Why Buy A Wort Chiller?
You’ve been home brewing your own beer for a while now and you’ve heard about people using wort chillers to cool their wort, but you’ve been getting by fine with an ice bath. Here are five reasons you may want to reconsider purchasing a wort chiller:
1. Get to a Yeast-Pitchable Temperature Faster
We are already setting aside a block of a few hours to brew our beer. If we can take the cooling time of the wort from 30-40 minutes (in an ice bath) down to 5 or 10 minutes (with a wort chiller), why wouldn’t we?
2. No More Buying Ice
Your freezer can’t produce enough ice to take a 5 gallon kettle of boiling liquid down to room temperature in a hurry, so if you plan to cool your wort in an ice bath you will be buying some bags of ice. Back when we were using an ice bath we found that four bags of ice were required to get the job done in an acceptable time frame (a cooling time of about half an hour). At a couple of dollars per bag of ice, that adds up. We purchased a 25-foot Copper Immersion Wort Chiller and we were saving money after just a few brews.
3. Protect The Beer’s Health
While the wort is still hot, above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or so, wild bacteria and yeast are prevented from doing anything. Below 140 degrees and above 80 degrees these bacteria and yeast can get active and infect your beer, ruining the whole batch. There is also a chance of oxidation damage to the wort if it cools too slowly. Rapid cooling of the wort can prevent a lot of heartbreak for the home brewer.
4. Protect the Beer’s Flavor
While the wort is hot it forms certain compounds of sulfur. If you allow the wort to cool slowly the sulfur compounds will build up and produce a nasty off-flavor in the beer. Yuck. More heartbreak, wasted money, and wasted time.
5. Reach the Cold Break
There are some proteins in the wort that can only be precipitated out by rapid cooling. If this is not done they will form a haze in the beer when it is cold, which is mostly a problem of appearance for those brewers who take pride in brewing a clean, transparent beer. The presence of these proteins, though, can harm the lifespan of the beer, making it go stale faster.
Where Should I Start?
If you are thinking about trying out a wort chiller, the easiest place to begin is with an immersion chiller. If you are brewing five gallon batches of beer you will be fine with a 25-Foot Chiller. If you are brewing larger batches you will probably need to consider a larger immersion chiller to cool the wort in an acceptable time period. A 50-Foot Immersion Chiller is what you will probably need.