Make Your Own Wort Chiller

       
Let me cut to the chase—this was the EASIEST and QUICKEST "do-it-yourself project" I have EVER attempted.  If interested, read on...

I've only brewed two batches of beer.  In that short time, I've experienced the most agonizing part of the brewing process—waiting for the wort to chill. 

After the wort (unfermented beer) completes the boil, it must cool to ~75 degrees before pitching (adding) the yeast.  If you pitch when the wort > 80 degrees, you risk killing the little yeasties that magically transform the lowly wort into regal beer.

When I made my first batch, it took 8 hours to cool to pitching temperature.  I used an ice batch for my second batch, and it took 3 hours.  Most homebrewing books recommend you cool the wort as quickly as possible—less than 30 minutes is ideal.  If it takes longer, you risk infecting the wort with wayward bacteria and wild yeasts.  This can result in bad flavors.  Another benefit of quick chilling is that it can produce a less hazy beer.

So I decided to take my beer making to the next level by using an immersion wort chiller, which is essentially a long coiled copper tube.  Cold water flows through it and cools the wort. 

My local homebrew shops sell these for about $65.  The problem is I'm too cheap to pay $65 for a copper tube. So I searched the web and found some "make your own wort chiller" articles.  I looked at several and decided to make a simple version.  Here's how I did it:


Step 1:  Get the materials
I went to Home Depot and bought:
  • 20' of copper coil.  3/8"  = $24.75
  • 10' feet of vinyl tubing    = $  4.15
  • Garden hose adapter      = $  7.43
  • 3 hose clamps                 = $  2.55
  • Total                              = $38.88
I wanted to use 25" of copper, but they didn't have it.  You could save a few bucks and use a 1/4" copper coil, but you'd reduce your surface area and increase cooling time.  So don't bother.



Step 2:  Find a Cylindrical Object 

The cylinder will provide the shape for your chiller, as you will wrap the copper coil around it.  Use a corny keg if you have one.  I don't, so I looked around my garage and found a plant pot.  Make sure it fits within your brewpot and has at least 2" of clearance between the cylinder and your brewpot.



Step 3:  Form the Shape 

  1. Position your inlet and outlet to extend beyond the rim of your brewpot.  In the event you have any leaks, this will prevent any water from getting into your clean wort.
  2. Use a pipe bending spring tool ($9 for a set of 4 sizes) to help you form the shape.  This will prevent you from making kinks in the pipe.  Copper is expensive—you don't want kinks.  This was the first time I used this tool, and it was very easy to use.  You can see the silver colored spring in the pictures below.  
  3. Slowly coil the pipe around the cylinder.  Leave enough pipe to form the outlet, and bend it over the top of the brewpot. 





Step 4:  Attach the Inlet & Outlet Hoses 
  1. Cut the vinyl tubing and attach with the hose clamps.
  2. Attach the garden hose (or sink) adapter and tie with a hose clamp.



Step 5:  Attach to Water Source and Test

I had some leakage from my outlet valve.  I tightened the hose clamp and the leak stopped.  I was surprised at how cold the chiller got after just 30 seconds of water flow!



It only took me 45 minutes to build the chiller.  It actually took more time to search for all of the parts in Home Depot, than it took to make it.

The real test occurred the next day when I brewed a batch of beer.  My homemade wort chiller cooled 3 gallons of wort to 75 degrees (from 180 degrees) in 23 minutesbreaking the 30 minute threshold!

So if you're not using a wort chiller, I highly recommend you make your own.  It's a easy project and you'll save some cash.  It significantly shortened my brewing session and should improve the quality of my beer.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  Happy wort chilling!


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17 comments:

kb said...

Thanks for the great instructions. Just as easy as you said, maybe easier. I used 1/2 in. tubing and though it was a little harder to bend, in the end, it worked like a charm.

Sanjay said...

Thanks for the note KB. So glad it worked out for you! This is the most read post on my blog but no one ever told me if they made one. Glad to know it was helpful! Good luck with your brewing!

Nitheesh said...

Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

Chillers

Sanjay said...

Thanks for reading Nitheesh. I really appreciate the nice feedback!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the instructions and visuals. I made one today and it turned out great. cheers, ™

Anonymous said...

1/4 will work just as well but anything over 3/8 you start wasting a lot of water (only what touches the pipe pulls heat)
Great guide though, saves tons over buying one and you get to feel good you made it yourself.

Anonymous said...

I live in phoenix and living in the desert the thought of 25 minutes good water to cool wort is wasted water. Also the tap water in the summer is close to 90+ degrees. Also As a frugal beginner with limited supplies and budget, rapid wort cooling is somewhat of a challenge to me. So I came up with a way to recirculate the water through the immersion chiller over ice. At the most I will use about a gallon of cold water from the fridge and a block of ice. I will use a evap cooler pump($14), immersion chiller as described above($40) and an old cooler($0). I will put the block of ice in the cooler on its side and put enough cold water to prime the pump and let the water coming out of the chiller fall on the block of ice. I Have not put it together yet but i will try it on today's batch of NWB chocolate milk stout. The only issue I foresee is how long will that block of ice last, might get 2...

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Phoenix guy here... Tried out my re-circulating immersion chiller last night and it worked great! 210 to 80 in less than 20 minutes using only 1/2 gal of water and a block of ice. The ice block melted down to noting towards the end, might try freezing some one gal milk jugs of water, will poke some holes in the lower part of the jug and run the warm outlet of the chiller into the top of the jug. Will save a trip to Circle K and $2.29. When I added the rest of the water to the wort it came down to 72F. The yeast was pitched within 25 minutes. This set up is perfect for the 5 gal extract batches. I'm not sure how it will work on a larger all grain batch but it will do the job for now and in the summer when its 120 out.

I had time to look more at your blog and like what I see and going to sign up to be a member.

John

Sanjay said...

Thanks for sharing John (and for reading). Making beer takes a lot of water. That has been my biggest pet peeve about brewing. Normally, using my immersion chiller in the summer hasn't been too wasteful because I water my plants with the outflow from the chiller. In the winter, I've collected it in buckets and used it to clean my equipment after my brewing session. Still it seems I waste some water. I love your idea and would like to try it. Can I get one of those pumps at Home Depot? Do you mind giving me the name or model number? Does that provide enough pressure to push the water back through the chiller? Thanks!

John said...

DIAL MaxCool 5000 Evaporative Cooler Pump
Model # 1050 Store SKU # 439983

Had plenty of pressure, I had the cooler of ice/water on the kitchen floor and the kettle on the counter top. I might modify the the pump and lengthen the motor shaft to keep away from the moisture. I put a zippered plastic bag over it to keep out any splashing water. It was the cheapest pump they had so if it lasts long enough to get me into an all grain set up I'm happy. My biggest waste of water is the 5+ gallons of Star San I mix up and since I tend to brew about every 3-4 weeks I play it safe and make a fresh batch of sanitizer each time. I'm not sure how to get around this except brewing more frequently so I waste less water... hummmmmm

Hope it help helps.

Anonymous said...

if you live in an area where you have to save water use a fish pond pump to recirculate water. fill your sink with 2 bags of ice and fill it with water. run the pond pump out of the sink. you could probably use the same water to sanitize if you pumped it into a bucket or used that basin to sanitize.

Anonymous said...

I save the water into buckets and then use it to start a load of laundry in the washing machine. That's another way to reuse the water

Matilda Wagstaff said...

I’ve tried creating my own chiller when I was in high school. Now I am trying to make a dehumidifier for another school project.

Adam Russell said...

I would love to build one of these, however I do not have a reliable garden hose (the water pressure at my house is very temperamental and it seems our landlord is unlikely to fix it) therefore I am looking at attaching it to the kitchen faucet. It doesn't seem like anything will screw onto it like some pictures of other peoples set ups I have seen. Has anyone else had this issue/have any ideas of how I could go about securely attaching it?

Sanjay R. said...

Adam, I originally rigged mine to attach to my kitchen faucet. In the end, the garden hose was more convenient. You should be able to find an adapter at a hardware store that will connect the faucet to the chiller. Good luck!

waldrondl said...

1/4 tubing is more efficient in terms of water usage, but it takes forever to cool. I made a chiller a little while ago using multiple 1/4 tubes in parallel to strike a balance between chill time and water usage. See my post about it here:
http://lifefermented.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/diy-immersion-chiller-the-hydra/

Anonymous said...

If you ran the wort through the heat exchanger you can use ice packs in a cold water bath, and cut down the amount of water used . May need two or three passess through the coil and some reengineering

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