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.
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.
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.
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.
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!