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Plate Chiller - To Pump or Not to Pump

So I got fed up with poor wort chilling speed using an immersion chiller and on somewhat of an impulse I ordered a plate chiller from DudaDiesel
http://www.dudadiesel.com/search.php?query=%2Bbeer+%2Bwort+%2Bchiller&i=beerchillers
.

I’ve read that these work fine using a gravity feed, but I’ve got a buddy who insists I’m going to need a pump. I really don’t want to lay down $150 on a March high temp pump. I’d rather put that money toward my upcoming kegging project. Any pointers out there from people using plate chillers? Are there significantly cheaper, but reasonably effective high temp pumps?

Well, here’s the deal about plate chillers at least from my point of view. Gravity feeding is fine so long as I can get it high enough to feed…

Seriously, from my setup we need to move the the five gallon boil kettle of boiling wort off the burner, down to the basement and up above my head onto the shelving by the washing machine to sit on in order to get it high enough to drop from the pot, through the chiller and into the carboy. So some of this might be design flaw on my part, but without moving anything this is the only way to get it to work and on a solo brew session every time I have to lift that boil kettle up over my head I get worried. I mean, I’m totally strong enough to do it, and have done it many, many times, because I’m pretty much totally jacked, but one slip is all it would take.

So I guess the moral of my story is that you should think about how you would use it and that I need to figure out a change to my brewing setup so I don’t severely burn myself…

Minneapolis Brewer - I sure hope you follow thru and change your system. Be safe, even if you have to go to an IC. That’s much better than worrying about going to the ICU.

My experience is that a pump is unessesary, though it is likely that how your system is set up plays a role in this. I sit my kettle on top of a bridge table (on some wooden cut-offs to protect the table top from heat), and gravity feed through the plate chiller and into a bucket, both of which are sitting on the ground. Depending on the temperature of the tap water, I may need to restrict flow from of it or the wort to ensure I get the wort to pitching temperature. No problems at all in draining fast. I should note that I’m using a Therminator, and I believe it has better flow through it than most other systems out there, so that might also be a factor.

One key thing to consider: keep hops out of the chiller - it is very hard to clean them out if they get in, and they can clog the system; a kettle screen is a VERY good idea when using a plate chiller.

This makes me feel a little better about my impulsive purchase: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fhG9QtSSrk&feature=plcp

Hopefully the hop spider I built over the weekend will do a suitable job preventing hop matter getting into the wort, so I don’t need to worry about filtering before chilling.

I’ve got a therminator and I gravity feed from my boil kettle that is ~36" (just a bit higher than the neck of my carboy) off the ground and I don’t have any issue with flow. I do use bag my hops to keep from clogging the chiller.

Yeah, I’m thinking my new hop spider will be key to making this work. I look forward to trying them out in a couple weeks. I think I’ll do a dry run of the chiller with just water first to see how it works.

What kind of time was it taking you to use an IC that you felt was causing beer problems? Were you running water quickly and stirring constantly? I ask because gravity feeding a plate chiller isn’t going to be overly speedy and your wort is at near boiling that whole time. at least with an IC and stirring you are dropping the temp right off the bat and preserving your hop aroma. I think a plate chiller has an advantage when it comes to amount of water used but without a pump you might lose that. Of course you probably know this is a running battle. Duda Diesel has great prices on chillers, you did good there. As important as kegging is, I think since you invested in the PC that you probably ought to finish the job and get a March pump. They’re useful for lots of things.

Hey Lennie. In my last brew session it took 30 minutes using an IC to go from boiling to 90 and then 30 more minutes to get to 82 where it plateaued. I only stir periodically, which could be part of the problem. I tend to use that time to multi-task. I think the other issue is my copper coil is a 25 footer, which I think just doesn’t provide enough surface area to efficiently cool a ~6.5 gallon volume.

I even used another homemade copper coil immersed in ice in-line between the water hose and the chiller. I forget the exact temp, but I didn’t install it until the temp had already fallen quite a bit. I’m not convinced it made enough difference to continue using this practice.

I am aiming to reduce time and water volume. Time was particularly an issue on my last brew. I brewed at night, because of the sweltering heat. When 2AM came and my carboy still had not cooled to pitching temp after sitting in the basement for an hour, I was so tired I just didn’t care and pitched anyway. Probably going to get some fusel alcohols.

I use a 25fter for my 5-5.5gal batches and it would take the kind of time you’re talking about. I recently found that if I stood there and stirred continuously, I could get to 90F in under 15min. It does mean you have to stand there though. At that point I rack to the fermentor and put it in the basement on the concrete or in a swamp cooler. It usually takes at least a few hours before its at pitching temp, and I often leave it overnight before pitching with no adverse effects.

That said, your plate chiller is going to cool quickly and the only time limiting factor is going to be how long it takes to put all your wort though. Thats why I think you might as well get a pump. I finally broke down and bought one and it is a useful addition to the brewday. For your setup, you’ll be able to pump through the plate chiller and right into your fermentor and be done in something like 5min from what I hear.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]I use a 25fter for my 5-5.5gal batches and it would take the kind of time you’re talking about. I recently found that if I stood there and stirred continuously, I could get to 90F in under 15min. It does mean you have to stand there though. At that point I rack to the fermentor and put it in the basement on the concrete or in a swamp cooler. It usually takes at least a few hours before its at pitching temp, and I often leave it overnight before pitching with no adverse effects.
[/quote]

That is exactly what I should have done Saturday night. It just made me nervous to leave the wort in a somewhat vulnerable state for so long. I admit I probably wasn’t thinking very clearly at 2AM. With proper sanitation, I guess it should be fine to let it sit in a sealed carboy until morning.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]

That said, your plate chiller is going to cool quickly and the only time limiting factor is going to be how long it takes to put all your wort though. Thats why I think you might as well get a pump. I finally broke down and bought one and it is a useful addition to the brewday. For your setup, you’ll be able to pump through the plate chiller and right into your fermentor and be done in something like 5min from what I hear.[/quote]

When I do my dry run with the plate chiller, I’ll time how long it takes to drain the kettle (using a ball valve) so I can calculate flow rate. I’m also curious how flow rate affects cooling efficiency. I may not want to send the wort through at warp speed.

I’ve been thinking about sending the wort from the kettle (through the chiller) into a bucket, whirlpool to get the cold break to settle out, then rack to the carboy. Since I got the 1/2" auto-siphon, it just just a few minutes to rack. Is this overkill, though?

I don’t know that the cold break ever hurt anything and I don’t think too many poeple using PCs bother with this, but yes you can settle it before racking.

As far as speed goes, I’d suggest that you want to run the wort through as fast as it can be chilled. Running the cooling water fairly fast will allow you increased speed. One of the biggest advantages of the chiller is speed so I’d certainly set it up that way. You still aren’t going to get any cooler than a few degrees above your chiller water temp so you might be letting it sit in the basement anyway.

Be sure and report back on how you like the PC and how long it takes you to chill.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]You still aren’t going to get any cooler than a few degrees above your chiller water temp so you might be letting it sit in the basement anyway.

Be sure and report back on how you like the PC and how long it takes you to chill.[/quote]

In all of my evil scheming, I’ve also been thinking about using the chiller in a small styrofoam cooler with a small amount of ice during summer to get the temps down to pitching temp faster. Have to be careful there, though, since I might find myself still needing to let the wort sit to warm up to pitching temp. :wink:

Unless you agitate the IC in the ice bath, it won’t do much for pre-chilling since a layer of warm water will build up around the IC almost immediately. This is why a bucket of ice water and a pond pump is a vastly superior method for moving cold water through a heat-exchanger - I used 40 lbs of ice to drop 15 gallons of wort from 110F to 60F in 10 minutes using a pond pump and a whirlpool IC. You could do a single pass through the PC into a bucket to get the temp down to groundwater, then run it through again with ice water in the PC and balance the flows to get 60F, shouldn’t take much ice with 5-6 gallons of wort.

Hi Lennie,

Gravity feeding 5 gallons of wort through my therminator only takes 6-7 minutes, perhaps a bit more if there is a lot of break material and the filter in my kettle starts to clog a bit. It will also take longer if my tap water is close to my pitching temperature, but that is rarely a problem I have. I have found that if you throttle back the flow rate of the wort some, you can actually get the wort equal to tap water temperature.

So unless you plan to have your wort end up at a level above your kettle, it is hard to see where a pump is nessasary.

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]

Gravity feeding 5 gallons of wort through my therminator only takes 6-7 minutes, perhaps a bit more if there is a lot of break material and the filter in my kettle starts to clog a bit. [/quote]

What kind of filter do you have? I do not have one, so I am a little concerned. I strain my wort from the MLT into the kettle to remove as many solids as I can. I will be using a hop spider. But there will still be solids. I’ve got a 10 gallon Blichmann BoilerMaker.

edited for typo

Same experience as Cellars, ~5 minutes to move from boil kettle through therminator via gravity feed for a 5 gallon batch. I do have a Hopblocker (still bag my hops though) which does help keep any other solids from making it to my therminator, not sure it is needed but I’ve got it so I use it.

I filter using a stainless braid which is snaked around the perimeter of the kettle. Some tricks to making that work, as it is pretty easy to clog it up. I try not to use pellet hops, because if there is enough there (takes several ounces) it can clog the flow. Especially careful when boiling worts that are high % of pils malt, as that creates a lot of hot break that can also clog things up. A whirlpool reduces the problem. So does using whole hops and NOT bagging them - they form a sort of filter bed.

Today I finally I gave my plate chiller a go for the first time. I used a gravity feed. It worked very well for 4.5 gallons, then the siphon died–leaving a gallon of good wort in the kettle.

The siphon did not stop because of trub or hop sludge (I used whole hops in a hop spider). It seems to stop when the wort level falls below the horizontal part of the dip tube. This is similar to what I experienced on a couple dry run tests
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=110973
a few weeks ago using only water.

You’ve got an opening in the horizontal part of the dip tube that allows air to enter and disrupts the syphon.

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