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Thread: Fermenter Jackets Icing Up (on the outside)

  1. #1
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    Fermenter Jackets Icing Up (on the outside)

    So, i've got my first 3 beers fermented and crashed on my new system. 3 fermenters, and 3 different thicknesses of ice accumulating on the outside of the jackets.

    one is fine, hits the target temp, frosts up a bit now and again and then melts away once target temp is hit.
    the next fermenter has built up a healthy cap of ice that never leaves, and it's always short of the target temp.
    the furthest away fermenter has an even bigger ice buildup and misses even more on the target temp.

    to sum up, one fermenter normal, the second 3 degrees short, the third 5 degrees short. the two short fermenters have their solenoids permanently open, trying to chill to 33F but never getting there, hence the progressively bigger ice buildups on the outsides of the jackets.

    my chiller is oversized, glycol percentage is right on. copper piping was installed by the most qualified person one can find in rural western panama (don't get me started). anyone have any experience with a problem like this? i suspect piping capacity issues, but not sure. would love to hear from anyone who had a similar problem. thanks!

  2. #2
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    Sounds like your glycol is too cold. Ice can build up on the inside of the fermenters also, and will mess with both the chilling and the accuracy of the temperature probes.
    Try running the glycol at 28*F and see if it helps.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by brewingpro View Post
    Sounds like your glycol is too cold. Ice can build up on the inside of the fermenters also, and will mess with both the chilling and the accuracy of the temperature probes.
    Try running the glycol at 28*F and see if it helps.
    This is a very real possibility. You should be around -2*C or 28*F on your chiller setting, as stated. Going lower will not help chill better. Also check your rate of flow through the jackets. Moving faster is not always better either. You want some time for the heat transference to take place. Have never seen tanks ice outside (maybe a tiny bit on the manway) so either you're way too cold, or tanks are poorly constructed (or both). Once you ice up, you are unlikely to drop further. My suggestion is to turn off the solenoids until the ice melts, then try again.

    You don't mention the size of tank or number of jackets, but try chilling to 39*F (4*C) first for a day or two before lowering further. This is the densest point of water and can help keep stratification from occurring on chilling. If you have multiple jackets you can also reduce the flow to the lower jacket (ball valve) when crashing to help with the same.

  4. #4
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    done and done. thanks for the great input.

    i had begun with the glycol at 27F, couldn't hit my targets, then lowered to 25F. but things change sometimes here in the bermuda triangle (what i call my brewery sometimes on frustrating days). i'll check back in later....

  5. #5
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    Im wondering if you need to add some insulation to the tanks on the exterior. I assume you have a decent amount of humidity which is wahts becoming the ice on the exterior.

    25 is a bit low, but not that low compared to 28. Youre pulling heat from the ambient as well of the tank, which would seem to be a design issue. When our tanks are crashed the exterior feels cool, but not cold.

    I think aside from temp settings you should think about trying an insulating layer around one tank. See if that helps, and if it does then wrap them all up.



    Also, some random Qs- is the super icy tank closest to a door/window or source of fresh air?

    Or maybe closest to the glycol chiller? Are your drops from manifold all the same size/lenght,etc? Tanks all same size?

  6. #6
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    I doubt your tanks are insulated at all. Our insulated ferms don't seem to be affected by ambient temperature from well below freezing up into the 100s F, and we've never experienced icing on the outside of the tanks.

    You can buy Armaflex (or similar) closed-cell neoprene foam insulation by the sheet and glue to the outsides of the tanks. Try to get it as airtight as possible. Water condensing and freezing moves a ton of heat, and largely defeats the chiller system. It'll be ugly, for sure, but if it gets your temperatures under control, it'll be worth it. There are also claddings available, and Armaflex makes a paint to go over then insulation which would look better and be easier to keep clean. I would go with at least 1" thick insulation; thicker would be better.
    Timm Turrentine

    Brewerywright,
    Terminal Gravity Brewing,
    Enterprise. Oregon.

  7. #7
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    If you only have a single temperature probe, and this is just above the cone, which is not uncommon, then rapid cooling in particular can cause stratification, so as has been pointed out, the beer is densest at about 4 C. This means you could have beer at the low level probe, but beer at the top of the vessel much colder than this. This is normally only really a problem on big brewery tanks, but would be worth checking. If you have a high level temperature probe pocket, then when the beer cools to about 4 C, change the probe to the high level pocket. Or use a hand held thermometer (electrical not glass, and sterilised of course) through the top manway (if you have one) or sight glass, and see if this is the problem
    dick

  8. #8
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    alrighty, checking back in...

    i set the chiller to 28F, and the good news is, the fermenters are now hitting the same temp, around 34F. bad news is i was shooting for 33F and they don't get there. i appreciate the advice regarding uninsulated fermenters (that's a yes) and high humidity (are you kidding, i'm in panama for pete's sake). stratification i don't think should be an issue since these are small tanks, 3 and 5 bbl.

    so i'll definitely be looking into throwing some insulation around the jackets. and i've got a tech guy coming today to take a look.

    gracias again for the great input.

  9. #9
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    Just an extra note- if the cooling jackets are going to be insulated then wait until the tank is not in use. If he insulates with moisture on them you can get rotting in the insulation and not great for efficiency either. They should be dry as possible, and the entire insulation package sealed up air tight.

    And it would be good to get a little bit of insulation on the rest of the tank that isnt jacketed.

  10. #10
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    Sorry, but I'm sitting here shaking my head at the words "uninsulated fermenter" and "Panama" being used in the same sentence.

    Be sure your tech understands insulating for refrigeration. As stated above, the tanks must be clean and dry, and the insulation as nearly air-tight as possible.

    A blown-on closed cell foam would be the best solution, but the Armaflex sheets will do the job if carefully applied. The insulation should be 100% bonded to the tanks with a good quality contact adhesive.
    Last edited by TGTimm; 03-14-2018 at 09:20 AM.
    Timm Turrentine

    Brewerywright,
    Terminal Gravity Brewing,
    Enterprise. Oregon.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TGTimm View Post
    Sorry, but I'm sitting here shaking my head at the words "uninsulated fermenter" and "Panama" being used in the same sentence.

    Be sure your tech understands insulating for refrigeration. As stated above, the tanks must be clean and dry, and the insulation as nearly air-tight as possible.

    A blown-on closed cell foam would be the best solution, but the Armaflex sheets will do the job if carefully applied. The insulation should be 100% bonded to the tanks with a good quality contact adhesive.
    ha ha! yeah, you can't imagine how much head shaking goes on down here. for a while i had 110 volts coursing through my tile floor. when contractors aren't really licensed or formally trained, you get into some amazing pickles.

    fortunately i'm up in the mountains, so i'm not battling insane heat, just humidity. it's around 70F year round here. i shall be insulating those fermenters, in any case.

    a tech and i discovered an interesting detail under some pipe insulation yesterday... there are metal elbows near the in and out of each fermenter that are 1/2" max. why the old guy who did the copper piping install thought this was ok is god's own mystery.
    the copper tubing feeding each fermenter from the main trunk line is 3/4." the fermenter in and outs are 1" but i was told 3/4" was fine. maybe it is, maybe it isn't. they're only 3bbl fermenters. the solenoids sent down by pro chiller were 3/4." anyhow, at the very least i'm going to get rid of those little elbows.

    for anyone planning on doing a brewery in a not-1st-world-country, be prepared for a lot of this. i've remodeled a house, too. usually you wind up with 3 phases: hire people to do a job, hire other people to finish the job the first people didn't, then hire a third party to fix what was done wrong. you have to completely change your expectations or go insane (i've done both). but it is nice living down here.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PWB View Post
    usually you wind up with 3 phases: hire people to do a job, hire other people to finish the job the first people didn't, then hire a third party to fix what was done wrong. you have to completely change your expectations or go insane (i've done both).
    when you work with tradesmen down there you need to be very sure to spec out everything. and be very clear about it. that helps alot. even if its just saying "all tubing and connectors to be 3/4"

    i could go on and on about the experience. the best way to get a grasp is to learn about the legal system, the basis if liability/negligence, etc. it explains alot why americans have a hard time accepting practices down there. we are not on the same wavelength at all.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by brain medicine View Post
    when you work with tradesmen down there you need to be very sure to spec out everything. and be very clear about it. that helps alot. even if its just saying "all tubing and connectors to be 3/4"

    i could go on and on about the experience. the best way to get a grasp is to learn about the legal system, the basis if liability/negligence, etc. it explains alot why americans have a hard time accepting practices down there. we are not on the same wavelength at all.
    yeah... panama is an interesting case. i grew up in mexico and have lived in various places like argentina, spain, and traveled throughout latin america. panama is just a smidge different...

    you could do exactly as you say, spell everything out, and many times it'll be in one ear and out the other. i guess the way to describe it is constant, constant communication. many businessmen say you just have to literally be on top of everyone all the time. and no one gets offended, they expect it. for example, i was "on top of" the propane gas techs who came to install my tank and tubing. i repeated everything i needed 10 times or more and never left. they literally did everything wrong, which turns out, is pretty standard. you get them to install it, get the firemen to sign off on it, then hire a guy who actually knows what he's doing to redo it all. a lot like i described in a previous comment. someday someone will write a great sociological paper on the intricacies of the panamanian people. who, by the way, are perhaps the most content and happy population i've ever seen.

    i've seen gringos go apoplectic down here and move away within a year. i don't blame them, really, especially if they're retirees and don't have the energy to learn an entire new way of existing. lord knows i've had my moments. but the positives outweigh the frustrations. i get to surf in 83 degree water. : )

  14. #14
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    anyhow, back to the subject at hand...

    the installer and a tech came last night and we found out after 2 hours that the installer had placed a valve joining the cold glycol in to the warmer glycol out. this is because, of course, he was doing it according to the engineering schematic he had from... somewhere, and that was for a different kind of pump setup. not the one from pro chiller, which he had at hand and i tried to make him aware of, or any manual written in the last 15 years. so we closed the valve and voila, the flow increased and things started working close to normal. not perfect, but we're getting there.

    if any glycol tech from the states is planning a vacation to panama soon, i extend and open invitation to the beautiful western highlands. room, board, and all the beer they can drink. cheers. : )

  15. #15
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    wow. thats pretty bad. alot worse than mexico, or at least Tijuana. maybe because we are in a big city its not quite so bad.

    but i get to the point where i will make a supply list or provide them myself just to be sure. and make them draw out how they're gonna run things so i can approve. but yeah, i guess staying on top as much as humanly possible is the key.

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