Brewing beer takes practice, patience and a lot of time. After brewing the malt and hops, you're left with a solution called "wort," which has to be chilled quickly to avoid bacterial contamination. Chilling wort quickly and safely is key in making a beer that tastes good. Immersion chillers are the cheapest, easiest route to take when making a homemade wort chiller. Because immersion chillers can be put into the wort during the boil, they are easy to sterilise and clean. The basic method of making a home brew wort chiller covers chillers designed for 5-gallon batches of beer.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 50 feet of 3/8-inch copper tubing
- 6-10 feet of vinyl hose
- 3 hose clamps
- Male garden hose adaptor
- Scissors or box cutter
- Tube bender (optional)
- Faucet adaptor (optional)
- 2-pound coffee can (optional)
- 5 gallon keg (optional)
- Thermometer (optional)
Create a 90-degree bend at 3 inches on one end of the tubing, taking care not to crease or kink the copper. Use a tube bender for an easier, rounder bend. This piece will serve as a drip guard for the intake side of the tubing.
Wrap the copper tubing carefully around the top of the 5-gallon keg or coffee can (for a narrow chiller), working downward and leaving 12 to 16 inches of straight tubing at the top with the 90-degree bend toward you. If you have no keg or can and have steady hands, eye the bending carefully to avoid kinking the copper. Leave a small amount of space between coils to maximise surface exposure to the hot wort.
Finish coiling the copper tubing toward the bottom until about 24 inches of straight tubing remains. Finish the coil as closely to the intake end as possible and create another 90-degree bend, angling it upward toward the top of the chiller.
Run the straight copper tubing parallel to the intake end and create another 90-degree angle at the same point as the intake drip guard. This will ensure any drips or leaks will not enter the wort and cause infection.
Even the spacing between coils gently with your fingers to ensure none of the coils touch one another. Inspect the coils for kinks or creases that may inhibit water flow or allow water to escape into the wort.
Use scissors or a box cutter to cut the vinyl tubing in half. Inspect the ends of the tubing and remove any shredded or frayed vinyl to ensure a proper seal.
Use a hose clamp to attach the vinyl hose to the intake end of the copper tubing. Tighten the clamp carefully to avoid crushing the end of the copper tube. Connect the male-barbed end of the garden hose adaptor to the opposite end of the intake hose. Use a hose clamp to seal the tube around the barbed end to avoid drips and leaks.
Attach the other half of the vinyl hose to the purge end of the copper tubing with a hose clamp (don't crush the copper). Make sure the clamp is properly tightened and the seal is watertight.
Place the chiller into an empty kettle. Attach the intake end to a faucet or garden hose. (Use the optional faucet adaptor if your faucet does not have a threaded end.) Run tap water through the chiller and inspect all seals for leaks or drips. Tighten hose clamps that allow water to leak though.
Hot-test the chiller for functionality. Boil 5 gallons of water and immerse the chiller in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Look for drips around seals caused by swelling and contracting, and tighten where necessary.
Turn off the heat and run the tap water through the chiller. Use the thermometer to measure the rate at which the water cools and take notes. If you can cool the boiling water to room temperature within 20 minutes, you have a working, home brew wort chiller.
Tips and warnings
- Place your immersion chiller into the wort 15 minutes before the end of the boil to sterilise it.
- In brewing, sanitation is key; keep the chiller clean when not in use and inspect clamps and coils before every use to avoid ruining your brew.
- To avoid build-up inside the copper tubing, blow out as much water as you can after the chiller has been cooled and cleaned
- Using a wort chiller in an improper fashion can result in serious injury, including severe burns.
- Use caution when bending, cutting and shaping both copper and vinyl tubing to avoid injury.
- Follow all brewing and sanitation instructions to protect your beer from spoilage.
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