Glycol beer line chiller

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stan_b

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Greetings all. I wanted to share my success (and prior failures) with glycol cooling of my tap lines.

First, a little background: My keezer is in the basement, and taps are on the first floor, almost directly above the keezer. The total run of insulated trunk line is about 10 feet. I've got five 5/16" product lines (two currently used) and two glycol 1/2" lines (supply and return). Everything in the trunk line is wrapped together with packaging tape. The insulation is 1/2" thick pipe insulation from McMaster. The tap box is insulated with 1/2" pink foam insulation. To cool the tap box I've simply got a loop of the 1/2" glycol line running around inside the box. I've already got plans to rebuild the tap box (just not happy with version 1), and when I do, I'm going to barrow some design ideas from Micro Matic's Kool-Rite design. (Google their site if you need more info on that).

The tap tower (I only built the tap box on top - the bottom is a kitchen cart kit-furniture)


The first iteration of my glycol cooling was a tank in the keezer. That didn't work for crap! The temperature of the glycol would just slowly climb to only a degree or two below ambient. I tried a one gallon glass jug, and a five gallon plastic pail. Neither worked and frankly, I didn't really want to sacrifice space in the keezer anyway.

The second attempt was to use a air-to-glycol heat exchanger inside the keezer with air from the keezer being forced through it. I was using a repurposed motorcycle oil cooler with three 80mm computer fans, each rated for about 85 cfm each. This solution worked better, but it still couldn't chill the lines and tap tower to within a few degrees of the keezer. Also, the kreezer was working quite hard to keep up. It would only shut off for a few minutes each hour. Clearly, I was getting heat exchanged, but chest freezers aren't designed to work with that many added BTU's I guess. I'm sure it would be more suited for a shorter beer line run.

The third, and final iteration was to replicate a commercial glycol power pack. I thought about converting a window A/C unit like others did, and I even have an extra one laying around, but based on my heat gain calculations for my line, it would have been way overkill. The math says I only need about 250 BTU/hr with 70 degree ambient and 35 degree beer (42 degree target glass temperature :)). Had this design failed, I have a Micro Matic power pack in my eBay watch list right now! Fortunately for the budget, it works perfectly!

I had a small dehumidifier sitting around that was just too small for my basement, so I figured there was no loss in going Dr Frankenstein on it. I hate to say it, but it really was a piece of cake. The condenser coils (cold) were aluminum, so bending them into place was very easy. A little to easy in fact, as they wanted to kink so I had to be very mindful of where I bent them. It freaked me out a little, so I was wearing a face shield and heavy welding gloves just in case the R134a got "liberated"! :D

I bent the coils down into a 10 quart cooler, which holds two gallons of glycol solution. The initial test was to hot wire the dehumidifier controls and turn it on with a tiny fountain pump in the cooler circulating the glycol. In 20 minutes it had dropped the temperature of the solution to 18 degrees. At 30 minutes, the solution began to slush at 9 degrees. There was also no lid on the cooler at the time, so I don't know how much heat gain I got from just ambient air. Regardless, a casual calculation based on temperature change put the unit at around 1200 BTU/hr, meaning I should be able to run at about a 20% duty cycle to chill my lines.

Having had success with the initial test, I cut the lid as necessary, installed plumbing and hooked it up to the pump (Little Giant 2-MD). After only 10 minutes of running, my glycol line temp in the tap tower was 27 degrees. Keep in mind though the glycol was still chilled from the test. In fact, I had transferred it back to the jugs so I could do my plumbing and such, and after an hour, the jug was cold enough to form frost on the outside of it!

After 35 minutes of running, the glycol was 20 degrees and the beer line was 43. At that point I started to manually cycle the dehumidifier on and off (so as to not freeze the beer), and ended up achieving 35 degree beer temp at the tap after about 50 minutes. Poured into a pint glass, a perfect 42 degrees! :rockin:

I call it R2-GlyCool! There's still some final touches to be done, such as adding a temperature controller, insulating the glycol lines before they enter the trunk line, and aesthetic refinements.

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ChandlerBang

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Fantastic write up. I'm looking at doing a similar thing. Where can I buy glycol? How much money do you think you have in this set up?
 

geniz

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Sub. Would this cool fast enough to recycle water for an immersion chiller without using ice?
 
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stan_b

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Fantastic write up. I'm looking at doing a similar thing. Where can I buy glycol? How much money do you think you have in this set up?
I have no idea how much I have into my total setup. I started out keeping track but didn't keep up with it. Probably quite a bit. :D

I'm using RV antifreeze, which can be had from any hardware store, and is probably on sale at a few places this time of year. If you wanted actual food grade glycol USP, Google would be your best bet.

geniz said:
Sub. Would this cool fast enough to recycle water for an immersion chiller without using ice?
Maybe. It really depends on the volume of wort and how fast you want to chill it. Since a BTU (simplified) is the amount of energy required to move 1 lb of water through 1 degree Fahrenheit, it is easily calculable. For the purposes of this example, assume water=wort.

5 gallons * 8 lbs/gallon = 40 lbs
212 degrees - 70 degrees = 142 degrees

40 lbs * 142 degrees = 5680 BTU

So, in order to cool 5 gallons of wort from boiling to 70 degrees, you would need to remove 5680 BTU. With this setup, which I estimated at 1200 BTU/hr, it would take 5680/1200 hrs or 4.73 hrs. Not very practical.

You would either need a much larger chiller if you wanted to pump that heat on demand, or a larger reservoir of chilled glycol that you could "pre-chill".

I actually thought about doing this as I use a plate heat exchanger, and that is exactly how commercial breweries do it. Their chillers are enormous though.
 

ChandlerBang

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My keezer is in the basement, and taps are on the first floor, almost directly above the keezer. The total run of insulated trunk line is about 10 feet. I've got five 5/16" product lines (two currently used) and two glycol 1/2" lines (supply and return).
How does the product line size work for this? Does 5/16 work well for 10' of elevation? That is roughly what I'm going to have. And my kegerator should be directly underneath the taps.
 
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stan_b

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How does the product line size work for this? Does 5/16 work well for 10' of elevation? That is roughly what I'm going to have. And my kegerator should be directly underneath the taps.
I've got about 18' total length, with 10' rise. Some of that extra 8 feet is consumed in horizontal run to get everything where it needs to go, and some is used in the keezer. My 10 PSI beers such as IPAs and pale ales pour good. The wheats at 12 PSI pour a bit fast. I think if I had to do it again, I'd use 1/4" lines, or install a foot of 3/16" at the back of the faucets.

Also, I should mention, I originally used vinyl tubing for the glycol lines but have since switched them out for copper. The vinyl tubing didn't keep its shape and therefore, after a time, was no longer in physical contact with the product lines in the trunk. For longer runs where copper would be cost prohibitive, I'd suggest using PEX (similar to what the commercial guys do).
 

ChandlerBang

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stan_b said:
I've got about 18' total length, with 10' rise. Some of that extra 8 feet is consumed in horizontal run to get everything where it needs to go, and some is used in the keezer. My 10 PSI beers such as IPAs and pale ales pour good. The wheats at 12 PSI pour a bit fast. I think if I had to do it again, I'd use 1/4" lines, or install a foot of 3/16" at the back of the faucets.

Also, I should mention, I originally used vinyl tubing for the glycol lines but have since switched them out for copper. The vinyl tubing didn't keep its shape and therefore, after a time, was no longer in physical contact with the product lines in the trunk. For longer runs where copper would be cost prohibitive, I'd suggest using PEX (similar to what the commercial guys do).
That gives me an idea. I only have room for 4 kegs, but maybe I'll run (4) 5/16 inch lines and (2) 1/4 inch lines. That way I can switch product lines depending on what I'm serving if I want plus it leaves room for expansion to a larger keezer down the road. The wife wants the kegerator out of the dining room by thanksgiving, so I better get cracking.
 

milldoggy

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Really great idea. Is it still running? Do you know what size and model the dehumidier is?
 

H-Balm

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Great post.

It will surely inspire many experiments!
(Watch out that the Alliance of SWMBO doesn't close down this post!)
 
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stan_b

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Really great idea. Is it still running? Do you know what size and model the dehumidier is?
Sadly the dehumidifier's evaporator sprung a leak and vented all the refrigerant. I have since replaced it with a commercial glycol chiller. It will be serving double duty later this year when my two new 20 gal conicals arrive - chilling tap lines and keeping fermentation temps down.

I don't recall what model the dehumidifier was, sorry.
 

FuzzeWuzze

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Ha what the hell man, you guys on this forum come up with the craziest stuff i swear....

Wish i had a basement so i could route beer lines from the floor :(
 

jerryk

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I have thought about the DIY line chiller to my kitchen but I keep thinking it would just be easer to buy a commercial chiller. I have found one today for $350 and in working condition. Is that price worth it because I may not do anything with it for a year or more. Or should I just wait until I am really ready to start to put the lines in? I have know info on what brand the chiller is yet I have to call back and talk to the guy selling it. Thanks for any advice you can give.
 

milldoggy

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jerryk said:
I have thought about the DIY line chiller to my kitchen but I keep thinking it would just be easer to buy a commercial chiller. I have found one today for $350 and in working condition. Is that price worth it because I may not do anything with it for a year or more. Or should I just wait until I am really ready to start to put the lines in? I have know info on what brand the chiller is yet I have to call back and talk to the guy selling it. Thanks for any advice you can give.
Sounds like a fair price. I am in process of running my lines and intalling my bar and not sure which route I am going to go. Dyi or commerical. I am leaning towards a commerical as I could also use it for a conical some day and turn my temp control fridge into a lager fridge. For that price, you might want to grab it, if you pass, what is the guys number :)
 
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