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Cooling wort with ice packs

So, I’ve got quite a collection of ice packs (the gel kind enclosed in a plastic bag like the one pictured here: … cePack.jpg). I was considering using them to cool my wort after the boil, sanitizing them and then tossing them in to the kettle and fishing them out with some tongs after cooling is finished. Can anyone think of anything that could go wrong with this? Might the plastic bag melt or even release something damaging chemical from the plastic into the wort? I’d love to have some input before I try it.

That sounds like a risk that really isn’t worth taking. If those bags melt or get snagged on something and tear you will ruin your entire batch of beer.

The material of the ice packs may not be food safe, or if they are food safe not designated for “hot” use. I would worry about leaching. One leak in a bag would also mean pouring the beer down the drain.

An ice bath in the kitchen sink works well for me. I start out with the boil kettle in two consecutive sink fills of cold tap water. Gentle stirring for a few minutes with my boil kettle spoon. When the cold water feels tepid I do the second sink full until it feels tepid. By this time the wort temp is down to about 95°F. The cold water is then replaced by an ice bath. I’ll start my second beer then. In about 30 minutes, with a couple of stirs, the wort is down to 66°to 70°F.
My boil size is 2.5 to 3.0 gallons. We also have 48°F tap water year round.

Are you brewing indoors or out? I have basically solved all wort cooling issues since I have started outdoors brewing. I have a small plastic garbage can dedicated to my brewing. Prior to my brew day I make a bunch of ice cubes. On brew day, shortly before my boil is complete I fill the can with ice cubes and water. When the boil is complete i place the kettle in the can. I stir the wort every 5 minutes with a sanitized spoon and I am usually down to the 60 degree range within 25 minutes.

I’m brewing indoors. To cold most winter days to brew outside and to hot in the summer. I like the comforts of the kitchen. The rest of my brewery is set up in the down stairs utility room.
I have been thinking about making an immersion chiller. Would just need to carry the hot boil kettle downstairs to use the brew sink. Will avoid filling the septic tanks with the chilling water. My brew sink is empties into the sump and then just pumped outside.

Those ice packs belong on the outside of the kettle in an ice bath. You could use them to supplement and replace your melting ice.

I recommend buying one of those big plastic tubs for cheap at Walmart or Target or someplace. Fill with ice and water, and when it’s time to cool your wort, put it in there. Replenish ice if you need to.

You can also use the ice packs, but I’ve found it cools faster buying some ice from the store. I had to do that this summer as well, since ground water temps are too high then for my immersion chiller. Didn’t take too long to chill 5 gallons of boiling wort to about 60 degrees.

We thought about trying that but we were afraid they may melt or a plastic flavor may come off of it but not really sure if it would.

I have never used anything but an ice bath and like Templar said purchasing a couple of bags of ice from the store makes it that much easier.

Another alternative is to save some plastic soda bottles, remove the label, fill them with water and freeze. Dunk them in no-rinse sanitizer before putting them in your wort. I used to do that a long time ago before getting a counter flow chiller. It worked but might be easier to use them in an ice bath since they would not need to be sanitized.

I normally have room in my kettle and have no problem lifting 3-4 gallon pot out of my sink. So I take the distilled water I would normally pour into the fermentation bucket and put it into my freezer at the start of the 60 minute boil. Once done I pour this water into my kettle with an ice bath. It will take the 180+ water down to 120-140 pretty fast. And if you have room you can even pour additional amounts in. It also helps with getting the temp below 100 once in the bucket to prep for your yeast addition.

The gain of a somewhat shorter cooling time is just not worth the risk of contaminating the wort with weird flavors or worse. Here is my cooling method: I start with 3 gallons for my boil and have an additional 3 gallons in my refrigerator. At the end of my boil, I use my immersion chiller and get the roughly 2.5 gallons of wort down to 100 degrees. Once the wort is at 100 degrees, I top off the wort to 5 gallons with the water I had chilling in the fridge. I can get my wort to 65 degrees in 5 minutes with this method. I’m a novice so I cannot say what i’m doing is the best way, but I can say that I have had great results with flavor and no infections.

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