counterflow chiller

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Jimsal, Oct 24, 2020.

  1. Jimsal

    Jimsal Member

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    Hi guys-

    Thinking of changing over to a counter flow chiller and getting rid of my immersion chiller. Before i go through the expense I want to know that it will cool my wort quicker then the immersion chiller. Also I am on a well and septic and I'd like to reduce my water usage. I only brew 5 gal batches. Will a counter flow cool faster?
     
  2. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    I have both and I can't say that my counter flow is faster or uses less water. But, it does allow me to do other things while it's going and I do prefer it over my Jaded immersion chiller just because it's basically hands off. I save my 1st 5 gallons of water through it for cleaning. I'd say it takes me about 10 minutes to cool 6 gallons to my fermenter at about 62-64f. In winter when my water is much colder, I have to slow it down some or it cools it too much.
    I'm also on septic and use water I don't save for cleaning to water the grass... Dump it on the lawn
     
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  3. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I've used a plate chiller and it's possible to pump ice water through it to make it more effective. I would run tap water through it, recirculating the wort back into the pot to get it down to 110 or so and then hook up a pond pump in a big ice chest with a couple of bags of ice to run the wort out of the kettle and into a fermenter. If you have a big enough container and enough ice, you could cool the whole batch down and not waste any tap water at all.
     
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  4. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Yeah that's what I rekon I'd go for if changing the way I chill is a plate chiller. I like that there isnt anything impeding a good whirlpool in the kettle. Also atm my chiller pretty much rests on my elements in the kettle so would be great to not have to put anything in there to chill the wort.

    I'm guessing itd take a bit of learning too how to clean sanitize ect.
     
  5. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Lets first look at the heat transfer equation.

    Q=UA(dT).

    Q is the amount of heat transfer, A is the contact area, dT is rather temperature difference and U is the physical heat transfer coefficient. So, to cool faster, you need to increase Q.

    U is going to be about the same with either type of chiller. So that leaves us with area and temperature.

    Will the surface area of the chiller be more than the immersion chiller? Unless you buy a really large one, probably not. So what you might want to concentrate on is increasing the temperature differential.

    This can be increased by pre-chilling the cooling water by using another immersion chiller sitting in an ice water bath. This is probably a bit less expensive option as well.
     
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  6. west1m

    west1m Active Member

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    #6 west1m, Oct 25, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2020
    Not being a math wizzard I have to ask , where is the "flow" part of the equation? The counter flow chiller constantly moves the heat away from the source where with the imersion chiller the cooled product will build a insulating barrier next to the tubing unless constantly and vigorously stirred.
     
  7. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    You’re correct in that a counterflow exchanger helps to optimize the dT part of the equation. And it does so on a continuous basis.

    However an immersion chiller takes advantage of a huge dT at the beginning of cooling.

    So if you really want to figure this out, you need to run the calls with the areas as well. Most immersion chillers I have seen used have a much greater surface area than most counterflow.

    So, in the end, it will be dependent on sizes of chillers.
     
  8. Donoroto

    Donoroto Member

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    What Bubba said ^^

    Having used only a counterflow chiller, I can't say anything abut differences in speed. It does use a lot of water, but cools my wort from about boiling to about water temperature as fast as I can run the wort through it to the fermenter, so maybe 5 minutes?

    I made a 25-foot-long counterflow chiller using 3/8" copper tubing and a 3/4" garden hose from Lowe's, plus a couple of copper fittings that had to be soldered. I speculate that the surface area is comparable to an immersion coil.

    Sanitizing is trivial: Run hot wort through it. A minute or two at 180F or higher is plenty. You DO have to clean it and dry it out afterwards, I use PBW, then water, and last compressed air. No need to clean the 'water' part, but I blow it out to help prevent mold and algae growth.
     
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  9. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Again, nothing against either style.

    Counterflow chillers are used in commercial setups because immersion chillers that size are not practical. And for home brewing, immersion are generally easier and cheaper.

    My primary point is that you can’t make any sort of blanket statement on which is faster.
     
  10. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    For me it's convenience. The counterflow chiller doesn't get in the way as I can set it up beside the all in one system and the lid fits without an issue if I'm doing hop stands or something else after the boil.

    When I've finished the hop stand (if there is one) I just put the tap on at a trickle and use the hot water to start cleaning up. By the time I've finished the cleaning the temp has dropped a fair bit, so that turning up the flow on the tap really quickly drops the wort down to tap water temperature. I'm really seeing a huge drop in my water usage since starting this approach, though it's possibly this would also have happened with an immersion chiller. It's a little slower to drop the wort temperature, but very little compared to that last few degrees in the fermentor when the chiller under or overshoots based on the tap water temperature.

    It's also very easy to disconnect while I'm cleaning the all in one system and then reconnect to push through some soapy warm water and then finally to reconnect again to rinse clean with hot water. I'm using camlock connectors to connect it to the all in one system.
     
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  11. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    He he...size matters!

    Love the math Bubba. Thank you! Granted, I hadn't thought about an equation since I was just using the number line to support my rational.....but then I multiplied by ice!
     
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  12. Nola_Brew

    Nola_Brew Active Member

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    I've been on the bubble for some time trying to decide if I want to switch to a counterflow chiller. I currently use a Cuss IC and it is great but it sits on my element and when i place in my wort at the 15 min mark it drops the temps and never gets back up to a boil. It doesn't drop below 180 and never had an issue. I would like the fact of not having to place something in my wort but I would assume once you begin running boiling wort through a counter flow chiller it would drop the temps down just like it does with the IC.

    Also, the other issue i have is in the summer my ground water temps are high so i cannot get the temp of the wort low enough unless I use a pump with ice water. Not sure if that can be done with a counterflow chiller.
     
  13. Donoroto

    Donoroto Member

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    Yes, sanitizing a counterflow chiller kills the boil a bit.

    If your groundwater is too warm, you can either cool the groundwater (using ice amd an immersion coil) before it enters the chiller or (better) run the cooled wort through a second coil immersed in a bucket of ice and water. This means in the first stage you use the counterflow chiller to bring the water down below say 100 F, and then the immersion coil in ice water brings the wort down another 30 degrees.

    My summer ground water is over 75F, but I just fill the fermenter and cool it all in the fridge before I pitch the yeast.
     
  14. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    I'm here with you in Louisiana. 78 °F tap water in August. I run a chiller off of tap water until I get the wort down to about 100 °F and then I switch over to a chilled water reservoir at 36 °F. I have the chilled water in my keezer with a pump.

    Keep in mind that temperature differential that has a huge effect on cooling. With a low differential, a counterflow will not chill any better than an immersion chiller.
     
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  15. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    As soon as you run 200 degree wort through the chiller, it's sanitized.
     
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  16. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    You'll need 2 pumps if you were to do it with CFC.....one to circulate the wort through the core of the CFC and the other to circulate the ice water out of some sort of reservoir and through the outer sleeve of the CFC. Personally, as a self proclaimed cheap bastard, it seems like more money to get you maybe 5 minutes less of a chill down.

    Here's a question for the group..is there any impact to the wort from cooling it down then reintroducing it back into the hot kettle?
     
  17. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    Hope not. When I'm chilling in winter the temp drops like a stone. I've seen the wort coming out of the chiller being 20C lower than what goes in. I'm always recirculating it back into the kettle, either for a hop stand or to chill it a bit more before pushing it into the fermentor.
     
  18. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Not to sway you either way, but it makes a huge difference if you drain the IC. If it has water in it from your last chill, it now becomes a fair bit of mass to heat up. I have a little compressor that I use to blow mine out after brew day.
     
  19. James_sweden

    James_sweden Active Member

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    I had the same questions when I was thinking about a plate chiller. Had zero issues with the immersion chiller I was using at the start, it just was not super efficient and there was a need to keep moving the wort past the coils. When I got a pump I also got a plate chiller and so started using that.

    upsides: smaller footprint and generally less space taken up on he countertop on brew day. Reasonably quick to cool down to pitching.

    downsides: bitch to clean properly and still throws out random garbage when the first flow hits it, even after a 15 minute flow swapping PBW run with rinsing and draining. Never seems to be fully leak sealed on the water side.

    there are times when I am tempted to sell it and go back to a pump and immersion chiller, just to save myself that cleaning time.
     
  20. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    Constantly moving the wort while using an IC all but negates the insulating barrier, whether you stir with the chiller, a spoon/paddle or circulate with a pump. As Bubba says, water temperature and chiller surface area are key to efficient chilling. Before spending money on a different chiller, that may or may not make an improvement, try optimizing how you use what you already have. There's no perfect answer. What works for you is best for you.
     

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