New toys… er… tools

So I’ve been wanting to rebuild my wort chiller for a while.  If you don’t know, at the end of the brew it’s important to chill the wort quickly so that, among other things, opportunistic infections and other things that cause off flavours don’t have a chance to take hold.

A while ago I built an immersion chiller.  With this you basically drop in a fancy coiled copper tubing arrangement and run cold water through it.  the water does a little heat transfer and drags the heat out of the wort, while not actually mingling unsanitary and sanitary water.

Over time I added another coil, but I wasn’t really thinking about optimum heat exchange.  My chiller, then, began with cold water going in the top of the wort, cooling that wort, then when it coiled down to the bottom of the  chiller, I added another tighter coil in the middle to bring the water back up.

This was actually inefficient, because it meant that the now heated water in the coils at the bottom of the pot would rise slowly and dump that heat back into the newly chilled water that would be dropping (because hot water rises).

Recently I kept going to the Home Depot looking for more copper tubing.  Apparently, copper is at a premium on the markets these days.  that might be why it took me three weeks to get any.

With a fresh coil of 20 feet of copper tubing, I set about dismantling my old chiller, straightening it with a tube straightener thing (really a tighly-wound spring that keeps the shape of the tube when you bend it) and rebuilding the chiller.

Uncoiling the old chiller

There you see the chiller in the process of being disassembled.  Here is what my whole counter top workspace looked like:

At the back there you can see the other side of the chiller.  One chiller goes into the wort, the other goes into a cooler of ice water–the water from the tap goes through the first chiller, gets nice and cold, goes into the wort-side chiller, and then out, hot, into the sink.

I want to get a pump so I can recirculate the water and not use so much, but that is another tricky technical thing I need to figure out.

Finished chillerHere you can see the finished chiller, beside the smaller of the two pots I brew with.  I needed to make sure that it fits in that pot, so I put it inside and…

It fits.

So, then, of course I needed to brew something.  This is the chiller in the pot of wort for a bitter I brewed last week.  BTW, to make sure the chiller is nice and sterilized, you put it in the boiling wort 15 minutes before the end of the boil, and let the boiling kill germs dead.

There it is getting nice and clean.

And here it is doing its stuff:

You can see the cooler with ice in the bottom left corner, and the chiller in the wort.  I don’t know why things on the edge are blurry like that.

It was a success.  This chiller chilled the wort in about 10 minutes.  Crazy fast, given that the previous one could take 1/2 hour (way too slow).

Brewing is great for getting good beer out of the process, but it’s also awesome for the opportunity to get some DIY specialty tools!


About danmalleck

Medical historian and jack-of-all-trades curmudgeon. I tend to ramble about politics, social incivility, and our self-centred culture more interested in buying the next cool ringtone or LED TV than actively engaging in the sorts of discussions and issues that matter. The more opportunity we have to buy more stuff, the less concern there is, it seems, in politics, social justice and let's face it, basic human decency, unless those things actually can save us money or get us more things to show how awesome we are through displaying our material wealth. And I like to brew beer, make cheese, and put food in jars.
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