I've been brewing about a year now (~30 batches so far) and have been inspired by all the threads on this forum. I thought it was time I shared a little of my experiences to maybe help out my fellow brewers.
I started out with one pot, one burner, one carboy, and a pinlock keg in a mini fridge. Extract only, no chill brewing. It worked OK for the first few batches, but I'm a tinkerer and couldn't let it stay that simple.
My first project was a CFC. I followed the solder-less instructions on here and it went fairly well. My problem was, I couldn't get beer to flow through it. Maybe I kinked the copper tubing inside the chiller? With the BK on the burner, there should have been enough head for the beer to flow but no go. So I used to pick up the BK (full of 6 gallons of boiling hot wort) and set it on my portable workbench to get it to flow. Not the safest idea.
The CFC seemed to work fine as soon as all of the air bubbles were out of the copper tubing. Fluid in / fluid out. How to get the bubbles out? I tried storing the CFC with sanitizer but that didn't work. Air would always find a way in...
For a short while, I used a short piece of tubing to suck on the outlet of the CFC and when I got the wort through, I'd pull off that tube and attach my sterilized tube running into the carboy. Effective, but messy and I wasn't positive how sanitary...
Then inspiration struck! I have flowing water in the CFC. There's a kind of pump that uses flowing water to create a vacuum (we used them in chemistry class in high school) called a venturi pump. Combined with a carboy cap and a racking cane, I could pull enough vacuum on the carboy to suck the wort through the CFC. This is the best one I could find:
Made by Humboldt, it works by water flowing into the threaded side on top (3/8” tapered NPT) and out the barb on the bottom. The vacuum is pulled in the barb on the side and has a built in check valve. Cost shipped to my door - $35 through Amazon/Avagadro Lab Supply. I cobbled together an adapter to insert the pump into the water outlet side of my CFC and tested it out:
Works like a charm! Open the throttle on your chilling water wide open to get it started and then throttle it back to reach proper pitching temps – the vacuum created is proportional to the water flowing through the pump. As a side benefit, after the vacuum sucks all of your wort out of your BK through the CFC, it then aerates it for yeast pitching by sucking air through the whole system!