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> ice bath vs. immersion chiller, I think ice bath might beat immersion chiller
post Feb 23 2015, 01:27 PM
Post #1

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I've been away for about 3 years, apologies for missing a few PMs during that time.

I'm getting back into brewing now, and thinking about cooling down the wort. I did some numbers to compare the surface area of two common cooling solutions, and was surprised by the results:

Ice bath

Assume a 6-gallon pot with a 13.25" diameter bottom and 12" depth. 5 gallons of wort would mean the wort filled 10" of depth. So if you put the pot in an ice bath, you'd get this much surface area:
pi * radius ^ 2 for the pot bottom = 3.14159 * 6.625 ^ 2 = 125 square inches
pi * diameter * height for the sides of the pot = 3.14159 * 13.25 * 10 = 347 square inches
so a total of 125 + 347 = 472 square inches of cooling surface area

Immersion chiller

Assume a 20 foot (240 inch) long copper coil with a 3/8" (.375") diameter:
pi * diameter * length of coil = 3.14159 * .375 * 240 = 283 square inches of cooling surface area.

So if that's right, then ice bath gets you 472 / 283 = 67% more cooling surface area than an immersion chiller. So as long as you keep the ice bath as cold as the water you would be running through the immersion chiller (which is probably easier, since you can use ice and not just cold water), seems like ice bath would win handily.

This surprised me because ice bath seems to be the "rookie" approach, whereas the more experienced brewers I always thought used immersion chillers (or counterflow chiller).

Any thoughts? Am I thinking about this wrong?

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post Mar 1 2015, 11:45 AM
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From: Two Rivers, WI
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It's no surprise to me. I have made over 100 batches over 15 years and never used a chiller. I don't own one. Never needed to since a cold water bath works very well for me. Dunk the kettle or plastic fermenter in cold water for 20 minutes, drain the warm immersion water, and repeat with more cold water. Good enough for me. And I never had to pay good money or waste time building a chiller. In winter I add snow to the cold water bath and it chills even faster.

More and more these days people just love to blow their hard earned money on things they don't need. Fortunately for me, my extreme frugality still results in excellent award winning beer.
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post Mar 12 2015, 09:26 PM
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From: Raleigh, NC
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I've been brewing for about 15 years and I FINALLY bought a wort chiller. I just used it for the first time last Saturday. It worked great but it was a little slower than I was expecting. It probably took 15 to 20 minutes to get the temperature below 80 degrees to pitch the yeast.

In the past I used a variety of different methods for cooling the wort. I've used frozen water bottles (sanitized, of course) as giant ice cubes which don't add water to the wort like ice does. I've put the pot in an ice bath. I've added Ice as part of my water to cool the wort by putting it directly in the wort. I would get impatient and end up pitching the yeast when the wort was too hot and would have to go back and re-pitch later. I finally got fed up and decided to spend the 65.00 for a copper wort chiller. It works well and I'm glad I finally caved in and bought one.
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