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> ice bath vs. immersion chiller, I think ice bath might beat immersion chiller
post Feb 23 2015, 01:30 PM
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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 26 2015, 09:34 PM
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You are not taking into account the movement of the water and the fact that the immersion coil itself breaks up the mass of wort, IE less distance.
If you could move the water in the ice bath and mix the wort, then it would be a closer match.
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