There’s more than one way to cool wort, and they’re not all created equal. Even if you’re already using a wort chiller, you may be unaware of some of the tips and tricks that make chilling even more effective.
This is the simplest method of chilling your wort, and also takes the longest. One way to speed up an ice bath is to stir the ice water around during the chilling process, which gets cooler water that is further away from the kettle in contact with the hot kettle wall. Once the wort has cooled down significantly, below 180 degrees or so, you can stir it gently in a circular motion with a sanitized utensils.
This will provide the outside wall in contact with the cold water a constant supply of hot wort to chill. If you don’t want to buy or make a bunch of ice every time you want to chill your wort, try buying some of our cold ice packs the next time you order liquid yeast. These packs not only keep your yeast cool during transit, they are completely reusable. Just pop them in the freezer before you brew.
Anyone who has used an immersion chiller knows what a big difference it makes. The copper coils are very heat conductive and have a lot of surface area to cool with. Gently stirring the wort in a circular motion after it has cooled a bit will greatly aid in chilling, just try not to splash the wort too much. For maximum effect, stir the wort in the direction opposite the flow of the water through the chiller. It will also help with water efficiency to put water through at full blast for the first couple minutes, and gradually scale it back as the wort cools down. An immersion chiller can also be used as a “pre-chiller”.
This requires two chillers but is especially useful during hot summer months, when the temperature of the water coming out of the tap is fairly warm. If you want to chill your wort below the temperature of your tap water, a pre-chiller is the way to go. Take a standard 6.5-gallon bucket and fill it with cold water and ice (or ice packs). Then put an immersion chiller in it. Connect the immersion chiller to your faucet on one end and then to the input of your second chiller on the other end. The tap water will get cooled down as it passes through the chiller in the ice bucket so that it will cool your wort faster.
These are the ultimate in chilling speed and efficiency. The plate chillers have small copper channels for the wort and water to flow through in opposite directions, and the counterflow chiller has a copper tube for wort within a larger copper tube for water to flow through. These chillers can be used with a pump or gravity-fed. If you already have an immersion chiller, it will work great in conjunction with a plate or counterflow chiller. The pre-chiller method works great, or you can make a double chiller. Just connect the wastewater side of your plate or counterflow chiller to the input side of your immersion chiller. Your wastewater will always be below the temperature of your wort, so it will help cool it down before it goes into your plate or counterflow chiller. That means faster, more efficient chilling and also reduced off-flavors from DMS, which is produced when the wort is hot, and better preservation of aroma and flavor hops.
For the ultimate chilling setup, use a pump to send the hot wort through the plate chiller, then back into the kettle at an angle, to start a whirlpool. Then hook up an immersion chiller to the wastewater side of your plate chiller and put it in the kettle. Your wort will be chilled in no time! This works best if you can remove most of the hops prior to chilling, to reduce the risk of clogging.