Nothing will ‘P-O’ a brewer faster than a chiller pump that won’t prime. If you’ve never experienced this excruciating bit of frustration, then you’re among an elite handful of brewers who either have a well tuned, working knowledge of manometric efficiency and fluid dynamics , or who have read and actually followed the instructions that came with the chiller. Failure is not a pretty site! Imagine having a kettle full of beautiful, scalding, imperial IPA wort with no place to go! Perhaps you don’t have to imagine at all! I’m not about to say that this has never happened to me because it has and I sincerely know what it feels like to want to melt down a pump motor, form it into a club, then beat the crap out of the manufacturer with it. Notice that I refer to the ‘pump manufacturer’ and not to the designer of the chiller-device (e.g. Chill-Wizard). I wish to make this distinction.
We tend to get the blame for these bad boys but that’s ok. Wouldn’t you think that in the day of private space craft, that someone would invent a self-priming magnetic drive pump? Well there are certainly other pump designs if you’re willing to fork out the big bucks for them. Magnetic drive pumps are fairly inexpensive and some are made to be temperature tolerant. If you can keep liquid in front of it, rather than air, it will do a fine job of moving it on with some decent pressure. This is where we get into trouble. Some brewers plug them in and expect them to work immediately. Period. We get calls from brewers that are so hot that they can’t imagine why we’d sell such trash. We try to explain that a few million of these pumps are in circulation and that the makers don’t seem to be hurting for business. This little tidbit just stirs the fire. Brewers then take them apart and often fail to put them back together correctly. Now the pump really does become trash until we can bench check the unit for them. Of course the missing gasket that we discover must have been that stupid manufacturer’s mistake, right?
Most often the problem is not the pump at all. It’s the user and it takes a bit of explaining how to get these puppies pumpin’. But that’s ok too, because this user just happens to be our customer. With beer in hand, together, we’ll be singing the ever popular ‘prime-pump’ blues!