No Chill Brewing

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This is the method I have adopted due to several factors. Living in a somewhat dry part of a dry continent results in severe water shortages from time to time, and municipal water supply restrictions range from moderate to severe in accordance with dam levels. When the most severe restrictions are in place, I am not permitted to use tap water for my garden, or even to wash my car. Water for chilling beer? Forget it! Enter no chill brewing.
So, after seeing a couple of demonstrations of the no chill method at my local home brew shop (LHBS), I purchased a 10 gallon electric kettle and four 2.5 gallon food safe HDPE cubes. Since then, I have successfully brewed over 90 beers without any problems, well, certainly no problems with no chill anyway!
Before commencing this article, I decided to do some research on the no chill method. My goodness, isn't there a lot of information out there? And from my own experience, some misinformation as well! DMS, cold and hot break, hazy beer, hop instability, and on it goes. I discussed this with the owner of my LHBS, and he pointed out that anyone can write anything on the net. He also pointed to the 80 or so 5 gallon cubes of "fresh beer wort" that he had on display for sale. He has developed a very worthwhile market for these products, and has received no complaints, even though all the wort has been cubed using the no chill method. I tried a couple of his fresh beer wort cubes before diving into no chill myself, and the good quality influenced me to make the move.
wort in no chill cubes
Incidentally, many LHBS throughout Australia sell their own 5 gallon cubes of fresh wort. Most, if not all, are produced using the no chill method. The appeal of these cubes is simplicity - pour into sanitized fermenter, pitch yeast, seal, and wait until finished!

My Method of No Chill Brewing:

I commence by pouring a couple of gallons of water into my kettle, turn on the power, and wait until the water is boiling.
Next move is to transfer a couple of quarts to each cube from the kettle via a silicone hose, seal the lids, and shake so that the boiling water comes into contact with all internal surfaces of each cube (I could use one 5 gallon cube but I prefer the half size ones). Empty the cubes and reseal.
Sanitised cubes ready for hot wort
I have now sanitized the cubes, my spigot, and the interior of my silicone hose. A WORD OF WARNING regarding the hose - I use barbeque tongs to maneuver in and out of the cubes - I am dealing with extremely hot liquids and find that gloves are cumbersome.
After completing the mash, boil, and whirlpool, I allow 10 - 15 minutes after the latter before commencing the transfer of near boiling wort to the cubes.
Place the silicone hose (exterior sanitized just to be safe) at the bottom of the first cube and open the spigot half way to permit a gentle flow. Turn off when near to overflowing point, withdraw the tube using the tongs, tighten cap, place cube on its side, roll to the next side (to ensure all internal surfaces come into contact with the near boiling wort), and voila, I have 2.5 gallons of wort protected from bacteria. Repeat with the second cube, and I now have a total of 5 gallons. I leave the two cubes on their sides for a while to check integrity of cap seals.
Some no chill brewers go to extreme lengths to expel excess air from their cubes, particularly as 5 gallon cubes have hollow handles. Place against a solid wall or door jamb and press with knee (protected with a towel!). My 2.5 gallon cubes have solid handles so I don't go to extremes.
There you have it. I have 5 gallons of wort I can use in a day or so, or a week, month, or year, whichever I prefer.
That's an interesting write up. I can see how that could be useful. One question: why not no chill in your carboy? That way when your ready to ferment all you have to do is pitch the yeast. Putting an airlock on it would keep the wort safe from any infection, as long as everything is sanitized.
Corey, I myself am using glass carboys. They wouldn't be able to stand the heat of boiling wort without exploding
Interesting article Peter, thank you!
@CoreyD it's extremely useful. Living in Australia, we're constantly reminded about not wasting water. When I started brewing, I couldn't justify wasting 30L of water just to cool my wort. That's exactly why I went no-chill.
I pour directly from my brew kettle into my fermenter. If you're going to, just make sure your carboys are HDPE plastic so they don't melt when you pour hot wort in them! I accidentally melted a plastic demijohn while cleaning it with hot (warm) water without realizing it was made of PET. Waste of a good demijohn.
Just wondering, I believe in no chill method but I'm just curious about the heat of wort in contact with plastic... All my carboys and speidel containers are said to hold liquids of 60 degrees celsius only. What containers are the ones you use so that the heat doesn't affect taste? Thanks
CoreyD, that is more or less what I do. I think he is concerned with sanitation and shaking around a big container of boiling liquid. Before, I got my process down, there were a couple that looked possibly infected in the morning, especially since I only flash pasteurize. I chill within a few days and drink my brews fresh within a week, so a little infection is not such a big deal, though I still avoid these if possible.
I would guess it is because 2.5 gallons is much easier to maneuver around than a 5 gal carboy.
Plus if you don't have enough fermentors, the wort can stay in the plastic jugs for awhile so long as they are kept away from light and in a cool place. Theoretically you could make a bunch of wort, store them in these containers and then just pour into a fermentor when you are ready to make beer.
I live in Newfoundland with a detached garage. I tried a brew over the holidays but I had to abort when my garden hose froze. This changes everything, so simple, clever and cheap. With the freezing temps I could brew and leave to chill in my lager fridge or outside in a snowbank and have it cooled by lunch time. Love it, thanks.
Hi Jack,
With no-chill, you usually wait until the wort cools naturally to pitching temp, usually 24 hours or so. My worts usually go from 70°C to around 25°C, give or take, overnight. Once it gets to the mid-20s, I pop the carboy into my cool bag and let it fall to 20°C before pitching my yeast.
I've been using NoChill for several years now without any problem. In my case I don't even transfer the wort to a closed container. I wrap a clean towel around the lid on the boiler and secure with a bungy cord. Next day or so I transfer the wort to the fermenter and proceed with pitching yeast. I reason that the boiling has made that vessel fully hygenic. (I do pay attention to sterilising the brew vessel lip before pouring out). The big advantage for me is to allow the brewing day to be split over two sessions. Family pressures often don't allow brewing past 5pm. It works for me!
I live in sunny southern cali which is prone to droughts as well. I use a fountain pump in a large tub of ice water to pump water through my copper coil and collect the heat transferred water in a second tub. It is maybe 10 gallons. My wort is chilled below 27c, 80f in under 20 min. and I can then use the water for my plants. Zero water wasted.
i live in western scotland so water scarcity is not one of my biggest concerns... that said im always interested to hear more confirmation of my pet theory that a good 50% of things homebrewers worry about has negligible effect on the finished product.
it'd be interesting to do some side by side comparisons, particularly as it would be so easy to split the batch with your method.. id suggest a drop of finings in the no chill method to compensate.
First, of the common fermentation vessels, only HDPE buckets and Stainless Steel would hold up to that level of heat. PET plastic or Glass would be destroyed by boiling water.
Next, HDPE buckets would not work to store the wort, because the no-chill-wort sanitation method relies on the wort making contact with every part of the storage vessel. The cubes can be compressed, removing all oxygen and making contact with the wort at all points, while a bucket could not.
So, if you want to start fermentation as soon as the temperate has dropped (and don't care to store it unfermented), a Stainless or HDPE fermenter might work well for this, as might one of the newer polycarbonate/lexan fermenters if they are temperature tolerant, but traditional glass/pet would not. None of them would work for long wort storage.
I've not tried this but I can say with a 20 gal pot the difference in me brewing a 5 gal batch vs 10 gal is < 20 mins of extra time to double the batch. If you had limited space to ferment you could easily brew a larger batch all at once then ferment the 2nd half as soon as you finished fermenting batch 1.
I could also see a brew day with friends or a local club where you swap gallons of wort with each other so one brew day nets you multiple brews.
As a fellow Australian I've been no chilling for years. We rarely use carboys here, mostly HDPE barrel type fermentors with taps. And of course increasingly SS conicals as they are dropping in price.
A couple of points - throughout most of the country for most of the year the domestic water supply just isn't cold enough to drop the wort down using a chiller, without using hugely wasteful quantities.
In the USA and UK the generally colder climate is actually more conducive to No Chill. Pop your cube outside on a Pittsburgh or Glasgow Winter evening and you would be pitching in no time.
I brewed a RIS in 2011 and the cube came with me on an interstate house move. It spent a year in the garage propping up one end of a shelf. Finally I pitched it in 2013 and it ended up winning a very close second in the State comp!
Nowadays I pitch within days, and I use two 10 litre cubes for quicker cooling.
Occasionally brew clubs get the use of a microbrewery to do a batch. Bring your own cube and take your share home.
One club I was in, we all fermented with different yeasts and had a club tasting night.
That was actually the night that switched me on to Ringwood.
I've been doing a lot of no chill brewing over the past year or so and I dig it a lot. I usually keep my wort in the kettle with the lid on and leave it on the stove until it chills down to pitching temps. Sometimes, if it's cold outside, I'll stick the kettle on my deck and I can usually pitch later on that night. No chill no problem.
I tried this for a while back before I got my immersion chiller, but I couldn't seem to beat the same defect in every batch: a sulfury smell and taste that I identified as DMS. I learned that when wort sits at a hot temp, the wort continues to produce DMS, and if it's covered in a container, the DMS cannot escape and stays in the wort. This is one of the main reasons we don't boil with the lid on.
Hope this helps,
Danny G
I do the same except I cover the lid with a towel to deter insects. Haze has never been a problem. For lagers I chill 10 liters water in various plastic bottles in the fridge and freezer. I transfer(and filter) the wort to the fermenter and place in a 40L plastic (italio brand)laundry basket. Put 3-4L water and wait 5 minute, change and you'll be heading south past 15C. Getting those last few C's is the challenge under any method.
That's a great idea. It's difficult for me to try new yeast given the amount of time (and some $ investment) to possibly make something I like less or worse hate! A tasting night with same wort but different yeasts would be a great way to broaden our horizons.
One of the things I did to cut down water usage was to use a water pump and a bucket to essentially recirculate my cooling water. Add some ice, turn on the pump, and cycle the water through. Cuts the water usage by quite a bit, though the recirculating water does warm up rather quickly.
Started brewing in the middle of a Texas drought, live out in sticks, on a well, and like having water to drink. Was not gonna waste it chilling beer. Have a big kettle with a tight fitting lid and a spigot. I boil on Saturday, cut the heat, and clamp the lid on with big spring type paper clips. Sunday after Church, I sanitize a hose, attach to the spigot, and drain to the fermentation bucket, pitch the yeast, seal and airlock. These days I could chill in my fermentation chamber, but I like this routine.
It works just fine, saves energy, saves water, and makes good beers.
How does not chilling affect your hopping schedule? If think late additions would become more bitting and lose some of their aroma/flavor notes with the time they sit at those temps.
I do partial no chill if I am doing late additions or skip them and make them dry-hop additions instead. More than half of my beers do not require late additions (dark mild, porter. brown ale).
By partial no-chill I mean I do use my immersion chiller to get to <165 f then just let the kettle sit. This happens to use exactly the same amount of water as I need to clean/rinse out the two kegs I am about to fill (I brew and keg on the same day, obviously different beers), then that water is used to wash out the it is a win-win-win situation.
You mention you can store the wort for a "day or so, or a week, month, or year".
How are you overcoming the risks of botulism? Surely that is a huge concern with any kind of prolonged sealed storage as you describe.
A popular method is to reserve some wort and do your flame out or whirlpool additions in a pan, cool quickly in fridge then add to fermenter at pitching.
That way aroma hops bypass the cube without alpha acid isomerisation during the time that the wort is sitting above about 80c.
I have yet to hear of any incidence of botulism from no chilling, after doing it for about 8 years so far. According to the Bureau of statistics botulism cases are less then one per year in Australia, and the fatality rate of botulism cases that do occur is around 5%
On the other hand, It is estimated there are five to ten deaths and over one hundred severe injuries caused by lightning strikes every year.
I'll take me chances ;-)
Due to my locale, (the Sandbox), I have adopted this method as well without issue.
I do it even lazier, I just put my kettle (with lid and spigot) on a stone floor in my apartment, crank down the AC to 19C and leave overnight. I also put my Hydrometer and Thermometer in the hot wort as it sanitizes them due to the temperature.
The next day I take my gravity and temperature reading prior to aerating and pitching the yeast in my 7.9 gallon ferm. bucket.
Over 30 batches without any issues. I mostly brew Irish Reds, Belgians, Stouts, Porters and Saisons.
I've been using this method for a little over 4 years now without any problems other than one cube that blew out because of an infection, likely due to a dodgy tap seal. Other than that, no issues. I make either 21 or 25 litre size batches depending on which cubes I'm using. I don't make any real adjustments to hopping schedules, it's more that I've worked out hopping schedules that work best to give me the flavour I want in the beer. For pale ales I usually dump a fair load in at 5 or 10 minutes and at flameout, and make up any bitterness requirements with a 60 minute addition of something, plus a 40-50g dry hop later on.
I find the method very convenient because I can brew whenever I have some spare time without needing an empty fermenter available. This is extremely useful given I only use one fermenter and ferment in a fridge. It also has the advantage of being able to knock out 3 or 4 batches in as many days, negating the need to do any brew days for a couple of months, which I did last year to free up more weekends. Overall, really happy with the method and won't be changing in the near or longer term future i don't think.
I have been brewing without chilling (really ambient chilling) for ~20 years. Overnight in a half barrel fermenter is usually adequate.
I have also done this when using glass carboys to ferment in, by first steaming them to avoid thermal shock.
Commercial wort chilling is about productivity and energy conservation.
Most arguments I have seen for counterflow chillers ignore the time the wort spends waiting hot for its turn in the rapid-cooling chiller.
Danny G -
DMS occurs from a boil that is not vigorous enough - meaning the DMS is already in the wort before you begin your "No Chill"phase of brewing. I believe a more vigorous boil - even for as little as 20-30 minutes - would cure this problem.
I hope this helps...
I've not noticed any difference. Having said this I rarely let my beers "No Chill" for more that 1-3 days, chilling in my boil pot with its lid on - no towel, clamps, etc. Occasionally the lid, which is indented, has a cup or two of water on it (when it rains).
I'm curious if you've noticed any increase in Hop Utilization? Though maybe through the whirlpool most hop material is left behind in the kettle. The recent IBU experiment by the Experimental Brewing podcast showed a pretty huge variance in actual IBUs vs theoretical IBUs. Much of the difference seem to come down to chilling, those who chilled fast (like me) had far lower utilization then those who took well, a long time to chill.
Thanks for all the comments and responses. At the end of the day, it is up to each individual which processes they adopt.
Most questions have been answered by readers, and I am very appreciative of these inputs. I hope I don't come across as arrogant or smart assed if I mention that questions that have gone unanswered have been addressed in the original article. I am not a professional writer, so it may be necessary to read the article two or three times to glean all the information I was endeavouring to convey.
For those of you who wish to try no-chill, some experimentation may be necessary to iron out some of the finer points, particularly in the area of hop additions/utilization, where the hops themselves can sometimes be quite variable.
If anyone has specific questions that haven't been adequately addressed, now is the time. I will come back in a week before heading overseas for a couple of months. First stop? Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen!
Hi there, sorry to hear you visites Carlsberg, as a Dane I find those beer so borrowing unless in is 27`C + (and almost never we get those kind of temps.).
Regarding chilling, I just trasfer the still hot wort (80`C +) to my fermenter, and let it chill Down over night with som sanitized liquid in yeast tube to ensure exposed air is not draged into the fermenter! I even just spalsh the wort over and not even care above hot wort aeration.
Made 50 brews this way and never had issues doing so whereof they might be better doring it the "correct way" is ofcouse unknown, but I think people shuld empatzied grain bill, hops, pH and Water chemistry even more than the cooling down. The fast cooling down is important in the light of infection, and by trasfing the still hot wort to you fermeter this means of error is eliminated, and the wort can stay for days this way as it is now utterly pastiuered!
If people are afried of hot wort aeration, just use the siphon to trasfer with and allow it might not hold for ever!
(sorry for all the misspellings)
Chiming in here to comment that the necessity of exposing storage surfaces to hot wort is over exaggerated. The steam from the near boiling wort is enough to keep the fermenter sanitary as long as you pour into an already sanitized HDPE bucket. I brew this way and have never had an issue. I just set the sanitized lid on and walk away for about 12 hours. However, I also make sure to never let my wort sit for any longer than it takes it to get to room temperature, otherwise I could see the risk of contamination growing the longer it sits. If you intend on racking your wort for extended periods, having minimal exposure to air would be required I'd think and thus the need for the cubes.