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Old 01-09-2012, 03:16 PM   #1
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Default Immersion Chiller vs Plate Chiller

I have an Immersion Chiller that I made out of 50 ft. of 3/8" copper and it works pretty well. Cools 5.5 gallons down to about 80 in 10-15 mins or so. The downside is it takes about 30-40 gallons of water to do this. I don't like wasting this much water. I know I could buy a pump and do a recirculating system, but I've been thinking about just selling my immersion chiller and buying a plate chiller, most likely from dudadiesel.com. My only worry is the difficulty in cleaning the plate chiller. Is running a few gallons of PBW water through the chiller adequate for cleaning? Any experience with this would be very helpful.

Thanks,

Clark

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Old 01-09-2012, 03:48 PM   #2
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If you filter out the hops then PBW does a good job, along with an occasional acid rinse. If you let chunks of stuff in they don't want to leave so easily. Boiling the plate chiller or even baking it in the oven is also helpful once in awhile.

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Old 01-09-2012, 04:03 PM   #3
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I just started using a counterflow chiller I made for $50. I love it! I believe it works similar to a plate chiller. I can cool the wort as fast as it drains. The first time I used it, I got a TON of sediment, and it clogged. Them I built a hop spider and there's bare any sediment at all. If you go the plate chiller route, look onto a hop spider. $10 simple build. Just look it up on YouTube

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Old 01-09-2012, 04:05 PM   #4
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Since switching to a plate chiller/cold loop combo I use about 8 gal. of water, 5 of which is repurposed for clean up. I fill a small cooler w/ ice water & circulate through the water side of the chiller via a cheapo HF pond pump. (That 8 gal includes the melted ice, which I make myself) My 5.5 gal. batches take about 7 min. to reach 65-68°F-gravity fed from my BK. I have a dial thermometer T'd off of the wort out & throttle the BK valve to keep temp in range. One of my favorite upgrades thus far. Oh yeah, like the above poster, I use a bag for hops & also back flush w/ PBW/Oxi using the pond pump, never had any issues w/ either clogging or buit up sediment.

-d

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Old 01-09-2012, 05:43 PM   #5
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I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from buying a cool thing like a plate chiller (I have been tempted myself!). But my immersion chiller has served me well for twenty years. It is easy to care for (sanitation isn't ever an issue) and it works. If you have a C-note waiting to be spent on home brewing, just make sure you know the problem you are trying to solve. Saving water just might be enough reason. But bragging rights among your peers ought to count for something.

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Old 01-09-2012, 06:11 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by GMesick View Post
I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from buying a cool thing like a plate chiller (I have been tempted myself!). But my immersion chiller has served me well for twenty years. It is easy to care for (sanitation isn't ever an issue) and it works. If you have a C-note waiting to be spent on home brewing, just make sure you know the problem you are trying to solve. Saving water just might be enough reason. But bragging rights among your peers ought to count for something.
I've used IC, CFC, and plate chillers, and they are effective in that order. The benefits of the IC are the ease of care, as you noted.

For me, I prefer to get below hop isomerization temps as fast as humanly possible. I find this allows as much of the late addition hops to show through as is possible and I am able to more precisely control bitterness levels and aroma.

I am sure that being familiar and comfortable with one's setup is a more generic piece of advice, but there are pros and cons to each aside from the looks and feels of them. Chilling fast is more than just a bragging rights issue.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:24 PM   #7
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I went from a plate to an IC and am planning on recirculating ice water through the chiller. I'd give that a shot first before switching to plate.

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Old 01-09-2012, 09:27 PM   #8
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I went from a plate to an IC and am planning on recirculating ice water through the chiller. I'd give that a shot first before switching to plate.
That would be my next step, too. I'd love to hear how it goes for you.
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:37 PM   #9
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30-40 gallons??

If you want to keep your IC and save water, then it isn't too hard to set it up where it can recirculate. I don't use hose fittings for my IC, just a submersible pump and a cooler (or any vessel to hold water) full of water that it sits in.

The end goal is to recirculate chilled water through the IC, and back into the cooler where it is pumped through again. However, since the water coming out of the IC is so hot it is wise to not start recirculating right away.

What I do initially is pump water through the chiller while I have a hose refilling the cooler at the same time. Water coming out of the chiller is pumped directly into my HLT Keggle. Throw some PBW or Oxyclean in there, and since the water coming out is so hot I have my cleaning solution already mixing.

Keep checking the water coming out of the IC, and once it has cooled down just stick the outflow hose back in the cooler where the pump is and turn the hose off. Then add ice.

The best way to do this is to bag ice yourself the week leading up to brew-day if you have room in the freezer. I used bagged ice, some people use frozen water bottles, but the idea is to create an ice bath in the cooler so that cold water is going through your IC to get you down to your pitching temp.

What I do is have 2 separate coolers. The first one with the hose feeding water to it, and the other where I already have ice soaking in water. Once the water coming out of the chiller is cool enough where it won't start instantly melting the ice I just take the pump out of the first cooler and put it in the 2nd with the ice cold water, then I start recirculating the water coming out of the IC back into that cooler.

You don't have to have two separate sources of water since you can just start throwing ice in your first one. But I like pre-chilling the water in a separate vessel before hand so that it will already be chilled once I start recirculating.

Since you're in Denver your ground water temp is probably a lot lower than mine here in Florida so you would be able to start your re-circulation even sooner

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Old 01-10-2012, 01:08 AM   #10
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I'm in a similar situation. Cooling is a function of: the surface area of contact, the flow rate, and the difference in temperature. I computed my 25' 3/8" OD IC to be 0.23 m² surface area. Your 50' is going to be, of course, around 0.46m². The (dudadiesel.com) plate I'm looking at is 0.69m², exactly a 3× improvement over my IC.

If you're not doing some type of recirculation/pre-chilling already, I'd suggest that as a good next step instead of going to plate. Even with the plate, I'm expecting to do some amount of recirc, except for the super-hot first portion, as others have suggested.

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