Cleaning a Plate Chiller

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Figgy15

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Hello fellow brewers, hope you all had a great holiday season.

I was given a Blickmann Therminator Plate Chiller by a buddy who owned a brewery. He used it to chill 60 gallons at a time. Stopped using it because it kept clogging up on him (large batches and very hoppy beers). He did tell me it's been 2 years since he used it and didn't clean it out the last time he used it. But if I was willing to clean it, it's mine.

I've been trying to clean it since Saturday, and as of this morning, there's still small black flakes and blackish liquid coming out. Here's what I've done so far:

1. Pumped Hot PBW solution through it on Saturday and Sunday for approx. 2 hours each. In both directions.

2. Soaked in hot PBW for 24 hours. Then pumped hot water with star-san for 2 hours.

3. Baked in oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

4. Pumped hot PBW solution for an hour.

5. Soaked in hot oxiclean solution for the last 48 hours.

I checked the bucket is was in this morning and the water is still dirty but def. better then it was when I started. So my question is, should I continue doing these steps until it's finally clean, or can anyone suggest another thing i can try. Should I bake it again for a longer period of time. I'm brewing this coming weekend and would really like to use this chiller. Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

JohnSand

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I don't have one. I think baking may hurt more than help, unless you go to self cleaning oven temps (600?). I might try boiling it for an extended period, or boiling it with cleaner. Let us know how you solve it.
 

ruger988

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I'd ask your buddy that owns the brewery if you can come in and do an acid/caustic cycle through it. It'll get the job done in a hurry, but not really practical to buy those kind of chemicals at homebrew levels. He should certainly have the gear you need there though.
 
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Figgy15

Figgy15

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I'd ask your buddy that owns the brewery if you can come in and do an acid/caustic cycle through it. It'll get the job done in a hurry, but not really practical to buy those kind of chemicals at homebrew levels. He should certainly have the gear you need there though.
I was wondering about a acid/caustic cycle. How different is it from a hot pbw/oxiclean cycle though?
 

ruger988

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I was wondering about a acid/caustic cycle. How different is it from a hot pbw/oxiclean cycle though?
About as different as a PBW soak is from a plain ole hot water soak. IOW, a lot. For something that caked up, I'd do acid/caustic/acid. Typically you just go caustic first then acid, but acid first will help etch all the crap thats in there and let the caustic do a better job in a shorter amount of time.

Good luck.
 
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Figgy15

Figgy15

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About as different as a PBW soak is from a plain ole hot water soak. IOW, a lot. For something that caked up, I'd do acid/caustic/acid. Typically you just go caustic first then acid, but acid first will help etch all the crap thats in there and let the caustic do a better job in a shorter amount of time.

Good luck.
My buddy that gave me the chiller has caustic as well. I'll have him help me with it.

THanks and I'll update this thread on the process.
 
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Figgy15

Figgy15

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About as different as a PBW soak is from a plain ole hot water soak. IOW, a lot. For something that caked up, I'd do acid/caustic/acid. Typically you just go caustic first then acid, but acid first will help etch all the crap thats in there and let the caustic do a better job in a shorter amount of time.

Good luck.
Just incase my buddy doesn't have anymore, where and what brand would you suggest I get. And how would I used it. Is that something I would want to run through my pump (Plastic head), should I use gravity feed, or just soak the chiller in it?
 

ruger988

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Just incase my buddy doesn't have anymore, where and what brand would you suggest I get. And how would I used it. Is that something I would want to run through my pump (Plastic head), should I use gravity feed, or just soak the chiller in it?
I honestly couldn't begin to tell you where to get it. We buy it by the 55gal drum for a local warehouse. You'd want to mix it and run it through your pump in a loop, use your kettle or a bucket or something as a reservoir ad pump out of, into it. Different caustic solutions need different dilution rates, so just read your labels carefully. Wear gloves and safety glasses, especially if you use acid as well, not fun stuff to have an accident with.

We use five star Super CIP as a caustic and Acid cleaner #5, I'm sure you can find them in small quantities SOMEWHERE, but you'd probably be better off begging at local breweries for the couple ounces you need.
 
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I have found that if I hook up my household water hose (like the outside garden spigot) to the BEER OUT port and crank it on directly after using it I get just about everything out of it. You should be about 60 to 80 PSI water. At full tilt it moves stuff out like crazy. Then move it to the beer in and do the same, then to the beer out. 1 cycle like that and I can't get anything else out of that thing. Then I do an acid rinse, drain dry and store closed up.

Just the way I do it. I found the pumps just can't move enough liquid in a high enough pressure to do much good. High pressure water seems to be the ticket for me

Cheers
Jay
 

ruger988

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I have found that if I hook up my household water hose (like the outside garden spigot) to the BEER OUT port and crank it on directly after using it I get just about everything out of it. You should be about 60 to 80 PSI water. At full tilt it moves stuff out like crazy. Then move it to the beer in and do the same, then to the beer out. 1 cycle like that and I can't get anything else out of that thing. Then I do an acid rinse, drain dry and store closed up.

Just the way I do it. I found the pumps just can't move enough liquid in a high enough pressure to do much good. High pressure water seems to be the ticket for me

Cheers
Jay
Exactly how they should be maintained. His problem is that his chiller sat for two years after not being cleaned after the last use. Gonna take a bit to get her back to square one to be ready to use.
 
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Exactly how they should be maintained. His problem is that his chiller sat for two years after not being cleaned after the last use. Gonna take a bit to get her back to square one to be ready to use.
Yeah I hear ya. Just tossing out there the high pressure water hose trick. At this point in his recovery plan it may help a lot.
I was BLOWN AWAY how much crap came out of mine once I hooked it to a water hose after soaking, cleaning, soaking, circulating PBW, acid rinse and boiling hot water. 3 shots with the hose and the black flecks stopped coming out.

Cheers
Jay
 

DasBierBaron

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I've baked mine for a couple hours at 450. It basically turns everything inside to ash. I don't do that anymore because I've never had a clogging issue. I'll second the use of a hose working well.
 

dye4me

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Pressure cooking in a water bath for a couple hours, released the beast from mine in a similar situation.
 

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plus one on the sodium hydrox. People here tend to repurpose old central heating heat exchangers that are beyond dirty and get them usable for brewing using that. A big fat plus one on the protective gear, it's really nasty stuff.
 

wyowolf

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I have found that if I hook up my household water hose (like the outside garden spigot) to the BEER OUT port and crank it on directly after using it I get just about everything out of it. You should be about 60 to 80 PSI water. At full tilt it moves stuff out like crazy. Then move it to the beer in and do the same, then to the beer out. 1 cycle like that and I can't get anything else out of that thing. Then I do an acid rinse, drain dry and store closed up.

Just the way I do it. I found the pumps just can't move enough liquid in a high enough pressure to do much good. High pressure water seems to be the ticket for me

Cheers
Jay
this is exactly what i do... backflush then in port about couple min each side... then reg cleaning process... so far.. so good. But I do try to keep out as much as I can in the first place...
 

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As a counterpoint, maybe you should not worry about it if you have good flow...

I put all hops into a hop spider so my wort is usually pretty clean.

I just cleaned my Blichmann plate chiller a few days ago after a few dozen brews. It was NASTY.

That being said, all the beer has been terrific and I have no off flavors or infections.

What I do is circulate boiling wort through the plate chiller every boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize it!

I also backflush after every boil with 80PSI water and that still doesn't get everything out in my experience.
 
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Figgy15

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Exactly how they should be maintained. His problem is that his chiller sat for two years after not being cleaned after the last use. Gonna take a bit to get her back to square one to be ready to use.
So I'm thinking of baking it at 450 for a couple of hours. Then connecting it to a water hose and hopefully will force all that **** out. I'm nervous about using Sodium hydroxide though.
 

stevehaun

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You could submerge the therminator in a bucket of sodium hydroxide solution or you could pump it thru the therminator like you did with PBW. Personally, I would pump the solution thru the therminator. I am serious about the eye protection. Sodium hydroxide will ruin your corneas.
 

stonebrewer

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Honestly, I found that nothing can completely clean a plate chiller. I tried to get mine to not spit out old hop matter when rinsed for about two weeks. I tried cooking it, I tried Lye (sodium hydroxide), I tried pumping boiling PBW through it for hours, I tried high pressure air and water (and a combination of the two!), and nothing got all the gunk out. Your issue is a bit different as I am talking about a few grams of old rotted hops, but I learned to live with it and accept it. I still clean it, and I run boiling wort through it to sanitize it, but I gave up on making it like new clean. I don't think it can be done. YMMV...

<EDIT> Warning! What the other poster said about lye is true! It is a nasty base which dissolves tissue. One tiny drop in your eye and you are likely blind. I wear hand and eye protection when I use it and am scared to death of getting it on me!
 

IslandLizard

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After the 450F oven treatment and cool down, I would put an air compressor on it to blow out as much of the the dust and flakes as possible. If you start too soon pumping liquids the larger deposits of flakes in clogged areas may swell up again, blocking parts of the passages. When nothing more comes out, start pumping/recirculating (near) boiling PBW again, with some sort of filter on the inlet.

Recirculating a (near) boiling 3-5% solution of NaOH may work better, not sure. Just protect yourself well, NaOH is vicious. So are strong acids.

Over time, with use, more passages may open up, or clog more solid. It's in the design of the beast.

I bake mine every 3-5 brews and thoroughly recirculate a few hours with (near) boiling PBW every 10-12 brews, which also cleans the hoses well. In between, I flush and back flush with domestic pressure water by sticking a 3/8" barb in either port until clean. Camlocks make it easy to isolate the chiller from the system.

Definitely filter your kettle's exit port well, use a hop basket, hop spider, or bag the hops to prevent more hop matter entering the chiller. The very fine hop dust that makes it through the bags/spider/basket seems to be a non-issue.
 

phendog

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Great that you got a free plate chiller,.. sucks that it wasn't properly taken care of before you got it. My kids got me a Blickman Terminator for my birthday about a year ago. I have about a dozen brews through it so far, but always put it on line in a closed loop with the mash tun and pump and run PBW through it (both directions for 10mins) at 175degs. Cleans the pump, chiller, mash tun and all my lines - I just connect all my additional lines to the return side of the mash tun and lay them inside. Flush with cold water and good for next time.

Oddly enough, I always hook up the same closed loop system the evening before brew day and run some hot water through it. Inevitably I get some grain particles floating in the mash tun. Simply put, I don't think you can clean them enough. For what they cost I take care of it.
 

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John Blichmann told me not to use lye. He said it would degrade the brazes between the plates.
:smack: That's very possible, same with acids. I've read somewhere that even storing a plate chiller with Starsan in it will attack the brazing over time. You all know how shiny copper and brass get when left in Starsan too long. :drunk:

These are not the plate chillers you find in a commercial brewery, those are bolted together and can be taken apart for cleaning and servicing. The passages are also much larger, harder to clog.
 

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You could always use a hop spider and some sort of prefilter to separate the wort from the trub before it enters the plate chiller... I've had no issues with residue or plugging of any kind in my 20 plate chiller but it is the longer type which is a 3rd less likely to have the plugging issues while actually having better performance than the shorter 30 plate models everyone seems to love to pay extra for.

If it were me I'd sell it and take the money and buy a brand new longer 20 plate or even 30 plate model like they sell at brewhardware or duda diesel sells. You can see the performance comparison numbers on duda diesels website because he sells a short 30 plate model which the same specs as the therminator as well (for about half the cost)

I know someone else plugged it before you got it but If filtering your hops isn't a viable option then a CFC is really a better choice.

I always thought and assumed I guess that real breweries used larger plate chillers that came apart to be cleaned somehow.
Edit* I should have read the response above before posting...
I second that starsan and e en pbw will attack the copper and you'll get greenish yellow water coming out if it sits in the chiller too long.
 

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I bake my therm. in the oven for a couple hours @ 450 then flush with pbw @ 160 F or so then backflush as well. Then rinse with star san. I give it a good rinse at the start of brew day and re-circ. hot wort for 20 minutes to sanitize.

This site did scare me about the therm. but the chilling time was hard to beat. Santa brought me a dual CFC mounted to a morebeer stand and I got to use it this weekend and it is a chilling beast.......boiling wort down to 68 f within 15 minutes maybe less (I wasn't timing it) with ambient water temp of 48 f.
 

jcav

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Just for comparison I have a copper counter flow chiller. I usually use a hop spider with it just in case as I do not want to risk any clogging or trapping of hop particles. Today I brewed a milk stout and it had lactose in the recipe. The hop stopper I have is a large diameter and I did not want to put the lactose around the hop spider as there is only a little room left between the spider and the kettle wall. So with only 3 ounces of hops in this recipe total, I said forget the hop spider and I just threw in the hops when called for bare back. I was very surprised to see after flushing out my chiller that no particles at all were hard to get out. The left over spent wort just flushed right out and then clear water came out right after. I will recirculate PBW through it anyway and then flush that with water but I thought I would just tell you that I was pleasantly surprised how good this chiller is and since the tubing is substantially larger it really doesn't clog easily. At least not with 3 ounces of hops. Now an IPA would probably be a different story and I would use a hop spider with that kind of hop load. Just saying......

John
 

schematix

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Anyone ever cut one of these open to have a look inside?

I am willing to sacrifice my Therminator in the name of home brew science to see how nasty it is on the inside. I've always flushed and boiled, never baked it, and the chunks never stop coming out. Not sure i have the right tool to cut it apart though. Probably a band saw?
 
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Anyone ever cut one of these open to have a look inside?

I am willing to sacrifice my Therminator in the name of home brew science to see how nasty it is on the inside. I've always flushed and boiled, never baked it, and the chunks never stop coming out. Not sure i have the right tool to cut it apart though. Probably a band saw?
I've thought about crosscutting mine with an angle grinder. I think that would make a nice clean cut. I'm pretty interested, but I might still use it so maybe not that interested :) You do it !
 

schematix

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I've thought about crosscutting mine with an angle grinder. I think that would make a nice clean cut. I'm pretty interested, but I might still use it so maybe not that interested :) You do it !
I'd have a picture posted within an hour if i had a way to do it :)

The Therminator is the absolute worst piece of home brewing equipment I've ever bought. It has caused me more problems than its great performance could ever cancel out. The only thing i'd trust it to do anymore is chill water, but even then i'd just use the immersion chiller for simplicity. It's such a damn hassle to use and an even bigger hassle to clean.
 
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I'd have a picture posted within an hour if i had a way to do it :)

The Therminator is the absolute worst piece of home brewing equipment I've ever bought. It has caused me more problems than its great performance could ever cancel out. The only thing i'd trust it to do anymore is chill water, but even then i'd just use the immersion chiller for simplicity. It's such a damn hassle to use and an even bigger hassle to clean.
I just replaced mine with a coaxial CFC. Works great.

I'll probably end up giving my Therminator away. It's worked well for me, but it has clogged a few times, and it's impossible to clean out like you said.
 

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using the therminator i had to switch to using hop nylon bags otherwise it would get clogged. but on the plus side i did chill down 10 gallons of beer with 5-6 gallons of ND winter water, then used that nice hot water for clean up.

I may end up going to cfc and whirl pool more to drop out more trub.

oh yeah may have missed it in the thread but i wouldn't soak for any duration of time if there is copper with acids etc.
 

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I must be a lucky SOB because I have never had problems with mine. I never use pellet hops and I also use a large stainless hose braid to filter out the whole hops which in turn filter trub. The therminator was much more efficient than a chillzilla and allowed me to cool 30 gallon batches much more quickly with less water. The chillzilla was a breeze to clean.
 

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PBW is safe for stainless steel...acid based solutions are not. They will eat into the stainless steel grain structure. You could run some through...but don't store any such solutions in it for periods of time.

There is a photo of someone who cut his therminator open somewhere on the net (maybe this site). It was clean. Proper cleaning procedures will keep them clean...it is not hard. I have been using one for over ten years now...well over a hundred batches. I will say, I started with a brand new one and have taken care of it since day one. If you skip cleaning it at the end of your brew day...you may have screwed it up. Here is what I do:

I clean mine within 15 minutes of every use. I use the Blichmann backflush hose hooked up to my sink and flush it with hot water for 2-3 minutes in each direction...I do this for a total of six times...three times in the forward flow and three times in the backward flow directions, alternating between each. I then submerge the therminator in a kettle of water and keep it at a boil for 30 minutes. I then drain it in the sink and tip it back and forth on and off over the period of three days until no water is coming out upon tipping it. Then it goes back on the shelf until the next brew day.
 

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I had sucess with soaking my plate chiller by filling it with the recommended ratio of beer line cleaner to water and let it soak overnight. The following day rinse well with water (water pressure or pump).
 
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