Water Fermentation Chiller

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
Like many I've been struggling with fermentation temperatures for a while now. I've been dealing with this like many people and placing a carboy in a tub of water and cycling frozen water bottles through in order to keep the temperature low enough. This is better than some alternatives but it is not practical for styles that require lower temperatures because unless you can change bottles out every 4 to 6 hours your going to see large temperature fluctuations. What I came up with is basically just a modification of what I have been using that makes it more efficient and automated.

Parts:
10 gallon Igloo Cooler $60 (I salvaged one and you could use your mash tun too)
Cooler of any size $30 (I had one like most people will)
Submersion Water Pump $20 (Nothing too fancy here)
Renco 111000 Temperature Controller $65
Misc Tubing $10?

Total Cost: $175
This could be less depending on what you have.

Instructions:
The basic idea here is that the carboy is placed in the 10 gallon cooler which is filled with water to just bellow the wort line (which is important unless you want your carboy to float). The temperature sensor is placed in the 10 gal cooler and as this temperature rises above a set point it will turn the pump on. The pump will transfer water from the cold water cooler, filled with frozen bottles, to the 10 gal igloo which will drain the warm water back to the cold water cooler.

1. Get a temperature controller. There are plenty of threads on this so just do a search.

2. Get a Cooler that will fit your primary. A 10 gallon igloo works perfect for a better bottle and a carboy so if your doing all grain you might use your mash tun.

3. Get a pond pump.

4. Turn the spigot on the cooler around so the spigot faces up on the inside. This will create the drain for the inside of the fermenter cooler.

5. Attach tubing on the outside of the cooler to drain into the chilling cooler.



6. Attach tubing on the inside to drain. This tube should be cut off at slightly bellow the level of your wort in your primary so it won't float. I stuck a thermometer in it to keep it staight.



7. Put cold water in the cold water cooler with the pump. Pump tubing from cold water cooler goes to the fermenter cooler attached with a clamp above the water line. If don't don't keep this above the water line it will siphon back into the cold water cooler when the pump shuts off.



8. Place primary in the 10 gal igloo cooler.

9. Place temperature controller probe in the cooler and plug the pump in.



The chilling cooler will hold temp for quite a long time as long as you put some ice in every couple of days. My first try I had the cooler from 43 to 45 in two days without adding ice.

I'll keep you posted.
 

TimGrz

Active Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2008
Messages
36
Reaction score
2
Not a bad idea. You would probably want to wrap the top with a blanket to help insulate it a bit too.

You could also go above the wort line. Between gravity of the wort as well as the bottle weight you should be able to cover the wort line by at least an inch.

/tg
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
No need to wrap it yet as far as I can tell. As far as going above the wort line I wouldn't suggest it. If your using a better bottle that won't work and if you have a batch that turns our short you will have to cut a new piece of tube.
 

Chriso

Broken Robot Brewing Co.
Joined
Oct 31, 2007
Messages
4,619
Reaction score
88
Location
Someplace
WOW. That's some serious ingenuity! I love it, good work!!!!
 

lamarguy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2008
Messages
1,652
Reaction score
33
Location
Austin, TX
I'm playing devil's advocate here, but wouldn't it be easier and just as economical to buy a small, used fridge and attach an external temperature controller? :confused:

The cost would be $150 - $250, depending upon the cost of the used fridge. And, there is no need to refill the ice bin. Just set the target temperature and walk away.

But, if you already have most of the parts lying around, this is definitely an option worth considering. ;)
 

Germey

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2007
Messages
699
Reaction score
3
Location
Rancho Bernardo
I'm playing devil's advocate here, but wouldn't it be easier and just as economical to buy a small, used fridge and attach an external temperature controller? :confused:

The cost would be $150 - $250, depending upon the cost of the used fridge. And, there is no need to refill the ice bin. Just set the target temperature and walk away.

But, if you already have most of the parts lying around, this is definitely an option worth considering. ;)
As long as you have the space, that is much easier. I have been thinking about something very similar as the OP, but was planning to exchange liquid between the fermentation chamber and a reservoir in my keggerator (what's a couple more holes in the side). When I get around to building the chamber, it will be just big enough to slip in a plastic bin that holds 2 carboys. Overall, it will be just a tad bigger than a dorm fridge, and will be part of a bigger storage cabinet for brew stuff.
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
Actually it just cost me $85 to make since all I needed was the temperature controller and water pump. I would have needed the temperature controller for a fridge so basically all I was out was $20 for the pump. The other reason I like it and may not upgrade anytime soon to a fridge is efficiency and I room. Oh and now I have a 10 gallon mash tun so I can make a barley wine.:ban::ban:
 

slimer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
688
Reaction score
3
Location
Westmont, IL
I've been thinking about doing something like this with my sump well.
 

FSR402

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
May 30, 2007
Messages
2,808
Reaction score
30
Location
Jenison, MI
When I was thinking of using my 15.5 gallon fermenters I was thinking of this same idea, just larger. Using a 55 gallon drum in place of the 10 gallon cooler and I was trying to come up with a way of using cold water from either the tap or a fridge and having the abiliy to use the heat side of the controler to pull hot water from my tap to heat it up if needed.

All to much work and money for me. I'll use the big fermenters in the winter when I need to heat the fermenting room and carboys in the summer.
 

Straydog

Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
I'm playing devil's advocate here, but wouldn't it be easier and just as economical to buy a small, used fridge and attach an external temperature controller? :confused:

The cost would be $150 - $250, depending upon the cost of the used fridge. And, there is no need to refill the ice bin. Just set the target temperature and walk away.

But, if you already have most of the parts lying around, this is definitely an option worth considering. ;)
Some old fridges cost way too much in energy to operate and this would be a fraction of the cost to operate. This is the very thing i am working on for my bocks and dark lagers.
I was looking for an estimate on ice change over and two days is fantastic. do you use 1 gallon ice jugs or ½ gallon?
 

brewjunky

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
376
Reaction score
4
Location
Winnipeg
so is the beverage cooler always draining back into the rectangular cool;er with the ice in it?
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
Some old fridges cost way too much in energy to operate and this would be a fraction of the cost to operate. This is the very thing i am working on for my bocks and dark lagers.
I was looking for an estimate on ice change over and two days is fantastic. do you use 1 gallon ice jugs or ½ gallon?
I use both 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon containers and usually dump some ice in in the beginning to get it down to temperature faster.
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
so is the beverage cooler always draining back into the rectangular cool;er with the ice in it?
Thats right. When the pump kicks on it raises the water level above the drain and it recycles back into the ice cooler. Kind of like a toilet spill over.
 

Tripod

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2008
Messages
637
Reaction score
7
Location
Atlanta, GA
Very cool idea and can double for MLT. I think i found (another) DIY project to add to the ever increasing list!:mug:

-Tripod
 

brewjunky

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
376
Reaction score
4
Location
Winnipeg
Wouldn't this just drain the cold water that you are pumping on the top?
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
It's been working well with the current setup. I'm sure there is room for improvement but I haven't noticed a problem with getting a consistent temperature in the water with the water dumping in the top. The water going in is usually 20 degrees cooler too so it will want to go to the bottom anyway since its more dense.
 

LooyvilleLarry

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2008
Messages
962
Reaction score
11
Location
Louisville,KY
For those in cooler climates, I'd bet a aquarium heater would do the reverse - keeping the temps warm enough for ale fermentation.
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
I just used it for the first time as a heater and it works great. Hot tap water works just fine and holds temperature for several days.

This weekend I get to use the 10 gallon cooler as a mash tun for the first time on my Strong Scottish Ale too.:ban::ban:
 

Accemn

Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2007
Messages
18
Reaction score
1
Couldn't you make a foam lid with a space cut open for the airlock to further insulate it? I am trying to come up with something like this. My apt is small so I don't have all that much room. I have a bunch of 400-900 gph pumps I use for my aquarium I could use. How cold is something like this able to get? Would lagering be possible?
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
The foam lid is a good idea. I didn't want to cut a hole in the cooler lid because I've been using it as a mash tun. I've been able to hold temperatures as low as 38 for twelves hours or so. I've sure I could get colder if I tried just haven't had the need to yet.
 

Kass_Brauhaus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
204
Reaction score
3
Location
Arvada, Colorado
I'm playing devil's advocate here, but wouldn't it be easier and just as economical to buy a small, used fridge and attach an external temperature controller? :confused:

The cost would be $150 - $250, depending upon the cost of the used fridge. And, there is no need to refill the ice bin. Just set the target temperature and walk away.

But, if you already have most of the parts lying around, this is definitely an option worth considering. ;)
I know this is fairly common practice so this is really a question, but wouldn't you eventually build up some not-insignificant pressure in your fridge and pop the door open or something?
 

lamarguy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2008
Messages
1,652
Reaction score
33
Location
Austin, TX
I know this is fairly common practice so this is really a question, but wouldn't you eventually build up some not-insignificant pressure in your fridge and pop the door open or something?
With 5 - 10 gallon batches, it's not possible to generate enough co2 pressure to "pop open" a fridge door. You would need much larger fermentation volumes and a VERY tight door seal.

However, you could probably do it with dry ice and I'm sure the Mythbusters would love to try it... :D
 

jasper9

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
118
Reaction score
2
Location
Boulder, CO
quick question - for the draining line, those are actually two different lengths of hose attached to each end of the plastic valve that came with the cooler? no leaks? do you know the diameter of them off hand?
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
That's right, it goes into the plastic valve that is turned around backwards and two hoses are used. The diameter is the same as for most other equipment in most home brewerys like racking cane, auto siphon and bottle bucket. I think it 3/8" ID
 

jasper9

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
118
Reaction score
2
Location
Boulder, CO
I got my build based on this flowing last night just in time for the secondary lagering of my Maibock! Thanks for the ideas!

I ended up building a bulkhead from the other thread outlining a cheap MLT conversion in the same type of igloo cooler. Once i tracked down the right washers it's working perfect.
 

CEMaine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2007
Messages
141
Reaction score
0
Location
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
I too have been dealing with temp issues, primarily in lagering, for some time. I have a converted 10 gallon MLT/Cooler and have pondered using it as a lagering cooler when I am not mashing. I have all the pieces but the controller. I work in seafood processing and have ready access to free ice. I may just try it with out the circulation in the short term.

Cheers
 

Hang Glider

Beer Drinker
Joined
Mar 4, 2007
Messages
3,245
Reaction score
214
Location
North Augusta


this was test - holding 62 no problem. Top is layered foam.
Only problem is changing out ice jugs once a day. Smaller cooler holds ice, fountain pump. Probe for controller goes in larger cooler. The cold water leaving the small cooler is out the back, so you can't see it here.

Not seen in this photo, I added a valve to the bottom tubing, and another pump in the larger cooler just to circulate the cold water coming in.
 

RecruitNBrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 19, 2009
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Location
SoCal
JCarson,

Your design is great! This will be perfect for keeping my brew cool during the 90+ summer days in Southern California.
I built my system much like yours and I've noticed a couple issues during the trial run. First of all, the pump is putting new cold water in the water cooler faster than the old stuff can run out the drain tube. If I left it running for a long time (4-5 hours) while I was trying to really drop the temperature, it would definitely overflow.

My pump is rated at 400gph, what kind are you using? (maybe I need to downsize?)

Also, I turned the spigot to the inside of the water cooler like you mentioned and pushed the button in hard until it stayed stuck in the open flow position. I'm afraid that there is a chance that it might pop out and stop the flow of water (causing a flood). How do you ensure that yours stays open?
I was thinking of upgrading this piece to a metal pass through shank used for draft cooler boxes, but I don't want to spend the cash if I don't have to.

Your thoughts (and other peoples' thoughts) would be appreciated!
 

RecruitNBrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 19, 2009
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Location
SoCal
Hang Glider,

Nice work on that system! That is high level work.
Where did you get the metal valves that you are using on your coolers??
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
JCarson,

Your design is great! This will be perfect for keeping my brew cool during the 90+ summer days in Southern California.
I built my system much like yours and I've noticed a couple issues during the trial run. First of all, the pump is putting new cold water in the water cooler faster than the old stuff can run out the drain tube. If I left it running for a long time (4-5 hours) while I was trying to really drop the temperature, it would definitely overflow.

My pump is rated at 400gph, what kind are you using? (maybe I need to downsize?)

Also, I turned the spigot to the inside of the water cooler like you mentioned and pushed the button in hard until it stayed stuck in the open flow position. I'm afraid that there is a chance that it might pop out and stop the flow of water (causing a flood). How do you ensure that yours stays open?
I was thinking of upgrading this piece to a metal pass through shank used for draft cooler boxes, but I don't want to spend the cash if I don't have to.

Your thoughts (and other peoples' thoughts) would be appreciated!
I had the same initial problems as you. First off though the pump I use is a 50-80gph that I found at Lowes. So you may need to downgrade if it doesn't have a control.

Second, and this may help both issues, I've upgraded since I updated this thread last. For the overflow I now have a piece of 1/2" (I think) copper pipe and a 90 elbow that hooks onto the same shutoff valve that I use to mash. It's a lot cleaner looking and doesn't restrict the flow of water at all now. Before I did this I would get an inch or two of water above the overflow before it really got flowing good. I never really worried about it too much since it doesn't run for very long after you get down to the target temp.

As for the spigot I think we have different types and this may be restricting your flow too. Mine was a rubber type that I cut off the shut off valve and caulked the button in place. I would be worried about it popping out too so you might want to put a few dabs of epoxy on it to make sure it doesn't.

Glad to hear more people are getting some use out of this and hope to see more improvements coming.
 

JonGoku

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2009
Messages
54
Reaction score
1
Location
Orange County, CA
Nicely done. I have a couple questions regarding the coolers you guys used.
1) Jcarson, What is the inner diameter of the 10 gallon cooler? I'm wondering how universal it is when fitting carboys.
2) Hangglider, What size/make/model cooler is that? I like the double carboy concept and I imagine the larger water mass might help the temp be more stable.

TIA
 

Hang Glider

Beer Drinker
Joined
Mar 4, 2007
Messages
3,245
Reaction score
214
Location
North Augusta
JonGoku,
the Cooler didn't fit two carboys - THAT was the hard part - it's a standard Rubbermaid type 48qt with the liner and half the foam ripped /carved out of it to fit the two. I poured Epoxy on the bottom (since there was no liner) to get a flat surface for the carboys. The walls were coated about 7 times with Plasti-Dip to get them waterproof. Air pockets in the plasti-dip (they'll happen!) were cut out and re-coated.

PITA to build the main cooler, but it works great!


edit - cooler type: Rubbermaid 5-day 50qt wheeled.
 
OP
jcarson83

jcarson83

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
929
Reaction score
21
Location
Springfield, MO
JCarson,

How are you connecting the copper elbow? Is it with a standard cooler conversion bulkhead piece like this:

KEWLER KITZ Bulkhead Fitting :: Midwest Supplies Homebrewing and Winemaking Supplies

If you could add a picture, I would be very appreciative. I want to get this thing right!!

THANKS!!!
I just went to Lowe's and starting playing around with different parts in the plumbing section. Here is what I ended up with

3/4" Ball Valve
3/4" Copper Male Adapter
3/4" Elbow
and maybe 12" of copper pipe.

It could be 1/2" too I can't remember off the top of my head. I'll see if I can takes some pics and post them. It really does work better.
 

RecruitNBrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 19, 2009
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Location
SoCal
So I took the advice and decided to use a 1/2 copper tube as the drain instead of vinyl tubing (It is definitely fail safe, so I can sleep at night).

I replaced the spigot with the Kewler Kitz Bulkhead Fitting from Midwest Supplies. I installed it backwards to allow the carboy to fit in the water cooler. To connect the copper pipe to the bulkhead, I picked up a Gator Bite elbow fitting at Lowes that had one end with female thread and the other end with a "push in" fitting for copper pipe. I have no idea how to sweat copper pipe, so this was the easier and safer alternative. I had to cut off a mounting plate that was attached to the elbow, because the carboy wouldn't fit. I used a dremel tool with a cutting wheel.

I also downgraded the pond pump from 400 gph to one that I picked up at Home Depot rated at 130gph. It works like a charm

I brewed up my first batch of Hefeweizen a couple nights ago and the chiller system is working great!

Thanks again for the advice. I'll post some pictures soon.
 

JonGoku

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2009
Messages
54
Reaction score
1
Location
Orange County, CA
So I took the advice and decided to use a 1/2 copper tube as the drain instead of vinyl tubing (It is definitely fail safe, so I can sleep at night).

I replaced the spigot with the Kewler Kitz Bulkhead Fitting from Midwest Supplies. I installed it backwards to allow the carboy to fit in the water cooler. To connect the copper pipe to the bulkhead, I picked up a Gator Bite elbow fitting at Lowes that had one end with female thread and the other end with a "push in" fitting for copper pipe. I have no idea how to sweat copper pipe, so this was the easier and safer alternative. I had to cut off a mounting plate that was attached to the elbow, because the carboy wouldn't fit. I used a dremel tool with a cutting wheel.

I also downgraded the pond pump from 400 gph to one that I picked up at Home Depot rated at 130gph. It works like a charm

I brewed up my first batch of Hefeweizen a couple nights ago and the chiller system is working great!

Thanks again for the advice. I'll post some pictures soon.
If there are no pics it didn't happen :)

Show us the porn :mug:
 

RecruitNBrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 19, 2009
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Location
SoCal
Here are some pics of my incarnation of the chiller system:

brew1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
brew3 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
brew2 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
brew4 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

I started with the thermowell (thermistor??) directly in the carboy, but I ran into an issue. When the system kicked on, it would pump so much freezing cold water into the chiller that it would push my fermentation temp 4-5 degrees lower than my target. Now that it is in the chiller water, I just set the temp controller about two degrees lower than my target fermentation temp and it works great. Hopefully the brew will taste good too.

As time goes on, I plan on sealing the system for better temperature insulation. I'm looking forward to trying a lager on this thing!

Thanks again to JCarson for the concept.
 
Top