A pre-chiller chiller

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jfowler1

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NJ's summers are a little too warm to count on ground water for the immersion chiller. I use a 50' coil, and never had a problem getting south of 70 degrees for pitching...until now. One frustrating brew session was all it took for me to figure something out.

I work for a plumbing wholesaler, so soft copper and all of the neccessary valves and fittings are at my finger tips for cost. My design features 50' of 1/2" OD copper tube, while will be coiled and placed into a bucket full of icewater. I bought a box (about 100') of 1/2 ID vinyl tubing to carry the water. The vinyl will attach directly to the copper via SS hose clamps. I also have the appropriate MalexBarb and FemalexBarb fittings. to make the connections to my chiller, the garden hose. When I brew with my buddy, we use a Wye splitter (which has valves for flow control on the outlets), but for solo brew days, I bought a Female x hose thread ball valve, which I adapted with an additional Male by hose fitting.

I have seen designs for pre-chilling before, but I think this has to be more efficient than using a sump pump in a bucket of icewater, because my icewater will stay at a controlled temperature. It follows the principle of the immersion chiller, but in reverse.

Construction will take place Saturday morning, and the test brew will be on Sunday. I will report the results.

Has anyone had great success with this before, and if so, why is this not a standard route for warm weather brewing? I understand that copper is expensive for most people, but how much water do you waste trying to chill down 5-10 gallons with 74 degree ground water?
 

Whiskey

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NJ's summers are a little too warm to count on ground water for the immersion chiller. I use a 50' coil, and never had a problem getting south of 70 degrees for pitching...until now. One frustrating brew session was all it took for me to figure something out.

I work for a plumbing wholesaler, so soft copper and all of the neccessary valves and fittings are at my finger tips for cost. My design features 50' of 1/2" OD copper tube, while will be coiled and placed into a bucket full of icewater. I bought a box (about 100') of 1/2 ID vinyl tubing to carry the water. The vinyl will attach directly to the copper via SS hose clamps. I also have the appropriate MalexBarb and FemalexBarb fittings. to make the connections to my chiller, the garden hose. When I brew with my buddy, we use a Wye splitter (which has valves for flow control on the outlets), but for solo brew days, I bought a Female x hose thread ball valve, which I adapted with an additional Male by hose fitting.

I have seen designs for pre-chilling before, but I think this has to be more efficient than using a sump pump in a bucket of icewater, because my icewater will stay at a controlled temperature. It follows the principle of the immersion chiller, but in reverse.

Construction will take place Saturday morning, and the test brew will be on Sunday. I will report the results.

Has anyone had great success with this before, and if so, why is this not a standard route for warm weather brewing? I understand that copper is expensive for most people, but how much water do you waste trying to chill down 5-10 gallons with 74 degree ground water?
A basic pre chiller is a IC in a bucket of salted ice water. A pump is not necessary, just a different way of doing it.

I seem to be missing how yours will be different.
 

Gremlyn

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Sounds like a good plan. I know a lot of people do a similar thing, but using a garden hose in a bucket of ice water for the pre-chiller with good success. In fact, I'm going to be that very thing now I have my IC built. Certainly not as efficient as a copper coil, but quite a bit cheaper.
 
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jfowler1

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A basic pre chiller is a IC in a bucket of salted ice water. A pump is not necessary, just a different way of doing it.

I seem to be missing how yours will be different.
I like the pump idea in a pinch, and it is what we currently use, but I think it has 2 faults.

1) The GPM for the pump is too low (I look at experience for evidence), especially when you are splitting the chilled water between 2 brew pots and immersion chillers. The 1/2" od copper tube I am using in the pre-chiller is larger than the diameter of either of our immersion chillers, so it will be more efficient than a small pump. For dual brewing days, we will split that high flow volume, and both chillers benefit from the higher flow and experience greater heat exchange. For solo brew days, my ball valve will throttle flow so that I do not have to keep running to the sill cock to change the flow. Regarding flow rate, I am using the principles of hydronic (water) heat. Anyone with baseboards or radiant heat in their house understands this. When a zone in your house calls for more heat, your zone controls or re-circ pump kick on to circulate hot water from your boiler through your system. You need a high flow rate to generate the greater exchange of heat. Slow-flow/stagnant water through the coil is inadequate.

2) When you directly pump from your chilled water, you are compromising your chilling source. Currently, we fill a tub with water from the hose, add ice filled bottles, and pump the water from the tub. We continue to add water as the level falls, but as we do this, we bring up the temp of our chilled water because the ice is being spent. My design does not really spend any of my chilled water. I concede that the bucket of ice water that contains the prechiller will be slightly affected by the ground water flowing through it, but I can not see 70 degree ground water really effecting the temperature that much. I am sorry for another plumbing reference, but it is an easy example. The pump idea works like a standard tank-style water heater. You have a limit to how much hot (or cold) water is on hand, and once tapped, you face issues of recovery. When that hot (or cold) water is spent, you are left to deal with a cold shower. My idea works like a tankless water heater. The outbound cold water is essentially on demand. Think about how hot the first outbound water though your immersion chiller feels. I burn myself every time. The pre-chiller chiller will keep inbound water freezing cold, and I will never have to deal with recovery.

Additionally, I first thought to do this set up with all vinyl tube (or a submerged hose) and no copper, but I realized that the vinyl is probably a great insulator. Copper is a bit more expensive, but it works. I figured, do it right the first time.
 

Whiskey

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I like the pump idea in a pinch, and it is what we currently use, but I think it has 2 faults.

1) The GPM for the pump is too low (I look at experience for evidence), especially when you are splitting the chilled water between 2 brew pots and immersion chillers. The 1/2" od copper tube I am using in the pre-chiller is larger than the diameter of either of our immersion chillers, so it will be more efficient than a small pump. For dual brewing days, we will split that high flow volume, and both chillers benefit from the higher flow and experience greater heat exchange. For solo brew days, my ball valve will throttle flow so that I do not have to keep running to the sill cock to change the flow. Regarding flow rate, I am using the principles of hydronic (water) heat. Anyone with baseboards or radiant heat in their house understands this. When a zone in your house calls for more heat, your zone controls or re-circ pump kick on to circulate hot water from your boiler through your system. You need a high flow rate to generate the greater exchange of heat. Slow-flow/stagnant water through the coil is inadequate.

2) When you directly pump from your chilled water, you are compromising your chilling source. Currently, we fill a tub with water from the hose, add ice filled bottles, and pump the water from the tub. We continue to add water as the level falls, but as we do this, we bring up the temp of our chilled water because the ice is being spent. My design does not really spend any of my chilled water. I concede that the bucket of ice water that contains the prechiller will be slightly affected by the ground water flowing through it, but I can not see 70 degree ground water really effecting the temperature that much. I am sorry for another plumbing reference, but it is an easy example. The pump idea works like a standard tank-style water heater. You have a limit to how much hot (or cold) water is on hand, and once tapped, you face issues of recovery. When that hot (or cold) water is spent, you are left to deal with a cold shower. My idea works like a tankless water heater. The outbound cold water is essentially on demand. Think about how hot the first outbound water though your immersion chiller feels. I burn myself every time. The pre-chiller chiller will keep inbound water freezing cold, and I will never have to deal with recovery.

Additionally, I first thought to do this set up with all vinyl tube (or a submerged hose) and no copper, but I realized that the vinyl is probably a great insulator. Copper is a bit more expensive, but it works. I figured, do it right the first time.

First of all your enthusiasm is great.

So what you are saying is that you will be running water from your sill cock, through your garden hose into a coil of copper that is in a bucket full of ice water, and out to either one or two IC's (immersion chiller) depending on whether you are brewing with a buddy. The flow will be controlled at the chiller or IC. I assume the spent water will be dumped into the driveway, drain, etc.

Sounds like a standard prechiller to me. That is exactly what I use. 25' 1/2 copper tubing in a 5 gallon bucket filled with crushed ice and rock salt. Inlet goes to the utility sink, controlled by a ball valve at the outlet of the chiller, this goes to my recirculating IC.

I don't know maybe I am missing something. Once you get it built by all means post some pictures.
 

Whiskey

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I add rock salt to the water before adding ice, this will allow the water to get colder and the ice will melt slower. You can get way below freezing using this method.

Kind of like the old ice cream makers.
 
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jfowler1

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Whiskey,

You nailed it, and it sounds like you are using the identical set-up....so tough to explain things without pictures.

I'll try to post pictures and results after Sunday's brew. I will even run a quick test for the teperature at the sill cock and the temperature out of the pre-chiller. I pretty much posted this because I can not believe MORE people are not doing this same thing. The science of it makes sence, and pitching temperatures and crash cooling seem to be so important to the final product; what's $30 for an extra coil of copper? The inverse is wasted time, water, and possibly a lesser finished product.

I am making a Pumpkin Spice Ale on Sunday with the fiance'. She is my good luck charm. The only other beer she brewed with me was my best to date. Wish me luck.
 

Whiskey

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I agree.

However some folks are blessed with really cold ground water, especially those with wells. I know I dropped a good 10 minutes off my chill time using the pre-chill method.

Good luck with your build!
 

Hang Glider

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Hot groundwater here, too, in SC (80F +) during the summer.
First use of my pre-chiller last weekend (built it last winter). Worked great, a 7lb bag of ice cooled my CFC nicely, and the output was pitching temps. Ice melted faster than anticipated, but it all worked. I'll try the salt option next time!
 

Whiskey

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Hot groundwater here, too, in SC (80F +) during the summer.
First use of my pre-chiller last weekend (built it last winter). Worked great, a 7lb bag of ice cooled my CFC nicely, and the output was pitching temps. Ice melted faster than anticipated, but it all worked. I'll try the salt option next time!

Put the rock salt in first and give it a good stir, add half of your ice, you will loose some pretty quick to the salt, then add the rest. Makes a ton of differance.
 
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jfowler1

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The chiller was a success.

I designed it exactly as explained earlier in the thread. Basically, the run was:

Garden hose, copper pre-chiller in bucket of ice water, ball valve, immersion chiller, and out to street. Obviously, there is nylon tubing, barbed fittings, etc., tied in to make the connections.

It worked even better than I hoped. Ground water was not too bad...about 76 degrees from the garden hose. I measured the outbound water after 15 minutes at 63 degrees. I had the entire kettle at pitching temp (65 degrees) 15 minutes after flame out. I am thinking about adding Jamil's whirlpool to the mix. I swear, that will be the last upgrade.
 

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