Counterflow Coil vs. Plate Chiller

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by PuFtonLyfe, Aug 20, 2013.

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  1. PuFtonLyfe

    PuFtonLyfe Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2011 North Carolina

    Immersion chilling just isn't doing it any longer. I was planning on going all the way and getting the Blichmann Therminator, but I keep having homebrew buddies that say to go with a counterflow coil instead. Their opinion is that plate chillers aren't worth the extra work to clean them, although, seeing as none of them own a Therminator, maybe they're just jealous. So- coil or plate? Is Blichmann's plate chiller the best? Is there a particular coil chiller that's great? Thanks for the input. Cheers!
  2. Scope4Beer

    Scope4Beer Initiate (146) Sep 28, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I have never used a counterflow coil chiller (like the Chillzilla), so I can't directly compare. I do own the Blichmann Therminator. Just bought it a few months ago. My initial grade on it is an A. It's very easy to use, small, portable, and most importantly, it works great. I just hook it up with cold tap water running and I get 68F wort output instantly. In total, it takes all of 5 minutes to chill a 3 gallon batch (my typical batch size) to pitching temp. If you get the Therminator, I would highly recommend getting the Thrumometer too, which reads the wort output temp and saves you a step doing it yourself. The only downside is the cleaning aspect, but I don't find it too big of a deal. Immediately when you're done chilling, you backflush it with water for several minutes. You'll need to buy a backflush assembly or make one yourself, which is what I did and saved me a few bucks. I then soak it in PBW for 30 min and flush it again. Then I let it soak for a few minutes in sanitizer (I use One Step, Blichmann advises against acid based sanitizers) and let it drip dry. I was concerned initially that it seemed to retain some liquid in it after all this, but it is just sanitizer and it doesn't harm anything. So there are a few steps to cleaning it, but they're really not labor intensive by any means. It's more effort cleaning out a carboy, really. Hope that info helps some. Cheers!
  3. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    The Therminator is really easy to clean. Get an aquarium pump, submerse it in a bucket of oxyclean and hook up to Therminator. Run in a loop (Pump to Therminator to oxyclean bucket) for 30 minutes, then put pump into bucket with water, run it for 5 minutes, then move pump to bucket of iodophor and run for 5 minutes. Clean and sanitized.

    Before I use my pump on brew day I'll run iodophor through it and all my March pump lines that aren't used for whirlpooling to ensure their sanitary, then hook up and run. Then repeat cleaning procedure.

    The plate chillers get a bad wrap from people who don't clean them properly or clean them quickly after brew day.

    Since switching to a plate I won't go back to immersion, although the only real benefit I've seen for immersion is that you can use it to bring wort temp below 210 F quickly to do a hop stand at say 170 F, but then again with the plate chiller you can set up an inline hop back to filter your wort and give it some extra punch.
    Cadmando18 likes this.
  4. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    how do you guys (therminator users) handle kettle trub? I know there are 122389792731 ways to combat this when using the product, but in your experience, which works best, or which method do you have no issues doing?
  5. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    basic whirlpool for most of my beers. If I'm brewing a beer with loads of hops, I will use a hopblocker/stopper as well. Some people use stainless steel scrubbies, others use a grant or a blichmann hop rocket. Many ways to skin a cat...
    Grohnke likes this.
  6. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    to the OP, I had a 50' cfc for years with 3/8" copper coil and now have upgraded to a plate chiller. Pros for the plate chiller is it can chill the wort faster, but found that ultimately my cfc was a more efficient system. Pros for the cfc was that when my tap water was really cold, I could get the chilling water coming out of the chiller at scalding temperatures and which was perfect for cleaning the system with Oxyclean/PBW. The water that comes out of my 30 plate chiller is definitely not that hot. Another pro for the plate chiller is it has small footprint on my brewstand...and have been able to pimp out the plate chiller so it has more of the wow factor if that means anything since I added inline oxygenation system with sight glass.
  7. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    Whirlpool helps settle trub and then a hop rocket will filter out an trub that makes it through. For non-hoppy beers, I just fill the hop rocket with bagged rice hulls.
    Grohnke and GreenKrusty101 like this.
  8. Scope4Beer

    Scope4Beer Initiate (146) Sep 28, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I use a HopBlocker with it, regardless of whether it's a DIPA or a hefe. You'll still get a little bit of hop debris and trub in the chiller, but it's flushes out with the backflush.
    Grohnke likes this.
  9. angrygrimace

    angrygrimace Initiate (0) Apr 11, 2011 California

    Buy a section of 1/2" copper tubing and a tubing bender and make a whirlpool arm attached to your immersion chiller to pump your wort back into the kettle with the pump you'd have to buy anyways to use a counterflow chiller properly. Immersion chilling isn't actually slower than counterflow chilling; its just that most people don't want to invest the time to continually agitate the wort to keep the hot liquid moving across the hot coils. In fact, many would say its even more desirable to chill all of your wort at once.

  10. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    thanks for the replies dudes.
  11. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    My experience with both is that the plate is around 10 times faster for a 5 gallon batch. Even with a whirlpool attachment to my immersion chiller, it still takes 40-50 minutes to reach pitching temps, whereas with a plate chiller its about 4 minutes start to finish. This differential increases hugely when I go from 5 gallon batches to the 20 gallon batches I use for barrel filling or brewing for events.

    Yes you are still limited in temperature by the delta T of the cooling water and wort temp, but with the massive surface area of the plate chillers, its been night and day for me.
  12. nanobrew

    nanobrew Initiate (0) Dec 31, 2008 California

    I don't have a pump and my counterflow chiller works great. Takes about 15 minutes for my wort to flow through my spigot on my pot, through the chiller, and into the carboy, the temp is right around what the tap water temp is. This is much quicker than when I was using (and agitiating) an immersion chiller. Plus I don't have to babysit it, I can begin cleaning.
  13. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I have both (counterflow and immersion). It takes ~ the same time (30 min) to chill 10 gals to 68*F using both methods simultaneously or 5 gals to 68*F using just the immersion chiller...problem is that I'll need it ~55*F when I brew 10 gals of lagers regularly...hope an additional pre-chiller with crushed ice will work to get it down to 55*F
  14. angrygrimace

    angrygrimace Initiate (0) Apr 11, 2011 California

    It doesn't take 40-50 minutes for me to get to pitching temps on a 5 gallon batch even just falling back on intermittent stirring. Not sure how you're getting that kind of chilling time.

    Moreover, the surface area of a plate chiller and a good sized immersion chiller is actually pretty similar.

    From Jamil Zainasheff:

    My personal experience is that pre-chillers are a waste of money vs. just buying a submersible garden pump and putting the ice water through the chiller itself because cheap pond pumps cost less than pre-chillers.
    hopfenunmaltz likes this.
  15. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I already have a pre-chiller (my old immersion chiller from 5 gal batches)...come to think of it, I have 2 or 3 old pond pumps that still work also : )
  16. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    It is what it is. I can chill faster with ice water, but it still takes 20 minutes to chill to pitching temps.

    My point was that agitation via stirring or whirlpooling, while it did cut time relative to no stirring/ whirlpooling and chilling with an immersion, still didn't make my immersion batches chill as fast as with my plate chiller.

    Not everyones set up is the same nor are their experiences with the same pieces of equipment; just providing another example set of experiences with both sets of equipment.
  17. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    Surface area is not the deciding factor in plate chiller vs. immersion chiller argument, that comparison can be made with plate chiller vs. cfc because they are using the same dynamic to chill. The flaw in Jamil's argument is that there are two different systems at work here and the variable is the delta T, or temp difference. Immersion chillers work great when the wort is at 190F, but then become less & less efficient as the delta T become closer to 0. Plate chillers & cfc maintain a nearly constant delta T.
    Don't get me wrong, I think immersion chillers with whirlpool arms are great and if you want to get geeky, you can get a thermometer on the outflowing chilling water to make sure that it is right about wort temp, then you can keep slowing the flow down so that you're not wasting water...but that isn't saving you time. Obviously ice baths are the way to speed that process up. Me personally, I don't want to bother with ice baths an am lucky to have cold tap water. I've used friends immersion chillers and definitely prefer counter flow.
  18. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,867) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    10+ gallons down to 65F in 14 minutes in the winter, 1/2 in 50 ft immersion with the pumped return arm. A benefit of living in the frozen north. Summer is longer, of course. Approaching your times.

    I get what you say on the area, delta-T helps, and keeping he wort moving helps.
  19. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    thinking about passing on the therminator, and picking up a dudda. great reviews, a bit more cost effective, etc. any dudda users?
  20. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    Only reason I went with a Therminator instead of a duda was the metal used. IIRC the duda uses a different grade of stainless steel that is more prone to erosion than the therminator. There was another brand of heat exchanger out there that I can't remember that was cheaper than the Therminator but used the same grade of stainless.
  21. OddNotion

    OddNotion Defender (602) Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey

  22. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Disciple (366) Nov 21, 2008 Texas

    I love the hop rocket for this purpose.

    Kettle -> pump -> Hop Rocket -> Plate chiller.

    The theory is that hot wort basically strips "volitiles" from hops in the hop back. Those compounds are then condensed into the wort by the chiller. Excellent method of adding hop aroma and flavor. Hops also acts as a filter medium for removing trub and hops from the boil. I have considered trying another one "post chiller" to remove cold break material, but I don't know how effective that would be.
  23. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

  24. OddNotion

    OddNotion Defender (602) Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey

    wow these are a lot cheaper and seemingly the only difference is the lack of a mounting bracket... anyone have experience with these? i am in the market for a plate chiller but there seems to be a lot to learn between the different options
  25. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    I'm one and give mine two thumbs up. I have the 23A - 30 plate chiller. Worked with the owner there who answered all my questions quickly.
  26. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    that what i hear...great product and exceptional service. thanks man. I have to look into these fittings though, and how i'll have to adjust my system.
  27. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Aspirant (249) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia

    There is an article in Zymurgy's latest issue comparing the three different types of chillers. Only skimmed it but it looked like they had a graph showing how fast each would chill at different water temps.

    Edit: I think the plate chiller was the fastest but don't quote me on that.
  28. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,583) May 21, 2010 Texas

    For this type of chiller, what size do you guys use for ten gallons?

    I haven't decided for sure which way to go yet on my new system, reading threads like this one for info on the matter. I already have sufficient copper to go with a coil system, but I'm not so attached to this copper that I would forego a clearly better option. The overall design hasn't be finalized yet, but I'm close to the "buying hardware" phase. I've got my old thread with all those great links saved and ready to go! It should be cool enough soon to where I don't despise being outdoors, and I'll finally get this done.

    Were I to go with plate chiller, I am not opposed to spending the extra money and getting the biggest one, but wouldn't do so if it wasn't worth the extra cost. The difference in cost seems moderate ($89 for a 10-plate chiller, $149 for a 50 plate chiller). However, I'm not sure of the difference. Is a 50 plate chiller five times better/more efficient than a 10 plate chiller? Would 50 plates be overkill, or would 10 plates be too small?
  29. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    I don't think the relative number of extra plates equate linearly with increases in cooling efficiency, but the more plates, the more surface area of wort in contact with cold water, so theoretically they should help to a point (Maybe a hyperbolic fit as plates increase you get closer and closer to an asymptote of the curve). The longer form factor (similar to the shirron) also provides additional surface area relative to more compact chillers (Therminator; which I have), but given both the form factor and number of plates your cooling time is still limited to the overall temperature differential between the water and wort. I think you'd be fine with a 10 or 20 plate chiller, but if the difference is $60 between smallest and largest, I'm always inclined to go bigger. The only downside is if your water is really cold, you may over chill with a larger chiller, but truthfully, given that you're in Texas I wouldn't worry about it (SoCal water is pretty warm and I tend to only over chill slightly ca. 60 F in the heart of "winter" down here).

    You might be able to ask the company for any chilling data they have on the efficiencies of the different models, or at least look at say DudaDiesel's data on chilling times (wort temp vs. water temp vs. # plates vs. chilling time). Also the Zymurgy article IPAs-for-life mentioned might be worth a look.
  30. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,583) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Actually, not long after I made that post, I checked out the duda page on their plate chillers. They have some good info on performance, which size you might need, etc.

    Given that they're really not that expensive, and the fact that my options are essentially a pre-chiller (like I use now) or a plate chiller, I'll probably go with the plate chiller. The fact that I'd need more ice than I currently use kinda breaks the tie. I basically need 20 lbs* of ice for five gallon batches, and I don't have an ice maker at the brewhaus.

    *It should be noted that this keeps my beer cold all through the brew day, and is only really consumed when I'm about done for the day anyway. However, texas tap water essentially melts all the ice by the time the beer is at pitching temperature, and that's with running straight tap water when the wort is real hot, and only dumping the ice over the pre-chiller after the wort is down to around 120F.
  31. snomonkey33

    snomonkey33 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2015 Michigan

    over the length of the heat transfer surface area, yes but not constant ΔT from 190°F down to 70°F. All 3 systems see reduced heat transfer rate as ΔT becomes smaller.

    They all have a heat transfer rate proportional to (ΔTin - ΔTout) where ΔT is the difference in the temp of the wort (hot side) and the temp of the coolant/ice water/tap water (cold side). In refers to entering the heat exchanger and out refers to exiting the heat exchanger. The advantage of the counterflow chiller is that it is the only design that can have a hotter cold side (tapwater) output than the hot side output (wort). To take that to the extreme, with a long enough cfc you could get a 190°F wort down to 55°F in one pass while the tapwater is coming out is probably well above 150°F allowing you to pitch yeast immediately without waiting for the entire batch (immersion) to cool or needing to mix the wort back in until an acceptable temperature is met.

    Granted if you're talking a difference of 5-10 minutes I'll save 100 bones.
  32. JoeSpartaNJ

    JoeSpartaNJ Initiate (62) Feb 5, 2008 New Jersey

    For you plate chiller guys, are you using a March/Chugger pump or are you using a gravity feed?

    I received a duda diesel 30 plate chiller from the wife for Christmas but haven't used it yet because I haven't had the extra cash to purchase a pump. Is one truly needed for it to work effectively?
  33. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Initiate (0) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    My simple gravity fed counterflow chiller is entering its 31st year of use and it has been really great...quick connects make it easy to set up and use, use, it's easy to clean after use, and it gets 5 gal of hot wort ready to pitch in around 15 minutes (maybe just a tad longer during the summer months when my tap water doesn't run icy cold).
    JoeSpartaNJ likes this.
  34. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    i've never tried it without a pump so can't comment...but i know people that use a therminator with a gravity feed without issues. You would definitely want a good pre-chiller filter system if going gravity because debris is what would cause issues.

    Getting a pump kinda sucks because you need disconnects of some sort as well, but end of the day it so nice...
  35. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (245) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    sorry man, trying to figure out what you're trying to say...but think overall we're about on the same page. Think you're more talking along the length of the tubing where I'm talking overall...(?)
    Where I'm struggling is that I don't quite equate counter flow systems to immersion chiller as the same system. I think of counter flow (& plate) chillers as a static delta T since both wort temp in and wort temp out as well as chilling water temp in and chilling water temp out should not really change during the knockout T doesn't change. While immersion chillers, the wort's temp is on an inverse curve so delta T rides that curve.
  36. JoeSpartaNJ

    JoeSpartaNJ Initiate (62) Feb 5, 2008 New Jersey

    Between my bazooka tube and hop spider, not too worried about filtration.

  37. suavo

    suavo Initiate (0) Oct 29, 2014

    I was happy with my plate chiller...till the day it clogged..and listen to all these special cleaning tips for the plate chillers...they work but are a pain in the arse...IC chiller is the way to go...KISS
  38. Alteredstate

    Alteredstate Initiate (0) Mar 5, 2015 New Jersey

    I brewed for my first time yesterday and the smoothest part was the plate chiller operation. It brought the wort temp from 212 to 72 degrees in 5 minutes. I used a hop strainer, but yea it's a pain to clean
  39. Noiz2

    Noiz2 Initiate (0) Jun 29, 2015 Michigan

    I believe the point is that both have a variable delta T. With the plate chiller the delta happens across the plate as you pass the wort over it and with the immersion chiller it happens gradually as it cools.
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