By: Merlin U. Ward
As home brewers we’re always looking for ways to make brewing more efficient. Better gravity efficiencies, faster brew day, and more effective temperature control. Ultimately, we also want these solutions to be as cheap as possible. One of the best upgrades I made to my brew house was building an effective chiller. Chilling feels like the longest wait in the brew day. You’re almost done with the brew but you have to wait for the heat to go away! With conventional, small brew house methods, you give the kettle an ice bath, create a whirlpool in the pot for better convection cooling and maybe, use sealed 2-liter bottles of ice or an immersion chiller. However, all these methods still take more than 20 minutes to cool down the wort, if not longer! Chilling doesn’t have to take that long, and it can be remedied for under $60. I recently built a counter-flow chiller with a few materials ordered from Amazon, Home Depot, and a plumbing supply store. And now, chilling takes only as long as draining my kettle. Just by draining my kettle directly into my fermenter, through my counter-flow chiller, I can get my wort from boiling… down to as low as 65º F.
Below is a list of materials and quick instructions for building the counter-flow chiller. Materials:
- 1x 25’ – 5/8” Rubber hose – $18.97 (sale)
- 1x 3/8” OD 15’ copper coil – $19.68
- 1x Solder Kit (ask a neighbor for spare solder and flux, or buy the kit +$14.98) – $0
- 11” zip ties (20 pack) (optional – I had extras laying around) – $7.84
- 4x 3/8”-7/8” hose clamps $4.92
- 1x 3” of 1/2” copper tube (cut into 6 1” pieces) – $6.57
- 2x 1/2” copper Tee – $2.62
- 2x 1/2″ to 3/8” ID copper coupling* – $2.50
It’s very important that you get the 1/2″ to 3/8” ID coupling – available at plumbing specialty stores, but NOT Home Depot or Lowes. ID stands for inner diameter. Your copper tubing will pass through the coupling and the 1/2” copper Tee. If you get the wrong type of coupling, you won’t be able to pass the tubing through. The Build:
- Straighten out your copper tubing on the floor
- Roll our the hose next to the copper tube
- Cut off 5’6” from each end of the hose so that the copper is 6” longer on each side, keeping the metal ends intact.
- Put a dab of dish soap on the inside of one end of the hose, and around one end of the copper tubing.
- Slide the copper tubing into the hose so that each end has 6” of tubing sticking out.
- Use a corny keg, CO2 tank, or similar object to wrap the hose and tubing around to make a coil, and set aside. (Use optional zip ties to secure clusters of the coil together for structural stability)
- Solder the 6 1” pieces of 1/2″ tubing into the copper Tee ends (tips for soldering – you’re welcome)
- Once cooled, solder the coupling to one of the straight ends of the Tee (not the perpendicular end)
- Slide the hose clamps over the hose.
- Slide the cooled, soldered Tees onto the end of the pipe
- Secure the hose around 1/2″ copper pipe from the Tee and lock in with the hose clamp (be sure that you have the T in the position that you want – typically the perpendicular end pointing up)
- Solder the coupling to the 3/8” ID copper tubing that is sticking out
- User the spare cut off rubber hose with ends attached to the perpendicular Tee end with hose clamps.
Step 13 is crucial. The countrerflow chiller only works (or at least works best) using COUNTER-flowing liquids. This means that the hose water is running the opposite direction around the copper tubing as the flow of the wort. This draws off heat more effectively than running the water and wort a parallel direction. Depending on where you operate the chiller will determine which hose end you attach to the perpendicular Tee ends. If you’re operating the counter flow outside, use the male end at the bottom of the chiller to easily attach your garden hose to it. If you’re using the chiller at the sink, use the female end at the bottom of the chiller to attach your sink adapter (sink adapter may be additional cost). You’re all set! Check for leaks to make sure your soldering around the tubing is solid. This chiller will expedite the end of your brew day by cutting your time in half. You can drain your kettle right to your fermenter and pitch yeast right away!