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The Grainfather: Conical Cooling Setup

2018 June 21
by Mad Alchemist

I acquired the Grainfather Conical fermentor along with the Basic Cooling Kit.

The Grainfather Conical Fermenter Basic Cooling Edition includes the Conical Fermenter Pro Edition and Cooling Pump Kit. This allows you to control the heating of your unit and cooling via the Cooling Pump Kit, dump yeast, take samples and transfer your wort via our innovative dual function valve design.

I have a bucket full of water with the pump in it. A nearby pot is home to a stainless steel immersion chiller. The cold water from the bucket gets pumped through the Conical, and the return (warm) water goes through the immersion chiller to reduce some of the heat on the way back into the cold water bucket.

There is a temperature probe in the bucket of water to keep the liquid cooled via the chest freezer. I decided to give it a test, bringing 5 gallons of 90 °F water down to 64 °F, attempting to keep the water in the bucket around 55 °F.

This proved to be a decent stress test of the system. It definitely worked, dropping the temperature by a few degrees Fahrenheit per hour. It was able to hold the temperature for the entire day with minimal fluctuation in a hot garage.

Ultimately, this is a lot like the “chilly bin” (“cooler” for most of us) method that many use. The standard method is to put ice or frozen bottles inside a cooler and pump water from there, exchanging the ice or cold packs when they melt. The two modifications here are to use a freezer instead of ice and a wort chiller to bring the return temperature down some.

My initial plan was to use a propylene glycol solution in the cold bucket so I could keep it even cooler, but I decided not to for the first test. I was also considering keeping the temperature low enough that the immersion chiller was actually in an ice bank while the glycol solution remained unfrozen. I spoke with the Grainfather folks and they advised using a ~5% glycol solution with the pump kit, which isn’t really adequate for this purpose.

My return tube from the immersion chiller currently rests at the bottom of the water bucket, as does the temperature probe. An improvement would be to separate these two because the freezer kicks on immediately when the pump does (because warm water flows right over that temperature probe).

I have a Belgian Pale Ale to brew on the Grainfather system this weekend. I was looking forward to trying out this cooling setup in a real world scenario with that brew, but the opportunity presented itself for me to get a decent used glycol chiller for a good price, so I’m going to be trying that out instead.

If the system’s performance with water is any indication, however, it would work quite well. The main drawbacks are that it takes up a lot of space and it’s pretty inefficient overall.

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