Heating and cooling options for conical.

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rad
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Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:16 pm

I finally pulled a trigger on a SS conical fermenter. Went full tart with it too and got the 1/2 bbl unitank. It's going to be my only vessel as I will be making only 1 beer at a time going forward. Thus my 2 existing fridges will go. I may reuse the controllers I built and the heaters initially.

So I'm looking for options on what to use as heaters and coolers? And what kind of chamber to go with?

I'd like to utilise the coil if possible unless someone more experiences says it's more faf than it's worth. Glycol chillers are expensive but handle more vessels, which is of no use to me. Maxi coolers seem like a popular option but they seem inefficient (as they keep a cold water bath, though I have more reading to do on them).

The other option is a tall fridge but finding the right size is going to be a challenge. My passed experience with crash cooling in a fridge is not great either (both fridges I have now go down't to about 6C). I can build a chamber from scratch if that's the best option. I ferment in the garage so the tank will need to be locked away in something or it'll get messy quick.

I haven't found any inline heaters so a tube heater it'll probably be. What other heating and cooling options are out there?

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Kev888 » Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:04 pm

You can replace the thermostat in a maxi cooler with an adjustable/electronic type (e.g. an stc-1000), and so have the coolant bath set to be far less cool whilst just maintaining fermentation temperatures. Typically mine is set to no more than 5c below fermentation temperature until I come to chill after fermentation.

You can additionally set things up so that the maxi only starts cooling when the FV needs it, so there isn't a cool bath being needlessly maintained at other times. In that case then it is likely the warmth of the wort will stop the cool bath becoming unnecessarily cold even if it wanted to.

Not only is this more efficient for maintaining fermentation temperatures, it means you can also warm the recirculating liquid instead (should heating be called for) without needing huge temperature swings. So if wished, the same immersion coil can both cool or heat as required, without needing valves and wotnot. Just a small towel-radiator element in the water circuit, e.g. within a bit of copper or stainless pipe, will suffice.

(BTW -I'm not necessarily saying this is better than a fridge for your particular requirements (there are pros and cons to both), it just seems an option you hadn't fully explored yet).
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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:34 pm

Towel rail heater! Now that's the kind of thing I wouldn't have taught of. What wattage should I look for? My current controller could handle a kettle element if I wanted it to (10A) but the tube heater I used worked fine with just 60W. Any recommended/reliable suppliers?

I have a lot to learn about refrigeration. Maxi turned on on demand with heater in the same loop sound quite appealing. How long does Maxi take to drop its reservoir by the 5 degrees?

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:15 pm

Oh, are there any performance improvements with the higher Maxi models? From what I saw, you can connect the recirc lines on the bigger models to form one colder loop. But if the cooler will be on only when needed, then the bigger ice bath volume might actually be slower to affect the beer temp.

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Kev888 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:00 am

It will depend on your fermentation volume, fermenter insulation and ambient temperature, but for 'normal' homebrewing (with one fermenter) a maxi110 is more than sufficient and (as you say) bigger would be less efficient - it would certainly be even noisier. They differ slightly, but I measured the cooling power of mine at the cold bath to be around 190watts, so plenty for most. I can't recall how long that takes to drop the cold bath, but it isn't significant IMO - the wort volume is much larger and its temperature only changes very slowly.

I sized the towel radiator element at a similar 150watts, which is way more than needed - as you can tell from only needing 60W for a tube heater. But (like the cooling) it doesn't get the opportunity to become much warmer than the wort (you can barely feel any warmth in the flow) so seems fine. In fact I got a type with a built-in thermostat but thats not necessary as it never gets warm enough to come into play; possibly it would be useful if the pump broke though. It is better to get one made of stainless or some other non-rusting metal; because radiators are often inhibited some elements can be made of stuff that will rust if used in plain water.

Yes, you can use the recirculation/python lines of maxis to recirculate the cooling/heating water; even the small 110 can come with these. Though it is an option so some have it whilst others don't; is is probably best to get one that does. But if not then you can put a small submersible pump in the cold bath instead.
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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:56 pm

Target fermentation volume will be 'enough to fill 3 cornies', so 54-57 litres (+trub). But that'll require equipment upgrade further down the line and double batching in the mean time. First few brews I will try to get enough for 2 kegs (36l-38l).

Is the thermostat in your heater adjustable? I've seen a few but they are quite a bit more expensive.

As for the insulation, the tank comes with a neoprene jacket but I don't want to use that. I'll have to move the tank from where I'll brew to the garage (30ish feet). Almost all tall fridges I've seen have a compressor at the bottom, thus need a shelf. That would mean having to lift a full tank up quite a bit.

So I'm thinking of building a closet out of wood with 50mm insulation boards all around and some easy to wash cladding inside. I'd need to lift the tank 3-4 inches at most. I'd extend it to house the temperature controls. I might even design it with storage for all the gear I have.

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Kev888 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 3:14 pm

One benefit of using an immersion coil is that you can insulate the FV, and so don't need an enormous fridge or box (it also avoids limiting the headroom for things like dry hopping, stirring and skimming the krausen). But of course you can use a box if you wish, it'll still work.

However, the downside of a coil is that it is tethered to the maxi cooler by the recirculating hoses - and so also is the FV (or at least the lid). If you intend to move the FV then you might be better off with a big fridge, or some sort of trolley that keeps the maxi and FV together, or perhaps working out a way to quickly/easily detach cooling hoses without floods.

TBH I'd suggest perhaps waiting until you can see what the conical is like with water in. I wouldn't like to lift mine even a few inches with around 60L in; aside from the weight, they're extremely top heavy and an awkward size and shape. Even wheeling it tiny distances along the flat needs to be carefully done and over smooth floors. You may make different choices after seeing it in the flesh, as it were.
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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:14 pm

My garage gets dusty at times so I'll need to lock the tank away. Insulation would just add a few inches to the closet it'll be in. The tank comes with a jacket so that's an option too, I guess. If I end up building the chamber I will make sure to make head space expandable in some way when needed. Thanks for pointing this out.

In my mind the tank would be coming out only to be filled or washed. The latter might not even be the case as I'm looking to do CIP (again more research needed). I've seen quick disconnects with cut offs. A bit of water drip and the tank is out I hope. Life will verify my ideas as always. There's so much more to figure out.

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Digby » Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:27 pm

Hi,

I have a 1/2 barrel BME Chronical, so the same volume but different design to your unitank.

I use the SS Brewtech FTSS controller with a bit of a tweak. The heat pad is standard, but the cooling output goes to a simple relay to switch on my Maxi 210. From a standing start, the Maxi can crash cool a full 1/2 barrel in just 3 to 4 hours. It is surprisingly quick, actually!

This way the cooler is not running unless it is needed and I have not needed to modify it, but there is going to be a little lag as it does not maintain the ice bath as it would if running all the time. Overall I am delighted, and my dunkel is merrily being maintained at around 2 degrees at the moment in the garage.

Matt

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Last edited by Digby on Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Kev888 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:37 pm

rad wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:14 pm
My garage gets dusty at times so I'll need to lock the tank away. Insulation would just add a few inches to the closet it'll be in. The tank comes with a jacket so that's an option too, I guess. If I end up building the chamber I will make sure to make head space expandable in some way when needed. Thanks for pointing this out.

In my mind the tank would be coming out only to be filled or washed. The latter might not even be the case as I'm looking to do CIP (again more research needed). I've seen quick disconnects with cut offs. A bit of water drip and the tank is out I hope. Life will verify my ideas as always. There's so much more to figure out.
Probably you intend this anyway but I'm not entirely sure if I read things correctly so to avoid confusion: I'd strongly advise insulating either the FV 'or' the chamber (if you build one) with something properly effective, so really there would be extra dimensions involved somewhere, in either case.

The cupboard would be bigger (to allow working room for lid clamps and so on), and ideally would therefore be insulated more due to the larger surface area. But it is often easier and cheaper to deal with flat boards of high quality insulation (celotex, kingspan, maybe polystyrene) so if you have the space this isn't necessarily a poor choice, and of course the FV itself stays visibly shiny!

Though if you want to take that approach anyway then it would make air cooling/heating more attractive. It could be worth haunting ebay for a used commercial fridge or freezer and saving some time and possibly money. Plus the inside is usually designed for easy cleaning and the door will be intended to seal well (which is 'very' important if insulated) so a very useful starting point. If necessary, and if you have the DIY skills, you may even be able to deepen a tall/wide fridge/freezer relatively easily by adding something between body and door.

CIP is nice, but in a fermenter of this modest size and type with a fairly large lid opening it isn't necessarily that much advantage - if there is enough access and you have sufficient arm length (and motor function), anyway (though the uni-tank has a smaller opening than the standard types so perhaps a little more to gain). You're paying for stainless, and one advantage is that it isn't as easily scratched as plastic, so loosening deposits with hand-sprayed or poured hot water/cleaner and then after a pause simply wiping with a non-stick-safe kitchen pad will deal with most routine things. I don't remember the last time I needed to do anything other than wipe down the walls of the FV and rinse. Disinfecting/sanitising depends on what you like to use; some types can be hand-sprayed on and remain or be kept wet for their contact times whilst others may need filling to soak continuously for longer periods.
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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by rad » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:14 pm

Hi Digby, I'm guessing you're using the jacket? Does the heater pad attach to the tank somehow or is it held by the jacket? Do you have to move your fermenter? Did you use some kind of quick disconnects for the coil?

Kev, yes it would be either/or, with shiny being the preferred option. I haven't made the decision which way to go yet. Upright fridge or freezer are not cheap to get, especially at the width and depth needed. Worse yet, unless it can be delivered, I would have no way to pick one up.

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Re: Heating and cooling options for conical.

Post by Digby » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:18 pm

rad wrote:Hi Digby, I'm guessing you're using the jacket? Does the heater pad attach to the tank somehow or is it held by the jacket? Do you have to move your fermenter? Did you use some kind of quick disconnects for the coil?

Kev, yes it would be either/or, with shiny being the preferred option. I haven't made the decision which way to go yet. Upright fridge or freezer are not cheap to get, especially at the width and depth needed. Worse yet, unless it can be delivered, I would have no way to pick one up.
Hi,

Yes I use the jacket. The heat pad is held by the jacket and works nicely. I have a short lemgth of vinyl tube on each of the coil commectors attached to a JG hose barb to 3/8 beer line connector. Then beer line to the Maxi. I hope that makes sense!

Matt

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