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Cooling wort with frozen plastic bottles

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guitarguy6

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I was just wondering if there's any reason I shouldn't try cooling wort with plastic PET bottles that are %70 filled with water and then frozen. I'm doing BIAB brews at home and have been chilling with ice baths but it takes a while to chill to fermentation temps. My idea is to take clean PET 500ml plastic bottles and fill them with roughly %70 water and stick them in the freezer. Once the wort is done boiling I'll put the kettle in an ice bath and sanitize the frozen bottles in starsan. When the wort gets to around 120F I will put in the sanitized PET bottles to help cool down the wort. Is there reason why I shouldn't try this method of cooling the wort?
 

Hello

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The only reason I would be weary would be because the bottles could still harbor nasties embedded in small scratches on the bottles. That's probably my own paranoia. I know someone who does this but they freeze zip loc bags of ice and dunk them into starsan before dropping them into partially chilled wort. He's never had an issue.
 

Likefully

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I have had discussions with someone on this forum that does exactly what the OP is suggesting and has never had a problem. Just remember to stir the bottles around the wort and also stir the bottles themselves so the water in the bottle making contact with the wort remains cool.

I remember other forum members were quite critical of the method, but it does work. It is not as good a wort chiller tho.
 

Hello

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So star san can't get into these small scratches but wort can?



I'm thinking you're on to something here. :mug:
Cute. Starsan can get into small scratches but it is the same concept of scratching a bucket or a PET carboy. All I am saying is that scratches can harbor nasties. That is not paranoia. Not wanting to dunk used plastic bottles into my near-chilled wort possibly is. I don't know, I work hard to brew and if I can help it, I'll protect it best I can. :D
 

antony

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Once you lose a batch to infection I think you'll find that $20-$25 for some copper tubing for a homemade wort chiller is a good investment. I have a 20ft chiller that reduces 5g of wort to pitching temps in 15-30 minutes depending on ground water temperature. The bottles will work, until there's something growing in a scratch. I'm sure there are plenty of us that have tossed a bucket because of a scratch (or at least re-purposed it). Star san can't clean a 'bug' out of a scratch...
 
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If it were me, I would go with the zip lock bag versus the used bottles. Save the used bottles as ice blocks for a non-powered ferm chamber.
 

mtnagel

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You can do it, but it doesn't work very well. Trust me, I read on here that it doesn't work, but I just couldn't believe it, so I tried it myself. It doesn't work as well as you would think it would. I think what happens is that a layer of ice melts very quickly and then you have a layer of water on the inside of your container. And despite it seeming like a big surface area, it doesn't even compare to a wort chiller, which also takes forever when the difference between your cooling water and wort temperature is small.

I've only done it a couple times now, but my preferred method when the water temps are warm is to cool the wort down to 20 or so degrees higher than ground water temp. That happens pretty quickly (10-15 minutes for me). Then instead of trying to cool all the way down (which took at least 30 mins more of me standing over the pot stirring the wort chiller and wasting a ton of water), I put the wort in the fermentor and then put that in an ice bath. In about an hour of no work, the temp is down, then I aerate and pitch the yeast. It's so much easier.
 
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I agree with Matt - if ground water is 80 degrees you will not cool below 80.

Another method is to cool with groundwater for 15 min or so and then use a pond pump in a bucket of icewater to get below 80. (Copper is in wort in kettle, intake and outflow are in bucket next to kettle). Ice blocks can sub for ice cubes in the icewater.
 

nhwrecker

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Not the exact answer to the OP question, but I use frozen water bottles in conjunction with a pump and counter flow chiller. Fill the sink with cold tap water and ice bottles, then use submersible pump to circulate the water through the CFC. Drops the water temperature at least 10-15 degrees.
 

ericbw

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Not saying that there aren't "nasties" on sanitized plastic bottles, but you realize there are also "nasties" in the air all around you, on the food and surfaces in your kitchen where you brew, floating off the grain dust that you're cleaning up while you chill, in the air that you slosh into the wort to aerate...

I think if using bottles is a "bad" idea, then using Ziploc bags is maybe a "less bad" idea, but still.
 

wilserbrewer

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Cooling wort with frozen plastic bottles

I have been doing this lately and find it works well as part of a "no chill" schedule. However, for me it is more like passive chilling, where I don't really care if it takes a couple hours. Lately my chilling routine goes something like this...

1. flameout
2. hop stand, adding post flameout hops till the wort hits about 160 degrees. This usually takes about 2 hours.
3. Cover kettle with lid and revisit 10-12 hours later, this is usually the following morning, or late night if a morning brew session. The wort is usually around 90 degrees at this point.
4. Dunk 2-3 frozen 2 liter frozen soda bottles in a 1 gallon pitcher of star san and add to kettle, approximately 2 hours later the wort is at the lower end of ferm temps, roughly 60 degrees. Easy and quick to do, I also have the benefit of a fridge keezer, with plenty of freezer space to freeze the 2 liter soda bottles. While certainly not the BEST method, I have come up with what I feel to be the least labor intensive. I have been brewing a long time, and have gotten very LAZY! To the point where I won't do something if I feel it won't have a noticeable benefit to the finished beer.

While this method is not fast by any means, it is not labor intensive. :) While I own an IC, only during the coldest months of the year is my tap water cold enough to bring the wort to pitching temps. Truth be told, I am too lazy to hook up a prechiller, or recirc ice water through the chiller with a pump, and then baby sit my wort and stir during the chill, so my chiller often goes unused. My typical batches are over 8 gallons, so while I have moved the kettle to an ice bath, it is getting rather heavy and is a hassle. I also brew in my basement, so stretching out a brew session over many hours is not an issue, as it would be if I was brewing outside or in a kitchen.

I don't fear infection, never had a problem. The bugs that MAY be present in a plastic scratch are likely outnumbered a billion to one by a healthy yeast pitch.

I have a 20ft chiller that reduces 5g of wort to pitching temps in 15-30 minutes depending on ground water temperature.
antony, I am envious how quickly you can get to pitching temps. Is your water supply on a well? My climate is considerably cooler than Texas, and my water typically is not that cold, only during the frigid winter months. FWIW, I like to start fermentation at the lower end, low sixties, and getting there with just tap water is challenging, hence the need to incorporate ice in some amount and fashion. Not the best way, just what works for me. :mug:
http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/78660
 

Owly055

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I do this will new restaurant type catsup bottles...... You know... the ones with the screw on cap with a pointed end you fill with whatever you want. I found them on sale at Shopko at 2 for a dollar. I put some silicone RTV inside and dropped 3 38 caliber lead bullets into the bottom of each one ( because I had a lot of 38 bullets and don't anticipate reloading for 38 anymore). The silicone holds the bullets in place on the bottom, and the bullets make the tubes float completely upright. The bottles are filled 75% full of water and frozen.
I use these, along with an immersion chiller, and my brew kettle sitting in a large water bath canner with water running through it. The net result is about a 6 minute time from boil to pitch temp. The ice contributes......but not a lot as it only melts about 1/2 in from the surface. The total cooling time is so fast that considering the low heat transmission of plastic, the contribution of these bottles is minimal. Heat of fusion of water is 80 calories per gram. There are 1.8 deg F to one deg C, so this means that it takes 144 times as much energy to melt a gallon of ice as it does to raise water 1 deg. That's a LOT of energy.

If I were doing this as my only cooling system, I would probably find some inch or so plastic tubing, and make a LOT of tubes of ice with it for max surface area. What to plug them with would be the challenge

The concern about contamination is a bit absurd..... You are tossing these things into boiling hot wort!

I agree with those who advocate the immersion chiller. My time went from about 40 minutes for 2.5 gallons, just immersing the boil kettle in a larger pot with cold water running through, down to 6 minutes with the immersion chiller and ice tubes.


H.W.
 
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guitarguy6

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Thanks for the input. The bottles are new and in really good condition so I'm not to worried about scratches and bacteria. A friend of mine and I invested in a fair amount of money in decent equipment and we brew at his place since my electric panel could not accommodate another 240v needed for the boil coil we use. I brew smaller 2-3 gallon batches at home and am looking at cost effective ways to improve my techniques. I'll try out the frozen bottles in conjunction with an ice bath today and report back.
 

COEBRA

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I actually like this idea, but only as a reusable ice source for my pre-chiller. I definitely would not let ANYTHING touch my wort after the boil. That's just my .02
 

Michael357

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I'm new to brewing. 4 5gal batches completed and 5g of cider, 5g of wine going now. As a newbie, i've tried different techniques to quickly cool the wort. A DIY wort chiller is in the works. My last two batches, i bought several 1g bottled spring water as my top of water. i put those in the freezer until they started forming ice(6-7hrs before brewing). Put my wort kettle in an ice bath for approx 20min. then take out kettle, put empty carboy in ice bath and pour 1g of near frozen spring water in carboy, then siphon 140+ degree wort into carboy (which is in ice bath), top off with the ice cold spring water, approx 1.5 - 2 gal worth. Checked temp after stirring/aerating. my temps both times has be 68 degrees and 70 degrees. No infection from either batch. Total process took me approx 40min.

Just my 1/2 of a cent of limited experience :D
 

dmcman73

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I know it's not what the OP asked but, I agree with what others have said on here. It's best getting or building an immersion chiller to cool your wort down. Drop the chiller into the boiling wort 15 min before flame out to sterilize it then hook up to your faucet and stir the wort around the coils.

First, being that they are plastic bottles, they were not made to handle boiling wort on the outside of them, being plastic the fear of them leaching chemicals into the hot wort or even the risk of them rupturing into the wort.

Copper tubing or a pre-made immersion chiller is the way to go, or, use the ice bottles in a bath and place the hot kettle in the ice cold bath and stir the wort, that way nothing touches the work except your sanitized spoon.
 

antony

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Cooling wort with frozen plastic bottles

antony, I am envious how quickly you can get to pitching temps. Is your water supply on a well? My climate is considerably cooler than Texas, and my water typically is not that cold, only during the frigid winter months.
http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/78660
I usually hose down the outside of my kettle for a few minutes then place it in a 70qt ice chest (cube) with several ice blocks. I've got a 20ft pre-chiller in a bucket of ice/water and a 20ft immersion chiller that goes in the kettle. Granted I have to switch out ice every 10 minutes or so but i can generally get to 78 degrees or so in 30 minutes max. I know I should probably pitch when its cooler but I aim for 78. Lots more work but I like the gadgets.
 

Jeffinn

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Thanks for the input. The bottles are new and in really good condition so I'm not to worried about scratches and bacteria. A friend of mine and I invested in a fair amount of money in decent equipment and we brew at his place since my electric panel could not accommodate another 240v needed for the boil coil we use. I brew smaller 2-3 gallon batches at home and am looking at cost effective ways to improve my techniques. I'll try out the frozen bottles in conjunction with an ice bath today and report back.
Seems like it should help lower the temp as long as you're not in a hurry. Let us know how it works for you.
 

dstranger99

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I was just wondering if there's any reason I shouldn't try cooling wort with plastic PET bottles that are %70 filled with water and then frozen. I'm doing BIAB brews at home and have been chilling with ice baths but it takes a while to chill to fermentation temps. My idea is to take clean PET 500ml plastic bottles and fill them with roughly %70 water and stick them in the freezer. Once the wort is done boiling I'll put the kettle in an ice bath and sanitize the frozen bottles in starsan. When the wort gets to around 120F I will put in the sanitized PET bottles to help cool down the wort. Is there reason why I shouldn't try this method of cooling the wort?

Until I got a wort chiller, this was my method for all my brews, I just sprayed the bottles with starsan once they came out the freezer first before dunking them in there.......
 
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guitarguy6

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I ended up using 4 X 500ml bottles and it worked fairly well. I used starsan to clean a part of my freezer, filled the bottles with water and dipped them in starsan. When I took them out of the freezer I dipped them in starsan again.
 

craigmw

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So star san can't get into these small scratches but wort can?



I'm thinking you're on to something here. :mug:
Small scratches in plastic can create "niches" for bacterial colonies to grow. Bacteria have cell walls that are hydrophobic and can prevent water based solvents like Starsan access to those colonies. Short term contact with Starsan will kill many bacteria in the colony, but not all. Longer term contact with wort may result in a few bacterial cells dislodging from the colony and infection of the wort. At optimal log-phase growth, bacteria can divide every 20 minutes, whereas yeast are closer to about one division every 1.5-2 hours. So, a bacterial contamination can quickly overtake yeast in nutrient rich wort.
 

Owly055

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Small scratches in plastic can create "niches" for bacterial colonies to grow. Bacteria have cell walls that are hydrophobic and can prevent water based solvents like Starsan access to those colonies. Short term contact with Starsan will kill many bacteria in the colony, but not all. Longer term contact with wort may result in a few bacterial cells dislodging from the colony and infection of the wort. At optimal log-phase growth, bacteria can divide every 20 minutes, whereas yeast are closer to about one division every 1.5-2 hours. So, a bacterial contamination can quickly overtake yeast in nutrient rich wort.
You are ignoring the fact that these bottles are being dropped into boiling hot wort........... I would say in this case concern about contamination is "much ado about nothing"......... A non-issue.

H.W.
 

COEBRA

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You are ignoring the fact that these bottles are being dropped into boiling hot wort........... I would say in this case concern about contamination is "much ado about nothing"......... A non-issue.

H.W.
No plastic in my wort... Some bacteria can survive the 200 temps if not in there for an extended period of time. And the bottles are cooling the wort so it's not boiling when they are placed in there... The OP asked for our opinion. Not necessarily the debate. But that's just my opinion lol.
 

LeftyRighty

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I've done a partial No-Chill for the last several brews. because I wanted the extended hops benefit. I just set the boil pot aside for a hour with the lid on, for initial cooldown, then set 8 to10 1/2-gallon milk jugs of ice against the perimeter of the pot, covered/wrapped with blankets and a down sleeping bag. After about 2 hours, replaced about half the ice jugs, and was at pitching temps in about 4 hours.

Prior, I have done the ice-bath in the sink, but now the pot I'm using is too big to fit the sink.

I tried the NO-Chill once, but didn't like having to wait until the next day to pitch.
 
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