Do you ever wonder how beer stays cold when there isn’t a cooler around? Or how it maintains temperature after traveling hundreds of feet? Yep, it's kept cold by a glycol chiller.
This amazing little piece of equipment handles the job of keeping beer cold after it leaves a cooler until it's poured from a draft beer tower.
After this article, you will understand all you need to know about beer glycol chillers and how they work.
What Does a Glycol Chiller Do?
A glycol chiller handles keeping beer, inside a beer trunk line cold as beer leaves a walk-in cooler.Beer trunk lines can vary depending on different dispense variables and the length of the beer run.
Wherever the beer needs to go...it needs to be cold. So beer doesn’t foam when it’s dispensed and the owner of the beer system can maximize their keg yield.
How Does a Beer Glycol Chiller Work?
Glycol chillers work by cooling a glycol bath of glycol, which is antifreeze. Then taking that cooled glycol and pumping it through the beer trunkline, and beer tower before returning back to the glycol chiller.
There are different types of glycol chillers, but most used for draft beer applications are ⅙ hp up to 1.5 hp.
The reservoir on the glycol units can vary from 5 gals up to 15 gals. The larger the compressor on the chiller, the longer beer run it can cool.
For example, beer runs can be a few feet to over 500 feet. The glycol chiller is able to cool these beer runs with a larger compressor and larger glycol bath, or reservoir.
There’s a thermostat that sits inside of the glycol bath which monitors temperature. I usually set most of the chillers to around 28-30 degrees F. Chillers are usually set at 28 F coming from the manufacturer.
They have a digital thermostat on the front, which makes it easy to view and change from the control panel.
Once, the glycol chillers are running and pumping glycol through the draft beer system. They keep running 24/7. Until parts or glycol need servicing or replaced.
What Type of Glycol is Used for Chillers?
Glycol that is used for beer chillers is propylene glycol.
What is Propylene Glycol?
It’s a food-grade antifreeze, non-toxic glycol that's used in the food and beer industry. It’s kind of slimy to the touch and is also a lubricant for the pump on the chiller. One gallon of propylene glycol will mix with 2.5 gallons of water. This achieves the optimal mix.
Once filled with glycol that chiller can turn on. When turned on you’ll notice the glycol viewing glass level drops. It does this because the glycol is being sent out to the beer tower.
Once the glycol returns, top off the chiller until the glycol submerges the copper coils inside the reservoir. Finally, make sure to plug the reservoir hole.
You don’t want to leave the glycol bath open because the water can evaporate from the mix making it harder for the glycol to pump.
Glycol Beer Chiller and Draft Beer Application
Chillers are used in a remote dispensing scenario. All this means is that when beer needs to get to beer towers farther away than where their beer cooler chillers needed. anything outside of a beer cooler needs to be cold via a beer chiller. Remember the purpose of the chiller is to keep beer cold until it's dispensed at 38 degrees F.
Different Types of Glycol Chillers
There are few different types, but I am going to talk about draft beer glycol chillers / Power packs. So let’s get this thing going...
Air Cooled Chillers
The most popular of the chillers. These use a fan to cool off the condenser and rest in well-ventilated areas on racks next to a walk-in cooler.
Water Cooled Chillers
Pretty much the same thing as above with the exception that the unit uses running water. These units are best for tight spaces, heavy humidity areas and tend to last a little longer than the air-cooled chillers.
Different Sized Chillers
Glycol Chillers can range from 1/6th hp up to 1.5 hp for draft beer systems. The larger the compressor size, the longer a beer run can be cold.
Typically, a ½ hp chiller can run a 200’ beer run. ¾ Hp can run 350’ beer trunk line and 1 hp usually around 500’ beer trunk line.
Most of the larger chillers like the ¾ hp, 1 hp and 1.5 hp have larger reservoirs which help keep the glycol cold for longer beer runs.
Many Pump and Motor Chillers
Some chillers will come with a single pump and motor on the glycol unit. Usually it’s a ⅓ hp motor that drives a pump right next to it. This pump drives glycol from the reservoir into the trunkline and back to the reservoir nonstop.
Yet, sometimes there are many beer stations and multiple beer runs that need to be cooled. Thus, we need multiple pumps and motors on jobs.
A single pump can cool a 8+2 trunkline. What this means is 8 products for beer and 2 lines for glycol. Glycol supply and return line.
Now, if the trunk line was a 10+4 trunkline and 200’ long. The chiller would need two pumps and motors. Each pump and motor would run 1 supply line and 1 return Glycol line.
Another scenario for many pumps and motors would be 3 bar stations that have 6+2 trunk line. Each pump and motor would feed each trunking going to its designated bar station.
Sometimes if the trunkline is short enough and the size of the compressor is large enough on the glycol unit. You would be able to loop the bundles together, but most of the time we will choose each run to its own pump and motor.
Different Brand Glycol Chillers
In my experience, I’ve used glycol chillers from a few different manufacturers. Such as Banner, Perlick, UBC and Micro Matic. I’ve worked more with Micro Matic, UBC and Perlick. If you were to ask me which brand would I go with it would say Micro Matic.
Over the years installing glycol chillers...I can only recall 2 times I’ve had issues with Micro Matic chillers and the problems was resolved.
Glycol Beer Chiller Maintenance
Change glycol yearly for optimal performance. You are also going to want to monitor every month and check the levels. The biggest thing is making sure glycol is covering the coils inside the reservoir.
Check and clean the condenser fins every two months. These usually build up with dust particles and you want to make sure the airflow to the unit is unobstructed.
Lastly, listen to the unit...is it humming around the day you got it great. If there are some abnormal noises coming from the unit, it’s best to get it serviced.
These are the main things to look at and understand when it comes to glycol chillers inside a beer system. It’s one of the most important parts of a beer system.
If you would like more information about the entirety of draft beer dispensing. Check out this ultimate guide to draft beer system fundamentals.
And if you have any further questions feel free to reach out here.