After a long 2 hour brew day, I’m a big fan of being done brewing. I like to brew frequently, I have a family, and I have other stuff to do. Which means that, after the boil, I’m a big fan of not chilling the beer down to room temperature. Conventional wisdom says you have to chill the unfermented beer really fast, then add yeast. I used to do that. For almost all my 60+ batches, I would chill the unfermented beer in my bathtub, which involves adding ice and cold water (the ice was from my fridge). This was effective but, in my opinion, not very sanitary or fun. Alternatively, most people buy a special ‘immersion wort chiller,’ which is a copper coil that runs cold water through the beer constantly, cooling it down fairly fast. You can hook it up to an outside spigot, garden hose, or kitchen faucet. Of course there are more expensive, complex systems that I won’t get into. More time, more cleaning.
However, is this really necessary to make good beer? There is an entire world of homebrewers who don’t chill at all – they live in Australia and put beer into weird plastic cubes. I like the lazy approach, minus the weird cube. So, after boiling with hops, I simply put the hot unfermented beer into my freezing fermentation chamber, put lid on pot, set the temp to 70 degrees, and wait. In the winter, I’ve noticed it takes about 24 hours or so (last batch was 18 hours). Then I put the yeast in, sit back and relax for 5 days while it makes alcohol. So far, so good.
Infection is the main reason that people chill fast, no doubt about it. The most critical period of the beer is after the boil but before the fermentation. It’s a race to produce alcohol. Alcohol helps prevent infection. As for me, I’m not too worried about infection. I do clean the fermentation chamber with Clorox wipes. It’s closed and sealed. I feel like infection is possible but highly unlikely, although I don’t have numbers to back it up. This is something I will experiment with until I get an infection or notice a quality difference.
Another issue is bitterness from hops. If you don’t chill, the hops will continue to impart bitterness on your beer for several hours. Something to think about.