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Glycol chiller reviews

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stealthfixr

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I recently got a Icemaster Max 2 and now have three batches done with it. Here are the Pros and Cons from what I have seen as a new glycol chiller user:

Pro:
- Holds temps really well, like any temp you want (with my Spike CF5 and neoprene insulator)
- I have hot tap water (SW US) most of the year, so being to drop the fermenter from 85+F to 65F for pitching in less than an hour is fantastic
- Does not leak and the included sight glass is great to know the tank glycol level
- Tank holds temps as low as 25F without much trouble or 'work'
- Temp stability is great *IF* the glycol tank is kept within 20 degrees F of the desired fermenter temp (big learning point)
- Quiet enough that I don't really notice it much
- I can legitimately lager with it

Cons:
- As said above, the instructions were not just abysmal, MoreBeer posted the wrong ones to their website--steep and leaky learning curve as a result
- Controllers only work in Celsius (not a big deal in my view)
- (Not particular to this unit) temp stability was awful when I set the glycol tank to 25F and tried to maintain the fermenter at 65F--huge swings resulted; instructions did not say to do this, but DO set the glycol tank temp to ~15-20F below the desired fermenter temp, no lower
- Glycol tank controller is on the backside, and I keep it in a room's corner, meaning I am constantly pulling the unit away from the wall and resetting the tank looking at it upside down (reason is the Con above)--I wish the three controllers were all on one side together
 

SanPancho

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I’ll clarify what I was asking 😊

I do set the chiller at 27-28, which will get me down to the temps I need.

It’s the (~64) fermentation that overshoots.

1/3 Penguin chiller in use.
as noted above you’ll have to tinker with settings to be able to do both without undershooting. Basically- a lot of controllers”check” the temp every minute or two which means by the time theyve registered the set temp you may have already gone past it. And then when the pump stops you have fresh cold glycol that is sitting in the coils, drawing more heat from the wort on top of that. At a diff of 8-10f that’s no biggie, but at a diff of 40f that’s a problem.

that’s the issue with doing both a ferm and a crash at once.

my Guess is that by adjusting controller settings you can mitigate it a bit, but it might not get rid of the problem entirely as long as you have that huge temp diff on the fermenting tank glycol.
 

Advance

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as noted above you’ll have to tinker with settings to be able to do both without undershooting. Basically- a lot of controllers”check” the temp every minute or two which means by the time theyve registered the set temp you may have already gone past it. And then when the pump stops you have fresh cold glycol that is sitting in the coils, drawing more heat from the wort on top of that. At a diff of 8-10f that’s no biggie, but at a diff of 40f that’s a problem.

that’s the issue with doing both a ferm and a crash at once.

my Guess is that by adjusting controller settings you can mitigate it a bit, but it might not get rid of the problem entirely as long as you have that huge temp diff on the fermenting tank glycol.
As far as I am aware, there are no modifiable settings that can be changed on any common thermostat, that would fix the problem of overshooting a setpoint temperature when large temperature differentials are utilized (glycol vs setpoint temps). The frequency in which the thermostat reads the temperature from the probe is high (seconds not minutes). If you don't believe me, set your thermostat for 85F and then hold the thermal probe between your fingers. You should see the reading on the probe rise rapidly and the thermostat call for cooling the second the reading passes the setpoint plus your hysteresis setting. The problem therefore is not a result of the thermostat delaying its halt for cooling because it was waiting to sample the next reading from the probe. The problem exists because the conduction and convection effects responsible for transferring the heat energy into the glycol and out of the fermenter do not act immediately on the entire volume. A dwell time in which the effects of cooling are given a chance to be fully realized is required. This can be best accomplished with a programmable cycle timer, which adds control over the glycol pumps duty cycle. The goal is to run a cooling cycle which is large enough to have an effect, but small enough to not overshoot the setpoint temp, followed by a pause which is large enough to allow for the effects of cooling to reach equalibrum throughout the fermenter. This cycle is repeated until the setpoint temperature is reached, in which case the thermostat halts its call for cooling.
 

SanPancho

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As far as I am aware, there are no modifiable settings that can be changed on any common thermostat, that would fix the problem of overshooting a setpoint temperature when large temperature differentials are utilized (glycol vs setpoint temps). The frequency in which the thermostat reads the temperature from the probe is high (seconds not minutes). If you don't believe me, set you thermostat for 85F and then hold the thermal probe between your fingers. You should see the reading on the probe rise rapidly and the thermostat call for cooling the second the reading passes the setpoint plus your hysteresis setting. The problem therefore is not a result of the thermostat delaying its halt for cooling because it was waiting to sample the next reading from the probe. The problem exists because the conduction and convection effects responsible for transferring the heat energy into the glycol and out of the fermenter do not act immediately on the entire volume. A dwell time in which the effects of cooling are given a chance to be fully realized is required. This can be best accomplished with a programmable cycle timer, which adds control over the glycol pumps duty cycle. The goal is to run a cooling cycle which is large enough to have an effect, but small enough to not overshoot the setpoint temp, followed by a pause which is large enough to allow for the effects of cooling to reach equalibrum throughout to fermenter. This cycle is repeated until the setpoint temperature is reached, in which case the thermostat halts its call for cooling.
you're conflating the speed of registering the temp to the setting on actualizing the shutoff/ pump/solenoid. yes, there are plenty of temp controllers that can be set to have varying degrees of reaction time. i own a few of them. its no different than a "compressor delay" setting, but in reverse. id wager most homebrew gear doesnt have the option, but whether or not the chillers for homebrewers do is beyond me.

the 1 minute or 30 second or whatever delay or "instant" action that happens between registering the set point and calling for pumps/solenoids to go OFF isnt the issue with overshooting.

nor is convection causing the issue of overshooting unless you happen have multiple thermowells or a thermowell that somehow moves around the tank. im aware of no homebrew tanks that feature those things.

warming the glycol is the simplest surest way to avoid overshooting. but for those who have multiple tanks, a duty timer would help alleviate the problem. but it would do so at the expense of delayed cooling, which could possibly be an issue on certain fast acting yeasts or in high ambient conditions. additionally it would cause additional wear on your pumps due to the more frequent start/stop cycles. whether that's really an issue on the homebrew level is probably something that could have its own debate thread. between those issues and the initial cost i'm guessing thats why manufacturers dont include them. although for the user with multiple tanks, it seems like it would make sense to offer one as an accessory.
 

joelbear5

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I would slow down the flow with a ball valve or add a long inlet line so the coolant warms up before entering. The problem of over-shooting is having too much/too cold liquid in your heat exchanger when the thermostat clicks off.
 

Suburban Punk

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Self sealing quick disconnects while cleaning the coil ... Mind blown! I've been very slowly wasting glycol.
 

kenmcchord

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I’ve been looking for economical ones and I guess they will have to be plastic as SS ones are expensive. Let me know if you find a good set.
I'm awaiting a 1/2 hp Penguin chiller any day now, ordered some silicone hose and their quick disconnects with the chiller. I'll report in with my observations once I get it in service.
 

kenmcchord

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I received my chiller on Friday and had it set up that evening. As I said before I got some quick disconnects, hose and glycol along with the 1/2HP Penguin chiller, everything arrived well packaged and in good shape. Took about 30 minutes to unbox and get it set up in a temporary location (still renovating the brewery space in my garage so things will be moving). Here are my initial thoughts...

The chiller is actually quieter than I was expecting, much like a nice window a/c unit. I didn't time how long it took to cool to the 28° mark but it didn't seem much longer than an hour or so. The quick disconnects are plastic with some metal tabs that activate the disconnect part, and they seem plenty robust for the application. I think there will always be a little glycol that drips out when they're disconnected but there certainly wasn't much leakage; I am pleased with them. I hooked up my Ssbrewtech brew bucket and chilled the starsan that I had sitting in there awaiting todays brew, it took almost no time at all to get to 68° (the temp I'm fermenting at now) and after a few hours I set the brew bucket to 38° to simulate a cold crash. That took around 45 minutes, give or take. Again I reasonable length of time I thought.

Today was my first brew in a few years, a Mosaic SMaSH using maris otter. I've got it in the fermenter and she's looking good. I'm glad I went this route, I really feel like I've got all my chilling needs covered with the Penguin chiller. Actually it seems like it may be a bit of overkill but it's nice to know I can grow into this one. Hope this helps.

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deuc224

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Honestly people will always poop on glycol chillers because we are home brewers but honestly its one of the best purchases ive made for brewing. Really trying to scrap my pennies together for a 3rd fermenter from grainfather. Sale ends 10/31
 

WNKbrew

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Wholehearted agreement. I built my ghetto chiller two years ago. In my old ferm chamber could only ferment multiple brews at 1 temp. Chiller lets me ferment different yeasts at whatever temp they need.
Also brings 75F wort from groundwater temp to lager temp in minutes compared to hours. Cold crashing in easy and efficient. Chamber would run forever to cool 22 gallons (in two fermenters).
Now I can run 4 fermenters (2 7.5gal, 2 15gal) at the same time. Even have a backup AC unit ready to go in case it dies. Will never go back to chamber.
 

Brooothru

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Wholehearted agreement. I built my ghetto chiller two years ago. In my old ferm chamber could only ferment multiple brews at 1 temp. Chiller lets me ferment different yeasts at whatever temp they need.
Also brings 75F wort from groundwater temp to lager temp in minutes compared to hours. Cold crashing in easy and efficient. Chamber would run forever to cool 22 gallons (in two fermenters).
Now I can run 4 fermenters (2 7.5gal, 2 15gal) at the same time. Even have a backup AC unit ready to go in case it dies. Will never go back to chamber.
I used a Brew Jacket for 3-4 years as my intro to temperature controlled fermentations. It showed me the value of being able to chill, but the performance eventually proved to be insufficient for my needs. Nevertheless, I'm glad I used it and learned from it. Next I converted an old Igloo cooler I'd used in my 'retired' 3V mash setup. It was an improvement over the Brew Jacket as far as quicker cooling, but still was limited in output (only one fermenter at a time), couldn't cold crash with it, and I got really tired changing out frozen water bottles multiple times per day for weeks at a time.

After sufficient whining, SWMBO'd finally relented and 15 months ago a fancy new glycol chiller arrived from Ss Brewtech to adorn the brew space and bring Nirvana to my brewing life experience. Love it. Wouldn't go back, got one crashing and one fermenting at 62F this very moment, yada, yada, yada, etc. Will I ever fully amortize the $$$ investment in equipment? Hell, NO! Would I do it again? Hell, YES!!!!

Worth every penny.
 

HBearBrew

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Hi there,
I have the SS brewtech 1/5hp glycol chiller, that I use with my two 5 gallons fermenters. Looks slick ;)

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Yep, the whole set up wasn't cheap and it took me the best part of two years to get it all, but it's worth every penny. It's my best hardware purchase, seriously, and helped get my brew to the next level. Seems to me there's a general obsession with the mash side, while overlooking temperature control for the fermentation. I used to have a fancy Speidel Braumeister, sold it to get the chiller, switched to BIAB kiss, and greatly improved my beer :) The chiller has been running non stop since 6 months or so, no problem at all the quality looks great. I'll eventually amortize the investment haha

I run the chiller with 1/3glycol 2/3 water, set at 33, as prescribed. I can cold crash the two vessels simultaneously to 40 without problem. Because it's all brewtech gear, it obviously works seamlessly together, which is quite nice. I'm generally quite happy about the unit.

I will say however that the optional quick disconnect kit is actually pretty essential IMO. The tubing that come with the unit was cheap and started to leak soon after. Plus it is a real mess when comes time to unplug the fermenter. I purchased nicer tubes from my hardware store, and ordered the disconnect kit. Works great now, it was annoying to have to order this separetly afterwards - I would have really rather brewtech charge me 50$ more when buying a glycol chiller and be done with it. What's the point of producing good equipment but getting cheap on the finishing touches?
 

Brooothru

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Hi there,
I have the SS brewtech 1/5hp glycol chiller, that I use with my two 5 gallons fermenters. Looks slick ;)

View attachment 705158

Yep, the whole set up wasn't cheap and it took me the best part of two years to get it all, but it's worth every penny. It's my best hardware purchase, seriously, and helped get my brew to the next level. Seems to me there's a general obsession with the mash side, while overlooking temperature control for the fermentation. I used to have a fancy Speidel Braumeister, sold it to get the chiller, switched to BIAB kiss, and greatly improved my beer :) The chiller has been running non stop since 6 months or so, no problem at all the quality looks great. I'll eventually amortize the investment haha

I run the chiller with 1/3glycol 2/3 water, set at 33, as prescribed. I can cold crash the two vessels simultaneously to 40 without problem. Because it's all brewtech gear, it obviously works seamlessly together, which is quite nice. I'm generally quite happy about the unit.

I will say however that the optional quick disconnect kit is actually pretty essential IMO. The tubing that come with the unit was cheap and started to leak soon after. Plus it is a real mess when comes time to unplug the fermenter. I purchased nicer tubes from my hardware store, and ordered the disconnect kit. Works great now, it was annoying to have to order this separetly afterwards - I would have really rather brewtech charge me 50$ more when buying a glycol chiller and be done with it. What's the point of producing good equipment but getting cheap on the finishing touches?
I got the same chiller a year and a half ago. Likewise pleased. My intent was to use it only with my 7 gal Unitank, and alternatively with a 7 gallon Chronical, but not at the same time necessarily, which is why I went with the smaller ($$$$) unit.

Enter Covid Confinement 8 months ago. I've been brewing a whole lot more than before. I've been pleasantly surprised to find the output of the unit can easily handle both fermenters simultaneously, though if I'm crashing one of them the compressor spends a lot of time running. I even used the third set of output barbs to cool a batch of wine fermenting in a Brew Bucket and it handled all three at the same time quite well, but none was at a particularly demanding temperature setting.

Unlike your experience I went from BIAB to a Braumeister about seven years ago. The brew days are quite a bit longer now, especially with disassembly and cleaning with the conicals. But it's my hobby and I'm retired, so control over speed and quality over ease of use have been my choices. Tinkering keeps me out of bars, as well as out of my wife's way!

Brooo Brother
 

deuc224

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Since raising the tank temp on the max4, the overshoots havent been as bad but are still happening. I got all the stuff to do @Advance mod and will probably get it done in the next few weeks. Once that is done I will be set and probably ready to get a 7 gallon unitank, then a 14 gallon one them my barbs will be all taken.
 

Advance

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Since raising the tank temp on the max4, the overshoots havent been as bad but are still happening. I got all the stuff to do @Advance mod and will probably get it done in the next few weeks. Once that is done I will be set and probably ready to get a 7 gallon unitank, then a 14 gallon one them my barbs will be all taken.
Good luck with the mod. You will find that you can maintain very stable temps with very cool glycol. I have found these cycle times to work very good for the grainfather conicals and a glycol reservoir at 25F:

Fermentation Temps 62-66F, hysteresis 0.3F, Cycle Time 12-15s ON, 500-600s OFF
Fermentation Temps 67-72F, hysteresis 0.3F, Cycle Time 10s ON, 600-700s OFF

I find that my fermenters call for cooling at 0.4F over my set point and finish the cooling cycle at my set point temp. It is rare that I see any overshoot and if I do it is always 0.2F or less.

Your times might differ depending on the temperature of your fermentation room and whether you are running the conical coat or not. The way you have your glycol return lines configured will also have an impact. If the glycol return lines are configured where they are not submerged into the glycol resevoir, the glycol in the fermenter's cooling sleeve will siphon back into the chiller's reservoir between cooling cycles. This is assuming the pump in your glycol chiller is located below the input port on the fermenter's cooling sleeve. This will obviously have a impact on how your timers will need to be set. I have my glycol return lines configure to keep glycol in the cooling sleeves between pump cycles.
 
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