Electric Brew Rig - Four Vessel

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Steven Sinclair

Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2019
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So, I'm in the process of building a new brew rig. I've attached a drawing of what I'm thinking about doing.

Does this make sense?
Does a CLT make more sense than separating the MLT into MT and LT?
Would you configure the system differently? If so, how?

Just want to get some feedback from you more experienced brewers.

Thanks in advance.


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What is the "CLT" actually doing here? Is it going to be filled with ice as a pre-chiller to service what appears to be a CFC on the bottom left shelf?

The CLT is a Cold Liquor Tank. It is filled with water, then chilled via the glycol chiller and internal coil, then used through the CFC on the bottom shelf to cool the wort prior to delivery to the conical fermenter.
Yes, directly, I whole-heartedly agree, but chilling the water in the CLT to a frosty temp, then using that water to chill as opposed to the chiller directly? Thanx.
I'm in Texas and struggle with cooling wort due to warm/hot groundwater temps in the very long summer months. I think your idea will work as I do something similar with ice water pumped through the CFC for "finish cooling" after a period of using tap water for "gross cooling". However, I usually use tap down to 100 degF or so recirculating into the BK then switch to ice water pumped by a live-well pump and flow into the fermenter. I sometimes even get the wort too cool if I don't watch it closely. You could try a similar approach to not overload the glycol chiller.

In addition it looks like your CFC is not "counter flow" as drawn. The cooling water should be into the bottom of the CFC where your wort is coming out. This is super important for overall cooling efficiency.
Given enough data - in this case, how many BTUs per unit of time that glycol system can sink, to go along with the BK volume and initial temperature (assumed to be boiling) and the initial pre-chilled volume in the CLT and its temperature - one could work out how long the glycol unit might have to run to bring the final wort temperature down to a specified pitching temperature.

I am definitely not the guy to work that out - my thermal dynamics work was focused at the IC die level with package and sometimes board dynamics added - ie: micro-scale - while this is a macro-scale calculation :D

- 3200 btu
- 8 gallon reservoir
- 4 separate sensors and pumps
- Chills one 60 gallon tank, or two 30 gallon tanks, or four 15 gallon tanks

- 16 gallons

- Will be sending 10 gallons to fermenter
It pay , form the energy eficiente point, to have 2 smaller counterflow in the lower shelf.
Run the first with tap water, and send it to the hlt at ~60ºC for next brew or cleaning. The second one will get beer at 30 something and do a lower impact on the chiller.
If I understand your schematic correctly, you are take the hot exhaust water from your CFC and return it back into the cooling coil.

While this is more efficient in terms of cooling water usage. It is adding a load to your Glycol cooler that does not need to exist.

Assuming your exhaust water is hotter then your tap water, you are going to eat up chilling capacity. How much? I cannot calculate it. But I know it is however how much energy it takes to chill your exhaust water down to your tap's temperature. That is the "extra" chilling power consumed.

From a chilling power consumed point if view, you would be better off putting the exhaust water elsewhere and refilling you CLC with the colder tap water.

Having said all that . . . .

Maybe you chiller machine can keep up with the additional BTU and the heat transfer in coil is such that it is not an issue. If so, then the trade off is consuming more electricity and less water vs more water and less electricity.
+1 on using ice water instead of glycol chiller to be more effective
+1 on sending the warmed up cooling water somewhere else (unless of course that's part of your purpose to conserve cooling water, in which case a combination of chiller + floating frozen 2L bottles of ice would be a good idea)
I have a friend that owns a winery and a startup distillery. He is using his 53 gallon still at the moment until the 500 gallon equipment comes in. We did a DIY 12,000 BTU glycol chiller in a cooler that probably had 15 to 20 gallons of liquid in it. It could not keep up with chilling the still so we would have to add ice every so often to keep up. We now chill a 1,000 gallon tank and transfer to a second 1,000 gallon tank so the incoming water stays the same temp. You are going to try to keep up transferring cold through the coil in your CLT with 8 gallons which would be less efficient than the scenario I just mentioned. 2 CFC could resolve this as others have mentioned. A different 4 vessel system could also be used. I use 20 gallon HLT, MT, BK and a 5 gallon Herms pot ( I use a small pot for this so I can ramp up temperature faster). The coil I use can be removed and thrown in a 5 gallon bucket of ice water if additional cooling is needed in the heat of summer due to a long hose run from the house to back garage. My incoming water can be in the 70+ degree range.


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HLT will be for MLT only and fed by hot water. CLT is for pre-chill only and always fed by cold water. Ground water here runs about 40 degrees year round. Yes, I do see the benefit of multiple CFCs. Thank you all for your advice and direction. It is greatly appreciated!
HLT will be for MLT only and fed by hot water. CLT is for pre-chill only and always fed by cold water. Ground water here runs about 40 degrees year round. Yes, I do see the benefit of multiple CFCs. Thank you all for your advice and direction. It is greatly appreciated!

40 degrees F or C (which is 104 F)? Unless you live somewhere like Death Valley, I assume that is 40 F. If so, I do not see the need for a CLT at all.
I visited a very small brewery in NC that kept a large storage tank of water in his cold room. He used that water to chill after brewing. I thought it was a pretty cool idea.

That being said, I did live in Death Valley for 3 years and is where I started brewing. At the home brew scale, you won’t get any better than chilling with ice water and a pump. I filled a large cooler with nothing but ice, and just enough water to operate the pump. Recirculated the hot water back into the cooler to melt ice.

I was only doing 5 gallon batches, but I think it would have still worked for 10 gallons if I chilled the first run with ground water and switched to the ice at plateau.

Your CLT idea will work. If the purpose is to just be cool and tinker with equipment, then go for it. It’s over engineering by a lot though for what is actually needed.
40 degrees F or C (which is 104 F)? Unless you live somewhere like Death Valley, I assume that is 40 F. If so, I do not see the need for a CLT at all.
Agree with this. If your ground water is in the 40F range year wound, you won't need to do anything to get the wort chilled. We'll maybe go to a plate chiller instead of the CFC (coil) chiller due to efficiency. ;)

I chilled 13.5-14 gallons of hot wort (about 200F post whirlpool) to ~65F via my DD plate chiller (12" wide, 40 plate) in less than 10 minutes (was in the 8-9 minute range) in a recent batch. That's with the chill water going through about 100 feet of garden hose, outside (wasn't too hot outside either). I'm now taking the chill water feed from inside the furnace room, where it's even colder. Using a ball valve at the wort chiller outlet, to control the flow, got me to about 64F in a single pass, fast. Chill water was running full speed through the chiller.

From what I've been reading, CFC/coil chillers are not nearly as fast/efficient as plate chillers. At least not in the correct size range. My plate chiller takes up very little space, so a CFC consuming the same amount of space would be a joke.

To be clear, my summer water temps (I'm on a well) are in the low to mid 50F range. Winter temps are in the mid to low 40F range. Either way, I get to chill my hot wort fast with my setup. Plus, it's crazy easy to use. ;)

Do note, that if you're whirlpooling and do go with a plate chiller DO get a wort strainer/filter to go in front of the plate chiller. I've used mine on the last two batches (since getting it) and have had zero issues with hop matter plugging the chiller. before this, I was using a hop spider to keep my chiller from plugging up. Much happier with the strainer/filter (from Brewers Hardware).
1) The amount of heat coming off that initial run of wort through your CFC will heat that CLT water up very quickly and your glycol system wont be able to offset it quick enough.
2) If you're pumping the hot exit water back into the CLT, you're speeding that balance up even more.
3) If your ground water is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, i dont see a need for this at all. 40 degrees is CHILLY and you can throttle your water supply back pretty far to minimal water usage and still chill your wort down very quickly.

Remember with a CFC, you're not chilling the entire batch of the Boil Kettle. You're running it in a loop just long enough to whirlpool, knock some temp off of whats in the BK, and then you should be pumping directly to the fermenter, throttling the output to control flow and get the right temp you're looking for exiting the CFC into the Fermenter.

The ideal situation is to use ground water running into your CFC for the first half of the chill and use the hot exit water to refill your HLT for cleaning purposes. Once you're filled up and the wort has cooled a bit, then you can either run the rest of the chilling water to waste, or anotherbucket or two for more cleaning rinsing purposes.

At 40 degrees ground water, running a CLT is unncessary as at most you're getting an 8 degree difference, which will make NO difference in your chilling speed
Right, 50s is what one hits given sufficient depth pretty near anywhere. My 120' deep drilled well runs in the 50s year 'round.
Not 40s...