I have brewed about 50 batches of beer and have always used a sink filled with ice and water to cool my wort, it seems to work well for me as I have never had an infection. There is a current thread on this board with a title that say something like “What should I buy next?” and I was surprised by how many people suggested a chiller even before some things like a turkey fryer and fermentation tempeature control. Other than cooling wort quickly to help avoid infection is there any advantage to using a chiller over the method that I am currently using?
Do you do all-grain or extract? If you do all grain, you do need a chiller because you have to cool at least 5 1/2 gallons of wort. With extract, you only need to cool about 2-2 1/2 gallons, and adding already chilled water does most of that for you.
Extract so that is probably why it’s not as important.
I chilled in a sink and by adding cold water when I brewed extracts. After going to all grain, a chiller was mandatory
As long as you can safely lift a hot vessel into a water bath, that’s probably fine for any basic brewing process.
As stated, once you get to a batch size where that becomes impractical, you need some sort of chilling solution. A trip to the hardware store for some copper and some fittings is the cheapest way, but NB sure sells some nice immersion coils for about the same price the materials alone will cost at the local store.
There are a number of technical reasons for rapidly chilling your wort that will improve your brewing overall, so getting even a simple chiller can actually improve your end product. That said, you don’t always need a chiller device to make perfectly good beer.
I know a brewer that doesn’t chill his wort. He drains it into kegs and seals them. Allowing them to cool overnight. Even lagers. And his beer taste great.
Every where I read the temperature drop after the boil is critical. From micro brewers to BMC there seems to be a point where they want to get the wort cool fast and yeast working before an infection can occur. The reason I bought a wort chiller was.
1, I hated stock piling ice for the week before I brewed. I don’t have an automatic ice maker and buying ice doesn’t make sense to me.
2, I’m on a well and the water coming out of my tap is 54 degrees f 365 days a year.I went from chilling 2.5 gallons of wort in a sink full of ice in 30 minutes to 10 and 5 gallons in less than 20.
3, By using a decent yeast starter I can usually have fermentation within 4 hours of pitching my yeast.
Yeast need a boatload(technical term) of oxygen to reproduce and will not start converting sugars to alcohol until the Oxygen is consumed it just makes sense to me to get them pooping(another technical term) alcohol as soon as possible.
Having a chiller in the brewing arsenal is definitely worth it. Having said that, you could also look into no-chill brewing. I routinely do either immersion chiller or no-chill depending on the brew day.
A word of advice, if you employ the swamp cooler as a method of fermentation temperature control, repurpose it as an ice bath. More than likely you can get more volume of cold water than your sink so will get you down to pitching temps faster. Also, repurpose those extract jugs. Clean 'em, fill 'em with water and freeze them. Works great for wort cooling and controlling ferm temp.
I use this method for 5 gallons of wort and it works great without wasting a bunch of water.