Plate/ Counterflow chiller problems

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Well-Known Member
Mar 20, 2006
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I've used a plate chiller on my last 3-4 batches, and so far its been inconsistent. It's cooled the wort to different temperatures every time I've used it. This last time I had to recirculate the wort 3 times to just bring the temp down to 90F, at which point I gave up and just let the cold air finish the job.

Anyone have this problem?

I just did a thorough cleaning of the chiller w/ cleaner and boiling water, so I think this may help.

I'm thinking of looking for some kind of pump setup to recirculate the wort. Anyone do this?

Wort chilling has got to be one of my least favorite parts of brewing. Something ALWAYS seems to go wrong!
I'm using a non brand name brazed 40 plate chiller.
I'm not sure about the temp and flow rate of the water- its just whatever comes out of the hose.

I'd really like to come up with a cheap and efficient setup for recirculating wort through the chiller (without buying a 130$ pump). Right now I've been just pouring the collected semi chilled wort back into my brewpot, which then goes back through the chiller. There's a ton of splashing when I do this, and I feel like the beers susceptible to infection, not to mention it sucks constantly lifting 5 gallons of beer to a shelf above the brewpot.

I've tried using my autosiphon, but it runs waaayy to slow. I think I may use a bucket with a ball valve on it to collect wort until I reach pitching temp. This way I can empty the wort from the bucket with tubing to eliminate splashing. This would work, but still more work at the end of a brewday than I'm really looking for.
Is it possible you are getting air in the chiller due to orientation? Air may be trapped in there and that could cause inconsistent results.
I gravity feed a Shirron plate chiller with a Thrumometer:
I run the cooling water full blast (Yes, I probably waste water, but the lawn here usually needs it.) and adjust the kettle outflow to control the temp going into the carboy. I have found that orienting the chiller to eliminate the possiblity of air trappage is essential.
I'm not sure if I let any air get into the chiller-it could be very possible. How do you guys orient to make sure air stays out. Or do you just look and make sure you don't see any air bubbles?

I like that tip about controlling the flow out of the pot, this could do the trick!
mr x's idea about orientation is a good one. The Therminator, for example, is made to be used in a horizontal position. When cleaning, you're supposed to have it in vertical position.

The more variables you know before you start brewing, the more it'll help you adapt your process to achieve consistency.

You should measure the temperature of your water. Do it every brew day if it isn't consistent year round. It's easy, just run water out your hose until you get the standing water out, then collect some in a small container and take the temp.

You can't chill your wort below the temp of your water supply, and realistically you won't be able to get all the way down to it, which is why people in areas with warmer water supplies use ice to make it colder.

Having pumps helps a lot. You could run your hose water through a copper coil (e.g., immersion chiller) sitting in a big container of ice water before you run it into the chiller, or you could use a pump to push the iced water directly through your chiller.

If your ground water is really warm, you might use a pump. First recirculate your wort through the plate chiller and back to the BK with the pump while you are running plain garden hose water straight through to knock the temp down to around 100 to 120, then unhook the pump from the wort and hook it up to an ice water supply. Now you use gravity to drain the wort through the chiller into your fermenter, and the pump to recirculate the iced water through.
I agree that "whatevering" your coolant water temperature is counterproductive to figuring out the problem since it's THE biggest factor.

A nice 40 plate chiller like yours should be capable of getting the wort down to 3-5 degrees higher than your coolant. So if your tap is 65, the wort coming out should be about 68 especially if you're slow flowing via gravity. You could recirculate your wort back to the BK 100 times but the best it will ever do is get close to tap water temp.

Pumping icewater into the chiller with a cheap pond pump is probably your answer.
Bobby_M said:
Pumping icewater into the chiller with a cheap pond pump is probably your answer.

I considered this option, but after looking at the flow rates required the cheap pond pumps weren't close to flow rates required.

I paid $30 for this pump and it works wonders. Takes 11gals of boiling wort down to 58deg in less than 10mins when I use 3 20lb bags of ice.

And I had a lot of ice left over, so I think I would have been fine with 1.5-2 bags.

If you notice in both of these graphs below them mention 5GPM cooling water flow rate. And most of those cheap pond pumps are around 150GPH, when you need at least 300GPH.



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