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Old 08-19-2009, 09:05 PM   #1
St. Jon's Wort
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Default How long should an immersion chiller take to cool down 5 gallons of wort?

I bought a 25' immersion chiller to use on my first batch of AG. The brewday went perfectly...until it was time to cool the wort down. Even with the immersion wort chiller going full blast, the wort was still 80+ degrees after 45 minutes. What gives? I heard that most immersion chillers would cool boiling wort to 80 degrees in as little as 15 minutes. Am I doing something wrong? I just could not seem to get the wort below 80 degrees for the LONGEST time. It eventually took juat a shade under an hour to get the wort cooled to pitching temps. Does anyone have any suggestions on why this may have taken so long?

Thanks for the help.


Edit: BTW, the brand of chiller I got was L.D. Carlson.

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Old 08-19-2009, 09:32 PM   #2
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Sounds about right. Check the temperature of the water coming from your spigot to the immersion chiller, I bet it is in the mid to high 70's.

Also the diameter of the tubing plays somewhat into the cooling time.

Did you stir the wort while you were chilling?

Did you run the water full blast or at a trickle?

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Old 08-19-2009, 09:41 PM   #3
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The length of time is directly related to the temperature of your ground water, too. My ground water is always cold, summer or winter, in my climate; but yours may be 70+ degrees this time of year. That means it will take longer to chill.

Some people use pond pumps and recirculate ice water, to avoid that. Some have "prechillers", which is an immersion chiller in a cooler with ice that the water flows through to get colder before it gets to your wort chiller.

Gently stirring the wort helps cool it faster. I get to pitching temps in 20-30 minutes in my case.

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Old 08-19-2009, 09:42 PM   #4
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Full blast but I did not stir the wort. I checked the water coming out of my spigot and it was in the 75-78 degree range so that would explain the reason why the wort refused to budge below the 79-78 degree range, but it doesn't explain the reason why it took me approx. 45 minutes to get the wort to 80 degrees when other people are talking about getting from boiling to 80 in 15 minutes. Would stirring the wort make that big of a difference? Also, I was covering the pot during the chill down, could this have been a factor. This was my first time dealing with a chiller and I am just trying to figure out if I was utilizing it correctly.

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Old 08-19-2009, 09:44 PM   #5
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Hot water rises, so if you chiller is sitting on the bottom, you are colling some of the cooler wort that you have. Mixing it up will help.

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Old 08-19-2009, 09:45 PM   #6
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Check your thermometer as well. My old brewing thermometer ran about 6-7 degrees hotter than actual temperature! It read 77 and I'd be down to 70. Also I move the chiller up and down which speeds up cooling.

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Old 08-19-2009, 10:25 PM   #7
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Chilling wort is more complicated than it may appear on first glance. Some of the big factors have been covered in this thread already. Temperature differential between your wort and the chilling water in the chiller is huge. Generally: the more the faster, but it's not that simple. Agitation (stirring) is important, and a moment's reflection shows why. The chiller is constantly moving the temperature of the wort just on the other side of the chiller wall down, thus decreasing the differential. So- stirring a lot is really helpful, because it's constantly mixing and thus raising the temperature of that wort right next to the chiller wall, thus increasing the efficiency of the process.

Of course, the material of the chiller is important. A copper chiller has better conductivity than one made of stainless steel.

There are also things that go on INSIDE the chiller, as I learned when I went to change out the connectors on my Midwest copper chiller (just the entry level 25' 3/8" tubing model. I got tired of the hose clamps that held on the vinyl hoses leaking, so I changed them out to compression / hose fittings. While doing this, I noticed that there is a yellow plastic tape in the tubing that runs the entire length of the chiller. I e-mailed Midwest about this, and they said the plastic tape is put in the tubing on purpose, to increase the efficiency of the chiller. While it does retard water flow to some extent, it mixes the water in the tubing, thus apparently accomplishing the same thing inside the tubing that stirring does outside. The Midwest guy said that without the tape, it would take 15% longer to cool the wort. Interesting.
My cooler will take a full 5 gal. boil to 70F in 21-22 minutes, but we have a well, and the water is pretty much 55F year-round.

If your water is as warm as you say, perhaps you'd benefit from going to the pond pump / ice bath system mentioned earlier. I have a submersible pump, and have considered doing a recirculation into a large cistern on the side of the house, that usually is half full with probably 1,000 gallons of ground temp water in there. Same principle.

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Old 08-19-2009, 10:33 PM   #8
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Stirring makes a major difference. Without stirring, the cooling is dependent on the formation of convective currents in the wort. These are driven by the differences in density between hot and cooled wort, which aren't much.

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Old 08-20-2009, 10:52 AM   #9
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Thanks guys. Stirring makes sense. Regardless of my chiller issues, I feel that my first AG went very, very well and I am looking forward to my next brewday.

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Old 08-20-2009, 12:42 PM   #10
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I grab my chiller by the input & output and vigorously lift it up and down, I figure that this will also get oxygen into my wort before I pitch the yeast.

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