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Creating "Wedding Ale" Step 1: Building A Wort Chiller

2011 January 27
by Chris

I spoke with my mom on the phone today, so I wanted to give her a quick shout-out for all the help she has provided with the wedding planning.  She’s currently hard at work checking out potential rehearsal venue locations and caterers for us.

In conversation about one of the possible venue-caterer combinations, she mentioned the options for providing alcohol and the associated costs.  Then, she suggested (I swear it was her idea) that I make some homebrew to serve at the rehearsal dinner.  Obviously, I thought this was an excellent idea.

So, I decided I better get cracking!  I have been preparing to make the jump from extract brewing to all-grain brewing, which basically means that instead of using a syrup of malt that has already been extracted from grain and preserved in a can, I will instead extract the malt sugars from the grain myself as a part of my brewing process.  With this little extra incentive, I think I’m ready to make that jump.

Building a Wort Chiller

DIY immersion wort chillerTo brew an all-grain batch, I would need to boil over 5 gallons of beer at a time, then cool it down to ferment.  However, when you brew a full 5 gallons, it can take quite a while to cool back to room temperature when relying solely on putting the kettle in an ice bath in the kitchen sink.

I needed a wort chiller…but I didn’t want to drop the $70-$100 for a decent immersion chiller.  So, I did some research and headed to Home Depot for a little DIY project!

I picked up a 50-foot copper coil with a 5/8″ outer diameter.  Unfortunately, copper prices are on the rise, so this was still quite expensive (you could do 25 feet of 3/8″ and save some money).  I then grabbed about 8-10 feet of plastic tubing (5/8″ inner diameter, to fit around the copper).  To top it off, I picked up a couple of adapters so that I could hook it up to either a garden hose or the kitchen sink.  Then a few wire clamps to hold it all together.

hose and sink adapter

Altogether, it cost me about $70.  This is about the minimum price you would pay at the store.  However, the store-bought one would probably only come with about 20-30 feet of 3/8″ copper for that price.  With the investment on 50 feet of  thicker copper, it will give me more surface area to cool with, and therefore a quicker cooling time.  Plus, it’s WAY more badass to have a wort chiller that you BUILT!

wort chiller and 5-gal kegTo build it, all you need is something to wrap the copper around to form a cylinder shape.  I used a 5-gallon keg, but any bucket would do the job, as long as it is narrower than the inside of your brew pot.

Once you have formed the coil, just pull both ends up to the top, being careful not to kink the wire.  Then connect the plastic tubing to each end using the wire clamps, and add the hose adapter to one end.  Presto – a new immersion wort chiller, hand-made in 15 minutes for only $70!

Now that I can cool my brew quickly, I’m almost ready to brew an all-grain batch.  Next, I’ll just need a mash tun to mash the grain (which I will also construct myself), and a bigger kettle!  Then it is time to brew some Wedding Ale!

Again, if you have any favorite styles or favorite brands, post it in the comments.  I will definitely take that into account when styling the Wedding Ale.

**UPDATE: See the mash tun and keggle I built to complete my home-brewing system!

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