Nothing is as refreshing or as invigorating as a cold glass of home-brewed beer inside the house or outdoors. With a home brew, you know exactly what’s going into your beer and you get to control the processes to your satisfaction. A well-brewed ‘do-it-yourself’ beer is more rewarding, taste-wise, than any beer bought from the store.
Home-brewed beer has been in vogue since time immemorial, long before it became a major source of world commercial revenue. Brewing is a straightforward process. One of the major steps in brewing involves the rapid cooling of the boiling wort, and most times, people improvise this process by using an ice bath either in the kitchen sink
or the bath tub.
A wort chiller is a far better alternative to an ice bath because it’s safer, faster, and more sterile. If the cooling process is not even and rapid enough, it will result to a phenomenon known as “chill haze”, caused by precipitating proteins in the wort which impede the clarity of the end product. A wort chiller helps the home brewer to rapidly cool the wort and reach the cold break level faster thus preventing chill haze from occurring. It consists mainly of a coil of copper or stainless tubing with an attached rubber garden hose
for connecting and passing water from the water source through the boiling wort to extract the heat and channel the now warmed water to the waste.
With a wort chiller, your beer is safe from contamination unlike in the improvised bath where there’s the likelihood of bacteria getting into the wort from the sink or tub. It’s also fast, with an average time of 10 – 15 minutes and even considerably less in the plate type wort chiller.
Now that we’ve established reasons why the wort chiller is a must-have for every home brewer, let’s now check out some qualities to look for when shopping for a wort chiller that will suit your needs. Whether you’re an accomplished home brewer looking to replace your old wort chiller or you’re a novice still testing the waters of home brewing, this buying guide is guaranteed to help you make the best choice of a wort chiller by giving you useful insights on the price, type, material, size, and in-line compatibility of good wort chillers. At the end of the review, you can rest assured that you will end up with the best wort chiller out there for you. All you need to think about is the taste of your home-made beer after pouring it out of your noble beer growler
Wort chillers are not terribly expensive tools as far as most brewing equipment go. They’re usually in the price range of $50 to $110, depending on the type and size of the wort chiller. The price range here is a general estimate and you can see wort chillers that are pricier than what we stated here.
The products we reviewed are all moderately priced and, whichever one you choose, you’re assured of quality service and durability, unlike some of the cheap wort chillers we came across during our research. Those substandard ones may not render any valuable service but instead, might end up making you waste an otherwise great batch of brew.
Shopping for a wort chiller can be challenging, especially judging from the numerous types out there but once you get acquainted with some of its important features, it becomes a lot easier for you. Here are some of the important features to look out for:
- Coil Material
- Type of Wort Chiller
- Size and Range
- In-line Compatibility
- Ease of Cleaning
Let’s look at these more closely so you can determine the features you’d want from your wort chiller.
Construction and Design
Wort chillers consist of a metal coil made from either copper or stainless-steel material. The wort chiller with copper coil is more popular because of its ability to conduct heat faster and better than stainless steel. Copper is also pliant and can be soldered, brazed, or welded just as easily. Stainless steel coil on the other hand is said to be the gold standard of brewing, although it doesn’t have the excellent conductivity of copper thus taking a longer time for the wort to cool to the right temperature. It’s also rigid which means it’s not as pliable as copper and thus difficult to manipulate, but it has an extremely resistant nature to corrosion which makes it quite safe to use as wort chiller material. If you’re a large quantity home brewer and need a more functional wort chiller, then you’ll be better off with the copper coil wort chiller. But if you’re into looks and durability, you can go for a stainless-steel wort chiller.
There are basically 3 types of wort chillers. We have the immersion type, the counter flow type, and the plate type chiller. Of the 3, the immersion wort chiller is preferred by most home brewers because of its simplicity and ease of use. The immersion type is immersed straight into the pot of boiling hot wort and then water is passed through it so it draws out the heat from the wort, transfers it to itself and gets discharged as waste water. Immersion wort chillers are budget-friendly and efficient up to a point as they are limited to the size of wort they can effectively cool at the same time.
The second type is the counter flow type where the wort chiller is made up of two coils, the smaller coil on the inside and the bigger one on the outside. The wort is passed through the small inner coil while the cold water circulates in the outer coil and cools the wort. It’s more compact than the immersion wort chiller and cools larger batches of wort as well. One major drawback with this type of wort chiller, however, is that it’s quite difficult to clean and sanitize properly.
The third type of wort chiller is the plate wort chiller. This type has almost the same mechanism as the counter flow type but in this case, the chiller has a landscape orientation in the sense that the coils are configured in form of plates instead of cylindrical coils and the wort and water are passed in different plates to achieve the desired cooling. Plate wort chillers are exceptionally efficient and are used in brewing industries for cooling wort, although on a larger scale than what is obtainable for a home brewer.
Wort chillers come in different sizes, although they’re still designed to be compact enough for home or small-scale use. The smallest immersion wort chiller has about 25 feet of coiled tubing and this can efficiently cool about 5 gallons of wort. If you’re brewing up to 10 gallons of wort per batch, then you’ll need a wort chiller with a 50- to 70-feet-long tubing. For a much larger batch of wort, then you should be thinking about getting a counter flow or plate type wort chiller because those two can handle large batches of wort better without being cumbersome.
Performance and Ease of Use
Wort chillers are simple equipment for which you won’t need much technical knowledge to use effectively. Basically, all that is required is to securely connect the coil tubing to a water source using the rubber garden hose and the fittings provided. Sometimes the bolts may be a little flimsy and you may need to replace them with tighter ones.
The major issue that affects the performance of any wort chiller is the ease of cleaning. Brewing requires a sterile environment and sterile equipment as the wort is a ‘fertile ground’ for bacteria to multiply which will lead to contamination of the brew. It’s critically essential to keep the wort chiller clean and free from dirt and surface grime, and this depends on the type of wort chiller. The immersion type is the easiest to clean as the surface that is in contact with the wort is easy to reach and allows the cleaning solution to access all its parts. The counter flow and plate types, on the other hand, are quite difficult to sanitize since the wort passes through the tube and the inner diameter of the tubing (in the case of the counter flow type) is quite small thus one is unable to fully access it to know if it’s been thoroughly cleaned. The same can be said of the plate type because the spaces in between the plates are small thus limiting the cleaning. However, some plate type wort chillers come with detachable plates that can be brought out and cleaned individually. So consider this when making your choice
Since the immersion type wort chiller goes directly into the wort, it works best as a stand-alone tool because it’s not designed to fit into an in-line set-up. The plate and counter flow types, on the other hand, are configured to be added to an existing in-line brewing assembly if you have one already. So, you may base your choice on the availability of an in-line assembly.
Counter flow and plate wort chillers work best with pressure-fed wort to improve cooling rate and so some of them are equipped with temperature and pressure gauges to help note the temperature and pressure of the liquid flowing inside. This gives a more professional look to the whole set-up and adds more convenience.
In terms of maintenance, copper wort chillers are easier to maintain than stainless steel ones as there’s no need to wash them to a shining finish. But when it comes to aesthetic value, there’s no gainsaying as to which type will take the cake between the shiny and reflective stainless steel chiller and the somewhat dull, unattractive copper wort chiller.
Wort chillers come in different types and different materials but having gone through our buying guide, we are positive that you are now able to choose the best wort chiller most suitable for your needs. Now, let’s head to the individual review section so you can look at the products we carefully picked for you.
Northern Brewer is a company focused on homebrewing. Though it has the slogan, "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew," it works hard to keep improving its products. It believes in the future of homebrewing, so it supports homebrewers through competitions, festivals and other resource materials to help them improve. It also strives to offer competitive but sustainable product pricing, to ensure the growth of homebrewing both as a hobby and as an industry.
The Northern Brewer Silver Serpent Stainless Steel Wort Chiller ($76.95 - Recommended Retail Price) is an innovative brewing tool that is practically indispensable to the serious homebrewer. The performance of this chiller has been seriously improved with a few simple tweaks. Barbed fittings were added, and a drop angle was added to the connections. What difference does this make?
These tweaks eradicated the mess created by streams of water suddenly erupting in your brewing space. You maximize flow with no fuss, as you no longer have ill-fitting hose clamps on chiller connections that have become misshapen. The Silver Serpent's drop-angle allows your tubing to hang free of tension. You have no fears of leaks around your cooling wort.
This simple but effective stainless steel immersion chiller comes with vinyl tubing. One end has a garden hose fitting for attaching to a utility sink, and hose clamps to secure tubing to barbed fittings.
You have successfully read through this review. Hopefully you now know exactly the best wort chiller to meet your needs. Go right ahead and order it now.