Is the Therminator clean?

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Is the Therminator clean?

Postby jjbuck » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:14 pm

I brewed three batches of beer using my new "Therminator" from Blichmann. The first batch is as good as any I have ever made. The second two have an awful, off flavor and taste.
I ran PBW through the plate chiller using the pump for a good five minutes, back flushed for another five, drained over night and baked for an hour in a 450 oven.
After the two bad batches I put a kettle of PBW and water on the stove, immersed the Thermminator and boiled for an hour then let soak for another hour. I then proceeded to back flush with hot water. EGADS! Chunks of brown and black came out, and I mean chunks the size of peas. I am now resoaking in hot PBW (overnight) and will backflush and heat sterilize again tommorrow. I had heard these were difficult to clean but I never imagined. Word of Warning!
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Postby Matt F » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:11 am

Main reason I still use an immersion chiller with a whirlpool return and pump. I have found PBW works best with warm water and lots of contact time. Instead of pumping PBW through, I would fill with PBW and cap it off to let it stay in contact for a while to eat away at the bad stuff. Or just set it in a bucket of PBW. Would want to make sure no air was trapped inside though. Then do all the flushing and stuff.

I borrowed one of those once and it was really cool. Keeping it clean scares me though. I imagine you'll come up with a routine that works for you.
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Postby Steven P » Tue Mar 12, 2013 11:27 am

I'm looking at a plate chiller for my new setup as well. Probably not going to buy the Therminator, just a 30 plate chiller from Dudadiesel. I'm glad you posted this as I would not have thought to pay that much attention to the cleaning step.

It would suck hard to ruin beer right at the end like that. I'm sorry for your loss John!
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Is the Therminator clean?

Postby DrPaulsen » Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:09 pm

For what it's worth, I've never had an issue like this with the chillzilla tube-in-a-tube CFC.  It may not be as compact as a plate chiller, but it also lacks the plate chiller's flow dead zones that provide opportunities for particles to precipitate and build up.  The internal tube corkscrews a bit to improve flow turbulence and energy transfer, but the fluid flow never has to navigate a corner.  Look at the cross-sectioned picture in the following link of a plate heat exchanger.  There are plenty of right angles and hard corners where the boundaries would drive the fluid flow velocity to zero and provide opportunities for particle precipitation.   

http://www.apiheattransfer.com.cn/Products/HeatExchangers/PlateHeatExchanger/BrazedPHE.htm

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Postby mjmarsha » Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:14 pm

Is there really a difference in the end product depending upon the chill method used? I use an immersion chiller that I built and I can't see going away from that because it is really easy to clean and sterilize.
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Postby Matt F » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:21 pm

If your chiller is not clean it can infect the cooled wort and ruin a beer.
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Is the Therminator clean?

Postby DrPaulsen » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:57 pm

Aside from Matt's very good point (which extends to everything in the brewery), I don't think there's much of a difference in the final product.  I use a CFC as a heat exchanger in my HERMS setup, partially as a matter of convenience.  I previously used an immersion chiller, with equally good results.  Australian brewers have promoted "no chill" brewing, due to cooling water scarcity.  I've never had a no-chill beer, but folks like John Palmer have said they are great.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, Matt F wrote:
If your chiller is not clean it can infect the cooled wort and ruin a beer.



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Postby jjbuck » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:01 pm

The quicker the wort gets to pitching temp. the less chance of contamination by airborne wild yeasts and assorted bacteria. I'm sure I read somewhere that a good strong culture of the desired yeast will "over power" most airborne contaminants. The chill plate is advertised at 5 gal. of boiling to 65 in about five minutes using 2-3 gal of cold tap water ~55-58 per minute. I found to make that work you must restrict the flow of wort to about 1 gallon per minute. (I knew I use that high school algebra sometime besides at work). Also, the faster your yeast starts working the less chance of oxidation.
That being said, there is new joy in Brother John's Brewery. The second batch that I thought ruined has sat on the yeast for 3 weeks now. I cannot detect the nasty off odor I blamed on a dirty plate chiller. I re-read C. White's "Yeast" and apparently diacetyl doesn't smell nice and is chewed up by the yeast in the secondary. You just have to give it time. I'm hoping the same thing will happen with the bottled 1st batch. I'm counting on the champagne yeast I used to carbonate those bottles.
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Re: Is the Therminator clean?

Postby JimF » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:22 am

jjbuck wrote:I brewed three batches of beer using my new "Therminator" from Blichmann. The first batch is as good as any I have ever made. The second two have an awful, off flavor and taste.
I ran PBW through the plate chiller using the pump for a good five minutes, back flushed for another five, drained over night and baked for an hour in a 450 oven.
After the two bad batches I put a kettle of PBW and water on the stove, immersed the Thermminator and boiled for an hour then let soak for another hour. I then proceeded to back flush with hot water. EGADS! Chunks of brown and black came out, and I mean chunks the size of peas. I am now resoaking in hot PBW (overnight) and will backflush and heat sterilize again tommorrow. I had heard these were difficult to clean but I never imagined. Word of Warning!


I've been using a Therminator for close to two years now and your post caused me to relook my cleaning process. I always back-flush immediately after transferring the wort to the fermenter. Then I run PBW and warm water through my entire system, pump, pots, hoses & therminator, for 20 minutes or so. Then I repeat with Starsan.

So I took my therminator and soaked over night in pbw and back flushed. Then I boiled and soaked over night again. Did another back flush but never did see anything. It looks like my cleaning process is doing a satisfactory job of cleansing.
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Re: Is the Therminator clean?

Postby czubak » Fri Dec 26, 2014 8:52 pm

My last 3 small batch (~2gal BIAB) brews were done without a chiller. I sold it with my single tier and haven't replaced it. First two were pale ales and the last was an ESB that I'm bottling tomorrow. As of now they have all tasted great. None left so that a good sign . Brewed a 5 gallon all grain tonight and it's doing a no chill as well. I may regret this. It's a 1.060 Surly Bender from NB.

Debating to buy the copper to make an immersion chiller for my small batches and another for my 5-10 gallon batches or just buying a plate chiller and for once giving a sh!t what goes into the fermentor. that's the only thing that scares me about a plate chiller


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Re: Is the Therminator clean?

Postby brianhall1024 » Sat Dec 27, 2014 12:43 pm

I built my own, I would recommend not using compression fittings though for garden hose. I'm going to be soldering new garden hose fittings on sometime this winter
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Re: Is the Therminator clean?

Postby czubak » Sat Dec 27, 2014 1:52 pm

I had camlocks on my last one and will on this one also. Never liked the possibility of leaks that close to my wort and my garden hoses always leak.

Found a plate chiller for $85. Just scared of the gunk they could harbor and cleaning seems to be very arduous.


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