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Newbie Question about cooling wort

Hey everyone! I am planning on brewing up my first batch this Sunday and I’m trying to do as much research as possible before then. I feel like my biggest issue is going to be cooling the wort. 1) I do not have a wort chiller 2) I have a pretty small sink so I don’t think the sink method would work. 3) I do not have a bathtub so I cant do that either.

I guess I can buy a wort chiller but the brew store by me is selling them for $70 and I’m not sure if it worth the price

How would you recommend me going about chilling the wort? Are there any other methods that I am missing? I appreciate everyone’s help and I look forward to brewing this up!

For now, I’ll assume you’re brewing with extract and will only be doing a partial boil. In that case, you’ll need to add water after the boil to reach 5 gallons. I’ve heard of some folks freezing or chilling their topoff water in advance for this purpose. 2 gallons of near boiling wort + 3 gallons of frozen water at 25°F would yield 5 gallons around 100°F. You’d still have a while to wait before it would cool off enough to pitch the yeast, but it would get you most the way there. Assuming you keep everything clean, there’s probably nothing wrong with sealing this up and letting it sit overnight to come down the rest the way to room temperature prior to pitching the yeast.

I haven’t tried this so I can’t give details, perhaps a search of the forum would yield some information. I do know enough to know that the ice should be clean, perhaps frozen gallons of water purchased from the grocery store rather than whatever comes out of your icemaker.

Keep in mind, these aren’t best practices, but plenty of first-timers (including myself) made decent beer without the perfect methods or all the right equipment.

If you are going for cheap, you can do the no chill method and leave the wort be until it reaches pitching temps. You could make your own immersion chiller for less than store bought. You could buy a plastic tub to place the wort in an ice/water bath. If you are not doing a full boil you could freeze some of your water and add it directly to your wort to cool it down and dilute the concentration. If you are going to embrace this hobby though, you will eventually buy a chiller of some sort.

I agree with a couple of the comments above. I did 20 + extract kits (partial boils, usually about 3 - 3.5 gallons starting) before getting a wort chiller eventually and here is the routine I got into.

As stated above, I would start with about 3 gallons of water, both due to pot size and stove abilility (I couldn’t get my glass top to boil much more than that…)

know I had to obviously add water at the end, I in turn did the following:

1-2 days in advance, would refridgerate 2 more gallons. Then at least for me, I found that if I put those into the freezer with about 45 minutes in the boil, I ended up with just about to turn to slush water, but still pourable. Obviously you will have to play with this a bit and experiment or watch more closely to make sure it doesn’t freeze on you too much

then I would pour these 2 gallons of almost slush water into the completed wort. usually took me down to close to 100-110 degrees

Then I did (do) have a huge utility sink I would do an ice bath to get the remaining 20-30 degrees.

Finally I would put into fermentor, and top off with room temp water to get to the 5 gallons. I suppose I could always had that chilled too, but I usually only need aboout another 1/2 gallon and it worked.

SO - for you I would try that. AND for the ice bath can you go to a dollar store and maybe find a huge tupperware tub of some sorts for maybe $7-$10. \

Thanks everyone for the advice! I will definitely see if I can do some of these tricks

If you’ve got the cash for a wort chiller then buy it now! You won’t regret it! You eliminate a possible source of infection, as you’ll be able to chill your wort in less than 20 minute, greatly shortening your brew day and giving you time to do things other than babysitting a kettle of wort. There are plenty of videos on the Web on how to make your own if you want to save some money. I considered doing it, but my time was worth more to me than the savings from making one.

ya I kind of agree with ken. especially if you are dumping $10 into a plastic tub for use, then maybe trying to buy $3-$5 of ice (I used to have to, I never was good enough on planning on saving ice ahead). Sounds silly but you are already $15 into what could go towards a cheaper wort chiller

I also just bought mine. some things I like to do myself. somethings I just don;t thnik it is worth all the time when I could just buy one

Here is what I do. I have a small trash can into which my pot fits quite comfortably with a few inches all around. THis can is new but as long as you clean a used can well that should be fine as well. Before my boil I fill the can up about half way with cold water. I buy 2 bags of ice and keep them in a cooler next to the can. After the boil I place the pot in the water and add the 2 bags of ice to the water so that the pot is floating. In my case I bought a very cheap small fountain pump that I immerse in the water to keep the water circulating. I am able to cool my wort from boiling down to 75 degrees in less than 30 minutes. And after about 45 minutes I am usually down to 65.

I have also tried it without the ice. The cooling is slower and requires a water change but the cooling is still quick enough that I think I get the wort out of the “danger zone” rather fast. Perhaps somebody smarter than I can let us know what the danger zone is. I consider it to be above 100 degrees but I am only just guessing.

sorry, adding on…
ultimately you asked if the $70 on a chiller is worth it.
I guess I will answer again a different way. How much do you plan on brewing? Are you sure you are going to LOVE this hobby? if so then YES the $70 is worth it.
If this is your first kit and you want to give it a few chances then you don’t have to run out and buy everything known to man to get great beer.

I know I am contradicting my comments in the post right above, but I rethought about it and there isn’t anything wrong with brewing a batch or two and make sure you really like the hobby. but of course everyone on here will say you will (including me…). but I did the same. tried it and slowly built up my equipment.

are you a dad??? Father’s day is right around the corner you know…

That’s good point. I brewed my first two batches without a chiller, using the abundant snow bank Mother Nature deposited on my deck to do the chilling. It still took over an hour though, even though it was below zero outside and I made sure to keep fresh snow in contact with the kettle. (An air gap between the snow and the hot kettle acts as an insulator, actually slowing the chilling process.) After that I sprung for the standard copper chiller from NB, only because I knew I was hooked and would be brewing many, many more batches…

I bought an immersion chiller from a home brew supplier on ebay (brand new, not used). It was 25 feet of 3/8" copper with brass hose fittings welded on for $49 delivered. I considered making my own but when I saw this, I had to get it. The convenience and time savings was well worth it. This was after about 9 months and about a dozen batches so I knew I was hooked. Before that I used a $6 clothes basket sized bucket with ice/water and topped off from a 2.5 gallon distilled or spring water container from the grocery store that I put in the freezer the morning of the brew day.

Even when brewing 1 gallon batches, the ice bath method was long and labor intensive, not to metion expensive if you had to buy ice.

I did four 1 gallon batches, spending about 1 hour cooling the wort in a ice bath before I finally made my own immersion chiller. I can now cool to 65*F in 7 minutes. Was the cost worth it? Yes, it removed the one boring, hated chore during brewing - cooling the wort.

Thanks everyone, these are all really good points. Im heading out to the brew store this weekend in hopes of brewing it up on Saturday or Sunday. The more I think about it the more I am leaning towards buying the chiller. I think the chances of me getting hooked on this hobby are very high! Also, I got a pretty good kit as a present from my girlfriend so I know I’m going to want to at least brew up a handful of batches to show I am grateful of the present haha. But yea in all seriousness I know I’m going to be hooked on brewing up my own brew just like the rest of you

Again, thanks for all the help with this!

If money is tight tub with ice water and top off with bottled water that you had in the fridge will work just fine. I didn’t feel a need for a chiller until I started to try and chill 5 gallon batches. 70$ will buy you a couple recipe kits.

I’ve only brewed a few batches myself but went one step further with my copper chiller. I went to Lowes and bought a 25’ piece of copper tubing and a couple brass hose fittings with barbs and clear plastic tubing. I put this into an Igloo water type cooler filled with ice and water so that my water is pre-chilled before even entering the wort chiller. Kind of a pre-chiller/chiller. Cools the wort even faster.

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