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better cooling option for plastic fermenters?

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  • better cooling option for plastic fermenters?

    we have a nano in baja that is needing to stop sharing brew space and put together its own system. plastic conicals seems the cheapest for 2.5bbl system, and we are already equipped to deal with no-scratch cleaning/sanitizing, etc. but the cooling is another issue. i've mostly seen stainless cooling coils dropped into the tank, or AC units cooling coffin boxes for each fermenter.

    we already have a glycol system, although its fairly oversized. so stainless is as simple as finding a supplier for the coils. anyone know of a place to get them? are they custom fabricated?

    the other option is the AC controlled coffin box. easy to build, AC units are cheap, although coolbots dont seem that cheap. but easy to put that together.

    so what is the consensus on which method is more practical? easier to maintain? etc. we would still need a stainless brite to crash/carb. then go into kegs.

  • #2
    As a previous user of the A/C unit and cool-bot cooled closets/coffins I can say that, in hindsight, we should have used a small glycol chiller and stainless coils. I know of other breweries in our vicinity that have done that and the result was a greater level of temp control plus a better ability to rapidly crash the beer. The closets were easy, in the fact that you didn't have to deal with the coils at all (what to do with them when cleaning a tank, cleaning the coils themselves, etc)

    Besides the cooling/crashing of the fermenters another thing to consider is the oxygen ingress during transfers. We used to just crack the lid and pump out of the fermenters. We had great luck with the beers but again, in hindsight, putting a CO2 bleed/blanket line into the top of the fermenter while its transferring to the brite tank would have been the smart thing to do. Another tricky thing is crashing beers in plastic fermenters. The contraction of the liquid and gasses in the headspace as the beer cools inevitably pulls in the outside air unless you have positive pressure on the tank (difficult or impossible with plastic).

    Good question on the sourcing of the stainless coils, I'm sure some other folks can chime in on the best options for those. I'd imagine the main thing would be the ability to easily clean and sanitize/pasteurize every exterior surface of the coils between batches, so the more simple the better.

    Cheers & Good Luck!



    • #3
      I picked up a stainless immersion coil from for my 1bbl home brewing system about 7 or 8 years ago. it was a 50ft, 1/2" diameter with garden hose fittings, but you could have put any type of tube compression fittings on it. Super solid and lasted me about 5 years before I sold off the home brewing system (always had pilot systems at work). Still looked brand new at that point. Used it at least weekly.

      You can get 50ft or 100ft rolls of stainless tubing and try to make your own (Ebay, McMaster Carr, Grainger), but you will need a real tubing bender (not harbor freight) and you would want to hydroform it. IE cap the end, fill with water and valve the other end. Then bend to avoid kinking. Swagelok has some really nice tubing benders, but they are damn pricey.

      Things to consider - A thinner wall tubing will transfer heat better, but is more prone to kinking. Spacing out the coils will help with heat dispersion as well. If you buy an immersion coil, I would suggest stretching it as much as possible. Also, tubing sizes are different than piping sizes. Pipe is measured by ID and tubing by OD.


      • #4
        The few ive seen looked like at least 1/2 tubing. But looking online for some they look more like the pot chillers for homebrew, real tight coils.

        Im assuming these would need to go through the lid and have some way hang on the lid in terms of weight?


        • #5
          The guys listed above will actually do custom coils as well. They offer a HERMS type coil that can go through the sidewall if you prefer, although that means more bulk head fittings, and probably in the wort contact area (leak potential, contamination potential). If you drop them in the top, at least then you can remove to clean and only smooth stainless makes contact with the wort. Not sure if you mean tight in the sense of the diameter of the coil, or if you mean that the coils are tight together. If you want a larger diameter, look at purchasing a raw coil. It is much easier to make the coil open wider than to tighten it down. If you want the coils separated more, you can just stretch them out. I'm sure if you call Stainless Brewing, they can probably make what you want exactly.


          • #6
            Haven't put them into service yet, but I got a couple from Quiet giant that look great and hes pretty willing fab exactly what you want.


            • #7
              The lids on most of the polys are 12” it seems, so coil assembly diameter is an issue, but i was referring to how tight the coils are to each other. But you can pull them apart a bit, so maybe i shouldn’t worry too much about it.

              Ill take a look at quiet giant. The off the shelf units from morebeer are pretty cheap on wholesale, might check those out too.


              • #8
                Well ive called stainless three times now, sent emails, no response. Pretty lame.

                Ill give quiet giant a ring and see if they can help. If there’s anyone else out there i should contact id appreciate the referral.


                • #9
                  ok, folks one last question here. as i'm now looking at the tanks im seeing that the ace rotos at 110gal are the ones where the lid opening is not dead center- its off to one side of the tank. so if we were to drop the cooling coils into the tank through the lid, i see an issue.

                  the problem that i see is that the coils wouldnt be in the center of the tank for the purposes of cooling. they'd be off to one side. that seems like a problem from a convection stand point. like you'd get one side of the tank real cold, and the other side warm.

                  not sure i can figure out how to solve that issue.

                  maybe just get a different tank?


                  • #10
                    As a home Brewer who has four stainless steel conicals, three currently being cooled with glycol and homemade wraps around the outside of the conicals made of blue one and a half inch discharge hose. I'm wondering has anyone tried a similar method with the plastic conicals realize the thermal transfer would not be quite as a effective but I much prefer having the wrap around the outside of the conicals and not having coils to clean inside of them. I am planning on purchasing four of the hundred ten gallon plastic conicals. We are going to be keeping them in a somewhat neutral temp controlled cool room but that won't give us the ability to change temperatures individually of each fermenter unfortunately unless we keep the room very cold and use heat wraps to adjust each conical which would not be very efficient.

                    Currently with my single Chiller and 4 Conicles I can actually get frost on the inside wall of the conical when attempting to simulate the cold crash with nothing in it.
                    We don't intend on cold crashing in these conicals we do have bright tanks for that that we purchased used.