What is the Best Wort Chiller?
You have been brewing beer for a while now and it is time to make improvements to your home brewing equipment. You’ve been dealing with the hassle of creating an ice bath and cooling your wort in it for some time, but there has to be a faster and easier way to do this. It is clear that a wort chiller is going to be a great investment for your beer brewing arsenal. There are several different styles and types, and it can be confusing to figure out which one is the best buy, so we have put together this resource. Depending on the batch size you plan to brew and the amount you are willing to spend there is in fact a best wort chiller for you.
|Copper Immersion Wort Chiller||25 Feet of 3/8″ TubingGood for batches of 5 gallons||$$||4.6|
|Stainless Steel Immersion Wort Chiller||25 Feet of 3/8″ TubingGood for batches of 5 gallons||$$||4.7|
|High Efficiency Copper Immersion Wort Chiller||25 Feet of 1/2″ TubingGood for batches of 5 gallons||$$$||4.7|
|Convoluted Counterflow Wort Chiller||1/2″ Interior Convoluted Copper Tubing. Can handle larger batches||$$$$$||4.5|
|Stainless Steel Plate Wort Chiller||10 Stainless Steel Plates. Can handle larger batches||$$$||4.0|
Types of Wort Chillers
There are three distinct styles of wort chiller: immersion wort chillers, counterflow wort chillers, and plate wort chillers.
Immersion wort chillers are the only style that is actually placed directly in to the kettle of boiling wort to cool it. They are a coil of copper or stainless steel through which cold water is run to pull the heat out of the wort and carry it away down the drain. Immersion chillers are much more efficient than ice baths and will cool batches of five to ten gallons of wort, depending on the length of tubing in the chiller.
Counterflow wort chillers look similar to immersion chillers but they actually consist of two separate sets of tubing, one inside the other. Hot wort is gravity-fed or pumped through the inner tubing while cold water is run in the opposite direction through the outer tubing. As the wort passes through the chiller it comes in contact with increasingly cold water to cool it because it is flowing toward the source of the cold water.
Plate wort chillers are similar to counterflow wort chillers, but in a different layout. Instead of using parallel sets of tubing to bring the hot wort and cold water past each other they are configured in a set of plates which do the same thing. Cold water flows past one side of the plate while hot wort flows past the other side. This allows the water to flow in thin sheets, which makes it easier to cool more quickly.
Why Use a Wort Chiller?
There are several advantages to using wort chillers, and there are several disadvantages to using the alternative. an ice bath.
Advantages of Using a Wort Chiller
–Fast. Wort chillers cool the wort much, much fast than ice baths can. Instead of thirty or forty minutes for your wort to cool to an appropriate temperature with an ice bath, think five to fifteen minutes with a wort chiller. This saves you a ton of time.
–Better Looking Beer. If wort is cooled quickly enough many of the proteins floating in there will precipitate out, leaving you with a clearer, more professional looking beer. This precipitation of proteins is called the “cold break.” If these proteins remain in the beer you will get a hazed look to the beer when it is cooled, known as “chill haze.” It is very difficult to reach the cold break with an ice bath.
–Safer for the Beer. When you use an ice bath there is water splashing around and you are dealing with your bathtub or kitchen sink which are both great spots for bacteria to accumulate. It is much easier to infect your batch of beer with bacteria (ruining the batch) if you are using an ice bath than if you are using a wort chiller that can be sterilized.
Reviews of Each Style of Wort Chiller
Review of Immersion Wort Chillers
Immersion wort chillers are usually the most cost-effective style of wort chiller. Compared to an ice bath they are extremely efficient. They are also the easiest style of wort chiller to clean and sanitize, which is very important for anything that is touching your beer.
The drawback to immersion chillers is that they can not cool large batches of beer efficiently. In general an immersion chiller with 25 feet of tubing is needed to cool five gallons of wort. Moving up to ten gallons or so of wort requires an immersion chiller in the 50- to 70-foot range. For batches beyond that size immersion chillers become overly cumbersome and cost-prohibitive. It should be noted that the larger immersion chillers can be used to cool smaller batches with greater efficiency.
Review of Counterflow Wort Chillers
Counterflow wort chillers are very efficient, even more so than immersion wort chillers. They can handle batches of larger sizes without a problem. They are more compact than immersion chillers and can be permanently incorporated into a home brewing system, as opposed to an immersion chiller which can not easily be set up “in-line.”
Counterflow chillers are known to be the most difficult to clean of the three types of wort chiller. Since the wort runs inside of the chiller, and the inner tubing can not be seen, it is difficult to be certain that a counterflow chiller has been cleaned and sterilized satisfactorily. Also, counterflow wort chillers often need to be used in combination with a brewing pump for best results.
Review of Plate Wort Chillers
Plate wort chillers are the most efficient style of chiller. This is the type of chiller that you will see if you visit a professional brewery (although probably on a larger scale). You can cool very large batches of wort very quickly with a plate chiller. Plate chillers are also the most compact style of wort chiller, and they are easy to set up in-line in a home brewing system.
Like counterflow chillers, plate chillers are difficult to clean. The space between plates is very small, so it is easy for debris to become caught in the chiller. The advantage of plate chillers over counterflow chillers, however, is that they can be baked in an oven to kill of any bacteria inside. Some models of plate chillers can even be taken apart so that each plate can be cleaned individually. Also, like counterflow chillers, plate chillers work best in tandem with a brewing pump.