DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller

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The following steps are how I made a immersion chiller for cooling my brew fast for pitching yeast. No need to to pay $100 bucks.

Things you will need:
  1. Standard head screw driver
  2. 25' 3/8" copper tubing (some use 50' and you would follow the same steps)
  3. 4 hose clamps
  4. 3/8" ID clear plastic hose. About 2-4 ft per side. Suit to your needs.
  5. Hose adapter or faucet adapter, depending on whether you're brewing in the house or outside.

*Recommended* Pipe bender (they have cheap spring-style pipe benders at your local hardware store)

How I did it:
First thing, wait for a sale on 3/8" copper tubing. Approx. 25'. I got this at Lowe's pretty cheap. If you're patient, either Lowe's or Home Depot will have a sale. I payed around $20 bucks for mine.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 1-291.jpg

Carefully stretch out the flat coil so you can begin wrapping it into a spring-style coil.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 2-292.jpg

Find a round tube, cylinder, bucket or even a homebrew beer keg. It's best to find something that is smaller than the inside diameter of your brew pot. I used a shipping tube that my banner material comes in. Fits my pot perfectly!

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 3-293.jpg

Next, tighten the copper tube around the cylinder object until it looks like a giant slinky.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 4-294.jpg

Now carefully straighten the inlet and outlet of the coil. The bottom should be long enough to come over the top of your brew pot. What I did was put the coil on its side and hold down one of the ends, then roll back (unwind) the coil to the desired length. I did this for both the inlet and outlet side of the coil.

I also made sure that the bottom outlet was lined up with the top so they were easier to clamp together. Itdoesn'timprove the function of the chiller, it's more for looks. There is no "set in stone" way of doing this, so if you require the bottom opening to end up on the opposite side of the coil, no big deal. Do what works best for you.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 5-295.jpg

Now for the tricky part.

Carefully bend both tubes up to the top at about a 90 degree angle (or at least close to). Be careful! You can kink the copper tubing very easily.

I would suggest getting a cheap pipe bending tool or coil. I got mine for $10 bucks at Lowe's. Even if you never use it again, it will be worth it.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 6-296.jpg

Use non-corrosive hose clamps to hold the tubes together where they meet at the top and attach your plastic tubing to both ends of the pipe. Now you can hose clamp your inlet adapter to fit your sink or garden hose/spigot. Mine is a garden hose end with a screw-on faucet adapter. This way I can use it inside and outside.

Oh, if you look at the bottom right side of the pic below, you can see the spring-style pipe benders I got a Lowe's. They are like a sleeve. You choose the size with the closest fit, slide it over the copper tube, and bend. NO KINKS!

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 7-297.jpg

Submerge the wort chiller in your boiling brew about 15 minutes before you are done boiling to sanitize the copper. Finally, connect one end of the plastic tube to the faucet and the other to your drain. I used hot water to test mine and to also check for leaks. It cooled the water down to pitching temp in less than an hour.

DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller - tone_s - 8-298.jpg

There it is! The whole build took me about 30 minutes. I hope this helps someone who would like to save money and build their own immersion wort chiller.

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68 COMMENTS
Posted: 
January 24, 2013  •  07:22 PM
Awesome write up. After reading this, I'm not sure why anyone would buy a premade cooler!
Posted: 
January 24, 2013  •  07:30 PM
@michael_mus
Thanks,
The best thing to do is check the prices regularly for copper tubing at HD or Lowes. Everything else is real cheap
Posted: 
January 25, 2013  •  11:06 PM
to take this one step farther: I've been using a pond pump to pump ice water through the chiller. I can get 5.5 gallons of wort from 212 to 65 in about 30 minutes.
Posted: 
January 26, 2013  •  12:04 AM
@jeremy0209
Nice!! I'm going to be brewing outside this weekend and I live in Florida so the water temps are sucky. I'm going to try that. Thanks for the info
Posted: 
January 28, 2013  •  11:20 PM
@michael_mus Completely agree. Really nice chiller. Thanks for sharing tone_s!
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  01:59 PM
you can sweat solder 3/8" copper fittings to 1/2" soft copper tubing...I made an immersion chiller out of a 50', 1/2" soft copper (refrigerant) tubing (I sometimes boil 10 gallon batches in keggles so I needed a larger chiller). Instead of futzing with a tube bender, I just soldered 3/8" ell's where my tubing was to bend at a 90 degree. (I believe that you can solder 1/4" fittings to 3/8" tubing; but finding 1/4 fittings is tough.)
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  02:02 PM
I went one step further. I wove copper wire between the coils to hold it together and slightly separate the coils. I also ran the tubing from the bottom up through the inside (not the outside)of the coil and attached a copper wire handle to remove it from the brew pot easier.
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  02:31 PM
Cool. Keep up the updates. I love hearing everyone's mods. I would like to try the sweat solder method once I go to 10 gal batches
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  06:48 PM
This is exactly like what my LHBS sells. I use this and also bought a second coil of copper from Home Depot and built a pre-chiller. During the summer in TX my faucet water is 80F or higher so it is impossible to cool the wort down to 80. I connect a hose from the faucet to the pre chiller. I immerse the pre-chiller in a pot of ice water. Then the outlet on the pre-chiller goes to the wort chiller. This setup cools my wort in 20 minutes while using a much smaller volume of water.
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  09:17 PM
@steveholehan
Like that. I think I will build a pre chiller for the Florida summer. Thanks for the Idea
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  09:38 PM
Frozen copper tubing will hold the tubes structure without crimping:

I've had issues with crimping when you tighten it around your template or object used for the template, but yours seems to be fine, can't tell. I found that if you freeze water in the tubing before stretching it, the pipe will keep its full round structure without crimping. I also found a cheap copper tube bender that works great for 90 degree bends.

Thanks for sharing your DIY project, looks really good.
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  09:54 PM
According to my internet, 20 foot sections are available, not 25. Would you say that is enough tube?
Posted: 
January 29, 2013  •  10:11 PM
@jabumbo
yes 20' will work. I've done both. It's really not much of a time difference If you're using a 5-8 gallon brew kettle. warmer water temps will make more of a time difference. It will still cool in less than 40mins.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  12:26 AM
Good job! Thanks for posting the pictures. I made a similar one years ago. My brewing area was near the clothes washer, so I put the hot waste water into the clothes washer. If you monitor the water temperature at the outlet, you can vary the flow rate. Run the cold water faster at first, then slower as the outflow water absorbs less heat. The outflow water will be really hot at the beginning, then start to get less hot as the wort chills to inlet water temp. I wound my copper tubing around a 1 gallon paint can, so I could get more tubing into the coil, and still have it fit in a 5 gallon batch.
Keep up the good work!
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  12:30 AM
Good work. It looks a lot like mine! I like the idea of the clip-on thermometer. I think I'll use mine next time instead of using an instant read one every couple of minutes so I can make it simpler.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  12:58 AM
instead of copper try this http://www.nybrewsupply.com/plumbing-fittings-tubing/tubing/stainless-steel-tubing-coil.html
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  06:28 AM
@certaut copper is a much better conductor of heat than stainless
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  08:14 AM
Very good tutorial.. I need to make one of these sometime...
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  11:11 AM
Hey All,

Forgive me for being the city dweller that I am, but I have a seemingly novice question. I am looking at copper on Home Depots site right now and every length and diameter of soft copper tubing says "Resists temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit". If we add this tubing to our wort boiling at 212 for fifteen minutes and then it takes another twenty to thirty minutes to get it down to 65 or 70, that's a long time for it to be overexposed to heat it isn't meant to handle. Do they use a different copper for commercial immersion chillers? Like piping or something? The 1/2" tubing I am looking at is only rated to 100!

My Dad DIYed his immersion chiller, but I'm not sure what kind of tubing or piping he used. I know it did not impart any off flavors. But this stuff looks coated or something. Any ideas?

**Update** Just looked at copper piping. While that is rated to 400 degrees, the minimum working temp is 100. So that would probably not bode well for getting it down to 65.

Thanks,
Scott
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  01:44 PM
I just put the boiling pot on the step of the swimming pool.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  01:50 PM
Remember to drop your creation into the boil for the last 10 minutes or so, don't want to introduce anything foreign!
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  02:14 PM
@WastedCider
Scott, the tubing is exposed to heat at around 250 for sterilization, but the internal temp of the copper is constantly being cooled off by the running water during wort chilling. Plus its never direct heat by a flame
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  02:33 PM
We have a 25' 3/8 copper chiller we got from the lhbs for $40. We noticed if we stir constantly we go from 212 to 85 in 9-11 minutes. That is with cold Michigan water but everybody should be able to get similar results.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  03:22 PM
Excellent build tone_s.

One comment on operation that I always pass on to brewers is to shake the coil while chilling to increase effectiveness.

When the wort in the kettle nearest the coil is chilled there is minimal mixing of the hot and cold (cooled)wort and efficiency drops. If you were to feel the temp of the waste water and then give the chiller a shake it will jump up considerably and the more heat in the waste water, the less in the brew.
The science is based on Laminar Flow and it must be disturbed to get the hot wort back on to the coils. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laminar_flow
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  03:40 PM
@pslotter
Thanks for the advice. I like less waste water.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  04:17 PM
Great post, tones! I started out with an immersion chiller and it worked great - although mine wasn't nearly as nice and leaked like a sieve.
One thing I would recommend (maybe not immediately, but eventually) is to move to a counter-flow chiller. It requires little more than a garden hose more than this initial project, wastes much much much much less water, and it will come out the optimal temperature for pitching (upon proper adjustments).

All you do is before coiling the copper tubing, slide it through a garden hose. Then coil it in the same fashion as you would have for the immersion chiller. You slide two copper T-joints over the copper tube, but under the garden hose. Seal off the other end of the T with JB Weld around the copper tube and connect the third T-end to a garden hose wi. Do this to both sides and voila! you have a CFC! Here are some pictures to clear up what it should look like.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/66620213@N05/8430418352/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/66620213@N05/8429332257/in/photostream
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  05:14 PM
cool thanks. checking out pictures now
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  05:28 PM
I can throw my brew pot in an ice bath in the sink and cool it to 65 degrees in about 30 minutes. Unless you have a brew pot that is too big for your sink or can't move it for some reason what real benefit does the chiller have over an ice bath. I mean sure if you could drop the temperature down in under 5 minutes I see the benefit. But 30 minutes just seems like a waste of time, material and effort.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  05:39 PM
My brew pot is over 8 gallons and like to brew outside.
I can chill to temp and open valve which runs to primary quickly without moving, lifting or disturbing anything.
Ice bath will work if you have the room
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  05:41 PM
I live in florida (warm water) It usually takes around 14 mins to pitch
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  06:17 PM
I just made mine last night and mine was basically just like it. A very simple and easy chiller. I was messing around with it and was wondering something. Will the chiller cool fast if the water is going fast OR slow through the tubing? ????????
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  06:19 PM
@dannylerch
Thought copper is a better conductor you'll find that most the stainless steel tubing has a much thinner wall then the copper tubing that is available and therefor its ability to transfer heat will be equal, if not better. This was brought up in a HERMS coil discussion over at theelectricbrewery.com. SS however tends to be more expensive and more difficult to work with and that is why my HERMS coil is copper :)
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  07:31 PM
UK brewers - buy 10mm annealed copper tubing as you can bend it by hand and it doesn't kink.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  08:51 PM
@Tekn0ph1sh
re: I can throw my brew pot in an ice bath in the sink and cool it to 65 degrees in about 30 minutes. Unless you have a brew pot that is too big for your sink or can't move it for some reason what real benefit does the chiller have
over an ice bath. I mean sure if you could drop the temperature down in under 5 minutes I see the benefit. But 30 minutes just seems like a waste of time, material and effort.

-----
great points and this is my question as well... my pot fits in the sink and I'll usually empty my ice tray and add cold water around it. I would think the lid staying on my pot would also be beneficial to cut down on contamination with this method as well.

any reason I should go to the chiller method?
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  09:07 PM
Speed, not having to prepare ice every batch, and less heavy lifting. But the chillers waste more water and you most likely have to be outside. Each has their trade offs.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  09:10 PM
@aswistak
I just had it int he sink for testing for leaks in picture. Yes you can throw it in a sink of ice if you like.
***If you have a 8-10 gallon kettle or Doing AG brewing on a rig outside, you wouldn't want to be lifting it and carrying it to your sink.*** With a immersion wort chiller you leave it in place on the burner and screw it to your hose or faucet and let it cool in place. It's safer and effective no mess and no chance of contamination.
It's your hobby though. If you like the sink method, do the sink method. There are many ways in Home brewing to get the same result. If you choose to build a chiller, her's how
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  10:11 PM
@dongemuson

@dongemusmus

What is lhbs? Thanks.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  10:16 PM
Great article. Thanks for sharing. Did you get the hose adapter and screw on faucet adapter at Home Depot? A friend of mine told me he used stainless steel hose clamps to connect the hoses and to hold the rising necks together.
Posted: 
January 30, 2013  •  10:24 PM
@kacey1973
I got a bag of stainless steel hose clamps from Lowes for a few bucks. I used the rest of them for my mash tun braided filter.
Posted: 
January 31, 2013  •  12:36 AM
Add a cheap fountain pump and a cooler of ice water to chill quickly and without excess waste water by recycling into the cooler
Posted: 
January 31, 2013  •  03:12 AM
That might work out well for 5 gallons. I have a plate chiller that I use, I am brewing 16.5 gallons at a time. I used to use a 25 foot copper coil and the chill time was around 1 hour. The plate chiller will, in the winter, drop 16.5 gallons to 68F from boiling in about 11 min. About at fast as my March pump can pump the wort. Then I can also use a hop back as well. This option may end up 140 bucks cheaper than a plate chiller, but a plate chiller will more than makes up for that in time saved. Now come up with a cheap DIY plate chiller and I am in!
Posted: 
January 31, 2013  •  04:24 AM
@bnhocking 50 feet of dual coil copper should definitely be enough to cool a big batch without the big investment of a plate chiller. we normal brewers have to brew in a budget and need highly effective, affordable options for our operations. Immersion chillers are highly effective when used properly and correctly adapted to individual needs.
Posted: 
January 31, 2013  •  05:39 AM
that is awesome!! thanks for that step by step write up.
Posted: 
January 31, 2013  •  04:06 PM
Some of you talk about string your wort while you are chilling your beer to drop the temp faster. I don't recommend this though. The clarity of your beer starts as soon as you take it off the heat and all the turb sediment starts to fall out. You want to leave as much of this in your brew kettle as possible. when you stir your wort you mix in all of the sediment and then end up racking it into your primary, making it harder for your Irish moss to do its job. just let it sit, I don't even move my kettle off the burner at this point. The wort chiller will cool the beer just fine without string and in the end your beer will be clearer when you bottle or keg it. And remember to siphon off the top.
Posted: 
February 1, 2013  •  03:10 AM
I live in FL too. I also use a pre-chiller in a bucket of ice during the summer months (don't need it now in Jan), but I don't put the ice in for the first 10 min or so since even at 80F water temp the differential to the boiled wort is pretty high. It definitely does help to move the wort chiller around or stir the wort (slowly) as a boundary layer forms in the liquid around the copper tubing and the heat transfer goes way down. The same with the tubing in the bucket of ice. A little movement makes a huge difference in the amount of cooling in the water going through the coils in the ice. And I haven't had any clarity issues as the solids seem to settle out fairly quickly.
Posted: 
February 1, 2013  •  03:16 AM
@kacey1973

lhbs = local homebrew supply (shop)
Posted: 
February 1, 2013  •  03:31 AM
@drklingman
I tried swirling the wort chiller tonight with boiling water as a test. It cools a lot faster. As long as you don't slosh it around and disturb the bottom it should be fine. There are a lot of posts on this site with people swirling. I do want a pre chiller for the hot florida summer days though.
Posted: 
February 1, 2013  •  02:41 PM
I made a 25' immersion chiller much like this last week. Totally cost including taxes was $46CAN (My LHBS sells a 20' version for $80 plus tax). 25' of 3/8" copper tubing at Home Hardware was $27.99. A tube bending spring to make the tight bends at both ends of the tube was less than $5 at Home Depot. I wrapped the coil so the vertical outlet length from the bottom was inside the coil, which makes for a sturdier assembly IMO. I used copper ground wire to secure the outlet length to the coil top and bottom. I attached a brass compression fitting for my garden hose directly to the inlet pipe. Easy-peasy, took about 45min total start to finish. Can't wait to try it out! I'd attach a pic but don't know how to do it in a thread comment...
Posted: 
February 3, 2013  •  04:19 PM
It may be worth noting that you don't need the full 25'. I found a box of flexible copper tubing at Home Depot that was, for some reason, missing a few feet. I think it ended up being around 10', so grabbed it and the cheapest garden hose they had and two hose clamps. $20 total and it cools my wort from full boil to 70 degrees in 40 minutes.
Posted: 
February 4, 2013  •  06:09 PM
@kacey1973 LHBS = Local Home Brew Store
We went to Adventures In Homebrewing (http://www.homebrewing.org)
Posted: 
February 9, 2013  •  08:05 PM
After my first homebrew batch took forever to chill (someone forgot to make/get enough ice for an ice bath...), I went ahead and made one of these. If you have ANY diy talent, it's simple and will save a buck for sure. As someone pointed out above, stirring gently, but constantly will rapidly accelerate your cooling. I am going to have to look into the 'pond pump' idea, as summer time temperatures on our municipal water can reach the 80s (slowing the cooling process immensely).
Posted: 
February 19, 2013  •  05:15 AM
From boil to pitch in less then ten minutes, NO running water. I just cooled my wort from 200 deg to 80 in about five minutes. I used less the two gal of water and a bag of ice. Place the copper coil in a bucket of ice water and siphen the wort through the coil into the fermenter. don't allow the wort through too quickly or else.
Posted: 
February 25, 2013  •  12:26 AM
Thanks for the write-up. Just used my homemade wort chiller last night and loved it.

If you're doing DIY beer, why not use DIY materials? Keep the great articles and projects coming!
Posted: 
March 7, 2013  •  12:08 AM
@NewBrewerTFM
Could you elaborate? I was thinking the same thing then I read your post. I was thinking of taking 20foot of copper and coiling it inside a bucket. Cut a hole at the bottom of the bucket for the copper to come through and seal with silicone since it wolnt touch the wort. Fill bucket with ice water and run the wort through into the fermenter. It's seems like it could be a cheep way to cool quick. You could even take it a step further and use a wort chiller in the kettle till a certain temp and then run it through the other chiller. Any one else ever try this?
Posted: 
March 26, 2013  •  06:32 PM
Thanks for the original post. I made an immersion chiller form 1/2" copper. It works great but doesn't look professionally done like yours does. I cool 7.5 gal boiling wort to 68 F in 15 - 20 min. Stirring is the key. Without stirring cooling will take much longer.
Posted: 
March 26, 2013  •  06:41 PM
@ImperialStout
I agree. I cool way faster now that I stir
Posted: 
May 28, 2013  •  08:26 PM
@dannylerchTrue, but copper is also anti microbial....
Posted: 
June 20, 2013  •  03:10 AM
swageloc and mc master carr will allow for a quick, cheap sourcing of the exact supplies you want, no welding needed for a good solid connection
Posted: 
July 17, 2013  •  12:10 AM
Thanks for posting this - made one of these yesterday in no time for my first extract brew, worked like a charm!

I used a washer hose for my connection and threaded the output through one of the loops to help hold it in place as I didn't want any hose clamps in the wort. I didn't have a pipe bender so there are no 90 degree bends so much as long swooping curves. A little crude but very effective and that suits me just fine.
Posted: 
August 30, 2013  •  01:40 AM
Love the write up and the pics help for those who have never made one before. I made mine 6 years ago and have never regretted it.

For those who do smaller batches and can get their brew pot into the sink and use an ice water bath to chill it keep doing it! But don't let it stop you from making your immersion chiller. In summer when it was hot and I was still using a small enough pot I did BOTH at the same time to cool down quickly.

Plate Chiller: My other hobby is Blacksmithing so I catch a lot of things on youtube related to heat and metal. I watched a few videos on back yard foundry projects. As I watched a guy melting down aluminum cans to make things with, I immediately thought of a chiller plate. I'm thinking it would be easy to make if you are handy in that way. Once I get some of my more pressing projects done I might give it a go.
Posted: 
October 8, 2013  •  02:17 AM
I recently made a wort chiller using much thinner copper tubing to improve heat transfer efficiency. I used three parallel coiled tubes to ensure my coolant flow was about the same as a a larger tubing diameter. With so much more copper surface area in the pot, it cools faster than a single larger tube. I did a write up about it here: http://lifefermented.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/diy-immersion-chiller-the-hydra/
Posted: 
October 17, 2013  •  08:28 PM
How do you get 25' of 3/8" for $20? Best price I can see is $60 for 50' and $40 for 20'. This will still be less expensive than a pre-made one, but after fittings, driving to Lowes/ Home Depot, and an hour of your time they are about equal. My LHBS has a short 20' chiller for $89. Mine was free because Mrs. mdennytoo's mom thought of me on my birthday.
Posted: 
October 22, 2013  •  01:13 AM
How in the world did you get 3/8" hose around the pipe? I spent nearly 30 minutes and destroyed my hands trying to get it around the pipe and eventually gave up. The pipe opening and the hose are the exact same size around, and with the thickness of the hose it is utterly impossible!
Posted: 
October 23, 2013  •  02:18 PM
Mdennytoo, I just waited for a sale at a big box store.
Clem, heat the hose end under hot water first to soften it. It does take some work, but a it does go on
Posted: 
October 25, 2013  •  05:52 PM
Thanks for writing this up. I used your instructions and built one of my own. You can see it here: http://imgur.com/a/id4T7
Posted: 
January 16, 2014  •  11:33 AM
@Peteambrose

If you cool gradually, you're missing out on the "cold break" that happens when you rapidly chill the wort. This is another opportunity to knock more of that gunk out of your beer. Just rapidly cool and then let settle. I mean, you're "probably" going to have to aggravate the wort again to aerate it after cooling anyhow, unless you're using some kind of aeration contraption like the aquarium pumps to get the O2 into your wort.
Posted: 
January 22, 2014  •  04:23 PM
Cheap DIY upgrade to prevent leaks ruining wort: compression to garden hose in one $4 part, a "dishwasher elbow"

http://i1290.photobucket.com/albums/b538/150kWh/Home%20Brew/7330a146-69b8-4b16-8939-d85362c2a346_zpsf1d13080.jpg

My intention: Hose in (through window), barb + tubing out. No sink mods required.
Posted: 
March 23, 2014  •  11:30 PM
Thank for the info... I will have to make one soon...
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