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Workable pre-chiller solutions?

Yesterday was my first brew day using a plate chiller. It works well, except that my ground water is about 78F. My wort was in the fermenter at about the same temperature. I tried using my old immersion chiller in a bucket of ice water as a pre-chiller, but it had almost no effect on the water entering the plate chiller.

Does anyone have a working solution for pre-chilling water?  The best I can think of is gravity feeding ice water from my mash tun (10g Igloo) as my water supply and topping off the cooler as needed.

I was hoping that a plate chiller would make this process less cumbersome than an IC and an ice bath, but on the first try it didn't work out that way.

Cheap pond pump in a bucket of ice water is the only thing that works for me, but you can possibly make the pre-chiller work if you move it around in the ice water and slow the flow down (depending on the length of the pre-chiller).

You’re going to need shloads of ice with a prechiller - not only are you removing heat from your wort but also all that ground water. It’s far more efficient to use the ice water as your cooling source. I suggest you make 2 passes, once to get the wort down as close as possible to ground temps using the ground water source, then a second pass where the chilling water is a closed loop of ice and water. It also helps to pre-chill your pre-chill water, if you can put a bucket of water in the fridge the night before. You’ll need a pump for this, as shade suggests a cheap pond pump or sump pump will work since this water is not touching wort. It’s a worthwhile investment if you live in the south, and you can use the pump for other stuff (keg or carboy CIP, for example).

I do this by using 2 plate chillers in series. The first gets the ground water and the next gets ice water.

You guys have confirmed my suspicion that a pre-chiller won’t work. It was a nice thought, but from a thermodynamics standpoint, it isn’t feasible.

Since I only do 5 gallon batches and the Shirron chiller is pretty efficient, one pass should work if I recirculated ice water through the chiller with a pump. It would also save water.

I am fortunate that my groundwater is in the 56F range, but in the winter to conserve water (avoiding ice build up in my drive), I immersion chill by using a 20 gallon barrel about half full of ice water, with the water pre chilled outside overnight in 5 gallon buckets (usually nearly frozen solid, so I break it up and put it in the barrel with more water). I pump it with a cheap, submersible pump that I had used for pumping water off an above ground pool cover - the pool is long gone, thank you, but the pump I kept! I pull off about ten gallons of the first runnings of chiller water that is now hot and usable for clean up and then recirculate the rest, adding more ice as needed as the wort cools.

I can get down into the 40’sF with that system for lagers. In the summer, the ice isn’t so cheap, so I will chill to the 60’s and then put the chilled wort into a chest freezer (lager chest) until cool enough to aerate and pitch lager yeast. I can hit ale temperatures with groundwater except at the hottest time of summer, so I don’t take any special measures, other than swamp cooling ales in the basement, adding ice bottles as needed.

Pre-chilling sounds nice, but I don’t know if it will help you that much…

Can someone recommend a cheap pump that would work for pumping water through the plate chiller? A quick search left me overwhelmed with options.

Can’t vouch for it as I don’t have it but is seems something like this would work.
The plate chiller doesn’t seem like it’d be that restrictive. Pretty darn cheap to give a try.

You would definitely want to restrict the flow rate if you get a bigger pump such as:

[quote=“codemunki”]Can someone recommend a cheap pump that would work for pumping water through the plate chiller?[/quote]This is what I use:

Or an even cheaper alternative pump is a drill pump: ... 1367971534

[quote=“codemunki”]You guys have confirmed my suspicion that a pre-chiller won’t work. It was a nice thought, but from a thermodynamics standpoint, it isn’t feasible.

My pre-chiller works for me, at least with my immersion chiller but I wouldn’t thank that should matter. In the summer my groundwater is in the low 70’s. Once my wort gets into the low 80’s, I drop my pre-chiller in a small kettle of ice water and slow the flow down considerably. It might take another 10 minutes but it gets to the low 60’s.

I use emmersion chiller and coil up my hose in an ice chest then through the chiller. Bring the wort down to 60 if i want.

Usually don’t brew in the summer (when chilling water supply temps can’t do the job), but on a few occasions I’ve found immersing the fermentors full of wort completely in an ice-and-water bath (mostly ice) can be a quick and reasonable solution to getting the last 10-20 degrees out of the wort before pitching the yeast.

This was my solution to chilling wort.


[quote=“cowstick”]This was my solution to chilling wort.


Very nice, especially if you are putting wort through a chiller plate, anyway. I have avoided that for the sake of less clean up and sanitation concerns, but if it gets your beer into the 40’s quickly, I might just have to reconfigure my old IC in this way, yet still use it as a pre chiller at a slower flow rate to see if I can get those kind of results!

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