Author Topic: Temperature controlled fermentation in a Blichmann conical fermenter...  (Read 2410 times)

Offline lehrian

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I have a couple Blichmann conical fermenters and because it is warmer where I live I can only brew lagers for about 2 or 3 months in Dec, Jan and Feb.  I have looked at ways to cool them, but I have mostly contemplated external means of cooling (i.e. a large walk-in refrigerator, custom cooling jacket, those cooling chips) but they all involved a really large investment (walk in cooler) or seemed overly complex (custom cooling jacket).  And I'm not so sure the cooling chips would provide enough cooling.  I recently received a mail order homebrew catalog that had a stainless steel coil style wort chiller (most are copper) and that got me to thinking about using it to cool the fermenter internally.  If I could mount the chiller inside the fermenter, make a connection thru the top of the fermenter to an external supply of ice water in a large cooler, use a digital thermostat like the Ranco or Johnson, put the temperature probe into the fermenting beer and have the thermostat turn on a pump to pump ice water thru the wort chiller when it gets too warm it seems like a workable solution.  It never dawned on me until I saw the stainless wort chiller.  The only other issue is that I would have to somehow insulate the fermenter so that it wouldn't run constantly and use up a ton of ice, but this seems reasonable.  Does anyone have any experience doing something like this?  Any concerns?  Any ideas?  Thanks for any input you may have. 
Warm Regards,
Dave

Offline jeffy

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I have a couple Blichmann conical fermenters and because it is warmer where I live I can only brew lagers for about 2 or 3 months in Dec, Jan and Feb.  I have looked at ways to cool them, but I have mostly contemplated external means of cooling (i.e. a large walk-in refrigerator, custom cooling jacket, those cooling chips) but they all involved a really large investment (walk in cooler) or seemed overly complex (custom cooling jacket).  And I'm not so sure the cooling chips would provide enough cooling.  I recently received a mail order homebrew catalog that had a stainless steel coil style wort chiller (most are copper) and that got me to thinking about using it to cool the fermenter internally.  If I could mount the chiller inside the fermenter, make a connection thru the top of the fermenter to an external supply of ice water in a large cooler, use a digital thermostat like the Ranco or Johnson, put the temperature probe into the fermenting beer and have the thermostat turn on a pump to pump ice water thru the wort chiller when it gets too warm it seems like a workable solution.  It never dawned on me until I saw the stainless wort chiller.  The only other issue is that I would have to somehow insulate the fermenter so that it wouldn't run constantly and use up a ton of ice, but this seems reasonable.  Does anyone have any experience doing something like this?  Any concerns?  Any ideas?  Thanks for any input you may have. 
Warm Regards,
Dave
It seems like it should work, but rather than changing ice water you could buy a small freezer and keep the cooling liquid inside that at the set temp.  I saw a small commercial brewery with this set-up, using glycol and a small pump to cool a ten bbl fermenter.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline jmcamerlengo

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yeh id be concerned about constantly having to monitor the temperature of the ice water.

Everything else seems reasonable to me. Jeffy's idea sounds pretty good.  Although stainless wort chillers can be expensive, also you would have to make sure the entire beer, especially the cone at the bottom had contact with the chilling coil.  That could be difficult, and even more difficult if you're trying to do it for multiple conicals.

I'd think itd be more cost effective to build a cheap n' easy walk in with some plywood and insulation and a cheap air conditioner. Or depending on how big the conicals are, a chest freezer off craigslist. I found mine for 40 bucks and it can hold 12 cornies and 2 carboys with insulation in between to keep different temperatures.
Jason
-Head Brewer, Brewtus Brewers in the Shenango Valley. Hopefully opening a brewpub/nano brewery in the next couple years.

Offline lehrian

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jeffy: That seems like a reasonable way to provide cold liquid to pump thru the immersion chiller, but if the liquid is maintained at the correct temp then the pump would have to run constantly.  If I use ice water, the pump only turns on when the temp in the fermenter rises and turns off when it drops.  But you do have me thinking about other ways to provide cold liquid other than using a cooler and ice.  Possibly some sort of glycol chiller either as a primary cooler that pumps thru the immersion chiller or as a secondary cooler to cool the liquid that gets pumped thru the immersion chiller.  The former is probably the more efficient, but I have a concern about leaks since the chiller will have to go thru the lid of the fermenter and I was planning on using compression fittings to attach the immersion chiller to the lid. 

jmcamerlengo: There is no need to monitor the temp of the ice water, it will be at 32 deg F.  The fact that the temp probe will be installed in a thermowell in the fermenting beer will be how the temp of the beer will be controlled.  A fermentation chamber as you are suggesting is a good thought.  I had in the past contemplated building one, but I am a little space constrained and when I was researching it the A/C unit would need to be modified so that it doesn't shut off at it's coldest temp.  They are also not build to run that cold and there is a real possiblity of freezing the compressor as well as the cost of running the unit (though I'm not sure if that would be more or less efficient than using ice from my freezer's ice machine).  The problem with using a chest freezer is getting the fermenter into them.  If I put the fermenter in it first, then it has to be near enough to my brew system to get the beer from my plate chiller into it which isn't really practical.  And if I try to put it in afterward I would have to figure out some sort of lift to raise it up and drop it into the freezer. 

Thanks for your replies and suggestions, I do appreciate them. 

Someone provided me a link http://brewhemoth.com/immersion-chiller to a commercial version of exactly what I am proposing doing.  So now that the concept is proven I have ordered 50' of 316 SS 1/2" tubing, a SS thermowell and a digital thermostat.  I should have it figured out in the next month and will post up pics when I get it completed.