Quantcast

DIY Chillers on a Budget - Counter-Flow Chiller

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:


We all know the economy is bad and everybody is broke. Does that mean it's gonna stop us from brewing? HELL NO! So why waste $150 on a Counter-flow Wort Chiller from your local home brew shop, when you can build your own for around $55. This project requires some basic tools, basic skills, and the ability to solder copper or know someone who does. This project does involve using a torch.
Here is your material list (I bought all mine from Lowes):
  • 2 1/2" Copper Tee
  • 1 - 1/2" x 24" Type L Copper Pipe
  • 26' - 5/8" ID Vinyl Tubing
  • 2 - 1/2" x 1/4" Copper Reducer
  • 1 - 5/8" barb x 3/4" female garden hose fitting
  • 4 - #8 Hose Clamp
  • 1 - 3/8" x 20' Copper Coil
Now your tool list (Hopefully you have these, or know someone who does, otherwise it'll increase the cost some):
  • Propane (or Mapp) Torch
  • General purpose Flux
  • Flux brushes
  • UNLEADED Solder (You will be drinking what goes through you chiller)
  • Copper pipe cutter (Or dremel with cutting disc)
  • Sanding bit for your dremel (or fine grit sanding cloth)
  • Tape Measure

Now to Build:
  1. Measure your 2' Copper pipe into 4" pieces (should give you 6 pieces)
  2. Cut pipe along your measurements using the copper pipe cutter or cutting discs
  3. Using a 3/8" bit drill out the stoppers in the reducers (these are designed to stop the pipe going all the way through. Obviously we want the pipe to go through)
  4. Clean the outside ends of the 1/2" copper pipe using sanding bit or fine grit sand paper
  5. Now clean the insides of the tee bits and reducers
  6. Now we are ready to apply flux (outside of pipe, and inside of tees and reducer)
  7. Now you want to assemble the end fitting and ready it for solder
  8. Now that you have fluxed all the fittings and pipe, you are ready for solder. To do this you will need your LEAD FREE solder, and either a MAPP gas or Propane gas torch. I recommend MAPP gas, because it heats a lot faster than propane.
  9. Unroll about 6-7 inches of your solder, and bend the end to form a hook (we do this to allow easier access to the other side of your fitting).
  10. Now, ignite your torch. If you have a self-igniting, Great! If not, you will need a striker (DO NOT USE MATCHES!). You'll want to adjust the flame to a uniformly blue color.
  11. With your torch in one hand, and solder in the other, begin applying the flame to your fittings. You'll want to focus on the center of the fittings (not the seam), and constantly move the flame, as not to overheat one spot.
  12. When you see a greenish tint to your flame, you are ready to solder (you can also test, by removing the flame, and applying solder, if the metal (not the flame) melts the solder, it is ready)
  13. As you are applying your solder, you will notice it getting sucked into the joint. This is what we want to happen. Apply just enough solder to the joint, so you have no gaps or voids, and have a uniform amount completely around the joint. If you start getting solder bubbles, you applied to much (Not a huge deal)
  14. Once you have completed all joints, following the above process, you will want to let your fitting cool for about 10-15 minutes. If you touch it during the cooling period, you could move the joint and have to start all over again
  15. While your end fitting is cooling, you'll want to unroll your copper coil into as straight a line as you can (the more straight the better, you'll thank me later) being careful not to kink the coil in any spot
  16. Now measure 7' 8" of vinyl tubing and cut
  17. Create an extremely soapy solution, or if you have a full tube of personal lubricant lying around forget the soap and use that. You'll want enough that it can coat the inside of your vinyl tubing. This will act as a lubricant as you slide your vinyl tubing over your copper coil. Don't want to make the mess? You'll regret it soon
  18. Using a funnel, drain your soapy solution (or personal lubricant) into your vinyl tubing, making sure that the entire inside is coated
  19. Place one end of the copper coil into the vinyl tubing and begin pulling the vinyl tubing over the copper tubing until you have about 10" of copper sticking out on both sides
  20. Your end fitting should now be cool. Begin the process all over again for the other end fitting
  21. Take one end fitting and slide it over your copper coil until about an 1" slides into the vinyl tubing, secure the vinyl tubing to it using a hose clamp.
  22. Now solder the reducer on your end fitting to the copper coil that is sticking out
  23. Repeat steps 21 & 22
  24. Measure 1' 8" of the remaining vinyl tubing and cut
  25. Secure this to one of the open " ends with a hose clamp
  26. Secure the barb x garden hose fitting to this vinyl tubing section and secure with hose clamp (This will be your water in port
  27. Attach the remaining 6' of vinyl tubing to the other open " end (This will be your water out port)
  28. Begin Brewing
  29. Crack open a homebrew
  30. Chill and Enjoy!
***
About the Author
Joshua Austin is owner of Golden Isles Brew Supply, located in Brunswick, GA. He has been brewing for 3-4 years and has upgraded to a 25 gallon electric system since starting. On his way to becoming a BJCP judge, Joshua has a passion for brewing great beers as well as drinking them.

 
I've been brewing for a few years now, and haven't used a chiller once. Not that I believe it is the best choice, but I've never got around the 150$ price tag. Now, "chiller on budget" sounds great indeed, but soldering copper? I really know no one with experience in that - living in a 80k people university town in Germany, that is quite normal; even having a propane burner seems over the top for the people around here (they only use coal grills). Still searching for the perfect chiller recipe then!
 
@Micha soldering copper is not as difficult as it may sound. TBH if you get an intro kit from any hardware store(can't see it being more then 20 Euro, you get the tank, torch-head, flux and solder) you'll wrap your head around it pretty quick if you do a couple test joints on some scrap copper piping (and if not, Youtube is great). The nice thing about the counterflow chiller is that your wort never gets near any of the joints you'll be doing so if you get a bad joint and it opens up later it won't likely be the end of the world in a brew day.
 
Does adding the wire to the outside of the tube really help that much? I made mine years ago without that wire, it cools adequately. I wonder if its worth it to add the wire to a new cooler when its time to replace this one. Any data to compare?
 
Did you quickly throw this together just to earn product referrals?
Some better guides:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f255/counterflow-wort-chiller-build-use-182236/
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f255/counterflow-chiller-tutorial-51793/
I thought articles had to have at least 3 high-res photographs. Instead of working on the actual content, it looks like you put in more effort to link to as many products as possible.
 
Any recommendations for an outside material that's food safe yet clear?
-I want my counterflow chiller to double as a HEX for a HERMS system; the extra efficiency of a counterflow chiller helps there, too, but hot water recirculated through my HLT requires something other than vinyl tubing. PEX tubing can work, but it's not clear so it's harder to verify that you've cleaned things appropriately and PEX's achilles is UV light exposure so again not an ideal material for a counter flow chiller.
Adam
 
I thought I was just being critical until I started to read the comments. I'm not even sure the picture goes with the instructions.
 
I built this and the wire around the tubing is overkill. I can't say it from experience, other than I left it off and the chiller works fine.
The instructions are a bit difficult, but some ingenuity helps.
Overall, it works great, but copper along with all the parts are very expensive. Mine cost around $130+.
Cheers,
 
The wire along the tubing increase the turbulence of the chilling water flow which makes the heat exchange more efficient. -It's still not the same as a convoluted copper chiller which increases the turbulance of both the hot wort AND the cold water, but it's something.
Adam
 
I'm gonna stick with my immersion coil. . . WAY cheaper. . .WAY easier to build. . .and WAY easier to clean. Just drop it in the last 10 minutes of the boil and you're done. . . No recirc to clean it, no gunk getting stuck inside. Simple as it gets.
 
This is not a very clearly written piece at all. There are countless videos and pictorials out there showing how this can be done. Pictures for each step would be a lot better than text alone.
 
@1975brewer No, it doesn't. Just a Wikipedia soldering picture. I agree, not well written and kind of a waste. So many better posts out there showing this.
 
@broadbill
You only need 24 inches of that copper pipe. It's the coil you need in feet.
The 1/2" pipe goes into the 1/2" side of the reducer.
And I apologize on the confusion on the wire wrap. The picture is not what these instructions are for. It is only an example of a Counter Flow Chiller. I forgot to put a disclaimer in there.
 
Here's an alternative method I built a long time ago: 25' of 3/8" copper inside a garden hose and coming out both ends through a plastic garden hose "Y". Clamp down the straight barbed ends of the Y's to the hose. Clamp down a short piece of 3/4" ID tubing to the the end of the Y that the copper comes out of and over the "arm" of the Y. Fit and clamp a piece of 3/4" OD tubing that is 3/8" ID to the larger hose. This is now clamped down over the cooper so that when water is run through the other arm of the Y, it won't come out the copper side. Roll it all up and you're chilling. A little ghetto looking but cheap, simple, no soldering needed and it works.
 
I think you can buy ready made fittings. All you need is copper tubing and a garden hose. I will try to find a link
 
I'm failing to see why putting up pictures that have nothing to do with the build are helpful. Maybe to further compound the ambiguity of the directions?
 
They are called Philchill Phittings. They are available at Listermann's Brewing in Cincinnati. Heres a link to their website, however I can't seem to find them on the site. I'm sure you can call and ask.
www.listermannbrewing.com
 
Top