Friday, January 18, 2013

Make your own Counter-Flow Wort Chiller

     Okay, so you're interested in making your own home-brewing station and you've got most of the equipment all sorted, but you're running into a wall with how to chill your wort. Just going to your local home-brewing store and buying the setup would be the easiest thing to do, but let's just say you want to pinch a few pennies and make your own wort cooling system. Here's where we come in. With a small trip to the local hardware store and a budget of under $50, my brother and I have created a basic but effective wort chilling system that works like a charm. Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 - 5 gallon bucket
  • 2 - small 5/8" SS clamps
  • 10 ft. - 3/8" internal diameter clear PVC tubing (10 feet works good, but you can go with less as well)
  • 20 ft. - 3/8" soft copper refrigeration coiled pipe
  • 5.5 oz. Kwik seal kitchen & bath adhesive caulk
  • 3/8" drill bit with hand drill to use it with.
     So now that you've got a list of what to get, you should make sure to set aside an afternoon to complete this project. The caulk will cure in approximately 24 hours, meaning you should also make a point to not be depending on this system for about a day. Now let's go through the steps on how to build this masterpiece.
  1. First, you want to take the 5 gallon bucket and drill two 3/8" holes in it. The first hole should be on the side of the bucket and near the bottom. The second hole should be on the opposite side and near the top. 
  2. Take the copper coil out of its box and uncoil it into a rough cylinder so that it will fit inside the bucket. Bend one end towards the hole you drilled in the top of the bucket and the other towards the hole in the bottom. 
  3. With the copper piping through your drilled holes, take the caulk and create a seal between the bucket and the pipe so as to prevent water from leaking through.
  4. Allow for the caulk to dry and cure for 24 hours.
  5. Split the clear PVC tubing into two pieces of equal lengths.
  6. Slide the clear PVC tubing onto the copper pipe ends, one at the top and one at the bottom. slide on approximately 1" then use the SS clamps to create a seal where the copper and the PVC piping meet.
The two holes and their
approximate locations
The copper coil and
how it looks
The over-all finished look!


     There are some extras that you need to do in order to work this system, but as that is on a brew to brew basis, you should just keep this in mind. Fill the bucket with a 10 lb. bag of ice, and then top it off with some water. When you begin to siphon the wort through, make sure to stir the ice bath in the direction opposite that the wort is flowing. As I stated in my post about the differences between the immersion and counter-flow coolers, the counter-flow's magic begins to work when the running water is moving, so in order to make this system function, remember to keep stirring as the wort flow through.
     The siphoning of this system only works if the pot where the boiling wort is located is at a level that is higher than the point where the wort leaves the system, so it may be useful to get a stool to put the cooling system on and have the primary fermentation bucket somewhere on the ground. Another piece of advice while using this system is that you may have to filter out the hops from your wort, and so running it through the system could end up causing a clog inside your wort line. This is no good, and a way to prevent this is either to filter the hops out before you use the system, or use a strainer around the tip of the tube that goes into the wort.
     So over-all, you've learned how to make a wort chilling system which is not a top of the line piece, but it will get the job done at a lower cost. That makes for a darn good piece of equipment that will make a fine addition to your home brewers kit.

As always, stay classy.

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