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
- 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:
- Measure your 2' Copper pipe into 4" pieces (should give you 6 pieces)
- Cut pipe along your measurements using the copper pipe cutter or cutting discs
- 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)
- Clean the outside ends of the 1/2" copper pipe using sanding bit or fine grit sand paper
- Now clean the insides of the tee bits and reducers
- Now we are ready to apply flux (outside of pipe, and inside of tees and reducer)
- Now you want to assemble the end fitting and ready it for solder
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- Now measure 7' 8" of vinyl tubing and cut
- 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
- Using a funnel, drain your soapy solution (or personal lubricant) into your vinyl tubing, making sure that the entire inside is coated
- 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
- Your end fitting should now be cool. Begin the process all over again for the other end fitting
- 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.
- Now solder the reducer on your end fitting to the copper coil that is sticking out
- Repeat steps 21 & 22
- Measure 1' 8" of the remaining vinyl tubing and cut
- Secure this to one of the open " ends with a hose clamp
- Secure the barb x garden hose fitting to this vinyl tubing section and secure with hose clamp (This will be your water in port
- Attach the remaining 6' of vinyl tubing to the other open " end (This will be your water out port)
- Begin Brewing
- Crack open a homebrew
- 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.