Brewing beer from scratch is an art form. It allows you to showcase your attention to detail and creativity, especially when it comes to your preferred method. Any good brewer knows that maintaining complete temperature control during the fermentation process is crucial to avoid ruining a perfectly good batch.
One of the most effective ways brewers maintain temperature levels is through efficient cooling methods. By using glycol as a refrigerant, these systems allow crafters to regulate temperatures while keeping their precious potions safe from contamination. To get the most out of these brewing setups, there are several things you need to keep in mind.
The Right Kind of Glycol
Not all refrigerants are the same, particularly when it comes to food production. Since glycol is essentially an antifreeze, it’s no surprise that it’s the primary refrigerant found in vehicles. This type of compound is called Ethylene Glycol, which is extremely toxic and should not be used in any form of food preparation.
When brewing your favorite craft beer, you’ll need to use USP grade PROPYLENE GLYCOL, which is the type commonly used in breweries worldwide. With the seal of approval from the United States Pharmacopeia, an institution dedicated to ensuring the quality of chemicals used in medicine, food preparation, and healthcare, you can be confident that it is of the highest quality.
Note where you source your supply from, as cheaper forms of propylene glycol may not be certified by the USP. These are not designed for the rigorous brewing process and could potentially damage your equipment. Additionally, if your system utilizes components that can rust, you will need to check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for rust inhibitors.
ACE Glycol tank for sale
When to Cool
While there are various methods used in homebrewing beer, some rely on cooling solutions with glycol additives. From cooling the wort to refrigerating your kegs, propylene glycol ensures that temperatures remain at desired levels.
Many professional brewers use two-stage wort chillers. One of the stages in the heat exchanger could be one of your glycol loops or a line from a cold liquor tank that is chilled via your glycol chiller.
During this step, yeast will begin to consume sugars and release heat as a result. This can lead to overheating during the process. USP grade glycol helps regulate the temperature, giving you better control over internal temperatures and fermentation as a whole, thus enhancing the quality of your beer.
Some brewing enthusiasts prefer cold-room cooling with glycol instead of direct refrigeration. While it does not offer clear advantages, it can be more cost-effective to install and allows you to utilize refrigerant that you already have in supply.
While cooling systems are not necessary for all aspects of the brewing process, it is beneficial to have devices that can handle these tasks in case of unforeseen circumstances. For instance, a heatwave could have drastic effects on fermentation, necessitating some form of cooling, even if it’s temporary.
Enough Is Enough
To save costs, make sure to use the proper mix of glycol and water when setting up your cooling system. Using too much glycol will result in a freezing point well below what is necessary, wasting refrigerant. Using too little glycol can cause the entire system to freeze, disrupting the fermentation process.
Keep in mind that the freezing point in your system will be around 10 to 15°F below your mixed glycol solution. So, if your chiller is set to 27°F, you can expect the freezing point to be around 7°F to 2°F. Also, remember that the more refrigerant you add, the lower the freezing point drops, following this pattern:
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 most effective, maintaining a steady freezing point and making it well-suited for cold environments. Also, check your manufacturer’s indicated burst point on your equipment. The burst point is the temperature at which the equipment is susceptible to pipe or gasket swelling, leading to failure and potentially contaminating the beer.