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Counterflow Chiller Tutorial

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Bobby_M

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Just to balance out all the post whoring, I thought I'd actualy put something a little more substantial together.

This is the cheapest way to put a CFC together and doesn't use any pricy compression fittings. It requires soldering, but you ought to know how to do that already. No? Shame. Here's what we're building:



Part list:

(1) 12" x 1/2" copper pipe
(2) 1/2" copper TEEs
(2) 1/2" x 1/4" copper reducers
(1) 25' x 3/8" OD soft copper tubing
(1) 25' x 5/8" ID rubber garden hose (make sure it's rubber. It will be the only one that does NOT say "do not use with hot water".)
(4) hose clamps.





You'll also need some emory cloth (sandpaper), a round wire brush, flux, solder, tubing cutter, and a propane torch.

The first step is to create the end assemblies:
Completely clean the 1/2" copper pipe by sanding it with emory cloth, then cut it into six 2-inch pieces with the tubing cutter. Clean the insides of the Tees and reducers with the round wirebrush. Apply a liberal amount of flux paste and assemble to look like this:




Apply the propane flame and keep it moving but focus mostly on the Tee. Keep testing the temp by removing the flame and touching solder to the joint. If it doesn't flow, apply a little more heat. Don't overheat. You should see the solder being sucked into the joint. A solder joint does not seal due to an apparent bead on the outside of the fitting so don't build it up too much. Once it starts dripping out and falling on the floor, you have more than enough in the joint.

Before moving on, you must drill out the stops inside the reducer fittings with a 3/8" drill bit. There's a nub sticking out inside there that is meant to stop the 3/8 tubing from going all the way through the reducer. This is precisely what we WANT to happen.
 
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Bobby_M

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The next thing you do is cut the last 10" off of each end of the garden hose. Unroll the soft copper tubing carefully into a straight line. Make up a very soapy solution of dish soap and water and pour it into the hose with a funnel. You can also lubricate with something like KY as long as it's water soluable. Don't try working the copper inside the hose without a lube, you'll only get it about 1/3rd of the way before you start cursing. You'll want to center the hose on the copper so that about 10" of copper sticks out on each end.

On one end, clean the lubricant off the copper and use the emory cloth to thoroughly clean the copper in prep for soldering. Apply flux to the copper and inside of the reducer on one of the end assemblies and slide it on. For this soldering job, you can slide the rubber hose out of the way, but take note of where the assembly has to sit first. Once you solder the reducer to the inner tubing, you can slide the rubber hose over the end assembly and clamp the hose on tightly.

You now have to select a cylidrical object to coil the hose around and I'd suggest going at least 12" in diameter. Start coiling from the end that you've just soldered. Coil it nice and tight as uniformly as possible. A lot of people use large tie wraps or electrical tape to hold the coil in position. I had some strips of galvanized metal on hand so I made rigid straps. Take your pick, but you'll want to secure the coil in some way to keep it from unraveling and looking like Shhhh...

You'll finish the project by cleaning the copper on the other end and soldering it on in the same way. Clamp the hose on first but in this case, you need to be careful not to burn the hose. Get a rag soaked in cold water and lay it over the hose to keep it cool.

Clamp the leftover hose ends to the Tees. The coolant water goes in on the end that you want to be the wort outflow (hence "counterflow").




Before you use it, boil a few gallons of water with about a quart of white vinegar and drain it all through the inside a few times, then run clean water through. Of course, you'll also need to sanitize just prior to use by running starsan through or recirculating hot wort through it if you have a pump (without the coolant water running obviously).

For those who want more on soldering copper, I like this guy's method because it matches the way I do it.

[YOUTUBE]PKKMA4NOaQ4[/YOUTUBE]
 

5 Is Not Enough

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Nice "How to" Bobby_M. Very cost effective!
Couple questions:

Why is the RUBBER hose a necessity?


Would you still recommend 25' of 3/8" OD copper for a gravity fed chiller?
 
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Bobby_M

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The rubber supposedly stands up better to boiling temps. I recirculate boiling wort through it for sanitation and it gets pretty hot. Use your own judgement.

The cost is going to be highly dependent on what kind of deal you get on the copper. I believe I bought 50 feet on Ebay for $60 shipped. The garden hose was also 50 feet and was $26. I made two and sold one.

I think 25 feet is the sweet spot whether you're pumping or gravity draining. You could maybe go with 20 feet but no less than that unless you always have very cold tap water or use icewater.
 

joejaz

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Bobby_M said:
The rubber supposedly stands up better to boiling temps. I recirculate boiling wort through it for sanitation and it gets pretty hot. Use your own judgement.

The cost is going to be highly dependent on what kind of deal you get on the copper. I believe I bought 50 feet on Ebay for $60 shipped. The garden hose was also 50 feet and was $26. I made two and sold one.

I think 25 feet is the sweet spot whether you're pumping or gravity draining. You could maybe go with 20 feet but no less than that unless you always have very cold tap water or use icewater.
Nicely done, didn't know about using rubber hose, good point and the lubricant for snaking cooper tubing. But what about the cost of the fittings. And if you don't have solder and flux and propane for the torch. Everything adds up. Brewers has 25 foot CFC for $70. Unless you get a deal on the copper tubing, it doesn't pay to DIY, especially if it doesn't go exactly right the first time (which for me it doesn't). But it's good to know how to do it.
 
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joejaz said:
it doesn't pay to DIY
For shame! 20 lashes with a wet noodle.

Actually, you do indeed have a point. However, Bobby's design is fairly bulletproof, and it's definitely superior to some of the stuff I've seen for sale. In that regard, it's better to DIY since you're getting a better product for roughly the same cost.

Now, if you have no torch, no experience with soldering, and/or generally have a hard time with DIY projects like this, by all means, go buy yourself a chiller.
 

joejaz

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Yuri_Rage said:
For shame! 20 lashes with a wet noodle.

Actually, you do indeed have a point. However, Bobby's design is fairly bulletproof, and it's definitely superior to some of the stuff I've seen for sale. In that regard, it's better to DIY since you're getting a better product for roughly the same cost.

Now, if you have no torch, no experience with soldering, and/or generally have a hard time with DIY projects like this, by all means, go buy yourself a chiller.

Bobby's designs are great. I used his video to cut my keggle, it's just that copper is very expensive and if you can't get a deal it doesn't pay to DIY. The sum of the parts is greater then then price of the whole.
 

kinison_fan

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Nice tutorial Bobby, and great timing- I've got all the stuff sitting on my workbench to put mine together tommorow. I bought my 50' copper tubing (3/8) from coppertubingsales.com (it was $44-47 delivered).
The other thing is I bought a cheap vinyl hose, but may hold off and get a rubber hose instead.

Another thought for those that don't have the torch-borrow one from a neighbor, or get the neighbor to soldier it up for you in exchange for a few homebrews.
 

5 Is Not Enough

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joejaz said:
copper is very expensive and if you can't get a deal it doesn't pay
to DIY. The sum of the parts is greater then then price of the whole.
coppertubingsales.com - Everybody "can get a deal"

or try an ebay or google search for "refrigeration tubing".
 
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Bobby_M

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(1) 12" x 1/2" copper pipe ($3)
(2) 1/2" copper TEEs ($1.40)
(2) 1/2" x 1/4" copper reducers ($1.80)
(1) 25' x 3/8" OD soft copper tubing ($43 shipped for 50ft at copper tubing sales, per chiller would be $21)
(1) 25' x 5/8" ID rubber garden hose ($26 for 50ft, enough for two.. per chiller is $13)
(4) hose clamps. ($3)

Total is about $42 if you already have the solder and torch. If you count the time, it's about break even but building things is at least half of my enjoyment of the hobby.

If soldering is not your thing and you still want to DIY, you can replace the sweat Tees with 1/2" brass NPT. On the hose connections, you need 1/2" MPT to 5/8" hose barbs. On the copper entrance/exits you need 1/2"MPT to 3/8" compression fittings. These parts are probably twice the cost but it would save a lot of trouble and time.
 

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For good copper tubing prices hit scrap yards! I got about 50' of it sitting on the shelf for 15-20 bucks. Wasn't used. Wasn't bent up. Made a sparge arm out of some and it just sits there... Might have to get some hose and some fittings.... >=) BTW, should I make a CFC as long as what I have laying around? I was at a buddies house last year and he has the chillus convoultus(sorry, my spelling is terrible) and it took awhile to get the wort coming out at temp. We thought maybe it was because it was only 25' long. Took awhile to get the wort chilled and in the carboys. Makes that 5 min hop addition sit in some near boiling wort for a bit more than 5 min...
 

Funkenjaeger

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Looks great. I built a CFC long ago, and I used a REALLY cheap garden hose from walmart, like $10 for a 50-footer IIRC. I'm sure it softened and leeched some plasticky chemicals into the cooling water, but it didn't seem like it was in any danger of bursting or anything. I think using a rugged rubber hose is a much better idea if cost isn't your primary concern, I'm sure it's a lot more durable and you should still be able to re-use your now-hot chilling water for cleaning, etc.

I sold the CFC shortly after building it and bought an IC, because it really wasn't practical with my equipment setup at the time. Now I've got a keggle with ball valve and I've been thinking a CFC would be a much better idea for me now than it was then... Seeing how great yours came out may be the inspiration I needed... that and the home depot gift certificate now burning a hole in my pocket ;)
 

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in your part list you say you need a 1/2 to 1/4 reducer. i am having a really hard time finding that part and i'm wondering if you meant 1/2 to 3/8. Since the soft copper tube is 3/8 OD shouldn't the reducer fit 3/8?
 

Funkenjaeger

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scottfro said:
in your part list you say you need a 1/2 to 1/4 reducer. i am having a really hard time finding that part and i'm wondering if you meant 1/2 to 3/8. Since the soft copper tube is 3/8 OD shouldn't the reducer fit 3/8?
I wouldn't be surprised if he meant what he said, because the reducer is made for rigid copper pipe, and IIRC rigid pipe is measured by ID, whereas soft tubing is measured by OD... But don't quote me on that, I'm not 100% sure.

In any case, when I made my CFC I simply used 1/2" copper end caps, and drilled a hole in them and then used a reamer to ream them out to just the right size to stick the tubing through with a snug fit, and the solder took care of the rest. A step drill bit would work even better. Not QUITE as sturdy as a reducing fitting I suppose, but it worked fine for me.
 
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Bobby_M

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Yes, I did in fact mean 1/2" to 1/4". 3/8" OD soft copper is actually 1/4" ID and that's how the fittings are sized. A 1/2" to 1/4" reducing coupling actually accepts 5/8"OD pipe and 3/8" OD tubing. Lowes def has them and so does Mcmaster:

5520K29
Solder-Joint Copper Tube Fitting for Drinking Reducing Cplg W/Ctr Stop 1/2" Sckt X 1/4" Sckt
In stock at $0.60 Each

I forgot to mention that you need to drill out the center stop so that the inside tube can go all the way through the fitting.
 

scottfro

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thanks for the confirmation....i'll have to keep searching. i'm in canada so my choices are more limited when it comes to corporate mega hardware stores hah
 
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Bobby_M

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You can try a dedicated plumbing supply. They have everything. If all else fails, I agree the next best thing is a drilled out end cap. Just make sure it's a very snug fit because solder doesn't like filling large gaps.
 

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I found the fittings at Ace Hardware. I plan on building one soon. I got all the copper, I just have to find a cheap hose.
 

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kinison_fan said:
Nice tutorial Bobby, and great timing- I've got all the stuff sitting on my workbench to put mine together tommorow. I bought my 50' copper tubing (3/8) from coppertubingsales.com (it was $44-47 delivered).
The other thing is I bought a cheap vinyl hose, but may hold off and get a rubber hose instead.

Another thought for those that don't have the torch-borrow one from a neighbor, or get the neighbor to soldier it up for you in exchange for a few homebrews.
I built a CFC about 6 years ago using the same copper fittings Bobby illustrated so well in his design. I also used cheap vinyl hose on mine, and its still going strong today.

The only change I made in my CFC is that I sweated a male and female garden hose fitting directly to the copper Tee on each end instead of the hose extention.
 

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I just finished mine. I'll post pics once my main PC is up and running again.

I had 20 feet of 3/8 copper left over from replacing my AC line set this past summer. It was a little too big to fit into my reducers, so I had to grind it down a little bit. This was my first time soldering copper, and I only had one leak. Not too bad for an electrician :D

I'm still building my set up, so I haven't got to test it's cooling yet.
 

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Great Job with this. I'm in the "acquisition" phase right now... I'll be building soon!
 

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joejaz said:
Nicely done, didn't know about using rubber hose, good point and the lubricant for snaking cooper tubing. But what about the cost of the fittings. And if you don't have solder and flux and propane for the torch. Everything adds up. Brewers has 25 foot CFC for $70. Unless you get a deal on the copper tubing, it doesn't pay to DIY, especially if it doesn't go exactly right the first time (which for me it doesn't). But it's good to know how to do it.
Can someone tell me where I can find this 25foot counterflow chiller for only $70? In my searches I cant sniff one for anything close to that amount! :confused:

Oh, and Bobby_M, thank you for your inspiration. If I cannot find this mystery $70 chiller I am going to build one myself per your tutorial. +1 :D
 

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email them and ask for a picture AND a phone number. Then talk to someone. Don't just blindly order. Just a few steps you can take to make sure that site is legit! I'm sure there are other people who can chime in on a website authentication? :)
 

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Grimsawyer said:
email them and ask for a picture AND a phone number. Then talk to someone. Don't just blindly order. Just a few steps you can take to make sure that site is legit! I'm sure there are other people who can chime in on a website authentication? :)
The site is legit. That's where I buy my supplies. Bobby can attest to that too. I am going there Saturday and probably going too get the CFC and a banjo burner. Got $200 in gift cerftificates for Xmas & birthday. I would have liked to built one, but with my work schedule, I have a limited amout of time ( put in 60 hrs. last week, truckings sucks). I will post pictures if I get it and if I can figure out how to post pictures. I am trying to get all equipment ready for all grain brewing once weather breaks in the east.
 
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Bobby_M

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Yeah, it's a physical shop but they don't really put a lot of investment into the website. Their pricing is a little high on just about everything.

I just got a sack of Munton's Maris for $50 and that's with a 10% discount. Hops by the ounce are $2.75.

I just haven't seen the counterflow in person.
 

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Grimsawyer said:
email them and ask for a picture AND a phone number. Then talk to someone. Don't just blindly order. Just a few steps you can take to make sure that site is legit! I'm sure there are other people who can chime in on a website authentication? :)
The person you want to talk to there is the manager, Ron. He is the most technical on the entire staff. JoEllen is the owner.

Ron is usually there on Sundays and during the week. I'd suggest calling earlier in the day because they do get VERY busy. 1-800-903-2739.
 

Chris K

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ok, so i got all the supplies. I already had the 1/2" copper piping, and the soldering tools. here is my cost breakdown:

25' 3/8 soft copper $16.99
25' medium duty hose $13.99
2 X 1/2" copper T's $1.46
2 X 1/2" to 1/4" copper reducer $2.16
4 X SS hose clamp $1.90

Total $36.50

All the supplies were bought at a smaller Ace hardware store, except the 1/2" to 1/4" reducers cause they didnt have them (i got those at home creepo). i got the last 25' roll of soft copper in the store. i imagine they dont sell much of it and maybe the price was a "leftover" price. home creepo only had 50' lengths and that was about $55.

I already have the copper soldered and i'm gonna work on getting the soft copper into the hose in the next day or so. maybe i'll post some pics. building stuff is fun. making beer is funner.
 
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has any body used the convaluted (I reserve the right to mispell words as nessasary LOL) copper tubing??? and if so how does that work as far as puting the thing together?
JJ
 
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Bobby_M

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How much is the conveluted and where can you buy it? I'd imagine it makes insertion and coiling a little bit more difficult, but not by much. I'd also question the net increase in efficiency of the higher cost. Maybe it would take the wort down to 4F over ambient instead of 6 or 7F with smooth tubing. I'm not sure.
 
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