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There seems to be a fair amount you can get away without doing when using extract in brewing, since the extract has already gone through most of the process before being packaged (e.g. no need to boil off DMS). Yet in Palmer's book, he still does the rapid wort cooling process in the extract section.

Is it always needed? Can it be skipped in any circumstances? If so, what? (e.g. using extract + steeped grains, extract only, pale malts)

In my case, I usually partially boil extract (+ specialty grains) and have had no problems just pouring the boiling wort into my bucket and chilling by topping up with cooler water. Have I just been lucky or is this OK?

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Depending on the temp of your top off water, your techniques is rapid chilling, IMO. And chilling methods regardless of speed has no bearing on the ingredients or brewing process being used, to achieve what its intended to achieve. –  brewchez Oct 16 '11 at 23:27
    
Yeah, in this case it got to about 30C (86F) pretty quickly, so I guess I'm doing it without realising :) From what I understand, the reasons are 1. to prevent DMS forming but not boiling off and 2. to prevent chill haze. I'm brewing a fruit beer from extract (loaded with proteins I imagine), so it seems like it might not be necessary. –  Mark McDonald Oct 17 '11 at 11:59
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Quick chilling is important for those things, but less important with extracts. The one other reason a quick chill is important is to pitch that yeast as soon as possible. Getting the yeast in there helps reduce the onset of unintended microbial contamination effects being the predominant flavor driver. –  brewchez Oct 17 '11 at 14:05

6 Answers 6

In my limited experience it seems that extract does not benefit as readily from cold breaking as all-grain. In my first brew, I did exactly as you do and topped off with water. Either malt extract has a lower amount of these cold-break proteins or the procedure caused the proteins to precipitate out of the wort.

By the time of my next brew, I had built myself an immersion chiller, and being fall in Stockholm the water was down to 9 degrees celsius - about 48 degrees fahrenheit, so it didn't take more than three minutes to cool my puny partial boil stove top down to about 17 degrees celsius. I've noticed no difference.

I'd say before you worry about cooling you should atleast be doing full boils. I'd bet the better hop utilization and lessening of malt "caramelization" would do much more to improve your beer than the cooler would at this point.

And after you go full boil, you pretty much need a cooler anyway :)

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Really, it's about aroma vs. flavoring or bittering hops. The longer it takes for your wort to cool, the more those late hop additions turn from aroma hops to flavoring (and to some extent bittering) hops.

For less hoppy styles, this obviously isn't as big an issue, but if you want to make an IPA or APA with that hop "nose" you'll want to cool quickly. Obviously, dry hopping will help that nose, but so will quickly cooling the wort.

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To be fair, if @C4H5As immediately after boil pours his partial boiled wort into chilled water it won't affect the flavor/aroma/bittering ratio, since it won't be near boiling temperature longer anyway... –  Max Oct 18 '11 at 14:37
    
Excellent point Max. If he stays an extract/partial boil brewer he'll notice little to no difference here. –  Ell Oct 19 '11 at 12:32
    
Still good to know - I've had no troubles with my current process but keen to find out why & where I'll hit the limits. –  Mark McDonald Oct 21 '11 at 0:44

If you don't want to invest in a wort chiller, another trick to cool down fast and cheap is to use ice that has been made in sanitized containers with lids. I got some cheap quart-sized food containers (ziplock I think) and the night before brew day I sanitize them w/Starsan, fill with water and freeze. Then you'll have some giant, clean ice cubes you can toss in there and they'll cool it down a lot fast than cold water alone. I just got an immersion chiller but I'm still using these ice cubes too, because it's easy and free.

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Is the water also pre-boiled? –  Dustin Rasener Oct 20 '11 at 11:13
    
@DustinRasener As long as the ziplock bag stays locked, you shouldn't need to boil the water inside, should you? –  Mark McDonald Oct 21 '11 at 0:44
    
Since I'm not a microbiologist, the only answer I have is: I don't know. Does freezing kill microbes? –  Dustin Rasener Oct 21 '11 at 4:44
    
Freezing does not kill all the microbes, but if you use pure water, like from a sealed water jug, then you are fine. I did this technique a few times myself and it works pretty well for extract & partial mash brewing. –  Graham Oct 24 '11 at 12:44
    
Oh right, you open the bags and drop the ice cubes in. I thought you left the zip-locks sealed and dropped them in. In that case you wouldn't need to pre-boil the water. –  Mark McDonald Oct 25 '11 at 1:16

I chill by a spiral, which I put in the wort and there is a cold water streaming through the spiral. 12 gallons of worth is chilled in 2 hours.

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Two hours?! I am able to chill 11 gallons of wort to 68 degrees in about 30 minutes for nine months of the year. In the summer the tap water is warmer, and I can't chill beyond about 73 degrees. –  Dustin Rasener Oct 21 '11 at 4:46
    
Chilling with a copper coil needs agitation. You can cut this time by 4 jiggling the coil! –  Dale Oct 23 '11 at 21:24

Nope. Lambics are traditionally chilled overnight in large shallow tanks, so that the various micro-organisms can land in them and get a nice foothold going before the wort is moved to a fermentation vessel.

Though, if you're not intending to do a multi-culture, open fermentation, you'd probably be better served by chilling quickly, due to the concerns mentioned in various other answers.

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"Is chilling always needed?" Absolutely not. Look into No Chill Brewing. However, it doesn't work all that well for beers with a lot of aroma hops. But for low/no hop aroma beers, it's a snap. I haven't chilled a beer in 20+ batches now.

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