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Do any of you currently use a pre-chiller?

I'm thinking of getting an Igloo cooler and fitting it with 50 feet of 1/2 copper pipe, dump ice in it and run my tap water through it before it goes into my wort chiller (another 50 feet of copper pipe)

I've been reading alot of complaints from people that unless you're using a counterflow chiller, whirlpool chiller or a Therminator type of chiller it will take along time to cool down 5-10 gal batches.

Since I'm putting my first all grain setup I'm thinking what would be the best way to cool my wort and maybe an iced pre-chiller could be an affordable alternative to the above solutions.

My other concern is sanitizing of a counterflow chiller. I think it is too much of a headache to make sure it is in fact clean in all the bends and that it is fully dried before next use. With a standard wort chiller cleaning the inside of it is not an issue. I'd rather be brewing than spending my time cleaning inside of a chiller!

Your thoughts?

Jake
www.suburbanbrewing.com

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Jake,

I think the pre-chiller is a great idea. I swore I would rig one up this year but never got to it. I have a whirlpool-chiller that works great at getting the temp down relatively fast but in the summer I just can't seem to get down all the way to pitching temp... I brewed a few days ago and while my temp dropped 100 degrees in 10 minutes, I just couldn't seem to get down past 85F. I racked to my carboy and stuck it in the fridge to get down to my pitching temp (66F).

I feel the same way about the counterflow-chiller... Plus, there's something I just don't like about not being able to see what my precious wort is touching. ;)

(You can find a couple of pics of my chiller here.)

-Sam

By the way, nice blog!
Hi Jake,

When testing my new setup on the 5gal Oatmeal Stout, outside in 85 degree heat, I decided to coil my garden hose into a medium sized cooler and dumped ice and water in there. Next time I will add rock salt, which will bring the temperature further down.

The water coming out of the hose was around 60F and with my homemade IC, it chilled the wort from boiling to 80F in about 20 minutes. The remaining chilling I did when adding the top-up water, which also from the hose and it had the wort down to "pitchable temp" in no time. Of course, if you use bottled water for top-up, you can pre-chill that the same way.

Worked like a charm for me. Would probably have been even better had I used a copper coil like you suggested.

Thx,

-e
I have a pre-chiller. You would definitely want to take your beer temp down as close to the temperature of your ground water before adding the ice. I blew through a bag of ice pretty quickly and it dropped it 5 degrees for me. I'll have to try the rock salt idea and maybe get more ice for next time.
I just ditched my pre-chiller for a whirlpool immersion chiller set up. I used a sump pump and cooler to recirculate salted ice water through it. 6 gallons from 200 to 68 in about 10 mins! And saves some water. Pretty awesome. But I had to buy 2 pumps (a March and the sump) plus connections and tubing. Probably ran close to $200!

My pre-chiller was only 25' and 3/8" tubing, and I was just using a plastic bucket rather than a cooler, so your setup would be much more efficient. (It was still taking me sometimes 40 mins to get down to pitching temp - hence the splurge on the whirlpool setup) Like Dan said, I'd wait until the temp was brought down initially before adding the ice. Throw some rock salt on the ice and I think you'll be good to go!
Nice Rick! I'll probably do the same thing... I've got he whirlpool going with a march pump already. I just need a sump pump and some tubing/fittings and I'll be good to go. I'd like my sump to double as a keg/carboy cleaner.
I use a pre-chiller during the summer and warmer months when the hot hose water doesn't do much good. We have the pre-chiller in a cooler with ice and water, just like you spoke about. Then the water runs to the coil chiller in the wort. We run our water through the chiller, no the beer through the copper. It only takes about 10-20 minutes in the 90 degree heat to get down to 72 degrees!! I think thats a pretty fast time for hot weather, compared to the 5 minutes it takes during the winter, cold hose water is great :) I only brew 5 gallons at a time, I don't know how big your brew is. We just sanitize the copper chiller that goes in the wort, so it is not to big of a hassle. Also, if you lift the chiller up and down it helps cool the wort faster and aerates the wort, and if you shake the pre-chiller while it's in the ice it will chill the water even more. Hope this helps.... and here's a pic ( with the wort still boiling and no ice in the cooler yet).

that's a pretty cool setup, I was also thinking about doing the pre-chiller idea. I would only really need that for lagers. My ground water hits 59/60 during the winter, and about 67 for the summer. Even with that I am still in range for ales. For lagers, I'd like to take Jamil's advice and pitch cold. Last time I did a Pilsner, there was a touch too much diacetyl for my taste. Christmas ideas are brewing......
Awesome feedback everyone, thank you so much!

Now I'm convinced this is the way to go. I did think about it a bit more after reading all the responses and may add a pump to this set up (not initially, but down the road) to re-circulate my water as opposed to dumping it when done. Since it will be going to the pre-chiller anyway this will be a great way to save water.

I will be brewing 5 gal batches so it looks like my set up will be close to what Natalie has when it comes to cooling.

thanks!
Jake

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