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I know it is important to chill wort to <80 before pitching yeast, and that quality of final beer is affected by the speed with which the wort was chilled to this point, and there are various methods of doing this, wort chillers, ice baths etc. The instructions on the extract kit (NB) say when it is cooled, transfer to a container containing 2 gallons of cold water.

My question is, why not keep 2 gallons of water chilled in the fridge, and add this directly to the wort immediately after the boil? this will cool the wort to pitching temperature immediately, which will surely reduce the risk of issues!? I use gallon jugs of spring water so there should not be any contaminants in the water.

is there a good reason why i should NOT do this? i used this method for my last batch and do not detect any issues, but as its so easy i am surprized i have not come across this as a recomended technique (and negate the need for buying a chiller).

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I used to go so far as to freeze some pre-boiled water and put the crushed ice directly in the wort post-boil to bring it down. You should google "No Chill" brewing if you want another alternative. –  Graham Mar 12 '12 at 13:42

7 Answers 7

There's no good reason NOT to do it, but it won't cool your wort nearly as much as you think it will.

My best method so far has been to immerse the kettle in a FULL bathtub of cold water and let it sit for 20-30 minutes. I don't bother with ice. It cools about as fast as filling and emptying a sink three or four times but is less hassle. I just relax in the other room for a while and when I come back it's at pitching temperature.

The best method for real is to invest in a wort chiller, but for most beginning brewers (myself included) the above method is fine.

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I used to rely on this, but it didn't cool the wort nearly fast enough. For the last two, I considerably cut down my cooling time to under 60 minutes by placing the carboy/bucket in a larger handled bucket, and surrounded it with 20 lbs of ice. That did the trick.

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I use the same method myself and although it's very early in my brewing career I haven't had any problems so far. I use the cheapest possible bottled water from the supermarket. It adds about $1.50 to the cost of each brew. One thing I've noticed is that the water does have to be very cold - freezer cold, but not frozen or it's hard to pour :-) - or it doesn't chill the wort to a low enough temperature even when there's a lot more water than wort.

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I don't think there's any problem at all with what you suggest. Currently, I do partial boils, and when I chill after boiling, I take the tray of ice in my freezer, dump ice in the wort until the pot is full (I typically end up with about 3 gallons after boiling and I have a 4 gallon pot). The rest of the ice goes into the kitchen sink where the brewpot is sitting. I then do the ice bath on the outside and stir the ice on the inside. Finally I transfer to a carboy, and top up with tap water.

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I actually did this a few times when I was doing partial boils, though I would add an extra step. First, I would boil the water for 10 minutes to kill anything in it, and add it to sanitized containers before putting in the refrigerator or freezer. Sometimes I would do this the night before to save time on brew day.

What I found though, is that this only brought the temperature of the wort down part of the way and I still had to do an ice bath to get it below 80. I ended up ditching this step in favor of just doing an ice bath which saved me time in the end.

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Assuming you're able to keep the water free from contaminants, then there is no reason not to do this as long as you're doing partial boils. It's simple, effective and avoids the need for additional equipment.

A chiller becomes more of a necessity as you step up to full wort boils. One cited advantage of chilling the entire wort with a immersion chiller is that it keeps the cold break out of the fermentor, leading to a cleaner more stable beer, although how much of an advantage this is is still debated.

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Assuming you are doing full wort boils, would this technique still not be advantageous? i.e. you could tailor your recipe to produce a thicker wort than desired, and then thin it out post-boil with a gallon or two of ice cold distilled water. I've never thought of doing this, and am wondering why it isn't talked about much. –  wesanyer Mar 11 '12 at 22:07
    
You could do this. The main difference is that hop utilization is lower when boiling in a higher gravity wort, so you'd want to account for this by using proportionally more bittering hops. For example, if your target OG 1.050, but you boil with an average gravity of 1.080 for 60mins, utilization is reduced by 25% (see howtobrew.com/section1/chapter5-5.html.) Just for reference, some commercial breweries brew a super-strength wort and then water down - it allows them to increase production capacity - so it's not an uncommon technique. –  mdma Mar 11 '12 at 22:17

There is no guarantee that spring water, especially if you collected it from a spring, is free of bacteria. But spring water is often super filtered or pasteurized and is much more likely to be free of contaminants.
That said, I used to put my couple jugs of water in the fridge the night before. When I started the boil, I put the jugs in the freezer. That would give just enough time so they'd get real cold without freezing...too much.

That's a great way to go about a great chill as an early brewer. It may be beneficial to dunk the jugs in sanitizer first, or at least spray the tops with sanitizer. Your fridge and freezer are full of bacteria that is getting blown around by the fans in the fridge/freezer.

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