What is a Whirlpool Chiller and how does it work? What are the advantages or disadvantages?

2 Answers 2


Whirlpool chilling utlilizes a pump and an immersion chiller. Many brewers that have an immersion chiller will find that an upgrade to a pump for other uses allows them to get better chilling from the immersion chiller.

A whirlpool chiller uses a pump to pull wort from the base of the kettle, then returns the wort to the top of the kettle. The return is just beneath the surface of the wort in the kettle to minimize aeration effects while the wort is hot. The returned wort is pumped under the surface at an angle that is closer to parallel with the surface. This creates a sideways force which makes the entire wort volume whirlpool.

The whirlpooling action increases contact volume of the wort with the chiller surface. Whirlpool chilling stirs the wort over the immersion chiller coil and reduces the total chill time as compared to just an immersion chiller alone.

The second advantage after chill time is the whirlpool action itself. The forces created by the whirlpool help to create a cone of hop debris and break material in the center of the kettle. After the chilling is complete, one can rack or draw off from the side of the kettle, normally without pulling much of this material into the fermentor. Getting clearer wort for fermentation is an advantage of whirlpooling used by the pros.

A downside to whirlpool chilling is the requirement of a pump. However, a pump often becomes a standard upgrade for more serious brewers eventually. The second down side is the water usage with the immersion chiller. Plate chillers tend to be better on water. However, using a whirlpool setup does chill faster than an immersion chiller alone, hence reducing some water useage.

For some pictures of a whirlpool setup you can check out Jamil Zainasheff's site at Mr. Malty.com.

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    So, if I wanted to build my setup piecemeal, I could just build an immersion chiller to start with, then later get a pump and attach the copper swirley tee part to augment the immersions chiller, thus making it a whirlpool chiller?
    – JackSmith
    Commented Feb 24, 2010 at 13:35
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    BINGO! Thats the beauty of a whirlpool chiller, IMO. Its an uprgade that works with your current setup.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 24, 2010 at 18:23
  • Great thorough answer. Commented Jun 28, 2010 at 22:18
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    If you don't want to waste water, recirculate back through another immersion chiller in a bucket filled with ice and salt instead of just sending hose water through once.
    – dana
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 22:32

As brewchez mentions, whirlpool chilling typically uses an immersion chiller, however you can whirlpool chill with counterflow and plate chillers also. The principle of recirculating the wort is the same - the wort is pumped into the plate or counterflow chiller and back into the kettle, where it creates a whirlpool.

When plate and counterflow chillers are used without recirculating (the "normal" way), the cold break forms in the chiller, and has nowhere to go but end up in the fermentor. By recirculating the wort, the cold break ends up back in the kettle, and a good whirlpool can ensure most of it stays there.

An advantage of circulating the wort with these chillers is that each drop of wort is chilled very quickly, typically dropping from near boiling to 75F/23C in the time it takes to pass through the chiller. This is beneficial since a rapid chill forms a good cold break, which helps reduce chill haze. Yet, since the wort is then recycled, the wort is chilled as a whole. Chilling the whole wort rather than a small part of it is beneficial as it reduces production of DMS and locks in more hop aroma.

The combination of rapid chill and whole-wort chilling is unique to whirlpooling with plate chillers and counterflow chillers.

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    You can whirlpool without an immersion chiler, but you cannot utilize a whirlpool chiller without an immersion chiller. The point of circulating wort is to create more contact between the wort and the immersion chiller. The whole point of a whirlpool chiller is to chill ALL of the wort simultaneously below DMS/hop utilization levels. As you note in your post, a plate/cf chiller can only chill the wort currently in the chiller. I will agree that you will end up chilling faster than normal by recirculating wort into kettle, but you are incorrect to include these techniques as whirlpool chilling.
    – dana
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 23:03
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    @dana - I think you misunderstand my answer. Because the wort is recycled after being chilled, the entire wort volume IS cooled simultaneously. Even with an IM chiller only the wort that's in contact with the coils is chilled directly, and this is then mixed with the rest to reduce the overall temperature. And the same is true with the plate/CFC - a small volume of wort is chilled and then mixed with the full volume. If you scan the homebrew forums you'll see plenty of references to using other forms of chiller for whirlpool chilling. It's not exclusively an IM thing.
    – mdma
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 6:25
  • Essentially whirlpool chilling is about cooling the entire volume, accelerating chilling by constantly moving the wort, and creating a trub cone. You achieve all of these with IM, CFC or plate chiller. (I do this with my rig, so I'm speaking from practical experience.)
    – mdma
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 6:27
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    You are comparing cooling a small amount of wort and recircing to the hot kettle, to whirlpooling the entire kettle about a chiller coil simultaneousky. In terms of the thermodynamics those are not equivalent. Jamil makes this very point.
    – dana
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 7:00
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    Jamil says this: "Q: Can't I do this same thing using my counter-flow/plate chiller? A: Yes, you can. Several people have reported good results using their counter-flow devices. Just run the output from the device back into the kettle. You'll probably get less of a whirlpool effect, but the chilling should be just as good, no DMS and great hop character." I don't see how the thermodynamics may differ, so please explain, but either way, the temperature of the entire volume of wort is reduced.
    – mdma
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 7:09

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