Sunday, August 9, 2009

Post Chiller - Chiller

If you live in a part of the country (or world for that matter) where the winters are mild and the summers can get quite warm, like here in Santa Cruz, Ca., then you may be struggling with cooling water that is not cold enough to do the job, especially during the summer.

There have been times when my tap water was 70f., causing not only the expense and waste of huge amounts of water to cool the wort, but the best cooling I could expect to get down to for the start of the fermentation was 70f. I had a small immersion chiller laying around in my pile of abandoned brewing gear from earlier days and decided to put it to use to further chill my already cooled wort.

By simply continuing the already cooled wort through a copper coil that is immersed in an ice bath, I can reduce even further temperature of the wort. I refer to this devise as a post-chiller.

As you can tell from the images, I pump the hot wort through a brazed plate chiller. I purchased the smaller version from and it will efficiently chill the wort but not with the pump open all the way. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine chiller but under normal summer conditions, I have to throttle back on the pump to slow the wort down to practically a trickle to get the exposure to the cool water to achieve the temperature that I want, a slow process, sometimes taking as long as an hour and many gallons of water.

(a true confession: I can be a real cheap bastard so I bought the smaller chiller because I didn't want to spend the extra money for the deluxe model thinking I could make the smaller one work.)

However, considering the temperature of the water, even with the expensive 'beefy' chiller, I would still end up, at best, matching the cooling water temperature but with the added benefit of cooling faster and consequently with a lot less water wasted in the process.

In any case, the way I get around this dilemma is by continuing the wort from the plate chiller on through a copper coil that is submerged in an ice bath. I can now pump the wort as fast as my little pump can go and the wort going through the copper coil gets reduced in temperature significantly. With this system of post chilling, I can easily achieve the desired 65f. degrees that I prefer for an ale.

Before using this system it is important that it is sanitized completely. I will use my pump to circulate a solution of sanitizer (iodine/water) from a bucket, though the plate chiller, hoses, post-chiller coil and back into the bucket of sanitizer. After a few minutes of circulation I will leave the solution in place until it is time to pump the wort through. Once I'm ready to chill the wort I attach the hose to the spigot on the boil pot, start the pump and run the wort though until it pushes all of the sanitizer out of the lines and then divert the flow of the wort to the fermenting vessel. I use an aeration devise on the end of the line that basically splashed the wort as it enters the fermenter.

When done, I again use the pump to clean out the chiller by circulating the sanitizer through the system.

I imagine there are other chiller ideas that are used to deal with summer temperatures. What's your process for chillin' in the heat?

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