You Don’t Need a Wort Chiller

After 48 batches, I have never used a wort chiller. I chill in my bathtub, which takes from 15-30 minutes. The secret is to stir. When the boil is about to finish, I fill the tub with cold water and ice (the ice that’s already in my freezer; I don’t buy it). To protect the tub from scratches, I throw a towel down. Get wort to 70, pitch yeast, done.

Well, not so fast. Let me backtrack a bit. In full disclosure, many times I chill the wort to 100F, then add cold water, which brings it down to 70ish, then pitch yeast. As you know, those last 10-20 degrees are a real bitch. This method, as you can tell, makes the process even faster. This is called making a “concentrated wort,” and I have done it many times. So, for example, I start with 6 gallons of water to soak the grain in (mash). After squeezing the bag, I’m left with a little over 5 gallons. Then, after a 60 min. boil, I’m left with only 4.8 gallons. So, after chilling, I top it off to 5.5 gallons with some cold water, which leaves me with about 5 gallons to bottle. Is there a downside to this? Well, there is a possibility that the cold water will somehow infect the beer (because the cold water hasn’t been boiled). I’m not sure how possible that is, but it’s something to think about. Also, it effects your hop bitterness a little bit (not enough for me to care about).

Don’t get me wrong: I have thought about getting a copper wort chiller many times. However, I really don’t see the benefit, compared to the cons. I have to clean a wort chiller (they seem to get pretty nasty and I really don’t like cleaning). I don’t have to clean my bathtub. That saves me time and money. Also, I brew outside. In the winter, how do I use a wort chiller outside? The faucets are turned off or frozen. If a wort chiller took only 5 minutes to chill, I would probably get one. I doubt that’s true.

One thought on “You Don’t Need a Wort Chiller

  1. Hi Matt,

    One down side to the concentrated wort is hop utilization making it difficult to precisely control final IBU. That isn’t a huge concern with the volumes you’re working with, but it is one thing to consider.

    I would be less concerned with infection from the cold water, more concerned with chloramine and/or chlorine from the water. But if the water you’re using doesn’t have those particular issues, no problem there.


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