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Old 05-02-2013, 12:13 PM   #1
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Default Which is better: pre-chiller/immersion chiller or the full length immersion chiller?

Let say I have 50' copper tubing. Which is better:

1) One 50' immersion chiller or
2) Cutting into into two sections to have a pre-chiller and an immersion chiller. For example a 30'-35' immersion chiller and a 15'-20' pre-chiller that will go into ice water to cool the tap water before going into the longer section of immersion chiller in my beer

I hadn't really thought about it and it seems like most people just go with the longer immersion chiller without the pre-chiller, but I borrowed a friends who did the latter option and it got me thinking which would be better.

Let's assume my water is 40's-50's in the winter and maybe low to mid 60's in the summer (not really sure; never measured it). Based on those estimates, my gut tells me it would be better to have option 2 in the summer, but it probably wouldn't matter much in the winter. But curious what everyone thinks.


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Old 05-02-2013, 12:46 PM   #2
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Why not make a counter flow chiller?


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Old 05-02-2013, 01:07 PM   #3
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Isn't that more complicated/expensive and requires a pump to pump the beer through the tube?
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:23 PM   #4
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If your water is really that cold, thank the beer gods.

My tap is as low as 58 in the winter, up to the low 70s in the summer.

The warmer the ground water, the more effective the pre-chiller.
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:27 PM   #5
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As a Florida brewer, I'm cursed with warm tap water much of the year. My gut says you'd be better off with the 50' immersion most of the year. If you go with the pre-chiller option, don't bother with the ice water until your wort is down below about 90 degrees. It doesn't help much when the wort is hot anyway. As the temperature differential becomes smaller, it definitely helps. I use a plate chiller and immersion pre-chiller ice water set up after WAAAAY to many long chill times....
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:36 PM   #6
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Wow, I'm terrible at estimating water temperatures apparently because I just measured the water at work and it's 73F. I don't even know how that's possible because it's been barely that warm air temperatures here, so I don't see how it's warm. I know it's definitely colder in the winter, but not sure how low now. So maybe a pre-chiller would be better for those last 30 degrees or so.
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Old 05-03-2013, 02:59 AM   #7
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Do you work in a fairly large building? You could be measuring the temp of water that's been inside the building long enough to be room temp...
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Old 05-03-2013, 03:55 AM   #8
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I would not go with 3/8", go thicker.
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Old 05-03-2013, 02:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demus View Post
Do you work in a fairly large building? You could be measuring the temp of water that's been inside the building long enough to be room temp...
Yes, very large. Great point. Now I need to measure my home temp.

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I would not go with 3/8", go thicker.
Well sure, that was just an example.
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Old 05-04-2013, 02:37 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnagel View Post
Yes, very large. Great point. Now I need to measure my home temp.
It's all about temperature differential. Almost any ground water will be way cooler than freshly boiled wort. A pre-chiller doesn't make much difference when the temps are high. But as they converge the rate of cooling slows. Once the differential is 20 degrees or less it's very slow. You should be fine in Cincy most of the year but it gets pretty toasty there in the summer. You may find it difficult to chill much below 80 which is pretty high for pitching yeast. A pre-chiller type setup can get you that extra 20 degrees to get down into the 60's. Do you ferment in a fridge or other temperature controlled space? Temperature control is really the biggest factor in making great beer at home...



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