Beginner’s Guide to Home Brewing – Cooling

Wort should be cooled as quickly as possible to its fermentation temperature. This is mainly to prevent a time lag period where microorganisms can enter the purified wort and contaminate it since we only want to “contaminate” it with our yeast starter. A large sink or vat can be used as an ice bath but this requires a lot of ice and a long waiting period, usually about 2 ½ Hrs. The preferred way is to use an immersion cooler to lower the temp. as quickly as possible. The clean copper coil is placed in the brew kettle 5 min. before the end of the boil to assure sterility and when the gas is shut off put in the clean floating thermometer, or remote if you have one. Whichever method is used, keep the kettle covered with the lid and you may need some foil over the top if the immersion cooler is used. The idea is to keep out any wild yeast, bugs, dust etc. Avoid breathing and talking into the cooling wort. An outdoor ice water bath vat can be made from a 55 gal. drum that was cut in half. Often heating and cooling outfits have empty drums that contained propylene glycol, a non-toxic antifreeze, that is easily rinsed out. Avoid any drum that had any hazardous material in it. A boiler drain valve should be cut into the bottom to help drain the water. As the wort is transferred from the kettle it will lighten in weight and will float in the bath so be sure to drain the water once the wort temperature reaches it’s mark. You could siphon the bath water out if no drain is made. Our main concern here is the safe transfer of wort from the kettle to the fermenter. If you are familiar with pumps maybe you could make a setup to cool and pump wort. We are going to use a simple siphon system; it works and can
easily be applied.

Differences in height are needed for a good siphon action. Place the vat on the deck next to where the fermenter will be set on the ground, around 4-5 feet drop. The vat is filled with the proper amount of water for the size kettle used. If using an ice bath remember to have water in the vat and add the ice once the kettle is in it and had water circulated a while to conserve on ice. 32-Qt stockpots can be handled by one person but a 15 gal. keg requires two strong people. At the end of the boil, shut off the gas and put kettle in the water vat. Be very careful!! The vat water will bubble. Hook up the hoses to the immersion cooler and start water flow.

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