Keep Your Cool: The Best Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing Success

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Homebrewing is a fascinating and rewarding hobby, but it requires temperature control to obtain the best results, which is where glycol chillers come in. 

Glycol chillers are refrigeration units that use water and glycol to maintain consistent temperatures in your fermenter or keg. They are essential for homebrewers who want to produce high-quality beer without the risk of off-flavors caused by temperature fluctuations.

Read on to learn more about the best glycol chillers, their requirements, and how they work. 

The Five Best Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing

Here are the five best glycol chillers for homebrewing success:

1. Delta Brewing Systems Penguin Glycol Chiller

The Penguin Glycol Chiller from Delta Brewing Systems is a powerful and efficient glycol chilling system designed to keep your beer at the right temperature. It features a powerful compressor, a high-efficiency evaporator, and a stainless steel glycol reservoir for maximum cooling capacity. The Penguin Glycol Chiller also has an adjustable thermostat, allowing you to set the exact temperature you need for your beer.

2. BrewBuilt IceMaster Max 2 Glycol Chiller

The BrewBuilt IceMaster Max 2 Glycol Chiller is perfect for cooling your fermentation and serving tanks. It features two submersible pumps, a digital temperature controller, and a 4.5 gallon water tank capacity. The two pumps for cooling and for circulating the glycol allow you to adjust your glycol’s flow rate and temperature easily.

3. Ss BrewTech 3/8 hp Glycol Chiller

The Ss BrewTech Glycol Chiller is a top-of-the-line choice for serious homebrewers. It can chill up to 14 gallons of beer, and it has a wide temperature range. Setting it up and operating it is a breeze; customers have commented that it runs quietly and efficiently. This unit can cool six vessels, each with its own loop. 

4. Kegco HK38BSU-1

The Kegco HK38BSU-1 is a powerful chiller used for fermentation and serving. It utilizes a D system lever handle keg coupler and includes a five pound aluminum carbon dioxide tank. The unit is also designed with durable stainless steel construction, ensuring it will last for years. With its versatility and reliability, the Kegco HK38BSU-1 is an ideal choice for any homebrewer.

5. Blichmann Engineering Glycol Chiller

The Blichmann Engineering Glycol Chiller is a high-end option that is compatible with six pump kits. This unit features an eight gallon glycol reservoir and ⅜ HP compressor. Known for its quiet operation, the Blichmann Engineering Glycol Chiller offers state-of-the-art features in a small and easy to maintain system. 

What Is a Glycol Chiller for Homebrewing?

Glycol chillers utilize ethylene or propylene glycol to absorb heat from one area and transfer it to another. These chillers work in industrial and commercial applications, such as air conditioning, refrigeration, and process cooling. They are efficient and reliable for use in various environments.

Glycol chillers are also known for being low-maintenance, making them an attractive choice for many businesses. Additionally, they can operate at a wide range of temperatures, making them suitable for various applications.

Using a glycol chiller, homebrewers can ensure their beer ferments at the ideal temperature, which helps bring out the desired flavors and aromas.

Additionally, glycol chillers help reduce the risk of contamination from wild yeast and bacteria, which can ruin batches of beer. With a glycol chiller, homebrewers can be confident that their beer will usually turn out as intended.

It is vital to keep the temperature of the wort, or unfermented beer, consistent throughout the fermentation process, so the temperature should not fluctuate more than a few degrees during fermentation. Additionally, it is crucial to keep the temperature of the beer consistent during storage and serving.

If the temperature is too high, it can cause off-flavors or even spoilage. If the temperature is too low, it can slow down or even stop fermentation. Therefore, it is vital to remain alert to temperature when homebrewing to ensure a successful batch of beer.

What Components Make Up a Glycol System?

A glycol system typically consists of the following components:

  • Glycol: A type of antifreeze mixed with water creates a solution circulated through the system to prevent freezing and corrosion.
  • Chiller: A refrigeration unit that cools the glycol solution to the desired temperature.
  • Pump: A device that circulates the glycol solution through the system.
  • Heat Exchanger: A device that transfers heat between two fluids, such as the glycol solution and the beer.
  • Thermostat: A device that controls the temperature of the glycol solution.
  • Insulation: The material used to insulate pipes and other components to prevent heat loss.
  • Piping: The network of pipes that carries the glycol solution throughout the system.
  • Valves and Fittings: Devices used to control the flow of glycol solution and connect different components of the system

What Are the Benefits of Using a Glycol Chiller?

By using a glycol chiller, brewers can set the temperature exactly and maintain it throughout the fermentation process, which helps to ensure that the beer will turn out as intended with no unexpected flavors or aromas.

Glycol chillers are relatively easy to use and maintain, making them an excellent choice for brewers who want to ensure their beer turns out perfectly. They are also cost-effective and energy-efficient, providing brewers an affordable way to maintain consistent fermentation temperatures.

Glycol chillers give brewers a great deal of control over their fermentation process. They allow for precise temperature control and maintaining a consistent temperature throughout fermentation. This is especially important for certain beer styles that require specific temperature ranges for optimal fermentation.

Glycol chillers are ideal for serving beer, as they can run glycol lines through your kegerator or tap system, allowing you to maintain the perfect serving temperature for your beer without needing a separate refrigeration unit.

What To Consider When Choosing a Glycol Chiller for Homebrewing? 

When choosing a glycol chiller for homebrewing, there are several factors to think about.

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Cost and Budget 

Price is an important factor to consider when choosing a glycol chiller. Depending on the size and features, glycol chillers can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Selecting a chiller that fits your budget and meets your specific application’s needs is vital. 

Researching different models and manufacturers can help you find the best chiller for your needs and budget.

Glycol chillers are relatively inexpensive and can be found in various budget ranges. The cost will depend on the size and features you need. Smaller chillers may cost around $200, while larger ones can range up to $1,000 or more. 

Your budget will determine which type of chiller is best for you. You may also need to purchase additional equipment, such as pumps and hoses, to complete your setup. 

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Compatibility 

Compatibility is an essential factor to consider when purchasing a glycol chiller for homebrewing. It is vital to ensure that the glycol chiller is compatible with the brewing system and other equipment used in the process. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the glycol chiller is consistent with the type of beer you are brewing, as some chillers may not be able to handle certain kinds of beer. 

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Efficiency 

Glycol chillers are an efficient way to cool down water quickly and accurately. These chillers are energy efficient, using less electricity than other cooling methods. They also provide a more consistent temperature, allowing brewers to achieve precise fermentation temperatures.

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Size and Capacity 

You need to make sure that the chiller you choose is large enough to handle the volume of beer you plan to ferment or serve. Additionally, you should consider the type of beer you plan to store or serve, as certain chillers may be better suited for certain types of beer.

A glycol chiller’s size and capacity depend on the brewing system’s size and the amount of wort that needs to be cooled. Generally, a larger glycol chiller can cool more wort more efficiently. The capacity of a chiller can range from 0.5 gallons to 30 gallons. 

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Cooling Performance 

Glycol chillers provide superior cooling performance compared to traditional cooling methods, like ice baths or refrigerators. A chiller helps reduce the risk of contamination, eliminating the need to use ice or water that may contain bacteria. 

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Temperature Range 

The temperature range is an essential factor to consider when selecting a chiller. It is vital to ensure that your chiller can maintain the temperature range necessary for your specific beer style. Different beer styles require different temperatures to achieve the desired flavor and aroma. For example, lagers require cooler temperatures than ales.

Glycol chillers maintain temperatures between 25 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent freezing, but can produce temperatures between 20 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Installation and Setup 

It is crucial to research the noise level of any chiller you are considering and to ensure that it is appropriate for the space in which you store it. Additionally, testing out the chiller in person before purchasing is advisable to ensure that the noise level is acceptable.

Installing and setting up a glycol chiller system can seem daunting, but with the proper instructions and tools, you can do it relatively easily. Ensure you have the right size system for your needs, assemble it according to instructions, connect it to your brewing system, ensure connections are secured and insulated, and set up the temperature control system. 

Glycol Chillers for Homebrewing: Ease of Use

Ease of use and maintenance are key considerations when selecting a chiller. It is essential to find a straightforward chiller to install and operate, requiring minimal upkeep. Ensure that the chiller you choose has clear instructions for setup and operation and easy access to parts needing replacement.

Glycol chillers are easy to use once the setup is complete. Most systems have a digital controller that allows you to set the desired temperature and monitor the cooling process. Maintenance is relatively simple. You should clean your chiller regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other contaminants. Do this by flushing the system with a cleaning solution and rinsing it with water. 

Additionally, look for a chiller with a low maintenance requirement, such as one with a self-cleaning condenser or an automated cleaning system. Finally, ensure that your chiller has reliable customer service and technical support if you need assistance.

What Is the Difference Between the Grainfather, IceMaster, and Penguin Glycol Chillers?

The Grainfather, IceMaster, and Penguin glycol chillers are all designed to cool the liquid in a brewing system. However, there are some differences between them:

Grainfather Glycol Chiller

With only a small footprint, this chiller is made to deliver results similar to those of a brewery. The entire feature set is still supported despite its sleek and small design. 

The Conical Fermenter’s two stainless steel walls, where the hidden cooling sleeve is located, are where it attaches. The liquid will flow through the sleeve to cool the stainless steel and the beer in the fermenter after you set the desired temperature on the digital temperature controller. The cooling sleeve is completely hidden, never comes into contact with the beer, and doesn’t require cleaning or sanitizing.

IceMaster Glycol Chiller

Any brewing system that needs glycol cooling can use this chiller. It can cool up to 10 gallons of liquid to a maximum temperature of 28°F and has a cooling capacity of 1/5 HP. The system moves the glycol around using a pump and a digital temperature controller.

Penguin Glycol Chiller

Any brewing system requiring glycol cooling is compatible with this unit. It can cool up to 20 gallons of liquid to a maximum temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit and has a cooling capacity of 1/3 HP. The system moves the glycol around using a pump and a digital temperature controller.

Overall, the cooling ability and volume of liquid that these chillers can cool are what differentiate them from one another.

Specifically made for use with the Grainfather brewing system is the Grainfather chiller. The IceMaster and Penguin chillers, on the other hand, are more adaptable and can be used with any brewing system that needs glycol cooling.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Still wondering about the little details? Here are some common questions homebrewers have about glycol chillers. Read on to expand your knowledge and learn more about glycol chillers. 

What Temperature Range Do Glycol Chillers Operate In?

The freezing point of your system should be around 10–15 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the mixed glycol solution. Additionally, the more refrigerant you add, the lower the freezing point will be: 0% glycol = 32°F freezing point; 10% glycol = 26°F freezing point; 20% glycol = 18°F freezing point; 30% glycol = 7°F freezing point; 40% glycol = -8°F freezing point; 50% glycol = -29°F freezing point. 

Typically, a 35% glycol mix is the most effective, as it keeps the freezing point steady and is suitable for cold environments.

Glycol chillers typically operate in a temperature range of 20°F to 70°F (-6.7°C to 21.1°C). However, the specific temperature range may vary depending on the application and the type of glycol chiller used. The brand you choose to purchase may have different settings than the average temperatures listed here. 

How Do Glycol Chillers Work With Fermentation Tanks?

Glycol chillers work with fermentation tanks by circulating a chilled glycol solution through a closed-loop system of pipes connected to the tank’s cooling jacket. The cooling jacket is a series of channels or coils wrapped around the tank’s outside and filled with the glycol solution. 

As the glycol circulates through the cooling jacket, it absorbs heat from the fermentation process and carries it away, cooling the tank’s contents.

The glycol chiller comprises a compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator. The compressor compresses refrigerant gas, which the condenser condenses into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant passes through an expansion valve, reducing pressure and temperature. 

This cold refrigerant then flows through the evaporator, which absorbs heat from the glycol solution before returning to the compressor to start the cycle.

How Often Should I Check the Glycol Reservoir Temperature?

You should check the glycol reservoir temperature regularly, at least once a day, or per the manufacturer’s instructions. This process will help ensure the glycol is at the correct temperature for optimal performance and prevent potential issues.

What Is the Maximum Temperature a Glycol Chiller Can Reach?

The highest temperature available on a glycol chiller currently stands at 122 degrees Fahrenheit.