Homebrew:wort-chilling question

I’ve brewed two beer kits recently and they’ve turned out pretty good. So I’m about to do an extract and hop it mesel. I’ve been advised by the brew-shop guy to get a wort-chiller, and I have a few questions (The brew man has given me great advice previously, refused to sell me stuff when I wanted to dive in feet first on my first brew - so its not like he’s foisting a chiller on me).

How indispensable is the chiller? I can see the role it plays, but is it really that important?

Is it a real economy to make one yourself? Or is it better in the long run just to buy a decent one? I’ve spent some money getting the hobby going, so I’m definitely looking to save cash where I can.

From what I gather, one chills the wort in the brew pot. Would it make a difference to chill it in the fermentation bucket, after the wort has been added? My brew pot is a little on the small side, it seems easier for me to chill the whole show in the bucket, prior to yeast pitching.

I’ll throw in another brew question while I’m here. I did a summer ale that I thought was OK, but a little over-carbonated maybe. It wasn’t excessively fizzy, but it had some of that taste of carbonation you get with drinking carbonated water. Do brewers know the taste I’m referring to? I wonder if I used too much priming sugar at bottling time.

Chilling in a small brew pot is fine (I think my largest was no more than 3 gallons until recently), in fact I’d think it’d be easier than chilling it in the bucket since that sounds more awkward. My pre-chiller method was filling the sink with ice and cold water, resting the pot inside it, and stirring the wort almost constantly to distribute the heat properly. It took a long time if you didn’t have a lot of ice, maybe 15 minutes or longer.

Oh, I found an article on methods of chilling wort online via Brew Your Own magazine. They’ve had articles on how to make your own chillers but those appear to only be available via back issues.

You can get small chillers (I have the one at the top of this page ) that aren’t very cumbersome. Just add a clean chiller to the pot about 15 minutes before the end of the boil, and then when it’s ready, hook up the chiller and turn on the cold water. The wort will be cool enough within a couple minutes.

I think this is one of those things that you don’t really appreciate until you’ve done it the harder way and then tried that way, sort of like the ease of an Auto-Siphon ( 3rd item down ) over manually starting the siphon.

Can’t really help you with the last question, sorry.

My local brew store has immersion chillers for about $60, and my home made one set me back about $20. Copper is expensive these days, so it may cost more. Go see how much a 25’ coil or so of copper tubing costs at the Home Depot.

I chill in my brew pot, because I ferment in a carboy. I connect to the cold water line with a needle valve in the laundry sink. I used a sanitized spatula to stir the mix, and it gets pretty cool in a matter of minutes.

It means I can pitch the yeast as soon as I bring the carboy back to the basement, since it’s already at a good temperature for such.

I built my own immersion chiller out of copper tubing and fittings as well, and spent about half what the shop charged. The only tricky bit is bending the tubing to shape without getting a kink or pinch in it that reduces flow.

You want to chill in the brewpot and not the fermenter because getting oxygen into hot wort is a bad thing. I don’t remember the exact chemistry of it, but it leads to off flavors. So you want the wort to be as still as possible from the end of boil until it’s down to pitching temperature.

Also, before putting any effort into an immersion chiller, check your cold water temp. I know people in hot climates who have cold water temps in the high 60s, so they have to finish off their chilling with icewater, which adds complexity.

Rapidly cooling the wort is highly desirable, but it is not at the top of the list of importance.

As said above, if you are fermenting in a bucket, there is no problem with cooling in there, it may even go faster since you don’t have the heat of the pot to contend with.

What method do you currently use to cool your wort?

As to your last question, the taste you are describing is carbonic acid, a mild acid caused by the interaction of CO2 and water. You say it wasn’t “excessively fizzy”, so it makes it hard to pin down what the problem was.

Wort chillers can be handy little devices, but they are far from essential. Their primary reasons for existing can be accomplished in other ways.

The best reasons for chilling your wort in your brewkettle is that 1) all the protiens that chilling drops out can be left there, instead of in the fermenter, and 2) the easiest way to sterilize a chiller is to place it into your boiling wort about 5 minutes before you chill.

If you want to brew without one, then you can do a partial boil, say 3 gallons, then add cold water to make up the rest of the liquid. This will crash your temperature down rather quickly. Or you can do what I always do, and brew over two days. When the boil is finished, I place a fairly tight-fitting lid on the brewpot and let it rest overnight. Then I pour the wort into the fermenter, leaving all the proteins and hops behind, and pitch the yeast in the morning.

In the end, it’s up to you. Chill or not…with good sanitation, your beer will be fine either way.

Ahh, “Hot Side Aeration” rears it’s controversial head! In order to head off a possible 10 page argument I will just say that the dangers of HSA are debatable.

This is true. My brain was thinking scientifically and it ignored the practicality of this advice.

It isn’t indispensible.
It is easy and economical to make yourself.
Be sure to put spacers between the coils both for efficient heat transfer and ease of cleaning.
One of the best things about immersion chillers is the ability to sterilise the surfaces towards the end of the boil,and being able to see crud,as opposed to counterflow types.
And the advantage of any chiller is getting the wort to pitching temp. quickly.

There are some downsides,but not knowing your rig,cannot comment on validity.

I usually just fill my tub with a few inches of water and add a couple bags of ice. Stir aggressively and it will cool very quickly–especially during the winter when the water lines are already pretty dang cold.

Ok. I’m going strictly by Papazian TNCJOH, and will happily bow to your knowledge.

As everyone else has said, it’s a nice thing to have, but not required.

I ended up with a 35’ piece of scrap tubing from my brother in law, and with a few fittings, it fits nicely on my garden hose. I started with ice baths to chill my partial boils, but I usually forgot to go out and get ice (10# or more) before I started brewing, so the chiller is much more convienent.

I go from boiling (3gal or so) to 80F in about 10 minutes… probably a little less.

I’ll also add that cleaning them is a real pain, and they tend to clog easily when you use any significant amount of hops.

Thanks fellow brewers. I’ve just been cooling the wort in a sink with ice water and stirring. I must say that silenus’ boil and cool overnight approach would really suit me - that sounds very simple and effective.

Talk of basements, laundry sinks, garden hose is making me pine for space of my own. I’m brewing in a one bedroom flat in the city right now and it’s a little cramped.

Does he mention that in there? I seem to only remember that oxygen in the wort is bad after you pitch the yeast and it’s started fermenting. Otherwise, you want oxygen in the wort before that to help the yeast along, no?

Anyhow, I don’t bother with a wort chiller, but I pretty much only do extracts and partial mashes. I’ve done a couple of full mashes, and a wort certainly would have made life a lot easier there.

Surely you mean a counterflow chiller, right? An immersion chiller only ever has fresh tap water flowing through it.

I think so, but I could be wrong. Pretty much all of my brewing knowledge came from there, and I’ve heard of hot side aeration, but I guess I could have picked it up elsewhere.

The theory, which the esteemed August West says is controversial, is that oxygenating hot wort leads to off flavors. So you want to cool, then aerate, then pitch, then never aerate again. Since you have to cool before pitching anyway, avoiding aeration seemed like an easy thing to do.

The key things with this approach are a well-fitting lid and a metric buttload of active yeast to pitch. Get a good starter going before you brew, and pitch a goodly amount. You want to overwhelm any odd beastie that got through the seal over night. This has never been a problem for me, but better safe than sorry.

Although I have no reason to doubt the fine quality of silenus’ beer, his approach would be my least desirable method. The dimethyl sulfide formed by wort near boiling temperatures would be trapped in the vessel and could influence the flavor of the final product. I should note that this issue is also hotly debated (no pun intended) in some homebrewing circles.

The HSA controversy deals with the idea that oxidative flavor compounds are formed by oxygen reacting with chemicals in hot wort, and that these flavor compounds are permanent, i.e, not reduced by oxygen uptake by yeast at the beginning of fermentation. Some people swear that the effects are real and noticeable, others have failed to notice a difference in the final product.

In merely my own experience, I have noted flavor issues in beers cooled by silenus’ method and have not found noticeable flaws in beers that have had small amounts of oxygen introduced on the hot side.

I think they’re more than worth the money. Cutting down my brew time by 60-90 minutes every time I brew was well worth the 40-60 bucks I spent on my immersion chiller. I’m not a handy type of person, so I would never shell out the money to to buy materials to try to make my own, because I would surely kink the tube and ruin it, and then be pissed off. :wink:

As far as brewing technique concerning HSA and leaving the pot on overnight to chill(man, I never even thought of doing this before!), the only way to find out is to try. The more I brew, and especially now that I’m making wine, the more I learn that there ARE NO RULES! Definitely do your research and use logic, but don’t be afraid to try different ways of doing things because that’s half the fun. Not only that, but I’ve found that it’s actually pretty hard to mess things up to the point where the beer/wine is any less good than something you could buy in the store.
Edit: Used HTML instead of vB :smack: