This is a tool used in homebrewing. A wort chiller is used to bring the temperature of a wort down the point where it is safe and efficacious to pitch - that is, to add the brewer's yeast. In order to pitch wort, it needs to be within a fairly narrow temperature range. Too hot, and the yeast will die when added; too cold, and the yeast will never rouse (or will do so slowly enough that the exponential growth of the yeast in the wort will not reach useful levels in the fermenting period). The wort chiller is used because a typical batch of wort (say, when homebrewing, three to five gallons) can take quite a while to cool from boiling down to pitching temperature simply through convection and radiation cooling.

All a wort chiller really is is a simple heat exchanger. Although you can buy them, it's much cheaper (and usually at least as effective) to simply build your own. A quick trip to your local plumbing supply store will ensure you have access to the correct components:

  • Copper tubing (for the actual exchanger)
  • Rubber hose (for connecting the exchanger to the tap, and perhaps for drainage)
  • Hose plugs with a hole through them for adapting the tube sections to the hose
  • Hose clamps and sealant (for sealing the tubing into the hose plugs)
  • A faucet or spigot adapter to connect the top hose to your sink
You'll need enough copper tubing to make a coil about 3/4 the diameter of your favorite wort kettle or pot, plus enough for both ends of the tubing to project out the top of the coil and far enough to the side to clear the pot's edge. Typically, you should just bring the empty pot to the store and coil the tubing there, to ensure you get enough.

Once you have the coil, attach the hose pieces onto either end. I find that two or three feet at the 'feed' (faucet) end, and perhaps a foot at the drainage end is enough. Place the plugs around the end of the tubing, using sealant to fix the tubing into the plug; then seal the plug into the hose ends with clamps and sealant if necessary. Don't worry if the sealant gets a bit messy; none of this will ever touch your precious wort. Finally, attach the spigot or faucet adapter that will mate up with your sink to the top end of the feed hose piece. I use a hose adapter on my sink when brewing, so I just put a complementary hose adapter on the top of the feed hose.

At this point, do yourself a favor and test the coil for leaks by running cold and hot water through the feed hose!

Now, next time you're brewing, as the wort is finishing the boil, sterilize your copper coil (the outside) by dunking it in some nice chlorinated water. Rinse it thoroughly.

When you've finished boiling a wort, simply place the wort pot near the sink. Place the sterile coil into the wort, connect the top feed hose to the faucet, place the drain hose down the drain, and run cold water through the coil. You'll be amazed how effective it is; typically, cold faucet water will be painfully hot to the touch after running through just-boiling wort.

Observe the temperature changes carefully; you don't want to take it too far down and need to reheat the wort. It is also a good idea to place a cover over the wort while cooling it, to avoid contamination. If you're really spiffy, you can take a spare pot cover, punch holes through it, and run the copper tubing through these holes to ensure a decent seal.

To quote Charlie Papazian, Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

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