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Immersion Chiller vs. Counterflow Chiller

Definitions:

An Immersion Chiller (IC) is a long, coiled copper tube. It is placed in the hot wort with one end of the chiller connected to a garden hose or kitchen sink to provide to cooling water. As the water is run through the coiled tube, the heat of the hot wort transferred to the cooling water and out the other end of the coil. This drops the temperature of the wort very quickly.

A Counterflow Chiller (CFC) is a tube within a bigger tube. The inner tube carries the hot wort out of the brew pot in one direction. The outer tube carries the cooling water in the other direction (counterflow, get it?). Similar to the Immersion Chiller, the heat of the wort is transferred to the cooling water, which is pumped out the other end. This too, drops the temperature of the wort very quickly.

Reason for Use:

  1. The sooner you are able to pitch your yeast and start a vigorous fermentation, the less likely you are to run the risk of an infection of your brew. The more time it takes to pitch, the more time a nasty has to take hold.
  2. IC Only: To facilitate Cold Break. This is the dropping of proteins and other suspended matter (collectively called "trub") out of your brew before it is placed in your fermenter.

Mike's Pick: Immersion Chiller

Immersion Chiller (IC)

Pros:

  1. Quick cool. Will cool 10 gallons of wort to within 15 degrees of your tap water temperature within 20 minutes.
  2. No sanitation grief. Place in boiling wort 20 minutes before end of boil (same time you add your Irish Moss). Anything that has come in contact with the boiling wort is killed instantly (well, almost...).
  3. Cheap to make. 50 feet of copper line and a few fittings, and you're in business.
  4. Cheaper to buy. Virtually any Local Home Brew Shop will sell them.

Cons:

  1. When placed in the boiling wort to get sanitized, the water that remained in the lines will heat up and come spewing out of the inlet and outlet lines. Don't stand in front of the lines until all of the water has been shot out of the lines.

Counterflow Chiller (CFC)

Pros:

  1. Quick cool. Some folks that have used both state that the CFC cools marginally more quickly.
  2. You can use a hop back at the front-end. This is a device that hold hops that have the hot wort pass over before they enter the CFC. Great way to add a ton of additional aroma to your brew.

Cons:

  1. Unable to remove cold break before fermenter. Since the break would happen somewhere mid-chill (on the inside of the CFC), it all goes into your fermenter.
  2. More expensive than IC's.
  3. More difficult to make than IC's.
  4. PERSONAL BIAS ALERT! Greater infection risk. Your wort is being pumped or gravity-fed inside of a long tube. There is virtually no way you can scrub this surface. You can run hot water through the tube before introducing the wort, as well as running iodophor or some other sanitizer through the system. Many, many people love their CFC's and have had no problems with increased infections as a result of using them. They're just not for me. One less potential area for infection is just fine with me!

 

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