DIY Wort Chiller For Hot Weather

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Living in Phoenix - the Valley of the Sun - I was confronted with the problem of a good way to chill my wort. With tap water coming out of the faucet VERY WARM, many of the standard methods didn't work. After much consternation, I came up with a method that has served me very well. All you need are some paint buckets, copper coil, a ball valve, and a few other miscellaneous screws, fittings and gaskets - all of which you can get from your local hardware/home improvement store for around $25-$30.

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There are a few advantages to this. First, it aerates the wort very well. I know there are many who use only bottled O2 to aerate their wort for fear of contamination, but I have used this method several times and NEVER had any off flavors or contamination. Just makes sure you keep the pets out of the way and try to avoid windy/drafty places. Second, put a filter funnel into the carboy to further aerate the wort as it passes through and remove any remaining hop leaves or any small grain bits that might have snuck into your boil. Finally, it is a cheaper setup to get going than an immersion chiller or chiller plate.

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The only drawback is that you will need to buy a large bag of ice for each brew session. If you want to do a lager, probably two bags with a switch about half way through your chilling process. This obviously will add around $3-4 to your brewing process but for those of you who use immersion chillers or chiller plates in the Southwest, you are going to need to buy some ice anyway. One thing to keep in mind is the more copper coil you use, the colder the wort will be after it has passed through the chiller. I would advise those that try this method to not skimp and buy enough copper tubing to fill your bucket with coils.

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Easy to clean, just make sure as soon as you are done to run some water through the wort chiller until it runs clean. Prior to running wort through the chiller, I always run Starsan through the chiller until it comes out and then close the valve. Let it sit in there a few minutes, flush for a bit, then let it sit again with some more in the tubing.

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For those homebrewers on a budget, living in areas where the tap water doesn't come out as cold as you need, it's a great way to expedite your chilling process and pitch that yeast as soon as possible!

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December 13, 2012  •  10:13 PM
How do you use it? pour wort through the copper coil?
December 13, 2012  •  10:33 PM
The top bucket (smaller one where wort is poured) screws into the icbbath (second, bigger bucket) with copper coils on the inside. Simply pour the wort into the top bucket and it will pass through the cooled coils and out the ball valve on the bottom. Look at the picture taken on the patio. That's how I set it up when it is ready to use.
December 13, 2012  •  10:34 PM
The second photo shows connection to copper coil....
December 30, 2012  •  11:37 PM
That's a pretty cool set up you got. Is it easy to bend the copper coil without it breaking?
January 11, 2013  •  06:56 PM
Got any idea of temps coming out?
January 11, 2013  •  09:24 PM
That's pretty tall for me. I don't think I could pour 5 gallons into that when it's up there.
January 21, 2013  •  05:57 PM
I fill my funnel with Ice and pour the hot wort through that into the carboy. If you are using bought store bought ice it is made with purified water. Two birds with one stone.
January 30, 2013  •  02:09 PM
What is the temperature out of the copper coil?
February 9, 2013  •  12:09 PM
A. How do you get the wort into the top bucket, pitcher?
B. How long does it take for 5 gallons to trickle through?
C. Will one running cool it to ~70 F, or do you have to do a few?
April 4, 2013  •  10:14 PM
depends how much ice, or how cold the water sitting in the bottom bucket is. If you wanted to make sure before you put wort through it, to make sure it didnt cool it too much, run some boing water through the copper to get an idea of how much ice you need....
April 18, 2013  •  08:35 PM
I am new to this site, but to bring wort temp down I use a couple of boxs of rock salt, by just pouring it into the ice water it seems to quickly bring the temp of wort down.
April 18, 2013  •  09:21 PM
rock salt helps for sure.
May 3, 2013  •  04:58 PM
IMO your setup lacks sanitation. Immersion chillers get boiled in the wort for the last 20 min to sanitize them. Maybe use the bottom part as pre chiller to a immersion chiller?
May 5, 2013  •  04:43 PM
Ever heard of Starsan?
May 5, 2013  •  05:03 PM
Can you tell me what fittings you used to pass the tubing through the bucket? I can see that it looks like a flange with a gasket but what are those fittings called? Could we bug you to post the fittings list off your home-depot receipt?

Great ideas!
May 6, 2013  •  04:36 AM
If the wort is coming out to hot you can crank the ball valve down to lower the temp
May 10, 2013  •  12:54 AM
Looks kind of close to a still also.
May 10, 2013  •  12:56 AM
@Howiedw only works if your using extract and need a top off though.
May 10, 2013  •  06:12 PM
In regards to how you get it in the top bucket, you could just put a ball valve on your boil kettle and hook that up straight to the coils in the bottom bucket. This would eliminate the top bucket. Just my 2 cents. Great idea though. I've considered something similar to this. I was gonna go with an immersion chiller hooked up to a small pond pump in a bucket full of ice water. It recirculates ice water through it.
May 10, 2013  •  06:24 PM
In regards to how you get it in the top bucket, you could just put a ball valve on your boil kettle and hook that up straight to the coils in the bottom bucket. This would eliminate the top bucket. Just my 2 cents. Great idea though. I've considered something similar to this. I was gonna go with an immersion chiller hooked up to a small pond pump in a bucket full of ice water. It recirculates ice water through it.
May 10, 2013  •  08:45 PM
boil kettle ball has been added to new keggle great and eliminates top bucket and exposure to air. using pure oxygen and .5 micron stone to increase aeration and the set-up works great.
May 17, 2013  •  01:46 PM
How do you KNOW if the copper pipe is clean after use? Running starsan through doesn't guarantee that you don't have solid deposition or corrosion. Cleaning the exterior of copper pipe is 100X easier than cleaning the inside.
May 18, 2013  •  02:20 AM
I like it, but seams like a round a bout way to avoid an immersion chiller and a sink full of ice.
May 24, 2013  •  02:20 AM
I use a small pond pump and pump ice water through an immersion chiller.
May 24, 2013  •  03:27 AM
This is brilliant! Thank you for sharing.
June 2, 2013  •  05:32 PM
@Justdrumin I've done this, it works rather well in Texas, but I think next time I will also incorporate the rock salt idea too. Might make the ice last longer.
June 5, 2013  •  11:32 AM
Very cool. I just picked up a small ice machine, am hunting copper and buckets today. I have been transferring it from my keg cooker to stainless pots then "sink" cooling.

I wonder how these coils would work strapped to the front of a window air conditioner? I know air does not have the thermal transfer rate of ice thou.
June 10, 2013  •  09:46 PM
You can get free ice from ice arenas sometimes. You might have to call ahead to get the Zamboni schedule, the ice pile probably doesn't last long where you live.
June 24, 2013  •  05:19 PM
I wonder how the fittings are at the end of the copper coil. My concern is with the chances of any leaking. If the leaking is at the beginning of the coil, where very hot wort is coming out, it doesnt matter. But what if the leaking (in and out) is inside the iced water?. Contamination for sure.

How do you make sure the wort is never going to be in touch with water right where you connect the coil to the valve system going out?.

Overall, I think its a great idea and want to try it
July 28, 2013  •  09:42 PM


A counterflow wort chiller has the same issue (cleaning the inside of copper tubing, vs, the outside.) On brew day, during the boil, I fill my bottling bucket with 5 gallons of star san, and run that through the wort chiller into my fermentation bucket. It takes a few minutes, and it's dynamic, so it can carry away anything inside the chiller. It sanitizes the chiller, the tubing (high temp, food grade silicon tubing) used, and the fermentation chamber. When it comes time to drain the hot wort from the kettle, I hook up the tubing, and guide the exit of the tube into a catch basin. Once the star san solution is purged and I see wort exiting, I close the ball valve, and put the exit of the tube into the fermenter. At the end of brew day, I flush the inside of the chiller with the hottest water I can stand from the sink, for about a minute, in both directions, and I tilt the unit until the water drains out. Haven't had any problems with contamination so far.
November 20, 2013  •  11:22 PM
It is only purified ice (for certain) if you buy it from a store that sells purified water...