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What is a Wort Chiller?

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What is a Wort Chiller?

A wort chiller is a heat exchanger designed to cool your wort to yeast pitch-able temperatures at a rapid rate, forming the cold break. There are several varieties to choose from including copper or stainless steel immersion chillers, counterflow chillers and plate chillers.

Before upgrading to a wort chiller, many beginner homebrewers will chill their wort in an ice bath. While this is fine for those that brew only occasional small batches, a wort chiller will quickly become a necessity for those who are serious about brewing the highest quality beer, efficiently. A wort chiller can literally cut hours out of your brew day, and more importantly, it will significantly reduce the risk of contamination. 

Immersion Chillers 

immersion wort chillerA copper immersion chiller is a copper coil that is attached to a garden hose or kitchen sink, where cool water runs internally through the coils and is immersed in the hot wort. The heat from the wort is conducted by the copper and expelled through the chiller's outlet tube, which cools the wort in an extremely efficiently manner. Immersion chillers are most popular among homebrewers.

Our 50 foot premium 'keggle' chiller is capable of cooling a 5 gallon batch of wort from boil down to yeast pitching temperature in as little as 5 minutes*

*results based on 45 degree inlet temperature at 4 gallons per minute. 

Counterflow Chillers

counterflow chillerA counterflow chiller is designed to cool a batch of wort down to yeast pitch-able temperatures in one pass. Wort flows in one direction through the internal copper coil as cool water flows in the opposite direction around the copper coil creating the counterflow effect.

Wort can be pumped through the internal copper coil with a small pump, or gravity fed from your boil kettle. Counterflow chillers are generally designed to be used with a garden hose and come standard with male and female garden hose fittings. This style of chiller is popular in an inline RIMS or HERMS system.

Plate Chillers

plate chillerLarge plate chillers are usually found in breweries, but there are companies out there that manufacture them on a smaller scale for homebrewing. Homebrew plate chillers use stainless steel plates that are brazed together with copper and, like counterflow chillers, hot wort and cool water flow in opposite directions.

The biggest difference between a professional plate chiller and a homebrew plate chiller is the construction of the plates.  Homebrew plates are usually brazed together permanently and disassembly is not possible for proper cleaning (i.e. they have a shelf life).  Larger professional plate chillers are not brazed together and brewers routinely disassemble them for proper cleaning.

So which one is right for me?

That is going to depend on your budget, the amount of beer you plan to brew and your ability to clean and sanitize your equipment.  Immersion chillers are the easiest to use, the least expensive and the easiest to clean.  Plate and counterflow chillers are more expensive and harder to clean but can be more efficient on batches larger than 5 gallons when used and cleaned properly.  Its up to you!

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  • Chris Musil
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