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Looking for the best wort chiller to make your brew day run smoother? For anyone who is brewing beer, whether it’s a commercial brewer or a homebrewer, the goal is to always to make the best beer possible, and do it as efficiently as they can.
Sometimes on brew day, the most difficult task of all is getting the boiling wort cooled down to the desired temperature range so you can safely pitch the yeast.
Many times that means submerging the brew kettle in an ice bath in your kitchen sink. The only problem with that is by the time you change the water a few times and keep adding ice, about 30 to 45 minutes has passed, which enhances the chance of contamination.
So maybe it’s time to do away with the ice bath, and time to use a wort chiller instead.
What Is A Wort Chiller?
A wort chiller is a piece of home brewing equipment that is used to quickly get your boiling wort cooled down to an acceptable yeast pitching temperature, which is a crucial step in fermentation and the beer brewing process.
The process works by using cool or a chilled water source that circulates through copper or stainless-steel tubing or stainless-steel plates. The continuous circulation of water absorbs the heat from the boiling wort, which in the process of heat exchange, cools the wort.
Advantages of Using a Wort Chiller
There are a few distinct advantages and reasons why you really should skip the dreaded ice bath to cool down the wort and use a wort chiller instead.
- Rapidly Cools The Wort To Yeast Pitching Temperature
- Improves The Cold Break
- Reduces The Risk Of Contamination
- Helps Produce a Clearer Beer
Our Top 6 Wort Chillers For HomeBrewing
Whether you are looking for an immersion, counterflow, or plate chiller, or one made from copper or stainless steel, we have listed the 6 best wort chillers that are perfect for homebrewing.
But if you don’t have to time and are in a hurry, these are the 6 that you might want to have a look at.
NY Brew Supply Immersion Chiller - 3/8" 50 ft - Copper
This NY Brew Supply immersion chiller is made from 50 ft of 3/8″ copper tubing. Because of the extra 25 ft of tubing, this wort chiller will cool your boiling wort down in a matter of minutes.
It comes with a brass adapter to connect to the water source, two stainless-steel hose clamps, and one 12 ft piece of vinyl tubing that allows you to cut it to the length you prefer. Also, since the coils are made from copper, rather than stainless-steel, you are able to adjust the coil spacing and the height.
This wort chiller is the perfect size to rapidly cool 10-gallons of boiling wort, but if you like copper but want something smaller for a 3 to 5-gallon batch, this model comes in 25 ft as well.
NY Brew Supply Immersion Chiller Pros
- Cools a 5-gallon batch in under 20-minutes
- High-quality brass adapters
- Includes 12-ft of vinyl tubing
- Simple to use
NY Brew Supply Immersion Chiller Cons
- Not as rigid as its stainless-steel counterpart
- Fittings can leak
- Not ideal for smaller batch sizes
JockyBox Immersion Chiller - 3/8" 25 ft - Stainless Steel
This immersion wort chiller from JockeyBox. com is made from 25 feet of food-grade stainless-steel, and comes with tubing, hose adapter, and barbed fittings.
Because it is made with stainless-steel instead of copper, it is easy to keep clean and won’t corrode over time. This one comes with a hose adapter, no-leak barbed fittings, and food-grade vinyl tubing which will allow you to cool your wort without moving the kettle off of the stove.
Designed specifically for a 5-gallon batch, this particular chiller is made with 25 ft of high-quality stainless-steel that could easily last a lifetime if properly taken care of.
Jockey Box Immersion Chiller Pros
- Very Durable and made to last
- Easy to clean
- Great for 5-gallon batch sizes
Jockey Box Immersion Chiller Cons
- Doesn’t cool as quickly as copper
- Heavier than copper
- Need additional fitting to connect to kitchen sink
NY Brew Supply Deluxe Counterflow Wort Chiller
If you are looking to get your wort down to the optimal pitching temperature even faster than an immersion chiller, this counterflow chiller might be what you are looking for.
This high-temperature, durable chiller has a 1/2″ inner copper tubing that is 25 feet long and is the perfect size for a standard 5 gallon boil. NY Brew Supply states that the hose is more durable than a standard garden hose and will not get brittle and rot over time. It also has two heavy-duty brass fittings that will connect to a garden hose for the water source.
Besides maybe being a bit expensive for a new homebrewer, overall there are not too many problems with this particular model other than the need to make sure the fittings are tight before using, or you may end up having a leak.
NY Brew Supply Deluxe Counterflow Chiller Pros
- Extremely Durable
- Less than 12-minutes to cool a 15-gallon batch
- Hose connections adjust to different angles for ease of use
NY Brew Supply Deluxe Counterflow Chiller Cons
- Compression fittings can leak
- Can become clogged if not cleaned properly
Northern Brewer Counterflow Chiller - Stainless Steel
This Northern Brewer counterflow wort chiller will quickly and efficiently cool down 5-gallons of boiling wort to optimal yeast pitching temperature within 10 to 15 minutes without the need to stir the wort.
The coils of this chiller are made with 18 feet of 304 grade stainless steel, and comes with a standard male garden hose fitting, which is also made from stainless-steel instead of brass. Just a heads up…If you are connecting to a garden hose for your cold water source, you will need to purchase a female to female adapter.
Northern Brewer Counterflow Chiller Pros
- Cool wort and transfer to fermenter at the same time
- More durable than copper
- Can be used with a pump
Northern Brewer Counterflow Chiller Cons
- More expensive than an immersion chiller
- Harder to clean than an immersion chiller
Blichmann Plate Chiller - Stainless Steel
This Blichmann stainless steel plate chiller has 40 plates that will cool your wort in just minutes, and is similar to what the commercial brewers use.
Depending on the temperature of your water, this particular model will cool a 10-gallons of boiling wort down to 68 degrees in 4 to 5 minutes. Weighing about 8 pounds and being compact in size, you can easily fit this unit into your brew pot for easy sanitation.
It has 1/2″ male fittings for the in/out of the wort, and 3/4″ male fittings for the water source, which will fit a normal garden hose, so no extra adapters are needed.
Just like most plate chillers, it is recommended that you use a hop bag or hop spider to keep out of the chiller.
Blickmann Stainless-Steel Plate Chiller Pros
- Super efficient cooling
- From brew kettle to fermenter in one step
- Heavy-duty construction
Blickmann Stainless-Steel Plate Chiller Cons
- Most expensive type of wort chiller
- More difficult to keep clean
HFS(R) Plate Chiller
This plate chiller from HFS can cool 10-gallons of boiling wort down to 75 degrees in just 5 minutes. Using this plate chiller for rapid wort cooling, is much quicker than an immersion or counterflow chiller. and the option to choose from more or less plates. (20,30,40)
When you choose this chiller, you can select the amount of plates that you want. (20,30,40). All of the plates are made with stainless-steel and brazed with copper to maximize the surface area that will ensure the most rapid cooling possible. The wort in/out fittings are 1/2″ NPT threads, and the in/out water source fittings are a 3/4″ thread and fit a standard garden hose.
You can use this chiller by just using gravity or it can be used with a pump. When you use a closed-system with a pump, you can limit the amount of water you waste.
Because of the small chilling plates, it is recommended to use a hop spider to avoid the plates becoming clogged.
HFS(R) Plate Chiller Pros
- Cools boiling wort extremely fast
- Compact size
- Transfer wort directly to the fermenter
HFS(R) Plate Chiller Cons
- Internal plates can become clogged
- May leak over time
The 3 Types Of Wort Chillers For Homebrewing
There are 3 basic types and styles of wort chillers to choose from, and they all work as a form of heat exchange.
The three types are:
- Immersion Chiller
- Counterflow Chiller
- Plate Chiller
Immersion Wort Chiller
The first type is called an “immersion” chiller. This particular wort chiller is usually made from 25 to 50 feet of copper or stainless steel hose that is formed into a large coil.
Towards the end of the boil, the cleaned wort chiller will be submerged into the boiling wort where it will also become sanitized. One end of the coil will then be connected to a water source, and the other end will be securely inserted into a drain or something to catch the water.
Once the cool water is turned on and starts flowing through the tubing, the heat from the wort will be transferred to the water that is flowing through the coil and the warm to hot water will exit to a larger vessel that can be used for cleaning or watering the plants, or can simply go down the drain.
Depending on the temperature of the ground water, you can expect a 5-gallon of boiling wort to drop to an acceptable yeast pitching temperature range in about 15 or 20 minutes, compared to 35 to 45 minutes when using an ice bath.
Even though an immersion chiller is simple to use and will cool the wort rapidly, the main drawback is the potential to waste a lot of water during the process.
Counterflow Wort Chiller
The second type of wort chiller is called a “counterflow” chiller. A counterflow chiller is looks similar to an immersion chiller, but it is made up of two pieces of tubing, one inside of the other.
Unlike the immersion style in which the wort stays in the kettle while the water circulates through the tubing, the counterflow chiller works a bit differently. The hot liquid will actually flow through the coils of the inner tubing in one direction, while the cool water flows through the outer tubing in an opposite direction.
A counterflow chiller can bring the temperature of the wort down even faster than an immersion chiller and use less overall water in the process. However, since the counterflow system is not “submerged” into the wort, either a spigot, pump, or gravity is needed to start the process.
One of the main disadvantages of using a counterflow chiller is that it is much harder to keep clean from the wort actually flowing through the coils of the tubing. So it is always best to clean the tubing as soon as you are finished to make it easier the next time you use it.
And the third type of wort chiller is a “plate” chiller. Just like a counterflow chiller, this compact style cools the wort more efficiently and uses less water than both the immersion and counterflow chillers, but is usually more costly than the other types.
The same principal of cooling the wort with heat exchange is used. The cold water flows in one direction while the hot liquid flows in the opposite direction. During the circulation, the flat plates take care of the rapid heat exchange to cool the wort the quickest way possible.
When using a plate chiller, there are two ways that it can be used. You can run the whole amount of the wort through the plate chiller, and directly into your fermenter. One downside is if your ground water is too warm, you might need to chill the water to make sure it cools the wort to the correct yeast pitching temperature.
The second way is to re-circulate the wort through the chiller and back into the brew kettle multiple times until you reach your desired temperature, then you can transfer to your fermenter. The disadvantage of doing this is the extra time that it takes, and a pump will be needed to keep the circulation going.
Overall, using a plate chiller is probably the fastest way to bring down the wort temperature down, but it also can be difficult to clean because the yeast and sediment can become lodged in the small tubing and between the spaces of the plates.
Why Should You Use a Wort Chiller?
The longer that it takes to bring the temperature down, there is a much higher risk of your wort being contaminated with unwanted micro-organisms and bacteria. If the wort is cooled at a slow gradual pace, dimethyl sulfide (DMS) will still be produced which can cause unwanted off-flavors in the finished beer.
Besides using a wort chiller to rapidly bring the wort temperature down below 80 degrees before you pitch the yeast, it also helps to form the cold-break, which is the precipitation of the proteins that have formed in the wort.
The idea is to have all of these proteins and tannins clump together, sink to the bottom, and be left behind in the brew kettle, rather than in your fermenter which can cause “chill haze”. Chill haze is more of a cosmetic issue which can cause “cloudy” beer, but it can cause instability in your beer and cause it to become flat and stale.
One thing to keep in mind. If you live in an area where the climate is on the warmer side and the ground water is not a cool, the wort can only be cooled down to the actual temperature of the water source, and will have an impact on how long the cooling process takes.
Final Say On The Best Wort Chillers
No matter which style or type you choose, whether it’s an immersion, counterflow, or plate chiller, copper or stainless-steel, you can’t wrong with any of them. Of coarse, the size of the beer batch and the amount you are willing to spend will play a part in your decision.
If you are looking to purchase your first wort chiller, we recommend that you start with a copper immersion chiller from NY Brew Supply first and see how it works. It will definitely allow you to pitch your yeast much faster than using an ice bath to cool down the wort. From there, if you feel like you want something to cool your wort even faster and more efficient, we suggest you try the counterflow wort chiller from Northern Brewer or the plate chiller from Blinkman.