Two Ways to Operate a Plate Chiller

by Karl Updated on December 2, 2019

One of the big changes in going from my old system to the Brutus 10 is the use of a plate chiller. Previously, I used an immersion chiller. Before that, I was an ice-bath guy doing extract brews.

The immersion chiller and ice bath have something in common – they cool the entire batch of wort at once.

That’s why it was strange switching to a plate chiller where you only cool a portion of the wort at a time.

But then I read the Brutus 10 plans. Surprisingly, Lonnie Mac does not pump through the Therminator in a single pass, but rather recirculates the wort back into the boil kettle until it reaches pitching temps. He doesn’t say in the plans why he does it this way, but I found this HomebrewTalk thread where he explains it:

“It works like a charm and there are MANY reasons for doing it this way…I reach the DMS Gspot in under 3 minutes and lager temps in under 20… That is all that matters. Trub is in the pot and sweet cold wort in the fermenter.”

There is also Jamil’s famous Whirlpool/Immersion chiller which follows the same principles as Lonnie’s plate chiller method.

So that got me thinking about recirculation instead of a single pass. I ended up trying both techniques. I’ll tell you later which one I prefer, but first let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Single Pass Chilling

This is the most common way to operate a plate chiller. After the boil (or whirlpool), you drain  from the kettle, through the plate chiller, and into the fermenter.

Advantages: You can cool the wort more quickly this way. How long does it take to cool? As long as it takes to empty your kettle. You can even use gravity to feed through the chiller.

Disadvantages: Accurate temperature control is more difficult. If your ground water is too warm, you will have to pre-chill it, pump ice-water, or cool the fermenter to pitching temperatures after the fact. Also, the cold break gets carried over to the fermenter.

Recirculating

This is an alternative way to operate the plate chiller. Instead of running the wort directly into the fermenter, you recirculate back into the boil kettle until you reach you desired temperature. Then you redirect the flow into the fermenter.

Advantages: Easier temperature control. You cool the entire batch at once, locking in late addition hop flavor and aroma. Possible reduction in DMS* (see below).

Disadvantages: Takes longer than single pass cooling. It requires a pump to return the wort to the boil kettle.

*This is a debated topic so I’m not ready to say it’s a sure thing. Here is what Jamil says about DMS and why his whirlpool chiller solves the problem

“DMS is often described as a cooked corn aroma that often plagues lager brewers. The thing is, the lighter pilsner malts contain more SMM (S-Methylmethionine), which gets hydrolyzed to DMS during the boil. Yes, this gets driven off, but unless you’re doing 100 minute or longer boils, there is still some SMM left behind. The neat thing is, if you can get the temperature of the wort below 140F (60C), then SMM will not be converted to DMS. The whirlpool immersion chiller will drop the temp of the wort below 140F (60C) very quickly, resulting in far less DMS in the finished beer. On the other hand, counter flow and plate chillers continue to hydrolyze SMM into DMS while sitting there at near boiling. “

What do I do?

In 5 batches on my Brutus 10 I’ve done single pass twice and recirculation three times. I prefer recirculation so I’m going to stick with that until I find a reason to abandon it. Let me explain why I like it.

The big advantage of single pass chilling is the time savings, but with recirculation I am able to cool the wort from boiling to 65°F in 15 minutes. Given the other advantages, that is plenty fast enough to go with this method.

The single pass method took 10 minutes. I couldn’t run the pump wide open because the wort wouldn’t cool enough. It would have been quicker if I pre-chilled the cooling water.

My method with recirculating is to knock the wort down to about 140°F with a garden hose. Then I disconnect the garden hose and connect my HLT which is filled with ice water. I use the second pump to recirculate the ice water through the chiller and I hit the 60’s in no time. This isn’t a new idea – it’s the one from Lonnie’s original Brutus 10 plans.

Recirculating the wort from the chiller back into the kettle

With the single-pass method, the temperature control was a real downside. It’s been a HOT summer in Denver and my ground water is around 70°F. I like to pitch the yeast right away, so bringing the wort down to pitching temps after the fact isn’t going to be a long term solution. Sure I could pre-chill the water or use ice water, but the process is still too variable. Even with an inline thermometer it was difficult to get the exact right temperature out of the plate chiller.

I like to know exactly what the wort temp is when I drain into the fermenter and recirculation gives me that level of control. Plus I can leave the cold break (at least most of it) behind in the kettle. The 15 minute chill time is also in 90°F+ heat, so in the winter it will be even quicker.

So why not use an Immersion Chiller?

Well for one I already bought the Therminator ; )

Honestly though, I do love this thing. I mean look how compact it is. With limited space, that’s a HUGE deal for me. My old 50′ immersion chiller took up 5 times the space.

But don’t think that a plate chiller is “a step up” from immersion chillers. In fact, there is a shift back to using them due in a large part to Jamil’s whirlpool chiller. Some people are even switching from a plate chiller to an immersion chiller.

Plate Chillers: Guide, Tips and Best Plate Chillers 

Who doesn’t love a beer? Think about it. You come down home from a tough day at work. What better way than soothing and relaxing into the confines of your home than beer? The love for beer is somewhat outstanding, and it’s fair to say not many people cite their life without diving into a bottle of chilled beer.

But there’s a thing with the beer bottles. You do tend to get sort of wilted with the prepackaged beer. It’s a reason why people these days are looking at home brewing rather than just buying the beer cans off the gas station.

Before nodding to home brewing, though, take a look at what you’re looking for. Sure, brew kettles are important. However, there is a load of components and accessories that make up the process of home brewing. Plate chillers or wort chillers, as they are known, are a major integral component of a homebrew starter kit. 

Here, we look into the best plate chillers around and review them. We present an in-depth review of plate chillers along with the buying guide and tips for you. But first, let’s have a few words on plate chillers.

What is a Plate Chiller?

You use a plate chiller to quickly cool the boiling wort as part of the home brewing process. During home brewing, cooling the wort is one of the most important tasks. Efficient cooling will allow you to pitch your yeast for successful fermentation. Previously, when plate chillers were a thing of sketches on design board, ice baths or dilution was the only way to cool your wort.

Today, plate chillers cool your wort in a fraction of time. It works similarly to a car radiator and has copper lines via which the water flows in the opposite direction. The heat exchange takes place, and that allows the wort to achieve peak cooling effects. Plate chillers are a worthy investment and something you’d attune to once you get your hands on it. 

Components of Plate Chillers

Usually, plate chillers come out of the packaged box as a ready to be fitted state, but that’s not always the case. Add to it, the flexible options like the in and out pipe and hose that you need to add for on your own, there is certainly scope for getting to know about these little components. A bit of knowledge will help you to control and cool your wort much efficiently, ultimately paving the way for a nicely brewed beer.

A normal typical instance of plate chiller is made of these following:

Copper Plates: Plate chillers are designed with copper plates placed on top of each other with space in between them for the flow of the water and wort in different tubes so that the wort can be cooled off quickly.

Tube: The tube has an inside and outside tubing. It happens to run the wort, and the water in the opposite direction cools the wort throughout the process. 

Hose: Hose is the inlet for the inside and outside channel of entry and exit for water and wort. It controls the flow of the tubes.

Plate Chiller Requirements:

There are quite a few times when we are just simply stuck to the ground and don’t know how to proceed further. For many of us, who are into the first-time buyer of plate chillers, the world may seem intriguing. Here’s why we are around. We help you along in your quest for a good plate chiller with a few guidelines. Check them out. 

Cooling downtime

You get different plate chillers available at different price spectrums. All of these differentiate themselves from functionalities and performance. However, cooling downtime is something you need to look at first. Look for the plate chiller with the lowest cooling downtime. 

Quantity of the wort

Not all plate chillers cool gallons of wort. Mainly plate coolers are associated with a low volume of wort when it comes to cooling. Look for the quantity of wort that the plate chiller supports when it comes to cooling. The higher, the better.

Build quality and durability

A major thing to look for whenever you’re buying a plate chiller or any other machine is the aspect of build quality and durability. Most of these come with a pretty good warranty period but cast a keen eye on them to see which stands still when it comes to the race of build quality. A good investment in a one-time durable plate chiller will save you from reinvesting on it time and again.

The average life of the chiller

You can’t ignore this one, can ya? Every plate chiller has an average life cycle that it will run for. Look for the one that will give you more years down the line rather than something that just dwindles down a few years on.

Pricing

Another major factor when it comes while buying a plate chiller is pricing levels. We all know, there are plate chillers available at a different spectrum of pricing. And finding the best value for money is what we are seeking for. Look for the competitive pricing levels and find something that fits your purpose and needs rather than just some fancy ones. 

What are the Best Plate Chillers for Homebrewing?

HFS(R) Homebrew Beer Wort Chiller 

HFS(R) Homebrew Beer Wort Chiller (7.5'' 2.9''/30 plate, 3/4" x 1/2" NPT)
  • 304 Stainless with 99.9% Copper Brazing
  • 2.9"W x 7.5"L x 30 Plates (3.5"H) --- 1/2"NPT Wort...
  • -321F to 392F Temperature Range - Max PSI 145
  • Cools 10 gallon batches from 212F to 75F in 10 minutes
  • Per FDA Regulation - 4-101.14 - Copper is completely...
Detail Page

At the peak of the summit is the one from HFS(R), a brand synonymous with innovation and specialization when it comes to plate chillers. This plate chiller is one of the perfect pieces of the machine to go along with your homebrew setting and allows for an ideal brewing of beer. This wort chiller is available at quite an affordable pricing and comes equipped with plenty of features making it certainly the best piece around. 

It has a cooling capacity of 10 gallons, which can cool the wort from 212F to 75F in just a mere 10 minutes. It has a temperature range of -321F to 392F and is made up of a stainless-steel body presented with a 99.9% copper brazing. 

Pros

10 Liter Cooling Capacity

This plate chiller has an impressive cooling capacity of 10 gallons of wort and can cool the wort from a 212F to 75F in just 10 minutes. That’s impressive when you think of the amount of wort you can cool at your home brewing.

High-quality build

It features an impressive build quality and comes with a 304 stainless steel body. It has 99.9% copper brazing and comes with a high-grade build, which will give you years on the run. They certainly come along with a CE certified manufacturing standard. 

Fastest cooling 

With the design aspect allowing the plate chiller to operate with the running of cold water on every other plate, this ensures that there is a maximum area for cooling. In the end, you’d get the fastest cooling possible all the while having safe fermentation temperature to run for. 

The warranty period and Money Back Guarantee

If merely the high-quality build couldn’t satisfy you, then this one would surely. Already cited with an impressive build, HFS is also a UL listed and a CE certified company for its high standards in manufacturing. It has a 1 year warranty period and also has a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Performance

This plate chiller offers quite a value for money worth and is known for hassle-free usage. It allows for a quick and safe fermentation and also has an option for quick disconnect fittings, making sure that you enjoy the highest grade of performance. 

Cons – It doesn’t carry an NSF food safety certification.

NY Brew Supply Deluxe Counterflow Wort Chiller

NY Brew Supply Deluxe Counterflow Wort Chiller with Copper Tubing, 1/2", Bronze
  • 25' of 1/2" Copper Tubing
  • 14" Overall Length
  • 7" Coil Height
  • 13" Coil Diameter
  • Garden Hose Fittings
Detail Page

A good piece of counterflow chiller, this one can be your perfect prized possession if you’re in line for some good brewing. Featuring the heavy-duty brass fittings and a cohesively designed with a copper tubing alongside. It has a deluxe counter flow and allows for durable and sustainable usage. It has an easy connection to the cold-water source via the brass fittings.

A good thing about this wort chiller is that besides the impressive performance skills, this one also allows you to adjust the angles and the position so that you can command the input and the output of the hoses for efficient transfer of cooling water. The tubing is known for a prominent and high functioning heat transfer for better cooling down of wort. 

Pros

Highly durable

This wort chiller comes with a heavy brass build, which is highly durable and allows for better functioning when compared to the likes of soldered copper-based designs. It also has high-temperature sustainability that makes sure you have better durability.

Efficient cooling 

With the 25 feet copper-based tubing, this wort chiller allows for an efficient means of transfer of heat. The tube itself is highly durable and can handle the water temperature well so you can pump in for better cooling of the wort.

Adjustable design 

Since the design aspect from NY Brew has made sure that the user can adjust the angle or even change the position of the hose, either of input or output or both, this makes sure that the user can change it accordingly to the need of the time. 

Performance

If you were to go for the performance factor, then this one is a revelation in the wort chillers. With a prominent temperature drop up to 70F in just one passing, this copper tube-based chiller does its job very well. 

Ease of Use

It’s quite easy to set this copper tubing and use it along for wort chilling. All you need to do is look at the instruction manual that comes along with the packaged box. You are all set to go without the need for any professional help.

Cons – Priced a bit on the expensive side.

Kegco FL-SCFC Counterflow Chiller

Kegco FL-SCFC Counterflow Chiller, 10-1/4&quot H x 6&quot W
  • COUNTERFLOW CHILLER: This Kegco's Stainless Steel...
  • STAINLESS STEEL CONSTRUCTION: This chiller is...
  • PROCESS PERFORMANCE: The counterflow chiller pumps hot...
  • DESIGNS: Kegco's counterflow chiller designed with a...
  • CHILLER DIMENSIONS: Chiller is approximately 10-1/4"...
Detail Page

Kegco is a known name in the chiller industry, and their product tend to find the front shelf more often than not. This one is a stainless steel build counterflow chiller from Kegco, which stands as a perfect option for rapidly chilling your wort. Build with an idea of easily facilitating the wort than those conventional standard immersion ones, Kegco has brought an innovative piece forth. It has durable stainless steel, which makes it easier to clean and free from any wear and tear.

It runs along in a process where the hot wort and cold water are pumped in the opposite direction to make an efficient system of cooling the wort. It also allows for quicker cooling. The chiller is designed in a tube form with hose clamps on end to connect the inside and the outside of the wort.

Pros

Efficient performance

With the design aspect calibrating the feature of rapid cooling in comparison to the conventional immersion chillers, this one is efficient to the core when it comes to performance. It doesn’t require any submerging, making it a perfect choice for any brew size.

Highly durable

Made with the use of stainless steel with a mold of 12-inch of 5/8” along with further addition of a 7/8”, Kegco’s stainless steel chiller makes for a highly durable count. It comes with better protection against wear and tear. 

Impressive Design

This counterflow chiller comes with an impressive design with a coil-based figure and features tubing and hose clamps to help connect the in and outfeed for wort so that it can cool it down. It has a male and female hose type of connection for the in and out of the cold water that chills the wort.

Quick and efficient process

This counterflow chiller comes along as the levy of a process that uses hot wort and cold water running simultaneously in the opposite direction to cool off the wort. It allows for the inner tube to be filled with hot wort while the outer tube runs the cold water via it for quick and efficient process mechanisms.

Cons – Some customers seek a larger dimension than this one.

NY Brew Supply W3850-CV Super Efficient Wort Chiller 

Homebrewers' Choice
NY Brew Supply Super Efficient 3/8 x 50' Copper Wort Chiller
$104.99

This immersion chiller has twice the copper compared to your standard 3/8" chiller and provides much better cooling for the more substantial size batches of wort.

Detail Page
12/09/2021 03:46 am GMT

Another entry for NY Brew in our list and frankly speaking their product lineage does make for an impressive shelf. They are one of the best when it comes to wort chillers around and they rightly deserve their place at the top lists. This NY Brew Supply wort chiller is one of the super-efficient pieces to have for and comes in a copper build. It has a 12-inch vinyl tubing that aids in input and output at the end of the tubes as required by the customer. 

This wort chiller has a high-quality brass build and has a brass base hose adapter. It comes with twice the standard 3/8 inch size of copper. It is one of the price-efficient and value for money pieces when it comes to wort chillers around.

Pros

Neat performance

With a super-efficient high-quality copper usage, this wort chiller comes across as a neat performer. With the option to integrate it as per the need of the user, this one allows you to garner a good efficient outing for cooling the wort.

Highly quality chiller

With the thickness of the copper being twice that of the standard 3/8 inch copper models, this one is definitely a high-quality piece to have for. It is further equipped with a high-quality brass based hose adapter that allows for efficient functioning. 

Room for improvisation

This wort chiller allows a user to take command of the cooling process and also lets then decide the way forth for the placement of the input and output points. It comes with a 12-inch of a vinyl tube, which you can cut as per your desired length for the input and output of hose. 

Efficient cooling

It provides an efficient form of cooling for your wort and helps to foster the way for a better fermentation of the wort, making sure you enjoy a perfectly brewed beer right at your home brewing.

Value for money

This wort chiller is available at an impressive price scale to go with and is a value for money if you’ve been looking for one.

Cons – The stems may seem a bit shorter than liking.

NY Brew Supply AZ-W1250-CG Copper wort chiller

NY Brew Supply copper wort chiller, 1/2" x 50'
  • 50' Copper Tubing
  • 24" Overall Height
  • 9 1/4" Coil Diameter
  • 13" Coil Height
  • High quality brass garden hose fittings included
Detail Page

Rounding up our list is again another entrant from NY Brew. And if you ever thought that NY Brew was just a mere company, then we believe this might have something that could change your mind. Honestly, it’s another major win for NY Brew when it comes to wort chiller and this one performs quite well.

This one shares a bit of similarity when it comes to the design and functioning aspect with the previous model that we listed above at fourth in our list. This one comes with a 50-inch copper tubing that allows for efficient cooling of wort. It has a high quality of brass hose fitted for the in and out of the water. 

Pros

Efficient performance – With a 50-inch rounding tube of copper, this wort chiller comes across as a fine performing piece. The process mechanism involving the tube and the hose allows for quicker and efficient performance of the wort chiller.

High capacity -It might seem like how can a rounding tube wort chiller improve the capacity. But if you were to look at it, this does make sense. A 50-inch rounding tube holds more space for wort and cold water to run simultaneously, improving the capacity quotient.

Highly quality – With a high-quality copper tube and a top-notch brass garden hose, this wort chiller boasts of high-quality fittings that are sure to last quite a run.

Cons – Few customers have cited the issue of leakage after a few instances of usage. 

Conclusion

Plate chillers are a prime aspect of making your home brewing aspect come to life. Those traditional means of cooling the wort are something of a yesteryear’s past, and plate chillers have replaced the traditional means quite a lot. Plate chillers also allow for better means of fermentation of yeast into the wort, and that part about fermentation is what makes a beer more taste-bud craving piece. 

We selected the best plate chillers after a long list of considerations and parameters so you can gain some valuable insights on them.

Go on, choose the best plate chiller, and enjoy the freshly homebrewed pint of beer. My method is in no way set in stone and with limited B10 brews under my belt, things could change.

Karl S: Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.