Building A Copper Wort Chiller

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Building A Copper Wort Chiller
Well as we all know, needing to chill your wort fast and efficiently is of utmost importance. I've been brewing for a while now and until recently I did not think I would ever need an immersion chiller. Well was I wrong. Now that I created this wonderful chiller I cannot think of not living without it.
The hot wort must also be quickly cooled to lower the production of Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) and the possible off-flavors it can contribute. Large amounts of DMS are produced during the boil but evaporate into the air with the hot gasses. When boiling stops, so does the removal of DMS. However, DMS continues to be generated in the hot wort. The longer you wait before cooling and the longer cooling takes, the more DMS will linger in the finished beer.
Parts/Tools Needed:
  • 25-50' 3/8" OD soft copper tubing
  • 10' clear vinyl tubing
  • 3/8" OD x " garden hose compression fitting
  • Stainless steel 3/8" clamp
  • 3 pieces 6' 14ga copper wire
  • Corny keg or something to wrap copper around
  • Tape measure
  • Pliers
  • Adjustable wrenches
  • Wire strippers (if using coated 14ga wire)
  • Wire cutters
1) Gather all required parts and tools and have a clean work space.

Items Required For Build
2) Gently separate the copper tubing from the coil, being careful not to kink the tubing (this will impede the flow of water). If a kink happens it is best to cut that piece off and start over again.

Separate The Tubing
3) Measure from the bottom of your boil kettle to about 6" above the top. Mine was about 20" and I straightened about that much from the copper coil.

Measure For Kettle Height
4) Now I placed the straightened piece under my corny keg and used the indents in the keg bottom to hold the copper in place as I spun the coil (this will take time and a lot of patience especially if you have not worked with soft copper before).

Shape The Coil
5) Once the initial coil shape is complete around the keg remove the keg from the middle and you should now have a neatly coiled copper tube.

The Formed Coil
6) Now you need to make the bends in the tubing upwards. The top one is the easiest. I made this by turning it around a 2" diameter pipe piece I had. Again you want to be very careful not to bend in a kink.

Make The Upper Bends
7) For the bottom bend I pulled the coil apart a little, carefully fed the 20" piece through the middle of the coil and made the same bend as above.

Make The Bottom Bend
8) I then had both the top and bottom copper ends up.

Completed Bends
9) I then used 14ga. Copper wire in about a 6' length to separate the coil from touching itself to maximize the efficiency.

Securing The Coils
10) I took the wire in the middle and placed it around the bottom of the coil and then put one twist in between the next coil. I used a pair of pliers to make the twist. The first wire wrap I placed next to the tube on the inside of the coil.

Coil Wire Twisting Completed
11) When I got to the top of the coil I made one loop around the tube sticking up to secure it in place.
12) I repeated this a total of three times equally around the coil.

Neatly Formed Coil
13) I then installed the compression 90deg hose fitting to the piece from the bottom of the coil and tightened it down using two adjustable wrenches.

Tighten Compression Fitting
14) Next I used the put the hose clamp over the other end and put the clear vinyl tubing over as well and secured using the hose clamp.

Vinyl Tubing Secured
15) I chose not to bend this end of the copper since it is too close to the cut and would almost definitely kink, but with a tight hose clamp there are no leaks.

The Completed Copper Wort Chiller
Nice clean job! Looks very professional! What I did to further maximize efficiency was make a double wort chiller where I had a small wort chiller (10 ft, 1/2" coil) that goes into an ice bath first that then connects that to my main worth chiller. This way 33 degree water is being circulated through the wort. Chills a 5.5 gallon batch on in the heat of the summer in 20 minutes. Cheers!
3/8" is what I had readily available to me.
I just did a beer using this and it took about 20 minutes to cool 5.5 gallons down to around 80*F using my hose bib on the side of the house. I could only imagine that a double in an ice bath would only improve upon that.
Great article. I've been wanting to build one of these and your article help build some self-confidence
I was going to build one for myself. This is a nice article that explains how to do it. I found however it is actually cheaper to buy one already made than what I could build one for. The best price that I could find 50 feet of 3/8 copper tubing was an easy $50.
I needed to upgrade my 25' chiller to at least a 50' since I'm now doing full volume boils. I found a triple coil 50' x 3/8 at Brew International (or something like that) for $50. I had to pay $18 shipping and then I don't have to take time to build it. If I could've found cheaper tubing I would've built one myself.
Awesome! I built one last year, and have a couple of extra hints
- before shaping it, fill it with water and cap it, then toss it in the freezer overnight. The ice provides lateral support which greatly reduces the risk of kinking.
- those clamps are the way to go. I used compression fittings which do not hold up after all the use.
"Well as we all know, needing to chill your wort fast and efficiently is of utmost importance." - Well, I, for one, do not know. I've been 80-no-chilling, that is, doing a partial boil by 80% and topping with 20% cold water to stop isomerization, and I've not had one bad IPA to date. As everything is moved in a tight container, I believe less oil-evaporation happens. This allows for an overnight cooling with no hassle, and no water. Best of both worlds (no-chill and hop-forward beers)? Time will tell!
@TheBeerGuy It's best to forget about building another one and putting it in ice water. Get a cheap fountain pump and pump the ice water through the coil. It's best to use tap water to get the wort down to around 100F, and then switch over to ice water. You can run it down to lager pitching temps in no time at all.
This looks all fine and dandy, but wort chillers require at least 50-60 gallons of water. I am able to chill my wort with only 25-35 gallons of water with cold water in a tub. Sure it may take up to an hour but everything turns out just fine with out wasting an extra 30 gallons of water. I change out 5 gallons at a time over an hour or so until I get the wort to about 70 degrees fahrenheit.
@leidemann 50-60 gallons? You are way off sir.
With my immersion chiller/pre-chiller it takes about 20 gallons to chill to 65 in under 20 minutes. That water gets collected back in my mlt and hlt to reuse in the washer.
Sounds like a lot of work, what if you are doing 10 to 15 gallons at a time? do you still lug that into your tub? Also a good idea to save a reuse your water.
Just one tip for your chiller. Bend back the hose fittings (both sides) so they go over the edge of your kettle. If any stray drips from the garden hose side of things gets in the kettle it could potentially cause problems. Good luck to you!
I put a garden hose thread on the discharge of mine and run it out to a sprinkler. It sprays pretty far before it lands so I'm not worried about scalding my lawn. It's nice to be able to see the water at least doing something more useful than flowing down the driveway. It also looks dramatic with the steam on cool winter days.
Nice article. I bent both ends to 90 degrees and extended about 4" past the pot to ensure water doesn't drip from the hoses into the kettle. A cheapie tube bender like this $12 model takes care of the ends:
I also used hose clamps and vinyl tubing on both sides, with a simple hose fitting on the end. It saved me a few more dollars and works great.
I posted a similar chiller build step by step here
It is different in a few places and has some hints for coil forming and tube bending.
One thing that needs to be mentioned, you can *greatly* aid cooling by stirring as the chiller has water flowing through it. Keeping the wort moving ensures that hot wort is always flowing past the cooling coils.
I eventually did bend the top to greater than 90 deg. When it was in a boil I found that the copper is much more flexible and easy to bend without any kinking. I used a 3" pipe to bend them around to get a nice bend and it and they are both outside my kettle.
"Well as we all know, needing to chill your wort fast and efficiently is of utmost importance."
I'm surprised more no-chillers like myself haven't chimed in here. Wonder if all those Aussies have DMS laden beer? I can attest that I haven't had an issue in my year of no-chill brewing.
Definitely put a "gooseneck" (a u-turn) at the end where those connections are that goes outside your kettle. If there is any leakage that H2O will then travel back down the garden hose and stay on the outside instead of your wort that you worked so hard to keep free of contaminates. It is amazing how many times I have to tighten down my hose clamps.
@Seahare To avoid Kinks, instead Fill the tube with water and freeze it, as you bend it to form it will force the ice out and the rest melts. but it will never kink