Lazy Brewing: Cheap and Easy Hydro-Pneumatic Keg Cleaning

I like kegging.  I hate cleaning kegs. 

I like keg washers.  I hate spending money on brewing equipment.

I like DIY.  I hate when I DIY and make something more complicated and unreliable.

Sometimes – just sometimes – you find yourself a quick and effective fix for a common brewing task, and man, that’s really just the best. 

I think I have one of those this week, for those who love the convenience of kegging but hate slopping water all over to clean them and aren’t willing to invest in a keg washer (which I read can be kind of unreliable anyway).

Nothing Beats A Spare Parts Solution

My beef with keg cleaning is this: I want a clean (and maybe sanitized) keg, but I don’t feel like stripping it down every time.  However, I also don’t really trust that a healthy rinse gets the job done, so I often end up stripping it, filling the whole bastard with OneStep, then dumping it all out and reassembling (invariably spilling lots of oxygen-laden water all over the brewery). 

What I wanted was a simple solution (upcoming pun intended) that allowed me to hit most of the parts in the keg (nearly all of them, really) with some kind of cleaner and/or sanitizer while also not having to hoist and dump anything and, if I could avoid it, disassembling the keg.

My answer came when I was doing a little inventory on my “random brewing parts” drawers (we all have those, right?) and I noticed I had a lot of spare ball lock connectors and tubing of assorted diameter in lots of lengths.  A bit of inspiration and some lucky guesses later, and I had a fast and easy keg cleaning mechanism.

Homemade Hyrdo-Pneumatic Keg Cleaning

Rather than using a pump to cycle liquid into and through and around the inside of the keg, I just went hydraulic/pneumatic.  I connected about 36 inches each of tubing to one beer post connector (black/out) and one gas post connector (white/in), with nothing connected to the other ends.  Those two post-tube pieces and a hose barb coming off of my faucet (which I already had) are the only equipment needed. 

Step One: Bleed the gas off the keg and pop the lid.  One quick hit with the sprayer and the residual beer (and small amount of sediment) is gone.  Add the appropriate amount of OneStep (use your favorite no-scrub/no-rinse cleaner) into the bottom of the keg.

Step Two: Connect the posts, running the open end of the “Out” post to the hose barb on the faucet, and the open end of the “In” post to the sink. 

Step Three: Turn the hot water on and run about half a gallon into the keg (in through the out post), then pause to give the keg and good shake/swirl to help the cleaner dissolve.  Then run hot water in until you see water coming out the white gas post tubing.  At that point, I lifted the bleed valve on top of the lid until the keg filled to that level (you’ll get a fun little sprinkler effect when it “tops out”), but you may find that overkill.  In any case, once you’re full, leave it sit for half an hour and let the cleaner work.

Step Four: Remove the tubing from the hose barb – that’s a real “Out” again.  Connect a conventional CO2 line to the keg’s “in” post and push the cleaner/water out with the CO2, which also ensures that your “Out” dip tube is getting hit with cleaner. 

That’s it!  Once it empties, you have a clean, CO2-flushed keg.  Repeat with sanitizer if you want.  Then just set it aside for its next use.

Daisy Chain

Since I had a bunch of spare post connectors, I also played with building a “Daisy Chain” keg cleaning rig.  It’s the same as the single-kegger described above, but I built “jumpers” to connect one keg to the next in the chain (white to white, then black to black to the next keg, etc.).  Calculate how much cleaner you need for however many kegs you have chained together, and add that amount to the first keg.  Then run water through until it comes out the other end of the “keg chain,” let them sit, then blast clear with the CO2!

Nothing New Under the Sun

I feel pretty confident that others have already done this, but it was new to me.  Problems aren’t “problems” until we try to fix them, even if we don’t like what we’re doing, and this wasn’t a “problem” for me until recently.

I’m feeling pretty good about this one, though.  Yes, itexpends some CO2, but to be frank I’ve blown way more than this every time I get a has leak in the kegerator.  I’ll take the minor cost over the strain and slop of lifting and dumping kegs.

Keep it simple.

JJW

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Buttered Up: Identifying and Treating Diacetyl In Your Beer

As off-flavors go, diacetyl is an odd duck in that it's fairly benign but also infuriating.  A little diacetyl (which comes across as butter, butterscotch, or maybe vanilla in flavor) is acceptable in some styles, and not all that off-putting in others, but many brewers struggle to identify it (or pretend they can!).

This week at Beer Simple, we're going to talk through a fool-proof method for testing for diacetyl that will allow even the most butter-insecure person to confidently state whether or not they're out of the diacetyl woods, and what to do if you're not. 

A Quick and Dirty Overview of "D"

Diacetyl is a fermentation byproduct (specifically, a vicinal diketone, or VDK) that is present in almost every beer.  The trick is preventing it from ending up in your finished beer, above detection levels.  A thousand other articles have discussed how to limit it, so feel free to read those, but here's the short version:

  • Pitch enough healthy yeast
  • Choose a yeast strain that produces less diacetyl (unless you want it)
  • Control initial fermentation temps
  • Increase temperature in the latter stage of fermentation to encourage the yeast to clean up after themselves
  • Avoid contamination

Simple enough.  The real question is whether you've met that goal, and what to do if you haven't.

The Force Test

Once you build up some confidence in identifying diacetyl you'll be able to just take a sample, give it a swirl, and sniff/taste/feel your way to a conclusion.  To help you build up that confidence and train up your palate, you might want to consider the Diacetyl Force Test.

Ferment your beer, and pull a four-to-five ounce sample.  Divide the sample between two microwave-safe vessels (most coffee mugs work well), and cover them both.  Put one sample in the microwave for about 20 seconds, and pull it.

The heated sample is going to be jamming with aroma at this point.  Take a sniff and compare it to the unheated sample.  If they smell identical (just at a different magnitude), then you almost certainly don't have diacetyl remaining!  Heating oxidizes and drives out AAL (the precursor to diacetyl) and will create a rich, buttery aroma that will be both distinct from traditional "beer-y" flavors like caramel or melanoidins (which can be mistaken for D) and also turn up the volume on it.  

Training

This is a terrific way to train your palate because it will demonstrate the difference between what are and are not "diacetyl" flavors, and teach yourself how you perceive them.  

We often discuss beer flavors as though they're monolithic, but they're not: I perceive diacetyl, oxidation, and acetaldehyde differently than you (artificial vanilla, old books, and wild grasses, respectively).  Hell, to me Isovaleric Acid (gym socks) tastes like raspberry.  The terminology we use describes common perceptions and creates a functional language for identifying beer faults, but that doesn't mean that your brain will process these flavors/aromas in exactly that way.

So, yes, to many, diacetyl is patently identical to popcorn butter - but it's better to know for sure.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Now that you know whether or not you still have a diacetyl issue, what can you do about it?

There are two simple solutions.  OK, I take that back, one simple solution, and one kind-of-harder solution.

The first is to increase the temperature of your fermenting beer slightly, and wait.  This is the famous "diacetyl rest," and it will encourage your yeast to go back and clean up/break down any AAL or VDK remaining in your beer.  Time alone might do the trick, but time plus a little warmth will encourage your yeast to stay active and clean up after themselves.

The other is to add actively-fermenting wort to your finished beer, a process known as "krausening."  The highly-active yeast will be hunting for anything they can get their hands on to process, and as a result will drive you to a fuller attenuation, jump-start the carbonation process, and clean up diacetyl.  It's not a bad practice to get into in general!

Diacetyl is nothing to fear, and as I said above, there are certainly worse brewing faults to contend with.  As you get a better sense of how you perceive it you can abandon the force test altogether and trust your senses, and between that and some minor process tweaks you'll soon have your VDK problems in the rearview mirror.

Keep it simple.

JJW

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Hunting and Finding (New) Rules of Thumb in Hopping

For as much time as brewers spend talking about hops, you'd assume we know all about them.  The bizarre reality is that we know surprisingly little about how hops work, what they add in terms of flavor, and the effects of different treatments and manipulation of them.  

Don't believe me?  Spend some time digging into the scientific research into hops.  You'll soon start wondering about the competence and sanity of the brewers who never miss a chance to talk up their hopping process, their proprietary hops and blends, and how they use X hop to get Y flavor.  If we know so little, they must be completely snowing and bullshitting us.  How dare they!

That's right - you heard it here first.  I'm calling out ALL professional and home brewers and saying they're all LIARS!  

No, not really (though I'd love to stop the post there and see what kind of reaction we get).  They're not lying.  They're probably not even wrong.  It's just that hop usage and what comes out of it is super-idiosyncratic: if the non-lying brewers in question produce similar recipes with changes in hop type and/or use, they can dial in flavors they want.  What we shouldn't do is necessarily assume that what works for that brewer will work the same way for us, because there's a very good chance it won't.  

Today's offering will (at least attempt to) provide some actual translatable lessons that can put up some signposts on the solipsistic road that brewers find themselves on when it comes to hops.

Two's Company

I'm an intense advocate for blending your hops.  Single-hop beers are all well and good, and have the virtue of taking the guesswork out of where hops-derived flavors are coming from in a particular beer, but their utility is limited for recipe and even for education purposes.  

You're not getting a general impression of one hop - you're getting one impression of one hop, since the point of addition, length of whirlpool, water chemistry, yeasts strain, grist, and more are creating a unique flavor and aroma.  Hell, that specific batch of hops and its oil ratios matter, too, both in terms of how it presents and what compounds are created when its added and fermented-on.  And as for single-hopping for recipe purposes, you're putting all of your flavor/aroma eggs in one hop basket, which is risky since we know that other process and recipe elements can scrub out flavors from a hop that you presumably chose for its flavor profile.

Instead, I recommend pairing hops for better results, at least if you're not willing to put in the repeated-batch-brewing necessary to find effective single-hopping (remember, you'll need to find out for yourself how that hop presents in YOUR beer in THAT recipe).  You can either pick hops with complementary flavors (for example, I love the Hallertau-Northern Brewer combo for its woodsy and floral presentation) or those that amplify common flavors (say, Citra and Motueka for a big-time citrus and tropical fruit bomb).  Consult a good hops flavor chart, and pick hops that work well for your target recipe, knowing that even if you don't get all of what you wanted, you're at least covering your bases.

Ignore IBUs (a little)

Don't obsess over IBUs.  What you should care about is the impression of bitterness you're getting, and especially if you aren't working your water chemistry that's going to differ substantially from one brewer to the next (and one recipe to the next, for the same brewer) even at the same IBU level.  

Use an IBU target for the first time you brew a recipe, then adjust up or down based on impressions.  It doesn't matter if your Ordinary Bitter only has 20 calculated IBUs instead of the guideline-minimum so long as it tastes like it does.  By the same token, ignore the maximum if you're still getting an IPA that lacks a soft bitter burr on the palate.  

You should also be looking for all sources of bittering impression in your recipes and aiming for a general "bittering impression" level.  IBUs are certainly one source.  So is carbonation level.  So is the presence or absence of roasted malts, what Lovibond level they're kilned to, and whether they're husked or dehusked.  So is sulfate-to-chloride ratio.  

Don't think of bitterness just in terms of alpha acid percentage, boil time, and utilization.

Slowhand

When it comes to late hopping, you'll have lots of brewers tell you that the longer hops are in contact with hot wort, the less aromatic impact you'll get as volatile compounds in the essential oils disappear into the ether.  They'll also tell you that whirlpooling will add isomerization "time" to your already-added hops.

There's emerging evidence that that isn't quite right.  It's probably true when we're talking about boiling wort - as minutes go by you're creating more iso-alpha acids (bittering) and burning off essential oils.  But it's not at all clear when it comes to hot-but-not-boiling liquid.  Experimental research strongly suggests that long whirlpools/hop-backing yields a higher level of aroma from hops than shorter exposures, even though it means longer contact with hot wort. 

So, when it comes to whirlpool hopping, take your time.  Slow down.  You'll probably get more flavor out of your hops while risking very little in terms of your mid-to-late boil hops.

You're Not Aging Your Hops

Finally, I field this question all the time, and I'd love to try to bury it here: no, you don't need to worry about how old your hops are.  If you're taking any kind of care in the storage of your hops, then they're perfectly fine to brew with for at least a year, and probably longer.  

Will the AA% be a little lower?  Yes, probably.  But not that much.  And see the earlier note on not obsessing about IBUs.  

To think, though, that you're going to get cheesy flavors, or dramatically less bittering, or significantly less aroma/flavor out of a hop that you've had in a zip-locked bag in the refrigerator is bordering on zymurgic paranoia.  Have you ever seen/read about what it takes to make hops "age" for use in things like Lambics?  It takes some rough treatment; we're talking 50 Shades of Perle rough (Editor's Note: that's an absolutely killer and hilarious multi-level play on words as long as you're pronouncing it right - "Per-LAY").

So don't worry about your hops.  I store mine in a bag with the air pressed out, zipped, in the freezer.  They're basically immortal. (Second Editor's Note: This was TOTALLY written before Brulosophy dropped this week's exBEERiment!!!)

Try then Trust

There may be more, but that's all we have time for this week.  Feel free to add questions/comments and expand!  What's important, though, is that when it comes to hopping you keep good notes on use and subsequent impressions.  There are rough rules to abide by, but to really get the most out of your hops, YOU need to be on the ball to find out what that looks like in your situation.

Try, then trust.

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).


Practice Doesn't Make Perfect: Active Steps to Improve Your Brewing At All Levels

"Back up, think again, take dead aim" is a better strategy than "Brew, rinse, repeat."

I know a genuinely tone-deaf person.  Can't carry a tune in a bucket.  No matter how many times I hear him/her singing the same songs - Christmas carols, country songs, anything - it's a tuneless, cringe-inducing (but well-meaning) mess.

Practice doesn't make perfect.  The best we can say is that practice, by rote and over a long stretch of time, generally guarantees some level of improvement.  Real progress takes more than reps, though.  When it comes to brewing, improvement (at all levels - not just for beginners, and we should all be looking to improve now and again) takes, in my humble estimation, three things:

1. Strategic retreat/evaluation

2. Education (or re-education)

3. Deliberate practice (as the likes of Prof. Anders Ericsson describe it)

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Human beings aren't big fans of revisiting things, especially when they seem to work.  "Don't fix what isn't broken."  "Don't change horses in midstream."  "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."  The problem with that thinking is that too often we're not finding solutions to our not-yet problems.

Problems aren't just "things that are negative."  They're things we seek to fix.  Problem recognition is not automatic, and we have an innate bias against seeking out problems.

Step one, then, is to take a step back and evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of your brewing practice.  However good your beer is, I promise you that you're doing something that could be improved upon, if only you'd take a beat and think about it.  I can also promise you that you've added something to your process that isn't giving you any real benefit and can be eliminated.  Back up.  Reevaluate.

It might feel like regression: it isn't.  Every few months I buy new and different hops.  Every bulk grain buy, I buy more of some grain that I know I don't need to force me to try new recipes.  I think about whether I need more output, or less.  Being self-critical as part of a regular regime of improvement isn't putting yourself down, it's urging yourself up.

All Knowledge is Provisional

Some posit that all knowledge is provisional - that everything we "know" should be treated as "correct for the moment, but subject to revision."  That kind of epistemological humility is especially important for brewers, because brewing science and practice are still evolving pretty rapidly.

Some of that is because it's the subject of a lot more interest today than in previous generations, but it's also because we're constantly trying to adapt the lessons of commercial brewers (or of other homebrewers, whose skill and diligence we can't evaluate easily) to our own process and approaches.  

Short version: what you believed to be true last year about brewing might no longer be accurate.  At the same time, things you thought wrong or impossible might now be known to be preferable.  How do we know the difference?

Some of this is live-and-learn (just naked practice - hey, I didn't say it was worthless, just that it doesn't make "perfect!").  

However, if we want to improve we also need to reconsider what we "know" in a formal sense.  We need to educate and, potentially, re-educate ourselves.  Read new books.  Seek out new articles.  Attend conferences and classes.  Go through a formal certification process like the BJCP or Cicerone exams to compel learning and skill development.

At the same time, see if any new technologies, ingredients, or developments have given us any new tools to solve previously-intractable problems.  Hop extracts and hash and power are now readily available.  Mini-barrels can be had for wood-aging in small batches.  New and rediscovered yeast strains are on the market.  Reconsider what's "possible."  

Doing this, though, requires us to be willing to challenge what we know.  As John Stuart Mill said in "On Liberty":

"However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth."

Practice with Purpose.  Practice with Purpose.

There's practice, and then there's deliberate practice.  For a great rundown, check out this episode of Freakonomics radio.  The short version is that if we want to improve, doing the same thing over and over is a pretty poor way to do so.  What we need to do is to practice and train at the limits of our abilities so that we force our brains and bodies to find new economies, solutions, and methods.  

For brewers, the best way to do this might be to brew to exacting standards and compare our output to real benchmarks.  One great way to do it, and the one I recommend most often?  

Clone.

Cloning beers is tremendous deliberate practice.  It requires us to source or create a recipe, brew exactingly to it, adjust, brew again, adjust, brew again, and all the while comparing what we made to what we were trying to make.  We'll start identifying variability that we need to clamp down, we start to learn how ingredient or process changes affect what we produce (and by how much), and more.  

To quote golf teaching legend Harvey Penick, "take dead aim."  That's what cloning requires.

There are other approaches, too, of course.  Challenge yourself to make a beer under 4% ABV or over 10% that is usually 6%, but with no perceptible flavor changes.  Duel, with two brewers brewing the same style or even the same recipe.  Brew new beers all year long to break yourself out of ruts.  Introduce a new process or method that you discovered in your "education" step.  Anything.

Cloning is best, though.  Anyone can shoot an arrow.  Shooting an arrow off the top of someone's head is a real test, though - especially if you like the person (and maybe even if you don't, if you know what I mean...).  You could stand in an open field and fire off arrows all day long and not improve, but it wouldn't take too many near-and-dear relatives getting shafted (so to speak) before your aim ticked up out of sheer concentration and stakes.  

Or Not

The preceding all presumes that you have any desire - even just a little - to get better.  If you don't, and this is just a fun pastime for you, then that's AOK, of course.  I know a guy who goes "fishing" all the time and never catches anything, and isn't really interested in it.  He likes the quiet and the sunshine, and the fish are incidental.

If that's you, then there's not a thing wrong with it.  

Let me say this, though: however we like to brew and for whatever reasons, we can usually do it better, cleaner, faster, or cheaper.  If you're just a "fun" brewer, then think about inviting over some friends to brew, too!  If you like what you brew and don't want to change it at all, why not see if there's a way to brew more varieties of it?  

If you're a pure "Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew" person, why not try brewing while doing yoga?

For those who are working to improve in any way, though, this little treatise might be of some use to you.  

Just don't tell me that "practice makes perfect."

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).


Be Cool, Honey Bunny: Chilling Methods and Rationales, Examined

There’s a certain irony to the hot-and-bothered question I got recently about wort cooling.  As much as I hate puns, I couldn’t resist:

“Dude – you just need to chill.”

**Rimshot**

Seriously, though, chilling doesn’t need to be a cause for anxiety.  Yes, a quick chill will (probably) impart some benefit, but this is generally not a place where you beer will go wildly off the rails. 

So just be cool, honey bunny (is that one of the best closing scenes in all of cinema, or what?), and let’s talk about why and how we chill our wort.

WHY WE CHILL

There are some practical reasons why we chill wort, of course.  Prompt chilling helps create break material which (maybe) results in clearer beer, prevents (maybe) the recreation/reabsorption of DMS and other compounds that were driven off in the boil, stops (somewhat) the isomerization of alpha acids from later hop additions, and (of course) makes it possible to pitch our yeast and get the fermentation process rolling.

These are all potentially good reasons to chill, and do so promptly.  I’m not sold on them, though.  They don’t motivate me.  You know what motivates me?  Simplicity.

The real, simple reason I chill is so that I’m done brewing.  Time is beer, as I’ve said before, and anything that gets me done quicker (without compromising the quality of the beer) is preferable.  And in a blog called Beer Simple it’s no surprise that we prioritize simpler methods wherever possible.  So, from an Aristotelian, “first principles” position, the reason to chill isn’t the absorption of DMS: that's just a potential marginal benefit.  The reason to chill is because it gets the job finished, in the fermenter, and working towards becoming our next beer.

This is an important distinction to make, because it means that your choice of method can and should revolve around what’s easiest and/or fastest for you – don’t worry too much about the relative superiority of each method as it pertains to the benefits of chilling. 

Just chill.  Or not. 

A QUESTION OF METHOD

This piece is being written in the first place because of a message I received from a new-ish brewer who wanted to know what chilling method I used and whether I thought it was worth his money to buy a certain piece of equipment.  I hate to waffle on things like that, but the honest answer was and is “it depends.” 

Each of these methods might be best for you, so pick your remedy without worrying about what the chatterboxes in forums have to say about it.  They may try to run you down for under- or over-doing it, but remember that the important thing is that brewing is something you like doing, so following their advice to your own frustration will mean you brew less-often and probably make something no better than what you’d have made your own way.

So, without further ado:

ICE BATH: cover your kettle, put it in the sink or bathtub, and run some cold water in with an addition of ice.

·      Best for: Small-batch brewers (under 3G), diluters (those who don’t do full-volume boils and add cold, clear water in the fermenter), equipment-phobes.

The venerable ice bath was a staple of homebrewing in the days before ready-made chilling equipment was commonplace and affordable.  It works (yay, physics!), but can be very slow.  The upside is it can be very cheap (depending on your batch size and ice production capability) and it’s simple and passive.  You can change out the water to speed up the process, or just let it sit.  The smaller your batch, the faster this probably goes since the thermal mass is smaller, and if you’ll be diluting with cold water you can cut the chilling time a bit short and pull it at 130F or so to add your cold dilution water and end up around pitching temp.

A word of warning about snow-chilling!  I love winter, but sticking your kettle in a snow bank is a surprisingly piss-poor method for chilling wort.  The snow immediately around your kettle will melt, and the air in between the kettle and snow will form a thermocline barrier – which means that the cold from the snow isn’t getting to the kettle surface any more!

IMMERSION CHILLER: A few minutes before the end of the boil, drop this coil of copper into your kettle to sanitize it, and then kill the heat, cover, and start running cold water through it.

·      Best for: Brewers with access to a hose-threaded water source and a little bit of cash and a little less time.

Most of us start our chilling-equipment adventure with an immersion chiller, and they can be bought or made fairly inexpensively.  They work by transferring heat through the copper to the cold-but-now-heating water, and carrying that heat out an outlet tube.  The one potential hitch is that you need access to a threaded water source, so apartment or condo-dwellers might be SOL here (though you can sometimes thread an adapter onto a kitchen or sink faucet).  This, like the ice bath, is pretty passive.  Turn on the water, divert the runoff to a drain or some virtuous outlet (watering a garden, for example), and wait for the thermometer needle to drop.  It’s one more thing to clean and can be a pain to store, but it works.  Since the chiller is chilling all of the wort at once, though, it’s a pretty even fight and so this method still takes a while – just not as much as a straight ice bath. 

COUNTERFLOW AND PLATE CHILLERS: Move your wort through a tight space in direct contact with a heat-transfer system fueled by cold water to chill rapidly.

·      Best for: Brewers with a little more cash, less time, and (maybe) a pump

If you have a lot of wort to move and/or a bit more cash for equipment, one of these might be your best bet.  They both function on the same principle: rather than chilling all of your wort at once, why not chill a small flow of it?  This adds speed, since the cold water can absorb nearly all of the heat from the comparably-small volume of hot wort.  In the Counterflow Chiller we run wort through a tube-in-a-tube, surrounding the hot wort with cold water.  In the Plate Chiller the wort is flattened/thinned out and run parallel to plates filled with cold water.  These add speed, for sure, but might also add some equipment costs.

You need the chiller, of course, but you also need a way to get the wort into said chiller.  These chillers work easiest when you have a kettle with an outlet valve: just connect the valve to tubing leading to the “Wort In” port on the chiller, and open up the valve!  Water, just like with the immersion chiller, is sourced from a threaded source and runs in the opposite direction.  It may be necessary, depending on your system, to secure a pump to move the wort through your chiller if you can’t gravity-feed it, but this isn’t true in all cases. [Note: it is true, though, that you can move the wort a lot faster with a pump!  The chiller can almost certainly handle more than your gravity feed is giving it.]

 

I DID IT MY WAY

So, what do I do?  I’m a plate-chiller-gravity-feed guy. 

I like the speed (even without a pump, I’m done with about 4.5 gallons in under 10 minutes), it’s super-convenient (because I can just open up the valve, turn on the water, and walk away), and despite the Rube Goldberg machinations some go through to clean theirs I’ve never had an issue keeping mine ready to rock with minimal effort.

After use, I just connect the wort-side tubing to my sink (I have a barbed fitting for the faucet) and blast it clear with hot, then hot-and-cold, then just-cold water, from both sides (in and out).  Before my next use, I soak it with the rest of the gear in OneStep cleaner.  Never had a jam, never had a contamination traced to it. 

Do it your way, though.  This might even mean no chilling – more on that in an upcoming guest column.  Worry less about minimal finished beer effects (which, by the by, we can address through other means) and more about convenience.  We can work on clarity with finings, DMS produced while waiting to chill probably isn’t even reaching detectable levels, and isomerization drops off rapidly once we get below boiling.  Time, however, is an immutable cost of your brewing, and you should always be on the lookout for ways to use it better!

Maybe use your newfound freedom to, like Jules Winnfield, walk the Earth.

Keep it simple.

JJW

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