Sunday, April 5, 2009

Immersion Wort Chillers

Immersion Wort ChillerWhen home brewing the results are much more satisfactory if the beer wort is cooled down rapidly after the boil is completed. One of the options available for this cool down is a piece of homebrewing equipment called an immersion wort chiller.

BlueStem Winery sells an immersion wort chiller (pictured at left) and has them available both in our store and on our web site. For the home brewer who wants to spend the time, this piece of homebrew equipment can be fairly easily fabricated at home with a coil of copper rubbing, a couple pieces of plastic tubing, hose clamps and hose ends.

Rapid cool down of wort helps prevent the formation of compounds which alter the flavor or your beer and it also brings the wort into the yeast pitching temperature range quicker. The earlier yeast can be added to the wort the less chance there is of bacteria being able to get a foothold.

Immersion wort chillers consist of a coil of metal (usually copper) tubing with a short piece of flexible tubing attached to each end with hose connectors on the ends of this flexible tubing. The ends of the copper coil are bent upward so they both end at the upper end of the wort chiller. This allows the wort chiller to be lowered into the beer wort with the two hose ends out of the brewpot. One end of the wort chiller is connected to a cold water source and the other end is taken to a drain. Cold water is run through the copper coil and this process of heat transfer warms the water in the coil (and cools the beer) and this warm water is run to the drain. The constant replacement of the water in the coil with cold water rapidly chills the wort.

Choosing the correct metal coil for your wort chiller is important. Both copper and stainless steel tubing work well but copper is typically less expensive. Using 3/8th inch tubing seems to work the best. This tubing is available in different thicknesses and the lighter the tubing used the greater the efficiency (more surface are in relationship to the volume of wort displaced).

You will need approximately 25 feet of copper tubing plus two hose clamps and either a short piece of garden hose (20 feet or so) or flexible tubing that will slide over the copper tubing and garden hose ends with compression fittings.

The first step in the manufacturing process is the bend the metal tubing into a coil of a small enough diameter so that it will easily fit into your brew pot and still allow at least a couple inches of clearance between the coil and the side of your brew pot. Two points to remember here: First, remember that if your copper coil gets a kink in it it will not pass water through fast enough to chill your wort, and second, plan on leaving enough metal tubing at each end to create a bend that will allow your chiller to hang on the edge of your brew pot. This way the hose clamps will be outside your brew pot and in the event of leaks it will leak outside of your brew pot and avoid contamination of your wort.

Metal tubing is typically in a coil when purchased. You can bend this tubing into tighter coils by hand (be careful not to kink it!). It will probably be easier if you find a cylindrical object long enough hold the coil being made and simply wrap the tubing around the object in a tight coil with each coil next to the previous one. Leave approximately two feet of uncoiled metal tubing at one end.

Next, bend the short end of the metal tubing out from the coil at a right angle to the coil. Then bend the longer end (the two foot section mentioned in the prior paragraph) so that it goes up the side of the coil toward the top of the coil and at the same position where the short end of the the metal tubing was bent outward, do the same with the long end so that two end resemble hooks that can hang over the edge of the brew pot.

Cut your garden hose (or flexible tubing) in half or in the lengths that will best suit your purpose. Slide a hose clamp over both ends of the metal tubing. Slip the hose endings over the metal tubing and tighten the hose clamps.

Your chiller is complete! Run one end of the chiller hose to your water source and the other to a drain and you are ready to being chilling wort. Sanitation of your chiller? Not a problem! Simply lower the chiller into your brew pot about 15 minutes prior to the end of the boil and the heat present in the boil will sanitize your chiller.

In need of homebrewing supplies or winemaking ingredients? BlueStem Winery stocks a complete line of beer ingredients and supplies for wine making at home. We also have our own line of home brewing kits known as BlueStems Best (available in many, many beer brewing styles) and we also stock a large inventory of winemaking kits from both WinExpert and Cellar Craft. Wine making was never so much fun! Cellar Craft wine kits and WinExpert kits are both very, very easy to use and always, if you have a question, the people at BlueStem Winery can help you solve your problem.