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Aluminum Immersion Chiller

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PAbrewer07

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I was at Home Depot today and noticed they only had ten foot sections of flexible copper tubing in stock. I started considering alternatives to copper and found that Summit sells a 25 ft. coil of aluminum tubing (bare metal—no paint/coating) for fuel lines that is 3/8 ID for $17 plus shipping. The side wall thickness is only 0.035 in, but water pressure is pretty low—less than the usual 40 psi one would expect in an automotive fuel injection system. One 30 minute boil in water and the chiller would have an oxide layer for protection and only one end would have to be fitted with a slip fitting or double flare for a hose attachment. Also, I like the idea of being able to store the chiller in my aluminum pot when not in use and aluminum is pretty efficient at heat transfer.

I did a search in this section of the site and didn’t see anything about using this particular type of aluminum tubing as a wort chiller. Has anyone tried this? Any advice or suggestions?
 
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This has been discussed before. It will work just fine. Someone else is going to post a bunch of numbers and tell you that aluminum is something like 30% less efficient than copper when it comes to heat transfer. They'll be correct, of course. But, it doesn't mean that your aluminum chiller will be a failure.
 
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PAbrewer07

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That was a fast response! Thanks Yuri.

The wall thickness on this aluminum tubing is far thinner than the copper tubing that's available and generally used for this purpose, so I suspect the setup I’m suggesting might ultimately be more efficient than copper.
 

shafferpilot

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It doesn't work that way. heat transfer is a substances ability to pass heat on. The thin wall will only be a factor until the temps of each side of the wall stabilize, then it's all about the transfer. So your aluminum won't be as efficient as copper, but so what?? My copper coil gets wort from boiling to 80F in about 14 minutes. It would take an aluminum one of the same length, what, 16 minutes? not a factor. If copper prices keep skyrocketing, Noob's like yourself will likely be using aluminum more and more.
 

s3n8

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I am interested in hearing how this works out if you end up doing it. I was at Lowes yesterday looking at copper tubing and was shocked that they wanted $66 for 20 ft of 3/8 tubing. I figured I would be further ahead to just get one of the chillers off morebeer or one of the other retailers and save myself some $$.
 

senorfartman

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I don't have the numbers off hand but I believe it will be about 30% less efficient than a comparable copper unit.

:mug:

On that note I just built my hybrid chiller tonight. 20 ft of copper immersed in a 50 degree bath did awesome in testing tonight. Brought boiling water down to 75 degrees by the end of it's trip.

*Edit*

Do NOT buy copper from Lowes. I got my 3/8 20ft copper from Home Depot for $26 plus an additional few bucks for rods to hold the thing together.
 
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PAbrewer07

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I'll be sure to post the results if I try this, but it might be a month or more.
 

david_42

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If you can get 50 ft. of aluminum for less than 25 feet of copper, the total heat transfer rate goes up and you have more money for makings.
 

2pugbrews

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s3n8 said:
I am interested in hearing how this works out if you end up doing it. I was at Lowes yesterday looking at copper tubing and was shocked that they wanted $66 for 20 ft of 3/8 tubing. I figured I would be further ahead to just get one of the chillers off morebeer or one of the other retailers and save myself some $$.
Go here: http://coppertubingsales.com/pricing.php for good prices on 3/8 inch copper refrigeration tubing. I just got 50' this week for a little over $43 incl shipping ($34.95 + shipping.). BTW, our HD wanted $66 plus tax ($73) for 50' 3/8" refrig tubing
 

mrfocus

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The specific heat capacity for aluminium is: 2.422
and for copper: 3.45.

(3.45 - 2.422)/3.45 = 0.29 or 29% less efficient.

As others have said, you could just use 30% more aluminium to make up the difference. If you had the same system as shafferpilot but with aluminium instead, it would take you 14 * (1/0.71) = 20 minutes to cool.
 
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mrfocus said:
The specific heat capacity for aluminium is: 2.422
and for copper: 3.45.

(3.45 - 2.422)/3.45 = 0.29 or 29% less efficient.

As others have said, you could just use 30% more aluminium to make up the difference. If you had the same system as shafferpilot but with aluminium instead, it would take you 14 * (1/0.71) = 20 minutes to cool.
See...I told you someone would post a bunch of unnecessary math, come up with a number around 30%, and sing the praises of copper. But...in the end, aluminum will work just fine!

:cross:
 

mattm3

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I was at Lowe's myself yesterday and I was shocked at the price of copper tubing. I'm trying to build a counterflow chiller to replace my immersion chiller.

I found some copper tubing online though that is cheap. But the wall thickness is only 0.020 versus the 0.035 they sell at Lowe's and at coppertubingsales.com. Has anyone tried using thinner copper tubbing to cut costs? Do you think this would be more likely to split when making a CFC?

I may end up taking the copper from my immersion chiller and using that.
 

Chriso

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mattm3, If you brew Pale Ales or IPAs, an Immersion chiller is better at "locking in" your hops. I use a CFC and can't get my hop schedules as exact as I want them because even after flame-out, the wort sits at 210f for 15 minutes as it's slowly siphoning through the chiller....... So the bottom half of the kettle cools fastest, and gets the flavor/aroma I wanted, and the top half of the kettle, when it finally starts draining through, has had 15 more minutes of hop steep, pushing my aroma into flavor, and my flavor into bittering. Rrrrr.

Just $0.02 for your decision making process. I wouldn't rip apart your existing IC, because they can be handy.

Then again, my CFC is indeed efficient, I only get annoyed on hoppy beers. Still perfect for massive stouts!
 
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PAbrewer07

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I discussed this thin-walled aluminum tubing with a friend who had used it for an automotive application. He told me it would kink and even collapse when he tried to bend it. The part he made with it failed and he eventually found some aluminum tubing with a thicker sidewall—this thicker stuff worked for him.

This thin stuff isn’t durable enough for long term use and I suspect the intake end would be the most problematic part of the setup.

I was at Home Depot twice this week and noticed the price of ½ inch copper hard line had fallen about 8% during this time in my area. The price of gasoline might drop 50 cents/gal due to the economic slowdown over the coming months and a similar decrease in copper prices could occur, too.

I’m posting a few additional questions about copper immersion chiller setups—which might be much cheaper in a few months. If I do end up using aluminum it won’t be this thin-walled stuff.
 
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