Wort Chilling 101

There are a lot of ways to cool your wort, but all methods have a common mission. Cool down that wort as quick as possible. It accomplishes 2 things. You keep the aroma in your finishing hops from getting boiled away, and you form a cold break, or a collection of protiens that you don’t want in your finished beer.

There are basically 3 methods available to homebrewers to cool down their wort. The simplest, and what most beginners do, is to put your boil kettle into something that will cool it down. The next natural step is an immersion chiller that goes into your boil kettle. The third method is a conterflow chiller, which moves your wort past cold water.

Ice Bath
A lot of beginning homebrewers coold thier wort by sticking the pot in a kitchen sink or bath full of ice. It will quickly become obvious that this is incredibly innefficient, but it is worth trying for your first few brews. If you’re going to do ice, fill the sink with water to fill in the voids between the ice cubes. It will work a little better. Another trick is to use a two stage method of cold water to bring the wort as low as possible, then drain and add a ice water mixture to do the rest.
Here’s a demo with a cool little trick to make the ice water even cooler.

Immersion Wort ChillerThe natural progression for a homebrewer is to buy an immersion wort chiller as one of their earlies equipment upgrades. A cleaned wort chiller goes in your boil kettle 15 minutes before the end of your boil to sanitize it. When your boil is done, you connect it to the hose, and cold water runs throught the chiller, which cools down your beer. It’s pretty simple, and it works reasonably well. It’s a must if you are doing 5 gallon boils.

Counterflow Wort ChillerThis type of chiller, which comes in various configurations, works by moving wort past cold water instead of sitting in it. It is definitely more efficienc, but also more costly. It is pretty much necessary to have a pump push the wort through the chiller, which is an added expense. Another drawback is the additional cleaning necessary. Because your wort moves through the chiller, it is important to keep it very clean.

There are 2 common types of counterflow chillers. A plate chiller is made up of plates with narrow passages that move water and wort past each other. The other type of wort chiller is actually 2 different tubes in one. The smaller inner tube carries wort and is surrounded by a larger tube, which carries water the opposite direction.

Here is a counter flow with a garden hose as the outer tube in action:

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