Glycol chiller or fridge ?

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Beavis740

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Dont know much about the advantages/disadvantages of either
1) conical fermenting in fridge , or
2) ...fermenting outside of fridge via a “glycol chiller”
I am especially interested in electrical costs, ease of use and cleaning, and any other points that arent apparent.
 

day_trippr

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I haven't seen many (any?) conicals-in-fridges lately. Likely the conical plus dump valve stackup exceeds the typical top-freezer fridge food compartment capacity. I'm constantly tempted by conicals but they're incompatible with my existing infrastructure so wholesale replacement would be necessary...

Cheers!
 
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A few obvious thoughts - - Space in fridge could be tight but can definitely work with the right combo of fridge and fermenter. Obviously, such a fridge takes more space in the room than a conical and glycol chiller. A fridge can maintain temps for other things (e.g. bottles while conditioning, maybe even next to the conical). Not sure if there's much energy use difference. Best of luck, @Beavis740.
 

Vale71

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Energy costs at our scale are chump change (at least cold-side) compared to other costs such as ingredients regardless of which of those two systems you choose, even though a fridge is somewhat more efficient because of the better insulation. Most homebrew-scale conicals are unfortunately very poorly insulated as opposed to larger, fully jacketed fermenters.
 

hezagenius

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I've been waffling between an upright freezer and a glycol chiller.
I don't brew a ton. I only have 1 conical and don't intend to get any more since I brew infrequently.
Based on that, I decided an upright freezer makes more sense than a glycol.

Freezer/fridge pros:
I can use it for other things when I'm not fermenting.
I don't need to worry about hoses, topping off glycol, buying an immersion coil.
I can find an upright freezer or fridge cheaper than a glycol chiller setup.
No need to worry about insulating the fermenter.

The biggest pro I can see for glycol chillers is if you have multiple fermentations going at the same time.

The biggest con for freezer/fridge is that you need to have the fermenter in it before you fill it. So depending on your setup, that could be tricky, especially without a pump.
 

jtgoral

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BrewJacket works for me very well. Drew Beechum's method: 3 days at 50F, 3 days at 55F, 3 days at 60F, 3+ days at 65F and then package.
 

NewJersey

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I only have one fermenter and use an upright freezer which could fit a conical.
It's great. I thought I would definitely NOT want another fermenter, but lately I've found myself wanting another one....
 

eric19312

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I chose to go with fermenter in upright freezer. I have a Spike CF15 (18 gallon fermentor) on leg extensions in my freezer. I have no experience with glycol but read a lot in here before deciding

Pros for Freezer
- can hold lower temperatures than most are achieving with glycol - I wanted to be able to cold crash the beer at 29F and can do that without icing. Note before I had a conical in a freezer I had a Speidel plastic tank in a fridge...best I could do in the fridge was about 35F
- tidy footprint...no drippy glycol lines, one box against the wall
- for single fermentor total cost was similar to DIY glycol and much cheaper than Penguin or similar (that comparison was based on buying new freezer, if you can find used no comparison) a big part of the cost savings is not needing to buy the temperature control coil and accessories.
- useful as a freezer if I ever need one
edited to add: no coil to clean. Creates additional options of what to do with the coil port on the fermentor.

Pros for Glycol
- Chills faster - I read about people using glycol to chill that last 20F to get to pitching temps in minutes. I suppose that is for smaller fermentors but my freezer is good for about 2F per hour.
- cost effective and perhaps footprint advantage when you get to 3-4 fermentors
- better access to the top of the fermentor

I think cleaning is easy enough in the freezer. Cleaning the inside of the freezer after every brew is my standard...these conicals make a bit of a mess when you take them apart.

As for filling and moving...With 17 gallons I have to fill in place.

I can see that 3 CF5s running glycol temperature control would be a lot more versatile than one CF15 in a freezer for same beer volume but the cost difference between those two choices would be substantial.
 
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@eric19312 hit on all the points here very well. I went the opposite he did due to my setup, I have 2 cf15's. so for me to be able to temp control both at the same time glycol was the way to go. i have both of them filled currently. one sitting at 66 and the other at 70 and will start to cold crash the one at 70 in the next couple days while maintaining 66 in the other. that was my main reason for glycol, second was access, which he touched on as well. i dont like working in tight spaces so that part of it was really just a personal preference.
 

WWJPD

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I've graduated from using a True GDM-12 glass fridge that I got off of Craigslist for $200 with a SS Brewtech conical to now using a Blichmann glycol chiller with a Spike Flex+ fermenter. Pictures attached.

IMG_4703.JPG


IMG_1157.JPG


The fridge worked fine, but I was limited to only fermenting batches at the same temperature. The True GDM-12 is nice because it has a plug for the condenser to kick in underneath. This let me plug the condenser into an Inkbird and run the temp prob inside the fridge/fermenter so the fan runs most all the time, but the condenser only kicks in when temp adjustment is needed. I now use the fridge for cold storage of kegs and yeast.

I've only used the Blichmann glycol chiller for about 4 batches, but I have to say it works great and is amazingly fast at bringing stuff to temp. It keeps it nice and steady and I'm able to do multiple batches at different temps right in my regular brewery space. The downside is it's a bit cluttered with tubes and such as you can see here. It's also great at bringing a batch down to pitching temp - you can easily put a batch in your fermenter at 100° and the glycol system will bring it down to 64° within 20min. I've been slowly raising the temp of this fermenter up a degree every day for the last 5 days.

I do recommend if you run tubing, you get insulation, like I have here(from Spike), otherwise I got a lot of sweating in the summer. Also, if you are doing glycol, I highly recommend getting self-sealing hose coupling to reduce any glycol leaking. I was able to find them here. Here is a picture of them. Get the 1/4" ID ones. Any glycol that leaks needs to be cleaned up.
IMG_1159.JPG


NONE of these options are cheap though. I'm also only dealing with 5gal batches. I would think that a chiller system would be the only real way to go with larger batches.

Cleaning is cleaning... I either use a cleaning ball or soak the whole thing in PBW. I tend to just fill up the fermenter with PBW and hot water, put the cooling coil in the PBW solution and let it do it's thing for an hour or so. But no real difference for me between the fridge vs chiller for cleaning. The new Blichmann G4 cooling coil looks great and much easier for cleaning than normal round coils like Spike's or SS Brewtech's.

Power wise, I feel the fridge is worse, probably because it seems to kick on more often and is louder, but I don't feel I have anything else to necessarily base it off of.

Overall, I really do like the glycol system and feel it's easier, more flexible and has more capacity if I want. But cost is the downside. I do miss being able to dump the yeast/hops like I was able to with the SS Brewtech conical, so I I were to do it again, I'd get a conical that had a dump port like the Spike Conical or the Blichmann G4. But if you can afford one of the glycol chiller setups, it is very nice and I do recommend.
 

maxr

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It's not really worth talking about electrical costs if you're going to buy a $500 conical to do the job of a $20 carboy. I went glycol with my unitank and have zero regrets. We have very warm tap water in the summer and it gets the wort down to lager pitching temps in a matter of minutes. Otherwise this would take hours.
This depends on the temperature of the glycol reservoir and its volume. I have a morebeer icemaster, which holds about 4 gallons of glycol which represents a lot of heat capacity relative to a 6 gal batch of beer. Stay away from the glycol systems with tiny reservoirs like the Stasis. The compressor will run more frequently and you won't be able to cool as quickly when doing big temperature reductions.
 

eric19312

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@WWJPD that fridge is sweet. I forgot to mention my freezer doesn't have the same bling factor as I see in the glycol based home breweries. But that is a great look. I use a muffin fan inside my freezer and get rock solid temp control. The outside surface of the fermentor does a great job of heat transfer so long as you keep the air circulating.

@bailey mountain brewer I ran the numbers before picking freezer and was still better deal to buy 2 freezers brand new than to buy glycol plus the accessories needed to make glycol work (with the Spike fermentors, SS Brewtech would of been different math). I really wanted to go glycol but ended up going with the cheaper freezer option when I heard difficulty @mongoose33 was having cold crashing below about 35F without icing the coil.
 
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I hear you there. my brew space is not huge so yes i spent more money but can add a 3rd and 4th for only the price of a fermenter and lines and still be able to walk through my basement. cost wise the freezer is definitely better, absolutely no debate there. personally i dont cold crash below 35f so this doesnt concern me but a good thing to note as well.
 

mbg

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I have a FastFerment with a BrewJacket but recently bought a Fermzilla All-Rounder for pressurized fermentation. I also bought the Temp Twister immersion cooling coil. Ha - now I'm confused why I bought this coil. For the low frequency I brew I don't want another fridge or freezer.

1) If I use a pump and ice bath I will probably need to re-ice it every two days?
2) I tried water in the fermenter and modified a lid to use the BrewJacket immersion rod in a water bath & pond pump. Seemed like it held ale temps OK but lager may be pushing it.
3) I do have a side/side fridge in the basement which the freezer section doesn't get used much and was thinking of possibly putting a keg with glycol and a pump in there, but, seems to get complex.
4) The BrewJacket Immersion Pro is like $150 now (ugh mine was more than twice that) I could double up on immersion rods in a water bath to get lower temps. This might be the easiest and most compact solution.
5) I have a counter height fridge in the garage that I could build a collar for so I could stuff the fermenter in it.

What's a brewer to do?
 
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Having the ability to do a closed transer is a wonderful thing, my beer quality went up substantially with this upgrade. The ice bath thing, well just rule that out unless you have nothing to do all day every day but add ice and more ice and more ice. If you go with #5 you could ferment in that with a temp controller and easily push it to a keg with your pressure transfer.
 

WESBREW

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I went for an icemaster glycol chiller last year. No regrets. Benefits: two vessels at a time, independent and precise temp control. Fermenters are out in the open where I can check on beer, and sample, easy cold crash.. I can wheel the cart out of the way when not in use. Con: need coils for fermenters. Have to clamp on coolant tubes , a bit noisy when the bath is chilling
 

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DNuggs

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I've graduated from using a True GDM-12 glass fridge that I got off of Craigslist for $200 with a SS Brewtech conical to now using a Blichmann glycol chiller with a Spike Flex+ fermenter. Pictures attached.

View attachment 720659

View attachment 720660

The fridge worked fine, but I was limited to only fermenting batches at the same temperature. The True GDM-12 is nice because it has a plug for the condenser to kick in underneath. This let me plug the condenser into an Inkbird and run the temp prob inside the fridge/fermenter so the fan runs most all the time, but the condenser only kicks in when temp adjustment is needed. I now use the fridge for cold storage of kegs and yeast.

I've only used the Blichmann glycol chiller for about 4 batches, but I have to say it works great and is amazingly fast at bringing stuff to temp. It keeps it nice and steady and I'm able to do multiple batches at different temps right in my regular brewery space. The downside is it's a bit cluttered with tubes and such as you can see here. It's also great at bringing a batch down to pitching temp - you can easily put a batch in your fermenter at 100° and the glycol system will bring it down to 64° within 20min. I've been slowly raising the temp of this fermenter up a degree every day for the last 5 days.

I do recommend if you run tubing, you get insulation, like I have here(from Spike), otherwise I got a lot of sweating in the summer. Also, if you are doing glycol, I highly recommend getting self-sealing hose coupling to reduce any glycol leaking. I was able to find them here. Here is a picture of them. Get the 1/4" ID ones. Any glycol that leaks needs to be cleaned up.
View attachment 720662

NONE of these options are cheap though. I'm also only dealing with 5gal batches. I would think that a chiller system would be the only real way to go with larger batches.

Cleaning is cleaning... I either use a cleaning ball or soak the whole thing in PBW. I tend to just fill up the fermenter with PBW and hot water, put the cooling coil in the PBW solution and let it do it's thing for an hour or so. But no real difference for me between the fridge vs chiller for cleaning. The new Blichmann G4 cooling coil looks great and much easier for cleaning than normal round coils like Spike's or SS Brewtech's.

Power wise, I feel the fridge is worse, probably because it seems to kick on more often and is louder, but I don't feel I have anything else to necessarily base it off of.

Overall, I really do like the glycol system and feel it's easier, more flexible and has more capacity if I want. But cost is the downside. I do miss being able to dump the yeast/hops like I was able to with the SS Brewtech conical, so I I were to do it again, I'd get a conical that had a dump port like the Spike Conical or the Blichmann G4. But if you can afford one of the glycol chiller setups, it is very nice and I do recommend.
Those valved quick-disconnects are exactly what I've been looking for. What temperature are you running your glycol at? I noticed on the FreshWater website that the temp range for the fittings is 32° to 180°. Wondering what happens if you start dipping down into the mid/upper 20's for temp.
 

TLaffey

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As for filling and moving...With 17 gallons I have to fill in place.
I agree with your pros and cons and yet made the opposite choice and recently moved to a glycol chiller. I need to be able to move the fermenter from my back yard to my garage after filling so put my fermenters on furniture dollies. I can move them pretty easily this way.
20210116_204434.jpg
 

maxr

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Those valved quick-disconnects are exactly what I've been looking for. What temperature are you running your glycol at? I noticed on the FreshWater website that the temp range for the fittings is 32° to 180°. Wondering what happens if you start dipping down into the mid/upper 20's for temp.
I have these disconnects in 3/8" size and have had no leaks with the glycol set to -2C. SS Brewtech sells a custom version of these disconnects with their very overpriced tubing kit. They may use a different o-ring material to get a lower temperature rating - not sure.
 

WWJPD

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I have these disconnects in 3/8" size and have had no leaks with the glycol set to -2C. SS Brewtech sells a custom version of these disconnects with their very overpriced tubing kit. They may use a different o-ring material to get a lower temperature rating - not sure.
I saw those brewtech overpriced ones too and tracked down the parts I needed from the CPC logo on them. I run my chiller at 33°F/1°C and haven't had any problems. The chiller hovers between 33° and 34° F, at least that's what the panel says.
 

Vale71

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Those valved quick-disconnects are exactly what I've been looking for. What temperature are you running your glycol at? I noticed on the FreshWater website that the temp range for the fittings is 32° to 180°. Wondering what happens if you start dipping down into the mid/upper 20's for temp.
Don't worry, if you run your chiller that cold your beer will start freezing long before you have any issues with the disconnects. 😉
 

eric19312

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@tcnguru in defense of fridge/freezer your some of these points points don't make sense to me

It is every bit as easy to control a fridge based on temperature of the beer as it would be to control glycol based on temp of the beer. It just matters where you put your probe.

The ability to use your fridge for other things like as a kegerator would be a pro for the fridge option. I think instead of buying a glycol system you might have bought another fridge or freezer and not had this issue...
 

pocketmon

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If you are living in a warm and humid area, condensation and isolation would be problems for glycol. That is the only condition when fridge might be better than glycol chiller. Condensation "releases" heat and encourages mold growing in warm temperature. Keeping temperature using glycol chiller in warm and humid environment is a mess.
However, the fast chilling of glycol chiller in a warm area is very appealing. Generally, the tap water is too warm to chill wort to under 100F degree. Glycol chiller can lower the temperature to pitching temperature in less than a hour, while a fridge would takes several hours.
 

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Has anyone tried using a refrigerated cooler (the ones with a small compressor)? I see some are close to $150 and claim they go to -4F. They are pretty compact and could be used for cooler around the house and on the road.
 

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One thing most people don't realize when they plan for a glycol system is that it's going to drip a ton of condensation during the summer months. The insulating jackets will be soaking wet and you'll get mold. I'm also not thrilled with the idea of covering up the gorgeous stainless.

One advantage of a fridge is that the entire conical from the legs all the way up to the TC clamps are all at the same temperature so you get a lot of stability. You can also cold crash to near freezing which is almost impossible with glycol.

My rule of thumb is that if you only plan to have one fermenter, hands down fridge. If you plan on using two fermenters and you happen to find a pair of matching fridges for a reasonable price. Fridges. If you plan to have 3 or more fermenters, glycol is pretty much the only way to go.
 

Staticsouls

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Fridges can be found for free if you are patient. I picked this up this week. I tried the cooling coil thing and like Bobby mentions I had a huge puddle in my garage and the was water all of the top of the conical. Each application is gonna be different. Ymmv
IMG_20210402_143932_008.jpg
 

Barbarossa

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I have a FastFerment with a BrewJacket but recently bought a Fermzilla All-Rounder for pressurized fermentation. I also bought the Temp Twister immersion cooling coil. Ha - now I'm confused why I bought this coil. For the low frequency I brew I don't want another fridge or freezer.

1) If I use a pump and ice bath I will probably need to re-ice it every two days?
2) I tried water in the fermenter and modified a lid to use the BrewJacket immersion rod in a water bath & pond pump. Seemed like it held ale temps OK but lager may be pushing it.
3) I do have a side/side fridge in the basement which the freezer section doesn't get used much and was thinking of possibly putting a keg with glycol and a pump in there, but, seems to get complex.
4) The BrewJacket Immersion Pro is like $150 now (ugh mine was more than twice that) I could double up on immersion rods in a water bath to get lower temps. This might be the easiest and most compact solution.
5) I have a counter height fridge in the garage that I could build a collar for so I could stuff the fermenter in it.

What's a brewer to do?
I've put a 20 quarts stock pot in my keezer that I keep at 35f with a pump and drilled two holes for the silicone tubing. Kept my last brew at 50f no problem. The water kept at around 40f.
 

augiedoggy

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A few obvious thoughts - - Space in fridge could be tight but can definitely work with the right combo of fridge and fermenter. Obviously, such a fridge takes more space in the room than a conical and glycol chiller. A fridge can maintain temps for other things (e.g. bottles while conditioning, maybe even next to the conical). Not sure if there's much energy use difference. Best of luck, @Beavis740.
if we are talking one conical, the fridge is far more efficient... multiple conicals? then the chiller makes more sense. but then it really depends on why you went conical in the first place... If its for shiny bling factor then yeah whats practical and works best is out the window as you would want to coverup and insulate that cheaply made non insulated shiny stainless conical (Unless you actually sprang for a jacketed and insulated conical which are few and far between in the home brewing world.) I insulated all my stainless conicals at home with multiple layers of ugly foil bubblewrap and foil tape over my hommade cooling jackets which does prevent the sweat and mold from occuring but my setup was always more about the beer than cosmetics.

I use the same cpc quick disconnects for the cooling coils at the brewpub. I suggest ordering them directly from the company online. any beer specific reseller Ive seen selling them seems to mark them WAY up.
 
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