Evaporative cooling is extremely important for large-scale operation of rotating drum bioreactors (RDBs). Outlet water vapour concentrations were measured for a RDB containing wet wheat bran with the aim of determining the mass transfer coefficient for evaporation from the bran bed to the headspace. Mass transfer was expressed as the mass transfer coefficient times the area for transfer per unit volume of void space in the drum. Values of ka' were determined under combinations of aeration superficial velocities ranging from 0.006 to 0.017 ms(-1) and rotation rates ranging from 0 to 9 rpm. Mass transfer coefficients were evaluated using a variety of residence time distributions (RTDs) for flow in the gas phase including plug flow and well-mixed and a Central Jet RTD based on RTD studies. If plug flow is assumed, the degree of holdup at low effective Peclet (Pe(eff)) numbers gives an apparent under-estimate of ka' compared with empirical correlations. Values of ka' calculated using the Central Jet RTD agree well with values of ka' from literature correlations. There was a linear relationship between ka' and effective Peclet number: ka' = 2.32 x 10(-3) Pe(eff). (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.