What is a Wort Chiller?
A wort chiller is a heat exchanger designed to cool your wort to yeast pitch-able temperatures at a rapid rate, forming the cold break. There are several varieties to choose from including copper or stainless steel immersion chillers, counterflow chillers, and plate chillers.
Before upgrading to a wort chiller, many beginner homebrewers will chill their wort in an ice bath. While this is fine for those that brew only occasional small batches, a wort chiller will quickly become necessary for anyone who is serious about brewing the highest quality beer, efficiently. A wort chiller can literally cut hours out of your brew day, and more importantly, it will significantly reduce the risk of contamination.
Immersion Wort Chillers
A copper immersion chiller is a copper coil that is attached to a garden hose or kitchen sink, where cool water runs internally through the coils and is immersed in the hot wort. The heat from the wort is conducted by the copper and expelled through the chiller's outlet tube, which cools the wort in an extremely efficiently manner. Immersion chillers are most popular among homebrewers.
We manufacture three different sized immersion chillers. They are all made from 100% copper and vary in length. Your wort chiller needs to match your batch size to get the most efficient temperature change and to create a decent cold break.
Small 12.5' - Perfect for the kitchen homebrewer that is making extract batches. Typically, with extract batches you boil a smaller amount of concentrated wort (2-3 gallons) and then add clean cool water before adding the yeast. The 12.5' copper immersion chiller is the perfect size for these batches and easily connects to your kitchen sink (with sink adapter).
Medium 25' - The 25' chiller works well if you are making full boil extract kits or are making smaller all grain batches (4-6 gallons).
Large 50' - The larger 50' chiller work well for all grain brewers making 5-10 gallons of beer.
A counterflow chiller is designed to cool a batch of wort down to yeast pitch-able temperatures in one pass. Wort flows in one direction through the internal copper coil as cool water flows in the opposite direction around the copper coil creating the counterflow effect.
Wort can be pumped through the internal copper coil with a small pump, or gravity fed from your boil kettle. Counterflow chillers are generally designed to be used with a garden hose and come standard with male and female garden hose fittings. This style of chiller is popular in an inline RIMS or HERMS system.
Large plate chillers are usually found in breweries, but there are companies out there that manufacture them on a smaller scale for homebrewing. Homebrew plate chillers use stainless steel plates that are brazed together with copper and, like counterflow chillers, hot wort and cool water flow in opposite directions.
The biggest difference between a professional plate chiller and a homebrew plate chiller is the construction of the plates. Homebrew plates are usually brazed together permanently and disassembly is not possible for proper cleaning (i.e. they have a shelf life). Larger professional plate chillers are not brazed together and brewers routinely disassemble them for proper cleaning.
So which one is right for me?
That is going to depend on your budget, the amount of beer you plan to brew and your ability to clean and sanitize your equipment. Immersion chillers are the easiest to use, the least expensive and the easiest to clean. Plate and counterflow chillers are more expensive and harder to clean but can be more efficient on batches larger than 10 gallons when used and cleaned properly.