HopHead Hardware is part of multiple affiliation programs and links help HopHead Hardware generate revenue. We appreciate you using our links if you decide to purchase anything mentioned on this website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Immersion Chillers

Immersion Chiller
An immersion chiller is the best purchase I have made for my home brewery.

Brew day is fun but it gets really boring really fast when you are waiting on your wort to chill. A quick chill also helps you make better beer. The home brew marketplace offers many options for chilling rigs and there are ways to chill with equipment you already have.

Research will provide various opinions on the best method for chilling your wort but most brewers agree that we want to get below 140 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible in order to stop the creation of DMS. DMS will give you a sulphur or egg taste in your beer. (That ain't what they mean when they say "Breakfast Stout").

Let's break down your options. I'll keep it short. There are 4 common ways to chill your wort:
  1. Ice Baths
  2. Immersion Chiller
  3. Counterflow Chiller
  4. Plate Chiller
1) Ice baths are the cheapest way to go. The concept is pretty straight forward. Get a tub full of ice water and sit your kettle in it. Stir the wort until you get down to pitching temperature. You don't want so much ice water that you kettle floats. You don't want to stir so hard that you are splashing hot wort. That will be painful. I have seen a 5-gallon batch chilled from boiling to 80 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. The guy stirring was also out of breath.

2) My personal preference is immersion chillers. Counterflow chillers and plate chillers will get you to pitching temps faster but the immersion chiller can get you worth chilled down below 140 the fastest. To use an immersion chiller you simply place the coil in you worth 10 minutes before flameout. At flameout you run hose water through the coil and, via heat exchange, the coil sucks the heat right out of your scalding hot creation. More on immersion chillers below...

4) Plate chillers are a more complicated style of counterflow chiller. Plates are machined with small channels that pump wort and water side by side. Plates are stacked to create a series of channels. Most commercial breweries use plate chillers. I don't find them very practical for a home brewer. They are expensive and clog easily. You home brewing option is not the same as the better, and bigger, option that your commercial counterpart has.

We use a 50' stainless steel immersion chiller at the No Ragrets Brewatorium. A 25' copper chiller would have been just fine for us but I found a deal on the stainless one. On a 5 gallon batch about half of the chiller sits in the wort when we use my half barrel keggle so only half of the tubing is working. Over the weekend we brewed a modified Witless in Indianapolis from Great Fermentations. The wort was chilled from boiling to 135 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 6 minutes and down to 85 degrees in just under 15 minutes. My ground water is pretty warm right now so I was impressed by those numbers.

Many brewers build their own immersion chillers. I am typically handy at that kind of stuff but I opted to purchase one. Copper can be tricky to work with and if you split it or kink it fixing it may not be easy. Great Fermentations has some nice immersion chillers at even nicer prices. See the 25' model HERE or the 50' model HERE. If you a want stainless steel you can find the 25' model at HomeBrewSupply.com HERE or HERE for the 50' model.