Wort Chiller...thinking about building my own

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by BigJoeC, Mar 28, 2012.

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  1. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    So is using a copper coil really the best way to chill the wort? If I get a 20' length of 1/2"ID copper I'm looking at nearly $50. It would be $60 with the fittings. Is that the cheapest way to go and the best results?
  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,328) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    A DIY immersion chiller is the cheapest way to get chilling done in a reasonable amount of time IMO. Also, for full boil 5 gallon batches (if that's what you're doing), you may want to think about something longer than 20 ft.
  3. arkinsparkin

    arkinsparkin Initiate (0) May 12, 2010 Massachusetts

    I recommend buying 50' of copper tubing, make 2 wort chillers, place the first in a bucket of ice water, and the second in the wort. If you use hose clamps for the wort chillers, you can get fittings that will mate to either your hose, or a faucet, fitted with a hose barb to feed water through the wort chillers. If you're environmentally friendly, you can feed water through a funnel , and capture the effluent flow in a bucket, and feed it back into the funnel. The water flowing through the wort will be cold. Someday, you can upgrade to a pump for a closed loop system. I currently waste water but I am going to use the funnel/bucket, so I don't thirst the earth wasting 20 gallons of water for the 6 gallons I need to brew beer.
  4. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (382) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    we use a pump in the winter. in the non-frozen seasons, i'll use tap water.

    i had the environmental reservations like you do, but buying 4 bags of ice to keep the return water cold is also an environmental waste.

    i'll likely collect the run-off water into my rain barrel so i can use it to water my plants and veggies.
  5. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    You can buy a cheap sump pump, use tap water to knock the temp down to 90-F, then in a bucket you place the pump plus a bunch of frozen water bottles you had in your freezer from the night before. The return line goes back into the bucket for a closed loop. This way you can have a 50' immersion chiller, use the runoff from tap water to water your plants (as I do), and then right when you're about to fill your bucket you take the tap water outflow and fill your bucket with the iced bottles. Then recirc your coolant.
  6. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,083) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    I made my own chiller from 3/8" copper, 20 feet worth, 4 hose clamps, and 2 used washing machine water lines. Cut the ends off the water lines so that I can attach a hose to either one, then slipped the cut ends onto the copper tubing and use 2 hose clamps on each one. I took 10.5 gallons of boiling wort to 90*F in 22 minutes (granted it was 50*F outside, will need to pre chill in the summer). Only cost me $22.
  7. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    Not sure how recirculating warm water to the bucket of ice then back through the chiller is friendly to the environment when compared to NOT burning the energy necessary to make the ice ( the ice will melt pretty quickly this way). Though i suppose this depends on where you live. Maybe I'm spoiled. I get my water from the Great Lakes, so water conservation for the sake of water conservation is largely irrelevant here.

    Look to eBay or Craigslist for copper coil. Prices vary, but I got 60' of 1/2" tubing a couple years ago for $50 including shipping. And this was during a period of unusually high copper prices.
    kjyost likes this.
  8. ventura78

    ventura78 Aspirant (267) Nov 22, 2003 Massachusetts

    Tad likes this.
  9. slayerhellfire

    slayerhellfire Initiate (0) Dec 24, 2009 New York

    mine was 75 bucks all ready to go, shop around you might save yourself the hassle of building one yourself. But again it comes down to what you want to do, building one isn't very hard so idk but If you can find one thats well 10-20 bucks extra already made well....:astonished:
  10. cmmcdonn

    cmmcdonn Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2009 Virginia

    For the 20 or so minutes it took to build, it's well worth the money saved vs buying one at the homebrew store which would be more than twice the cost.

    It took longer to find all of the parts at home depot because I'm stubborn and won't ask for assistance.
  11. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (382) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    we have a lot of coils on our chiller, but using tap water when it was 10 C outside and I got the wort down to 70 F from boil in 10-15 minutes.
  12. USCMcG

    USCMcG Initiate (0) Nov 20, 2009 Arizona

    Being in PHX, it's damn hot and I need some real power on my wort chiller. I bought 50' of copper tubing for about $100. Additional materials took me up to approx $110.00. One 25' immersion chiller in a cooler filled with ice, the other in my brew kettle, and even in the 120 degree summer I can chill my wort in about 15 minutes. I found a great video on youtube that showed me how to go about it.
  13. coronajm

    coronajm Initiate (177) Jan 4, 2010 Ohio

    Make one, please.

    20ft of 3/8" ID soft copper tubing ~$13
    6ft 5/8" OD vinyl tubing ~$3.50
    Hose adapter barb/nipple thing ~$5
    Two small hose clamps $1.00

    Cheap and quite rewarding.
  14. coronajm

    coronajm Initiate (177) Jan 4, 2010 Ohio

    15 minutes of work. Hell, i wish it took longer.
  15. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    You must have been doing something wrong. I get a 100 degree drop in about 5 minutes with 50' of 1/2" copper. Pitching temp in, at most, 15 minutes. This is a 10 gallon batch. This is using a pump and my implementation of Jamil's design.
  16. Beejay

    Beejay Poo-Bah (1,949) Dec 29, 2008 Virginia

    I made my own with 50' of copper tubing, although mine wasn't 1/2" ID. Beats buying one.
  17. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Initiate (0) May 11, 2007 Minnesota

    I was shopping around for 50' of copper to build my own when I stumbled on w 50' for $62 on amazon, so I just ended up buying one inetead.
  18. robertrunner

    robertrunner Initiate (0) May 9, 2009 California

    copper coil from Lowes 3/8" 50' is only $45 where I live. Instead of one long 50' coil however I split mine so it is actually 2 25' coils that are intertwined in parallel. with fittings (hose clamps, tubing, garden hose and garden hose splitter) I can chill a 5 gallon batch in about 10mins.
  19. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    For comparison also consider a CFC, they're relatively straightforward to build, and slightly more expensive. But you use less water and chill quicker. You have to have a way to move hot wort around (so a plastic autosiphon is not the right way to do it)
  20. GRBrew

    GRBrew Initiate (130) Jan 12, 2009 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    A counterflow chiller is the best way to go. I had an immersion chiller but once I built the counterflow is just collects dust. You need a way to move the wort. I used to use gravity through the ball valve on the side of my keggle and it worked relatively well. I now have a pump and it is amazing. I get to pitching temps in about 5 minutes.
  21. slayerhellfire

    slayerhellfire Initiate (0) Dec 24, 2009 New York

    How did you bend the copper like that
  22. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    That a common misconception:
    While I won't argue that a CFC doesn't have some advantages over a well designed immersion chiller, efficiency is not one of them.
  23. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (382) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    my only critique/suggestion: you could double your # of coils for faster cooling.
  24. GRBrew

    GRBrew Initiate (130) Jan 12, 2009 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    This methods requires a pump. A simple immersion chiller without a pump is not going to be faster than a counterflow. Also, from my experience, you have to move the wort to get good efficiency with an immersion chiller. Also, this method seems to waste time as with a counteflow you take care of chilling and moving the wort to the fermenter in one step.
  25. coronajm

    coronajm Initiate (177) Jan 4, 2010 Ohio

    I sure could do that, but i settled on 20' for now for a couple of reasons....

    My original preference was for 30', one coil. As many of you know, DIY giants lowes and the depot offer these coils in only 10, 20, and 50' segments. I then considered just buying a 50, molding two separate coils--one 30' and one 20'-- and stuffing one in an ice bath. I ultimately strayed from this idea by reason of the extreme non-linear pricing of copper when buying in bulk. e.g. 20' of 3/8" OD for roughly $12.50 ($0.63/foot), and 50' for roughly $48 (nearly $1/foot), at the time. I decided to go with one 20' at first, leaving the design wide open for an additional coil if i saw it necessary after some performance testing. So far i have been breaking from boil to 70s in about 20 minutes at the max, which has been fine for now.

    Considering the added cost of the extra coil and the recurring cost of filling a chest with ice i'm satisfied as is for the time being. The next upgrade will be a recirculating mechanism, as i really cannot justify wasting that much water.

    Thanks for the input.
  26. coronajm

    coronajm Initiate (177) Jan 4, 2010 Ohio

    For the tight angle bends i used a cheap tube bender. It is essentially a tightly coiled spring with and ID matching the OD of your copper. It fits snugly over the tubing to prevent kinking. For the broad bends I just sort of stretched out the already wound coil and shaped it by hand. Some people like to use something for a mold, such as wrapping around a corny, however I did not find this necessary.
  27. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (382) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    my other thought was that by the time the water reaches the latter coils, its no longer cold.

    so there likely comes a point where you don't gain much by having that many more coils.
  28. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    Generally speaking, a pump is used with a CFC. Granted, this is not strictly a requirement,but my comment was made with that assumption. And you're right about the time factor.
  29. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    WELL, I actually just began building my own CFC. After much debate, research and thinking I decided to make a CFC. I took a 30' length of 3/8" copper tube and put it in a High temp hose. Then I made the "T" fittings for each end. I clamped and sweat the fittings where necessary. Right now it is outside, wrapped in a long length (wife and I are headed to dinner). Tomorrow I will tightly coil it around something like a Sonnet tube or something else (for shape). I am having a weldless ball valve fitted to my kettle tonight at this shop in Boonton, NJ that apparently just opened in October. THis place was AWESOME! I've been waiting for a place to open up close.....but more on that another time.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts.
  30. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    I am actually going to set it up to gravity feed through the CFC.
  31. dad311

    dad311 Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2012

    Built one this weekend, 30' ish of copper 1/2" tubing, vinyl hose, garden home mendor end and a few hose clamps.

    Local hardware store was going out of biz, every thing half off! $40.00 out the door, and about 20 minutes.

    Cools my wort from 212 > 62 on 15 minutes using well water.
  32. LikeHelles

    LikeHelles Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2012 Texas

    How much wort are you cooling like this in most cases? I aim for 5.5 gal. boils, and I'd love to make a chiller with only 20 feet of copper tubing.
  33. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    I just tested the CFC with 5 gallons of boiling water. I cooled 5 gallons from 210-212 down to 61 in 13 minutes. I had to lower the intake hose water a little because the output "wort" (boiling water) was near 50 degrees. I'm pretty impressed.

    Question though.....ca you pitch yeast in 60 degree wort?
  34. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    I am using 30' of copper. It cooled to 61 in 13 minutes. You may be able to do 20' and keep it near 80 or so?
  35. BigJoeC

    BigJoeC Initiate (157) Jan 22, 2011 New Jersey

    I'd be careful with a cheap vinyl hose. It isn't rated for temps near what your wort will cause. I used a $30 50' hot water rated hose. Cut 10' off each end to use as my intake and out flow with the middle 30' used to have the 3/8 copper going through.
  36. LikeHelles

    LikeHelles Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2012 Texas

    Hmm... in July, our cold tap water is 80 degrees. Sometimes I forget that geography can be a factor in wort chiller effectiveness.
  37. dad311

    dad311 Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2012

    Yeah, I noticed while the coil was boiling in the pot, the hose and hose connector got very hot. However, it seem to work with ok. Maybe Ill swap to a washer hot water hose.
  38. lloyd83

    lloyd83 Initiate (0) Dec 2, 2010 Illinois

    I grabbed a set of washing machine hoses and cut an end off of each. Already has the faucet connection on it for the hose and I can hook up a sprayer to the other end to water plants.
  39. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    I'd advise caution when watering plants with hot water. I had a recurring patch of dead grass popping up near the patio after every brew day where the water from my chiller would disperse. Once I figured out th hot water was killing the grass, it was a simple fix - I now run the hose to a plastic kiddie pool. By the time it starts overflowing, the water from the chiller has cooled enough to not kill the grass. During pool season, I simply run the hot water into the pool.
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