Monday, October 7, 2013

Keep calm and chill the wort quickly.

That uncomfortable feeling when you realize you've just spend an hour writing a blog post on the exact topic on which you've already written a post.  Ugh!  I knew it sounded familiar.  Oh, well.

At least this time I've got photos as proof of the efficacy of the new wort chilling system.  Check out the photos, and to prevent myself from scrapping an hours worth of work, the remaining post will follow.  Read only if you want to.  Kinda like a rerun, of sorts.

Preparing the ice bath in the mash ton.

Ice water is gravity fed to the wort chiller in the boil kettle.

Cold water in, and hot water out.

115 degrees after 5 minutes.

86 degrees at the 10 minute mark.

After 20 minutes, down to 70 degrees
and it aerates as it transfers to the carboy.

Now for the work I began earlier this morning...

Chill the wort.  No, this is not a post about epidemiology.  To the brewer, it is known that after boiling the wort  (it isn't called beet yet at this stage) during the brewing process, it is best to chill it quickly to the temperature at which you can add the yeast and begin the fermenting process.

The period of time from the boil to pitching the yeast (at a temperature of 65-72 degrees) is when the wort is the most susceptible to infection.  At boiling temps nothing can live in it and once alcohol is present, it will assist in killing any bad things as well.  But the in between stage...

The objective is to chill it quickly to limit this time.  Additionally, when chilled quickly the protiens will collect upon themselves and fall out of the solution.  This is called the "cold break" and will help to result in a clearer beer.

At the homebrewer level, some of us don't have expensive chill plates and pumps or other cooling mechanisms.  One thing you will want to invest in is an immersion wort chiller.  This is a copper coil that is to be placed in the hot wort while cool water flows through it.  The heat in the wort transfers to the cool water in the chiller, ultimately removing the heat form the wort.  The problem is that sometimes the tap water isn't cold enough (at least in Florida).  With this method alone, I could not get it chilled to below 80 degrees.

For me, this meant, headaches and worries.  I would wait for 30 minutes or so with the chiller flowing water and then siphon the wort from the kettle to the carboy to avoid exposing to oxygen until I could put it in the refrigerator and then finally aerate after it got closer to 70 degrees.  This was additional time, and equipment to wash.  I also had to have room in the refrigerator (and not the fermentation refrigerator as that would take way too long).

The Solution:  (Yeah, I know, finally.)

20 lbs of ice.  During the hour of the boil, I will clean out the mash ton, dumping the spent grains into plastic bags and rinsing it out thoroughly.  That same mash ton will then be filled with ice and water, making an ice bath.  It gets set onto the rack and the inflow attachment to the wort chiller gets attached.  Instead of flowing tap water through the chiller, flow ice water through it.  This is gravity fed, so some adjustments in positioning of the kettle and the ton may need to be arranged, depending on your setup.

With this method, I brought the temperature from boiling to 72 degrees in 20 minutes.  It was at the 86 degree mark at about 10 minutes, less than half the time of the previous attempts.