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Old 08-28-2008, 07:47 PM   #1
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Default Solid Ice Recirculation Chiller

Hey guys, I thought I would post my own thread so I can start to get the skinny on recirculation chilling. I currently use a Therminator and regular tap water to get my kettle down to tap temperatures of anywhere from 60-75*F. This works perfectly for ales and I am happy, but I waste a lot of water. I have been researching threads and websites about recirculating ice water baths and they all seem great except the fact you have to use so much ice, and in most cases you have to use tap water to get under 100*F before you start using the ice bath. I am wondering about another approach.

What if you could freeze the entire cooler you were going to use for chilling and make it so that your pump had a place to fit down into the solid ice block. If you fed the return to an opposite side it would have to run over ice before reentering the pump and then the Therminator. I am more interested in getting below 140*F fast, but secondarily I would like longevity out of the chiller/cooler combo and wouldn't care if it took longer to get to lager temps as long as I could get there on one cooler. What do you guys think? I have been slammed with ideas from the a/c glycol chiller reservoirs to the constantly changed ice water baths. Do I have a feasible idea here?


Just for the record and sake of argument, I will recirculate back into the kettle until the final pass would get me to lager pitching temperatures.

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Old 08-28-2008, 08:10 PM   #2
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I just tested a new setup with similar goals.

I had a 38 quart cooler filled with 50% ice and 50% and a 500 gph pump hooked to an immersion chiller. Then, I hooked up a pre-chiller, but used it for "post-chilling". I set this in a small bucket filled with nothing but ice. The idea being this would take the heat out before recirc-ing into the ice water. The goal here was to use only this water to cool my 3 gallons of wort to 75*.

It worked perfectly with no tap water to start. Using 3 bags of ice total, I dropped 3 gal. to 75* in roughly 17 minutes. The water going back into the cooler was definitely cool enough to not bring down that temperature at all during the cooling. Obviously a larger boil would have worse performance, but i was very happy with these results.

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Last edited by okstatepike; 08-28-2008 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 08-28-2008, 08:10 PM   #3
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i have two things to add:


1) I think you are underestimating how hard it will be to remove the PVC mold for the shaft. It will be a real pain in the ass to get it out.

2) Performance wise, it will work much better if there were channels/grooves in the top where the water flowed. Ideally, it would be a long snake for the water to channel through. If the water just glides right over the top, I don't think it will cool anywhere near as well as it would if it had to travel down a pre-determined cooling path

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Old 08-28-2008, 08:24 PM   #4
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I don't think the shaft will be that hard to get out, but I have thought about the channeling. I guess I could rig something up where it has a maze to get through on its way back to the pump.

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Old 08-28-2008, 09:11 PM   #5
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What Berserker is saying in a roundabout way is more surface area/contact time the cooler the water gets. The best way to increase surface area is to use ice cubes. You could keep the maze idea by setting up some baffles in the cooler that would make the return water follow a circuitous route from it's inlet into the cooler to the pump.

Splitting the cooling between two locations ("post chiller" and main recirculation cooler) is not really buying you anything, your still transferring X BTUs of heat out of the recirc water whether it is in one pile/block of ice or two. You could just as easily have two coolers of ice and two pumps.

Obey Thermodynamics - it's the law!

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Old 08-28-2008, 09:29 PM   #6
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OK, admittedly I was not an engineering major so I did not have to take thermodynamics - but here is my question. If you cool the output separately (post-chiller)from the source you pump from (ice water) overall wont that keep the source temp lower when the output is finally back in the source? Or at least stave off equilibrium long enough for effective cooling?

I'm no expert, but that was the most efficient cool I have had yet...

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Old 08-29-2008, 01:26 PM   #7
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If your source container isn't big enough to hold all the ice then sure. I'm just saying that 50 lbs of ice has the ability to absorb just so much heat whether it is in one big (source)container or two containers (source + post chiller). You could even try this: instead of using a pre-chiller set the container you used for the pre chiller (I am assuming a cooler) higher than the source container with the drain open so the water runs out into the source container and just run the outflow from the wort chiller into the upper bucket. That way all of the melted ice water also goes into the recirc.

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Old 08-29-2008, 01:43 PM   #8
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I agree that ice cubes are better. A higher temperature will form between what you are trying to cool and an ice block. The ice block will be further from the heat source so less speed in cooling. Ice cubes when agitated can continually be against the heat source for increase cooling. Again: surface contact.
Large blocks last longer but are not faster. Ice water(or very cold water) is how the fruit industry chills produce from the field.

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Old 08-29-2008, 03:27 PM   #9
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First thing. I like the idea of the PVC sump. At the very least it's causing incoming water to spend more time touching the ice before it gets to the pump. I agree there's no reason to remove the pipe... let the water flow up and over the top. however, I'd also mold in a 1/2" tube that take your input water to the bottom left side of the vessel. You'd want to let the block melt for a while prior to use so that there's room for the water to flow around the block. It would also help to add a few cups of rock salt to the whole thing. I wonder how well the pump impeller would deal with 15F water.

However, to the point already made, smaller chunks of ice with so much more surface area would be much more efficient. you actually want the ice to melt as fast as possible. It would be really cool to find some really large cube trays so you can make 4" cubes or something like that. I'm thinking a bunch of 1qt chinese soup containers would be fine also.

After two summers of brewing, I'm at the point where I decided for next summer I'm going to make a similar system out of one of those 13 gallon screwtop barrels. The only different is that it's going to hold some pressure so that I can use hose water pressure to drive past the ice and into the chiller with no pump needed. The huge top opening allows for it to be filled with ice.

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Last edited by Bobby_M; 08-29-2008 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:44 PM   #10
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With this system I have proposed, I am not wanting quickness except for under 140*F. I want longevity, and do not want to replace/refill/do anything other than pump and wait till my kettle is close enough to get me to 45*F last pass through the chiller. I like the idea of leaving the PVC well allowing water to flow over the top. I know the hot inlet water will dig a lake and probably melt around the ice block allowing water to cool the whole way before going up and over the well. Like I said, I am not looking for fast I am looking for it to last the whole way through. I mean otherwise I wouldn't care to save water or trips to the store for ice (or make it). I think I will monkey with the well idea a little and run some tests on boiling water. As long as I can maintain a cooling water inlet temp below or at my tap temperature I am doing well in my mind. Do you guys agree that I should be at this temperature for all inlet water going into the Therminator??? The magic will happen as the kettle starts to come down in temp and the cooling water should do the same.

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