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Plate Chiller - To Pump or Not to Pump

Sorry to bump this older thread, but I made some changes to my setup and am trying to figure out if I will need a pump. I’m using a 10G Blichmann Boilermaker with Hopblocker on a Top Tier Burner with the 24" leg extensions and will be going into a Therminator and then into a bucket. Using an IC I just went from the kettle into the bucket under the kettle. To use the Therminator I am assuming I will need to have it at least a few inches below the level of the dip tube on the kettle and then have the bucket below the Therminator by a few inches at least. Or are people able to gravity feed from the kettle into the plate chiller on the ground and then back up from the ground and into the fermenter?

In order to use gravity, you will need a tiered setup where the chiller is at least a few inches below the kettle dip tube and the bucket is well below the chiller.

An update to my saga:
I used gravity on a few batches with the same result each time. 1/5 - 1/6 of good wort was left in the kettle when the siphon died prematurely. I too use a 10 gallon boilermaker, but with a hop spider. I checked my dip tube to ensure it was securely connected with no apparent leaks.

I ended up getting a pump and I’m glad I did. Not only does it make the chilling process work more smoothly, but I’ve found other uses for a pump in my brewhouse. It has transformed my brew day.

At the risk of hijacking my own thread, how do you find the Hopblocker works?

Yes, this works quite well as long as the feed tubes stay below the level of the wort in the kettle. I would strongly recommend you try this. By having the chiller below the level of the bucket, you ensure that it is full at all times making it more efficient. The only problem with doing it this way is that when the kettle empties, you loose your feed and none of the wort still in the chiller will flow into the fermentor. I solve that problem by lifting up my chiller to above the level of the bucket to get that last bit in.

Thanks for the replies. I will update to let everyone know how this goes. I have not used the burner, kettle or hop blocker yet (or the Thermonator obviously). We recently moved to a new state and I left my old kettles, burner and immersion chiller with a buddy since we did not have room at the time. Good excuse to upgrade I figured.

I’ve got the 20 gal Blichmann kettle and I find it works quite well. After flame out I stir for a minute or two to create a whirlpool and then let it sit for 15 minutes. After the wait (which is sometimes longer if if I’m doing a hop stand) I go ahead and drain. It does help to follow the directions and slow down how quick you’re pulling wort when you lift the ‘gate’ on the hop blocker. I’m going through a therminator for cooling and just using gravity but I only leave about a 1/2 gallon of a thick hoppy mess at the bottom of the kettle. I’ve done some fairly hoppy 10 gallon Pale ales with no issue so I’m quite pleased as it seems to keep all the gunk from clogging the therminator.

On a side note I think I’ll be moving to a pump too even though gravity feeding through the terminator works fine. I’d just like to have my boil kettle a bit lower than what works well for using the therminator with gravity and with how cool my ground water is I can cool much faster than gravity can move wort. Will also be nice to be able to lower my mash tun too as it is kind of a pain having it high enough to stay above the fairly large 20 gallon kettle.

Thanks Flip. I’ve seen mixed reviews on the hopblocker. I assume you’re using it with pellets, rather than leaf hops per the manufacturer instructions?

I used to be almost exclusively a pellet guy until recently acquiring several pounds of leaf hops from hopsdirect. So hopblocker may not be an option for me until I burn through them. Will be a while.

Since I have a 10 gal. kettle, I am a little concerned the hopblocker may get in the way during whirlpool.

Yep, all pellet hops for me. I’ve been lucky enough to get all the hops I wanted in pellet form though I’m pretty sure you could just loosely bag leaf hops in the boil and still use the hopblocker.

As an update, I ended up picking up a March 815 pump. Not sure if I’ll use it yet or not, but am thinking of going kettle>pump>therminator>thrumometer>copper tubing whirlpool arm to sanitize while boiling the last 10 minutes. At flame out, I’d turn off the pump and transfer the whirlpool arm into the fermenter, turn on the water to the chiller and plug the pump back in. Then adjust flow into the pump to get to pitching temp.

With the gravity option, I would have to soak the therminator in star san and let the star san get pushed out by wort. I try to avoid getting star san into the fermenter, so i’d have to waste the first bit of wort and then quickly put the hose into the fermenter.

Any suggestions?

Sounds like your plan should work, but I’m not sure why the fear of getting star san in the fermentor. I’m guessing you sanitize it with star san before you fill it? If you do a simple gravity drain of your therminator and hoses the amount left that will get mixed in with your wort will be negligable on a five gallon batch.

But if the pump flow is adjustable, that should help you optimize your flow and target chill to most efficiently use very cold tap water if you have it. In the middle of the winter here I have to choke back my tap flow to avoid chilling my wort to 40F.

I was thinking the same thing. It’s quite easy to run Star San through your pump and chiller and drain everything except maybe an inconsequential residual amount.

I pour some Star San solution into my HLT (which has a ball valve) and recirculate through my pump and chiller for a bit. Then stop the pump and let it sit for a while. Could be a few minutes to an hour, depending on when I decide to do it. Just before I need to chill, I drain and connect to the kettle.

I do use Star San in the fermenter, but kind of spray it on and wipe it down with a sponge, probably not more than 1/2 oz is in the fermenter. I wasn’t sure what volume the Therminator holds or how much is retained even after draining. If that works for other people though, I might give that a try. Turns out the Thrumometer is only rated for 140 degrees, so I’ll have to figure out another way to recirculate hot wort if I want to keep it in the circuit. Thanks for all the advice.

To update, I ended up going kettle>pump>hop rocket>plate chiller>back to kettle for the last 20 mins and then turned on the water. Once the hose going into the kettle was cool after 5 mins or so i attached the thrumometer and it was at 72 so i emptied the kettle into the fermenter. To protect against a stuck therminator i used the hopblocker and had an oz of hops in the hoprocket to filter. 2 oz of hop pellets went into the kettle loose and another 2 went into a hop bag in the kettle towards the end. I didnt try to whirlpool and had no issues.

I used my Shirron chiller for the 90th time this weekend without any issues. I use gravity to transfer wort and use muslin bags to filter hops without a screen. I’ve been interested in potentially adding a pump to my brewery in order to whirlpool. Johnw what type of arm do use you use to redirect wort into the boil kettle?

I tried making something out of copper tubing to act as a whirlpool arm but couldnt find a way to secure it in a good position. Ultimately I just stuck the silicone tubing under the lid of the kettle to recirculate.

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