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Homebrew Season

Summer is usually the off season for me in regards to home brewing. For one, I generally keep pretty busy doing other things I like, most of which involves being outside. For two, it’s just too friggin hot. Brewing is pretty BTU intensive when you mash your own grain. For three, I just don’t drink much beer in the summer during the week, because of the previous two reasons. I haven’t yet drank what I made this prior winter.

I’m thinking about getting one of these. It’s a plate chiller, called “The Therminator”. It would solve one of the big problems I have making beer in summer; the water coming out of the tap is too warm. Typically, in summer, my tap water is about 65 degrees, and it takes forever to chill 5 gallons of wort down with my self-made immersion chiller. In contrast, winter time tap water temperatures are typically about 50 degrees, which gets the job done much faster.

Counterflow chillers have their downsides, in that you have to work hard to keep them clean, and keep them sanitized. Immersion chillers can just be rinsed off, and that’s about it. Not so with counterflow chillers, which must be cleaned and sanitized. But being able to get my wort chilled and into the fermenter in just a few minutes would be a big help.

8 Responses to “Homebrew Season”

  1. Robb Allen says:

    I have had great luck with a pre-chiller in a bucket o’ ice. Florida water is 75° year round so I have to cool it a bit more before it hits the hot wort.

    I just made a smaller coil, shove it in icy salt water (the salt helps a bunch), connect the tap to the pre-chill coil, then the pre-chill coil to the main coil, and drain the main coil back into the sink.

    Here’s a picture of my setup. I no longer put the brew kettle in ice because I brew in a Sabco keg and it won’t fit. It’s harder to chill the keg than it was the kettle in that picture. Damn thing retains heat better.

    Cheaper than the Thermonator, but definitely not as effective.

  2. Greg Morris says:

    Here’s last spring’s brewing session

    We got tired of our immersion chiller, which took too long to get the beer cold… so we ended up building a counterflow. It was a pain in the arse, but works great. Last winter, it actually made the wort TOO cold to pitch. We did stick a thermometer in the outflow, so we can adjust the water flow to get an exact temperature for pitching.

    I also thought the counterflow would be tough to clean, but it really isn’t. Rinse the inside coil when you are done brewing, then siphon boiling water through it to sterilize before you use it. I have to admit, the immersion chiller was easier to sterilize (drop it in the beer 15 mins before the boil is done) but even with cold mountain water, it took too long to chill.

    Of course our biggest reason for switching to counterflow was that we wanted to brew more than 5 gallons at a time, which means using a keg, which means you can’t pour it into the primary fermenter that easily (oh, but we tried!) We also preferred using a glass carboy, which you pretty much HAVE to siphon into… and if you are siphoning, you might as well use a counterflow chiller!

  3. Greg Morris says:

    Hey, whereabouts in PA do ya live? I bet my buddy in Morgantown, WV would let you borrow his counterflow to see if ya like it… assuming you aren’t in like Erie or something. Drop me an email if you are interested.

  4. Sebastian says:

    I’m in Southeastern, PA. Opposite side of the state from WV.

  5. Alcibiades says:

    Maybe you should switch to corn. After all, it is part of the energy initiative to transform corn into alcohol, and you will be doing your duty as an American.

    Okay, so I don’t know anything about brewing, but couldn’t you just dump some ice directly in the bucket o’ water? (Assuming all excess water is somehow removed from this process.)

  6. Sebastian says:

    Not really. Aside from diluting your brew, ice isn’t sanitary.

  7. Robb Allen says:

    Well, you could pre-boil some water and freeze it, using that to chill. This of course assumes you need to add water to your wort and know ahead of time how much you’re gonna need.

    Too much hassle for me. Some day I’m going to do a CF like Greg, I just need to get some extra $ for the copper tubing (that sh!t is EXPENSIVE!)

  8. Greg Morris says:

    Yeah it was expensive to build… in fact, after we built it, we found out that our total cost was just about the same as a commercial CF. Plus it was a serious pain in the butt to push that copper tubing through a rubber tube. Especially since we coiled copper wire around the copper tubing first to churn the water a little more as it goes through.

    But… almost all of our gear is homemade anyway, so we figured it might be best to stick with that theme.

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