hours worth of pellets.

    The airflow around the door was more than enough to keep it smoking.
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Apparently airflow, even with your aquarium pump, isn't adequate to do the job. Sorry that I can't advise you on drilling holes. I can tell you that in my MES 30 Gen 1 (which has a different airflow pattern from your analog, I also found that the AMNPS burned great guns after I took the meat out of my smoker. That told me that airflow was being restricted inside my smoker, too. Both Todd and Bearcarver gave me advice specific to the MES 30. On my own I figured that since airflow was greater to the rear of my smoker I should insert the AMNPS burning end first, and it worked.

    I'm not one for drilling holes in my smoker or doing any mods. Perhaps I've been fortunate because my MES has worked fine since the first time I used it. Run your airflow problem by Todd and Bear, keeping in mind that the AMNPS was developed using the MES 30 Gen 1 but I think Todd may have tested it on the analog models as well.
  16. wingrider

    wingrider Fire Starter

    I have been using an AMNPS in a Digital MES 30 for several years now. Only mod is one I saw years ago in this forum (and can no longer find) where you take an aluminum roasting pan, cut off one side, cut a hole in the center of the pan, and then turn it upside down at the top of the MES. Idea is to get a more even smoke distribution. I also have the water pan filled with sand, and covered with tin foil. I leave the top vent completely open, and have a soup can with the end cut out pushed down on the vent to give it a small chimney effect. So that's the setup. Only other comment is that I live in NC where it is generally humid and no breeze.

    I absolutely 100% love the AMNPS but I have never been able to keep it going just by itself. I've tried all possible permutations of chip pan and chip loader. Even when taking the pan and chip loader totally out, it still won't stay lit reliably. When I used to use the AMNPS for cold smoking, but the start to add wood chips to the pan when using the heater, the pellets would often stop burning entirely. Now I tend to use just the AMNPS entirely for smoke generation.

    Bottom line is, I've simply had to use a small fan (about 12" diameter) that I either point to blow across the vent and soup can, or point towards the chip tray loader hole. I can vary the smoke somewhat by moving the fan so it's either blowing directly at the holes, or varying blowing off to the side of the holes at various angles, but if I don't add this additional air stream goodbye smoke.

    It's not a very elegant solution, but it's the only way I get a reliable smoke.
  17. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Which generation of MES 30 do you own? I've had the MES digital 30 Gen 1 for over 3 years and I've been using the AMNPS for most of that time. I've got no problem with keeping it lit. I insert the tray smoking end towards the rear wall. My thinking is that air circulation is better in the rear of the smoker due to the grease tray slot, the top vent, and the chip loader all being in the back.

    I haven't done any mods to it. As for smoke circulation, every time I open the door to foil meat or whatever, the cooking chamber is filled with smoke. The 30" smoker is so small that the smoke produced by the AMNPS is more than ample to fully smoke--even oversmoke--foods.

    However, I live in western Washington state which will never be as humid as it gets in NC. We don't always get a breeze but I think overall I'm blessed by the weather because I don't usually have any of the problems that I read about from guys living in other states. The only time the AMNPS tends to go out is when I'm doing a cold smoke during a cool, misty evening. But still the AMNPS produced more than enough smoke and I was trying to cold smoke for too long a time anyway. It was cheese and I was attempting to smoke it for about 4-6 hours when 2 hours is usually more than enough. I haven't cold smoked this year but I hope to get around to it.
  18. wingrider

    wingrider Fire Starter

    I  own what I believe is called the 2nd generation. It does have a digital display, and has  the larger chip pan. Bottom line is I'd love not to have to mess with the fan all the time, but I get good results and love the ease of separately controlling the smoke (AMNPS) and the heat (MES heating element). Though I do disagree with one person's statement I read who thought the AMNPS didn't give off much heat. The MES is so well insulated, I've cold smoked cheese in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter when it was 20 degrees outside - hey that's about as cold as it gets around here - and still had a problem with the temperature in the MES getting up around 100 and some of the cheese melting.
  19. will75

    will75 Fire Starter

    Todd's called me before, and i've called him before. When the AMNPS works, it's amazing. But down here in florida.I am not sure if it's the humidity or what..But even taking EVERYTHING OUT.. including the chip tray and even the side loader.  (have gen 2) It still doesn't stay lit... I need to do 50-65 pounds of butt for next friday. I am unsure if the 40 inch can even handle that much.  Been debating how to tackle this, but that's another thread. Not sure AMNPS will work for this smoke since the unit will be stacked with meat's, and all the juices will be dropping from 4 racks heh.

    I have a blow torch and usually let it flame for 10-15 minus, or about 1/4 of a row before i put it in, still goes out.I have to baby it all night. Something tells me, i won't be sleeping much before the big day next friday. And the lady wants me to smoke a pie, and corn heh... might need to convert my new genesis grill to smoke some for more room.  
  20. will75

    will75 Fire Starter

    pro tip..Don't use a fan with chips and the tray in.. holy fire batman, i had it "POP" a few times on me heh.  But yeah, i use a fan sometimes as well, because i just can't keep AMNPS lit down here in florida. even during the winter.  I even bought AMNPS pellets,which do seem to work a bit better than the other recommended types. I have a big smoke coming up.I might just get it all done a day early or the morning of.. and just vaccum it all up... Then sous vide it at the event and shred it there.

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