Author Topic: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?  (Read 281 times)

Offline Malthopper

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Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« on: May 11, 2021, 03:48:22 PM »
Anyone ever try using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller? They are new to me so for anyone else unfamiliar it's basically just a cooler with heat exchange coils wrapped around it and a compressor. Very similar to a chest freezer in design. They come with a 12-volt DC adapter for your vehicle or RV as well as an AC adapter for use at home. There seems to be several manufacturers all making units of different sizes. The one that caught my eye is the Alpicool C20 with a 20 quart capacity. Should comfortably hold 4 gallons of glycol solution which I imagine would be enough cooling potential for 2 fermenters. The lid is removable and I plan to drill holes and run glycol lines through it. One of the main reasons I'm focused on this unit in particular is the design of the interior. Most of the units I looked at had a plastic tub for the bottom half just like a regular cooler. But then about halfway up there would be a seam and the top half would be metal like a chest freezer. This unit seems to have one solid plastic tub. I understand that metal would give a better heat exchange but a plastic tub would be great at holding glycol solution. Price is another consideration, this unit is pretty reasonable at around $200 new. Any thoughts or words of advice before I just order one and start tinkering with it?

Online ynotbrusum

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Re: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2021, 02:59:52 PM »
Best of luck on the adaptation.  I use a simple dorm fridge with a plastic tub full of glycol that runs through a cooling jacket

http://www.gotta-brew.com/products/cool-zone-cooling-jacket.html

It is pretty capable of holding temps in the low to mid 50's with an insulated bag (with ambient temperatures in the 70's and low 80's):

https://www.morebeer.com/products/cool-brewing-fermentation-cooler-bag.html?gclid=CjwKCAjw-e2EBhAhEiwAJI5jg1OKc1JPWbuegYvyFOK-kd4u4pMYX2EGq7ajp79nDGQCPToP-LeLWRoC_6QQAvD_BwE

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Offline Malthopper

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Re: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2021, 03:55:36 PM »
Thanks for the feedback! I was familiar with the insulated bag but the coolant sleeve is new to me and i like the concept. I've been brewing since 2007 and am still working with glass carboys but am planning to get away from them for a few reasons. My current set-up is a 6.5 gallon carboy floating in a 10 gallon round cooler that's filled with a gallon of water. Sitting underneath the carboy at the bottom of the cooler is a cheap pond pump from harbor freight. The pump is fitted with tubing that runs inside my keezer and into a corny keg full of chilled water, then back out the keezer and returned to the round cooler. Controlled by an inkbird. Can hold my fermentation as low as the mid 50's. Not a bad system for the most part except that I have a lot of condensation build up on the chiller keg inside my keezer from all the heat exchange. Had a nice puddle down there a week ago that i had to sop up with a rag. Before this I had a chest freezer controlled by an inkbird set-up as a fermentation chamber. My end goal is a glycol chiller and two stainless fermenters: one 5 gallon and one 10 gallon.

Offline MNWayne

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Re: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2021, 01:17:21 AM »
Before dropping $200 I'd first try converting a used window air conditioner. I found one at a garage sale for $5. Probably dropped another $70 on glycol, a cooler and an aquarium pump.  It's capable of cooling a 10 gallon fermenter.  (The aquarium pump is to circulate the glycol around the cooling unit to prevent icing.) 
Far better to dare mighty things....

Offline Rbalsinger

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Re: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2021, 04:18:09 PM »
I use an abandoned water cooler. The jacket fits corny or fermenter.

https://share.icloud.com/photos/08UrB7c-i2PAwNixP2VqJ6Ryg

Offline Malthopper

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Re: Using a portable fridge/freezer as a glycol chiller?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2021, 04:10:34 PM »
Thanks for the great feedback! I have a lot of love for Ingenuity in the home brewery and appreciate the build-outs that you shared with me. The water cooler route is new to me. Great way to repurpose one of those! I've looked at some threads about the mini fridge method too. My concern is whether or not they would hold enough glycol and have the cooling capacity to lager 10 gallon batches in one fermenter while keeping another 5-gallon batch at ale temps. The unit I'm looking at should hold 4 gallons comfortably. I'm also aware of the window AC unit method and don't want to go in that direction. It's a great concept and very efficient but I don't like the stress of bending copper coolant lines. And I would want to put it on a cart and build some sort of box to put around it so it looks okay, which would up the price and take more of my time. Last I checked the cheapest window unit I could find was around $150 so that's not much cheaper than the $200 unit that I'm looking at. I know I could find one used for cheaper but I don't like the idea of repurposing a used window unit and hoping to get several years use out of it.