Immersion Pre-Chiller - Waste of Money?

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Nagorg

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I recently bought an immersion pre-chiller while on sale. Today was my first time to use it and I have to say that I wasn't impressed.

Before I got the pre-chiller, I had purchased a submersible pump that I simply stuck in a bucket of ice water and attached to my immersion chiller. The outflow simply returns to the same bucket so I am not wasting water.

After trying both, I am inclined to believe that the submersible pump is the better solution. It actually does a better job of cooling the wort while the pre-chiller just melts ice and wastes water. The pump was actually cheaper than the pre-chiller, even at the sale price.

So if anyone out there is pondering an immersion pre-chiller, you have my two cents. Mine may be up for sale soon!
 

chemman14

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I do the pump in ice water as well. Now that I have a freezer that makes ice i use it for all my brews. Before I would only use it for lagers
 
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Nagorg

Nagorg

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I see other folks on this forum have the same opinion on pre-chiller -vs- pump. Sure wish I had searched for this topic in here before I got all excited over a sale price! Oh well... I guess I could always use it to cool smaller batches.
 

jestmaty

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Almost bought one myself....(groundwater temps are in the mid 80*s in the summer)

My wort chilling experience last night, from flame out to pitch............

Flame cut at 10:11,
Temp @ 10:12 = 212*
Using my 50ft ss 3/8" wort chiller, temp @ 10:20 was 100*, 8 minutes elapsed
By 10:24, I was at 90*, 12 minutes elapsed
At 10:25, I dunked my 7.5 gallon brewpot into an ice bath with 3 X 10lbs of ice & water
By 10:37 I was at 65*, my personal ideal pitching temp :)

Could've pitched a tad earlier, but it was covered, sterile, and I was distracted by something else for a minute or two...

Point is, with groundwater temps about 20* higher than my pitch temp, I'm pretty pleased with getting it pitched 26-27 minutes after I cut the fire off. I don't have a fancy boil kettle, no valves or spigots. I do it 'old school' by stirring and swirling with a ss spoon and the actual chiller to keep the wort moving, continually getting hot and cold mixing.

Still kinda want a pre-chiller though.....
 

idigg

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Rebel brewer has a $29 pre chiller. I'm going to buy one or even make one as they get good reviews. Definitely can't hurt!
 
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Nagorg

Nagorg

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Running chilled water into your immersion chiller is a requirement for me here in Texas this time of year. I think a lot of folks in other states are having this problem too these days. I just didn't find that the pre-chiller did a very good job of pre-chilling..

If I were you, I'd save a couple of dollars and get a submersible pump from your local hardware store. (just my two cents...) I found mine at Lowes in the pond/fountain section for ~$25.00. I did need a few feet of tubing and a garden hose end as well as a hose clamp too. But, I can tell you that this setup does a much better job of cooling the wort when placed in a bucket of ice water and attached to your immersion chiller. No need to pre-chill since your running ice water straight into the immersion chiller.

Works like a champ!
 

Onlooker

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I definitely give my vote for using a pump to run ice water through the IC rather than use a pre-chilling IC. For close to the same money you get much more effectiveness this way, IME.
 

Keithww

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The nice thing about a prechiller is that you can hook it up when the wort is still pretty hot. I fired mine up last night when the wort hit 145. I didn't time each step of the process, but it went from a full boil to 70 degrees and in the carboy in forty minutes. My tap water runs mid 80s so I'm happy with that.
 

slarkin712

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I've used both a pre-chiller and a submersible pump, and the pump performs much better. The best way to use either of these is to use your main chiller to get the wort chilled down close to your input water temperature. Once you get there, say 90F, hook up your pre-chiller or submersible pump setup. This will avoid wasting the ice because you won't be running near boiling wort through it. The key is to get a large difference in temp between the chilled water and the wort, rather than a cold water temp from the start.
 

Wingfan13

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I am in Texas also and need a way to cool my wort quicker. I have a pre-chiller that I connect to my immersion chiller. The pre-chiller sits in a bucket of ice water.

When using the pump is the water returning to the bucket where the pump is ? I am not sure why I am having trouble visualizing this. Isnt the water that is returning to the bucket warm enough to melt the ice ?
 

JerseyJoe

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Brewed this weekend with my old immersion chiller acting as a pre-chiller 25'x3/8". The old IC was way too small for new keggel sized batches. I made a larger IC out of 50' of 3/8 inch copper. After tap water and the new IC took the wort down to 100deg F in approx 12 min (tap water at 77 deg F). I added the "new" pre-chiller in line. After about 10 min the wort temp had only dropped 5 deg. I felt the output side of the pre-chiller and it did not feel significantly colder than the incoming tap water. Slowing the tap water flow rate down, the output hose got noticeably colder. Got to 73 deg in an additional 28 min. that was a good thing as all three large bags of ice had melted. Looks like if I want to pitch lager yeast I will need more ice:) I'll have to play around with flow rates but I am not sold on pre-chillers. Cheers JJ
 

rack04

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I am in Texas also and need a way to cool my wort quicker. I have a pre-chiller that I connect to my immersion chiller. The pre-chiller sits in a bucket of ice water.

When using the pump is the water returning to the bucket where the pump is ? I am not sure why I am having trouble visualizing this. Isnt the water that is returning to the bucket warm enough to melt the ice ?
Yes, I believe he is returning the warm water to the ice batch. I would think that would melt the ice quick. What I did when I had a IC was use the garden hose to get it to approximately 100 degrees and the recirculate ice water using a submersible pump. Now that I have a plate chiller I plan on using a pre chiller in a bucket of ice to increase the rate I can pump out of my BK. Although I haven't brewed with it yet so I am not sure how efficient it will be. I tried to pump ice water through the plate chiller and it worked great but I couldn't maintain the ice batch long enough.
 

Onlooker

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The best way to use either of these is to use your main chiller to get the wort chilled down close to your input water temperature. Once you get there, say 90F, hook up your pre-chiller or submersible pump setup. This will avoid wasting the ice because you won't be running near boiling wort through it. The key is to get a large difference in temp between the chilled water and the wort, rather than a cold water temp from the start.
I do something close. I use tap water 'til I get to about 100*, then I hook the pump to the chiller input, but I don't have the output going back to the ice chest. I just keep the ice chest filled up with tap water. That's the way I leave it for the duration. I also stir the pot as much as possible to keep the wort moving around the chiller.

If I was more concerned about water waste (i.e. lived in AZ, NV or similar) I'd do it differently, but I either use the water for the garden or retain it for other use and water isn't scarce in my neck of the woods.
 

kh54s10

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Why not combine them and use the submersible AND the pre-chiller? That way you should be able to cool your wort in 6 minutes 37 seconds!;)
 

BrewThruYou

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When using the pump is the water returning to the bucket where the pump is ? I am not sure why I am having trouble visualizing this. Isnt the water that is returning to the bucket warm enough to melt the ice ?
You can drain it into the sink or return it to the bucket. If you return it to the sink, you'll need to top up the bucket. I usually drain it to the sink for a few minutes and then recirculate it to the bucket.

It will melt the ice. There's no getting around that as you are exchanging heat from the wort.
 
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Nagorg

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I do drop the wort temp with the tap water first but that only gets it to about 100 degrees. Then, I hook up the pump in the icewater bucket. I also stir the wort so that its circulating around the immersion chiller. This takes it down to pitching temps pretty quickly as compared to using the pre-chiller.
 
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Nagorg

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Why not combine them and use the submersible AND the pre-chiller? That way you should be able to cool your wort in 6 minutes 37 seconds!;)
I tried that but my pump isnt strong enough to move the water through both chillers..
 

StainlessBrewing

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I too have a tough time with water temps here. I tried the pump method a few times and it works great but it was a little more work than I wanted. I run my immersion chiller until I get it closer to 100 degrees and then I switch to a pre-chiller that sits in a bucket of iced water that gets the rest done.

By zjosey at 2012-07-27
 
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Nagorg

Nagorg

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Maybe the "pre-chiller" I bought isn't long enough. It sure doesn't have as many coils as the one you posted and it isn't SS...

As far as extra work goes, the only extra thing I have to do is string an extension cord over to my pump. Not that hard! :p
 

StainlessBrewing

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Maybe the "pre-chiller" I bought isn't long enough. It sure doesn't have as many coils as the one you posted and it isn't SS...

As far as extra work goes, the only extra thing I have to do is string an extension cord over to my pump. Not that hard! :p
In this case copper is probably better anyway. It's going to cool a little faster and should be fine with just water running through it.
 
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Nagorg

Nagorg

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In this case copper is probably better anyway. It's going to cool a little faster and should be fine with just water running through it.
It might be fine if the ground water wasn't so warm! Hence the need for ice. But, my pre-chiller sitting in ice with warm ground water flowing through it just melts the ice and does little to cool my wort. But the submersible pump takes it down to pitching temps without issue. Even with the outflow water recirculating, it doesn't melt the ice as fast.

(Nice products on your site BTW...)
 

neomantra

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I just stumbled across this info that seems to backup the use of ice water and a submersible pump. (Great site for a lot of other things too..)

http://www.wortomatic.com/articles/Wort-Cooling-201
Thanks for posting this, it gave me a few ideas. I've had little to no increase in cooling times after buying a pre-chiller recently so I'm going to try the pump method. I'm also interested in conserving water as much as possible where it's reasonable so this is my game plan next brew day:

1. Hook garden hose to the pre-chiller, and pre-chiller to main chiller.

2. Submerge pre-chiller in bucket of water with a bunch of frozen water bottles.

3. Start cooling down to ~100-125, then turn off spigot.

4. Drop my submersible pump into the bucket where the pre-chiller was and connect it to the main wort chiller to use that cold water for a bit. (maybe until it runs close to the same temp as the wort?)

5. Have a second bucket of water with more frozen water bottles and some loose ice cubes in it. Switch the pump to that bucket to get the last few degrees I need for pitching temp.

The water coming from the garden hose will all be hot so I'll run that output into my mash tun to keep for cleaning heavily soiled things (kettles, tun, soaking hoses). Then I'll drop some star-san in the warmer of the buckets for rinsing everything off afterwards. Probably just toss the other bucket somewhere in the yard or on some plants that could use watering.

Thoughts? If anyone's tried something similar I'd love to hear about so that I'll know going in if I'm overthinking things or if this could work out as I've envisioned it. :mug:
 

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My ground water is 80* this time of year, sometimes it is higher if I have 50' of hose running across my lawn in the hot sun. I use a 25' 3/8" pre chiller and a 50' 3/8" immersion chiller.

I cool my wort from >200* to 62* in less than 15 minutes with this set up. I use the pre chiller right from the start of the cool down and put it in a 40 qt cooler full of ice.

The key is to keep both the chiller and pre chiller moving to make sure that you have a good exchange of heat.

I have thought of using a pump, but I like the idea of only having to hook the hoses up one time.
 

neomantra

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My ground water is 80* this time of year, sometimes it is higher if I have 50' of hose running across my lawn in the hot sun. I use a 25' 3/8" pre chiller and a 50' 3/8" immersion chiller.

I cool my wort from >200* to 62* in less than 15 minutes with this set up. I use the pre chiller right from the start of the cool down and put it in a 40 qt cooler full of ice.

The key is to keep both the chiller and pre chiller moving to make sure that you have a good exchange of heat.

I have thought of using a pump, but I like the idea of only having to hook the hoses up one time.
Just to clarify, you put only the chiller in the cooler with ice but not with any water at all?

For me, it seemed like if I set the flow rate high from my hose then it didn't have enough time in the pre-chiller to get all that cold.
 

CGVT

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I start it in a cooler full of ice without any water. If I add water the ice melts too fast and doesn't cool as well. I run the water from my hose full blast, but the 3/8" chiller restricts the flow quite a bit. As the ice melts I constantly move the chiller around in the cold water/ice. I also keep the immersion chiller in my wort moving. I use less than 20 gallons of water-not too bad considering I use about 10 gals of it for clean up

I've found that frozen jugs in water don't work very well. I think you need the surface area of the ice to come in contacts with the coils of the chiller. I put my pre chiller in the cooler and fill the cooler with ice (I get 40lbs of ice for $3.00 and usually go pick it up during the mash) and let it sit during the boil until I am ready to use it. As soon as the boil is done, I turn on the hose and start the cool down.
 

FTG-05

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The first four batches I did, I used a pre-chiller, a repurposed Hayden 457 oil cooler. I wasn't too impressed with how it cooled my tap water (in the low '80's) and I wasn't happy with my wort cooling times.

The fifth batch (NB AK-47 Pale Mild), I tried out a new way to cool the wort using a sump pump. The first 10 minutes was through my pre-chiller and then the IC using street water and a garden hose. This took my wort down to around 100 or so.

The last 5 minutes was recirculating through my sump pump in a five gallon bucket filled with ice water, the same bucket that the pre-chiller is in.

Total time: 15 minutes to go from boiling to 60 degrees!

This works good since now I don't lose as much water and using the pump during the 30-40 degrees will also save on ice, since I had a good bit left when I was done.
 
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