It all started a few months ago, when I found myself before the homebrewing section of a small book shop. I skimmed through several homebrew books, but one caught my attention: The Complete Homebrew Beer Book by George Hummel. If you’re looking to start homebrewing, I highly recommend it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this book inspired me to make beer.

One of the crucial steps in the brewing process involves rapidly cooling the hot malt tea that has been simmering in a massive brew kettle (or stockpot). The cooling must be performed extremely quickly to avoid contamination. What I have been doing is impractical: I place the hot brew kettle in a bath of water, then surround that bath with ice, and constantly replace the melted ice with more ice. This means I need to futz around at the store buying bags of ice, constantly babysit the brew kettle, and ensure that the brew is cooled with 45 minutes.

Yet all of these interactions potentiate contamination.
Enough of that nonsense. I decided I was going to build a wort chiller.

The Results

I started by following instructions in this BrewingDaily.com video. Although a helpful resource, the video didn’t delve into solving several problems. My wort chiller’s copper-to-vinyl connection leaked. I also wanted a way to connect the wort chiller to my kitchen sink, not a utility sink.

I fixed the former problem with compression fittings and the latter with standard sink attachments.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the setup. There are no drips through the compression connections, and it attaches securely to my kitchen sink:

The final wort chiller fits snugly in my brew kettle, about half an inch from the kettle walls:

How well does it work?

I haven’t had a chance to try it on real wort — yet — but I did a test run using water. Since I brew with 3 US gallons (~11.36 L) of spring water or potassium metabisulfite-treated water plus additions, my cooling test used 4 US gallons (~15.14 L) of tap water.

Typically, I can cool boiled wort with the aforementioned ice method to 75˚F in about 40 minutes, which is not desirable. With the wort chiller, I was able to cool my boiled test water from 178˚F to 75˚F (81˚C to 24˚C) in 26 minutes at a slope of -3.5458˚ F per minute. I used a “manual” alcohol-based thermometer as well as a digital thermometer with probe to make sure the measurements agreed.

Once I get a chance to test on real wort, I’ll update this post. So far, the results are promising.

What You’ll Need

Parts and Materials

  • 20 feet of utility-grade soft copper tubing with an outer diameter of 3/8″ and an inner diameter of 1/4″ (try this, or JMF Company’s UT Type 3/8″ outer diameter x 20 ft. soft copper tube)
  • 8 to 10 feet of 5/8″ x 1/2″ clear vinyl tubing (I used this)
  • Five 1/4″ to 5/8″ stainless steel clamps (I used American Valve 1/4″ to 5/8″ stainless steel clamps #4)
  • Two 3/8″ x 3/8″ Ander-Lign brass compression x MIP adapters (I used Watts A-123)
  • Two 3/8″ brass hose barb adapters (I used Watts A-298, a 3/8″ barb x 3/8″ FIP)
  • To attach the wort chiller to a standard utility sink: One 3/4″ x 3/8″ female barb garden hose adapter (I used Watts A-683)
  • To attach the wort chiller to a standard kitchen sink: You will need one 3/4″ x 3/8″ female barb garden hose adapter (I used Watts A-683) AND one M/F to M garden hose aerator adapter. I believe I have a standard-sized kitchen faucet, and bought a Danco 15/16″-27 M or 55/64″-27 F x 3/4″ GHTM or 55/64″ – 27 M adapter.

Tools

  • Stockpot or other straight cylindrical object which fits inside your brew kettle
  • Metal tube bender (I used the Superior Tool 3-in-1 Lever Tube Bender)
  • Copper tube cutter or hacksaw
  • Metal file
  • Screwdriver or other tool for tightening stainless steel clamps
  • Two adjustable wrenches
  • Scissors or other tool for cutting vinyl tubing

How To Make It

  1. Wrap the copper tube snugly around your stockpot or cylindrical object. Make sure the coiled copper will still fit in the brew kettle with at least 1/2″ distance from the walls of the brew kettle.
  2. Straighten about 15 inches of one copper coil end. This straight part will be the top portion of your wort chiller.
  3. Straighten about 20 inches of the other coil end, making sure that the straightening begins about where the other end’s straightening did. You will eventually be bending them 90 degrees at the same location, such that they point upwards and parallel to each other.
  4. Bend the 15 inch portion by 90 degrees. Then, bend the 20 inch portion by 90 degrees such that both ends point in the same direction. The picture below shows the 20 inch portion being bent such that it is parallel to the 15 inch portion.
  5. Spread the coils out.
  6. Using a stainless steel clamp, link the coil ends near the top end’s 90 degree bend, as shown. Tighten. Then cut the ends with a metal tube cutter or hacksaw so they are even. Make sure to cut it cleanly! File away any abutting raw edges, as this will allow the compression connector to more easily slide on. Using your tube bender, bend the tubes past 90 degrees such that they point downwards. This will allow any leaks to drop outside, away from your brew kettle.
  7. Place a stainless steel clamp near the area you just bent, but don’t tighten fully yet.
  8. Place the hex portion of the Ander-Lign compression connector on the end of the copper tube. It will be loose, but the flare will secure the connection once you tighten it. Place the flare inside the copper tube, then screw the connection together. Tighten with a wrench.
  9. Screw the hose barb adapter to the compression connector and tighten with a wrench. Cut your vinyl tube in half and place one half on the barbed end. Place a stainless steel clamp over the tube and barb, then tighten.
  10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the other copper end (save for cutting the vinyl tube in half).
  11. Slip a stainless steel clamp onto the end of one of your vinyl tubes. Then attach the swivel hose barb adapter. Tighten the stainless steel clamp over the vinyl-covered barb. If you want to use your wort chiller with a kitchen sink, attach the appropriate-sized garden hose aerator adapter to the barb adapter.
  12. Tighten the clamp from step 7 (the one around the copper tubes and near the compression connector).
  13. Test the connection and tighten as necessary.
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