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Need some Lager wort chilling tips / advice

So I’ve brewed a lagers before using S23, starting warmer and then cooling it down to temp as fermentation started. I quickly learned I don’t care for S23 so much and I haven’t tried using another lager yeast since.

I currently want to try a variation of the Narziss method using Saflager W-34/70 , but I wondered what other guys here are doing to solve some of the problems I’m anticipating.

First of all, I have a fermentation chamber with a Johnson digital controller and I can maintain ferment temps down to about 40 degrees if necessary so proper ferment temps are not a problem.

What I’m faced with primarily is figuring out a good way to get my wort down to about 50 degrees before pitching without having to let it sit in the carboy to chill down. I want to run off in one step and pitch. Straight from the kettle to the carboy and hit around 48 to 50 degrees.

I have both a homemade CFC and a homemade IC. I realize in order for the wort to hit 50 degrees straight from the kettle and into the carboy, I’m going to have to use ice, particularly if it’s not winter when I’m brewing.

I’ve thought about setting up a submersible pump in a large cooler full of ice water and pumping that through the CFC while running off from the kettle. I could recirculate this water and add ice as necessary to keep the temps down. If anybody uses this method I’d really appreciate advice on a pump. Model numbers or specs or whatever would work well for this sort of thing.

I’ve read about members here putting their carboy in a tub of ice as they run off. This would seem like it might work, but the temp strip on the outside of the carboy and the glass would likely be much colder than the wort and I’m not sure how getting an accurate reading of the temp of the wort would be possible.

What works best for those of you who brew bopils and the like on a regular basis?
Also do you use a thermowell with your controller or not?

The remainder of the brewing process I have a handled. Once primary fermentation is complete, I’m going to rack and lager in my corny kegs in a fridge.

Just looking for some advice on getting the wort down to these very low temps to start with.

TIA for replies

[quote=“PortageMIBrewer”]I’ve thought about setting up a submersible pump in a large cooler full of ice water and pumping that through the CFC[/quote]I do that with my IC. I use tap water to get it down to ~80° then hook up my IC to a cheap pond pump in ice water to bring it down the rest of the way, it takes about 45 minutes to get from boiling to 50°

Here’s the pump I bought:

http://www.aquariumguys.com/rainbow3.html

In Florida we have 85F ground water regularly and that is an issue even for ale temp chilling. I have used a few different methods over the years.

I’ve written a lot here http://thebeerjournals.com/chilling.html but I’ll compress it a bit…

  1. If you have a wort pump to recirculate your wort back to the kettle, you can use regular tap water through your CFC or plate chiller and recirculate the wort back to the kettle until you get it down to the lowest temperature possible. This depends on your tap water temp. With 85f water my lowest temp reasonable is about 100-105 when the temp just doesn’t drop very much more or at least quickly. At that time I would unhook the tap water and hook a submersible pump in a bucket of ice water and pump directly to the fermenter with a resulting temp easily at 50F.

  2. If you don’t have a wort pump, you can use the submersible pump in a bucket of ice water and run that through your CFC and adjust the wort flow to gain the 50f temp. This will take a lot more ice as you will be chilling the wort from near-boiling temps. You could also add a immersion chiller in the pot and use tap water to bring down the wort temp before draining through the CFC with the ice water pump and that will take less ice, but you have to chill the wort for a while in the kettle until it is down to around 100-120 first.

  3. If you don’t want to buy any pumps, you can pre-chill the incoming tap water and use any type of chiller for the wort fed by the pre-chilled tap water. You’d need to use an immersion chiller for the tap water in a cooler or bucket of ice for this pre-chilling. This is the least efficient method and takes some tweaking like any other process, but it can work and can be the cheapest and simplest. Your immersion chiller can be made with a coil of copper from the hardware store and use standard garden hose fittings. The longer the coil the better it will work and the faster the flow of water can be. Same as using an immersion chiller for wort. I like 1/2" copper for the flow and durability.

There are a lot more methods but this will give simple ideas.

Hope that helps
Dean

Great ideas - thank you.

I think I have an idea that combines a couple you posted. Use tap water with the immersion chiller first, and get as cold as possible, then switch to submerged pump in large cooler of ice water to take it down to pitch temp. Don’t even bother with the CFC.

This technique may allow me to leave most of the cold break in the kettle too since I would be chilling all the wort in the kettle instead while it’s flowing through my CFC.

My only concern is that break plugging up my filter. I use a stainless steel pot scrubber on the end of a 1/2 copper elbow in the kettle. I have a weldless bulkhead setup for my three piece stainless ball valve.

I have not tried to run off chilled wort from within the kettle using this setup. In other words, I’ve never used my immersion chiller with my 10 gallon kettle and this pot scrubber filter setup. I always use my CFC with it.

I wonder if the cold break combined with hot break would cause me run off issues?

Last time I used the IC ( Immersion Chiller ) it was for a stovetop beer in a 5 gallon kettle. I tried to rack the wort from the kettle using a sanitized auto-siphon because I don’t have a valve and didn’t want to pour it.

The tip of the auto-siphon clogged up with hops debris quite quickly. I left a lot of wort behind and wished I’d had a valve. I noted a lot of goey cold break in the bottom of the kettle.

Thoughts on that?

I think I’m going to shop a pond pump from the hardware store. This should work right?

[quote=“Glug Master”][quote=“PortageMIBrewer”]I’ve thought about setting up a submersible pump in a large cooler full of ice water and pumping that through the CFC[/quote]I do that with my IC. I use tap water to get it down to ~80° then hook up my IC to a cheap pond pump in ice water to bring it down the rest of the way, it takes about 45 minutes to get from boiling to 50°

Here’s the pump I bought:

http://www.aquariumguys.com/rainbow3.html
[/quote]

Blew right past your post before making mine. This sounds like a decent way to go.
Thanks!

Generally “pond pumps” do not have enough power for the resistance of some of the coils we use and the problem is that those low power pumps really limit the versatility. Get at least a 1/3HP and around 3000gph rating no matter what the label on the box calls the pump. You can always slow the flow of a powerful pump but not get extra flow from smaller ones. Expect to spend $40-50.

I went through 3 pumps before settling on a 1/2Hp and would double that if I had to buy a new one in the future. I still keep the typical pond pump in the bottom of my tool box to show folks what not to buy :slight_smile:

Some places I’ve found them are Harbor Freight, Northern Tool, etc. You don’t need an expensive model as you are pumping clean ice water and not using this non-stop.

Excellent - thanks!

The carboy in the bucket of ice water is very simple, very fast, and very effective. If you get the wort too cold it’s easy to warm up, if not cold enough, put it back in. I don’t brew lagers, but if I did, this is how I would chill the wort for the last 15 degrees.

+1. I bought a cheap utility pump awhile ago at menards for $40.00. It does the job much better than the “pond pumps” which just don’t get it done.

SE michigan, 5.5 gal of 100% munich,
The groundwater here was coming out last weekend @ 43*,
I was hoping to get 46* with my 25’, settled for 48* @ 30 minutes.
That’s a reasonable time to get to pitch temp isn’t it?

[quote=“Scott Miller”]SE michigan, 5.5 gal of 100% munich,
The groundwater here was coming out last weekend @ 43*,
I was hoping to get 46* with my 25’, settled for 48* @ 30 minutes.
That’s a reasonable time to get to pitch temp isn’t it?[/quote]

Oh no, that’s WAY too slow! :lol:

[quote=“Loopie Beer”][quote=“Scott Miller”]SE michigan, 5.5 gal of 100% munich,
The groundwater here was coming out last weekend @ 43*,
I was hoping to get 46* with my 25’, settled for 48* @ 30 minutes.
That’s a reasonable time to get to pitch temp isn’t it?[/quote]

Oh no, that’s WAY too slow! :lol: [/quote]
Got me before I could edit, because,
This certainly won’t work well in the summer,
but I don’t brew in the summer.

[quote=“Scott Miller”]SE michigan, 5.5 gal of 100% munich,
The groundwater here was coming out last weekend @ 43*,
I was hoping to get 46* with my 25’, settled for 48* @ 30 minutes.
That’s a reasonable time to get to pitch temp isn’t it?[/quote]

That’s pretty typical for me with my CFC - 30 minutes to run off. Are you using a CFC or an IC?
I’d say that’s quite reasonable.

Looking to brew Sunday and just forgoing all the extra plumbing because the water is so freaking cold right now. The only thing I’ll miss using the CFC is putting cold break in the carboy but I’m not that worried about it.

Thanks guys.

Thanks - I am keeping this idea for future use. I might give it a shot later this spring when it gets a bit warm outside.

Portage,
That was with my IC.
We cant even get real winter over here this year.
I was looking forward to some real cold water.
I think you can make it off groundwater alone,
But the recirculation stuff could get a guy out of a jam for sure.

I have not made a ton of lagers, but when I have I simply got the wort down as cool as possible with my standard plate-chiller and tap water technique (in the mid-atlantic region where I am, this is no higher than 72 for most of the year)…

Then I simply stick it in my fermentation fridge at normal refrigeration temps, get it down to 48-50 in a few hours, then pitch. I’ve had excellent results with this so far.

If your sanitation is good , I think the increased risk of infection from this relatively slow cooling from 70 to lager pitching temps is pretty minor.

If anyone has reason to disagree, please let me know, because I could easily do the pump/icewater thing, but I’ve been lazy so far and again, I think the risk should be minor.

I hook up a pre chiller in an ice bath once the IC gets the wort down to the 100 degree range. Just finished a 5 gallon lager today and went from near boiling to 50 degrees in less than 10 minutes. I’m using a big honkin’ IC that was built more for 10 gallon batches but I can’t imagine a regular sized IC doing the job in more than 15 minutes.

Like RustyHoover, I’ve done only a modest amount of lagers, but with good results. I get the wort’s temp down as quickly as I can. The cooling with my IC usually starts to fall off when it hits the 80’s. Then it goes in the fermentation cooler and cools to low 40’s. Pitch and raise the temp to fermentation temperature. While the wort is cooling in the fermentation cooler, the quart jars of slurry from the last batch is sitting and acclimating beside the buckets of wort The little beasts seem to like rising temps rather than falling temps.Gotta keep 'em happy.

Here’s how it went. Used my IC and chilled for 30 minutes. I learned that the burner stand for my hurricane burner holds a lot of heat and might have been slowing the process. I wedged a 2 x 8 deck board under the kettle to isolate it from the hot stand. Of course I had to burn myself somewhat during this exercise first.

After 30 mins the kettle felt cold so I ran off into my carboy. All manner of break and crap went right through my filtering setup for some reason. This has always worked well for me in the past but I think I dislodged it with the IC while moving it around in the kettle. Anyway, temp was 57 degrees according to the super accurate tape-on temperature strip. I put it in the fermentation chamber and let it ride for about an hour after which point it was probably 53 degrees. Without a way to accurately check using a thermowell or something, I cant say for sure. Just referencing the tape-on strip.

While that was chilling I had the rehydrating yeast in an Erlenmeyer on a stir plate. I rehydrated it following instructions from Fermentis as closely as possible. The only deviation was I added a tablespoon of Go-ferm nutrient, a product specifically designed for rehydration water when using dried yeast. I mixed this into the rehydration water thoroughly before rehydrating. At about 30 minutes the yeast were foaming and looking very healthy. I had to bring the yeast down to temp slowly using an icebath with the flask which took another 15 minutes.

Combined with a 90 minute boil this was one of the longest brew days I’ve ever had for a single batch!

Next time I’ll plan ahead, make a bunch of ice in ziplock bags a week before and use that to chill the carboy of wort in a tub. This should save me some time. I’ll also make a starter the day before. I’ll probably go back to using my CFC for chilling.

I’ve made my fair share of lagers over the years. That said, I only brew them in the winter when I can use the cold outside temps to my advantage. Here is my unofficial ‘least amount of time & effort’ lager brewing protocol.

I run my hot, whirlpooled wort through my plate chiller. That brings the temps down to around 60-62oF. Next, I put the bucket outside, cover it with a lid and aerate the wort with my aquarium pump for 30 min or so. That is when I clean up from the brew day. That usually gets the wort down into the mid/high 50s. I then pitch my harvested yeast, attach a lid and airlock and place the bucket in the garage overnight. That brings temps down into the mid/high 40s, sometimes lower. Lastly, I allow the bucket to warm up during fermentation by moving the bucket into the coolest part of my basement (around 52oF) where the fermentation takes place for 10 days or so. As spring and warmer temps approach the bucket may stay in the garage. I then do a 48 hr d-rest upstairs at room temp.

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