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I'm starting to homebrew and noticed that during the cooling process A LOT of water is used going through the counterflow chiller.

I'm on a well, and I'd like to minimize water usage, especially during the summer. I also don't have a drain near where I chill, so I end up having to fill buckets and dump them (sure some can be used for cleaning, but it's A LOT of water).

My idea is to use a pond pump to create a recirculate cold water. The thing I'm not sure about is how to keep the water cold. A few options:

  1. Use a cooler full of ice. This requires enough ice for the job, and I have sort of limited freezing capacity. Would using frozen ice packs be better at keeping water cold, due to their lower freezing temp?

  2. Actively cooling the water. I have an old heatpump/ac unit that was recently replaced sitting in my garage. It's a panasonic unit, with an indoor unit and outdoor unit. (like this https://www.saturnsales.co.uk/Panasonic-Wall-Mounted-Inverter-CS-FZ25WKE.html but from 2004). I've read in a few places that the outdoor unit can be repurposed for rapidly cooling water as it's pushed through the chiller. This way you don't really need to prepare/have ice on hand. Is this an option or is it crazy?

  3. Not sure what other options there could be, but I'm willing to try anything to reduce water usage/bucket hauling.

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Many people use the pond pump and ice water technique. People normally use store bought ice by the bag. Ice packs for beach cooler's tend to absorb heat slower than ice and probably don't work great in this set up.

To be more efficient about ice usage, you can use tap water for knocking the temp down from 212F/100C but several tens of degress. Collect that hot water for your cleaning. Then switch to the ice/pump setup to take things the rest of the way.

Another option is to get a smaller second chiller put that in an ice batch to prechill tap water on its way to the main chiller in the wort.

The AC/compressor idea sounds good but it needs to be able to strip heat pretty quickly and I am note sure many AC's could do it the way you intend.

Another option would be to create a large reservoir of salted ice water put your chiller in there and pump wort through it. The larger a heat sink you can create with ice and water the faster that chill will go. You'll want to stir the ice around the chiller to maximize chill time. This will use the least amount of water, but you also won't be collecting water for washing.

Lastly, you could go no chill. Many people do it. I've tried it several times and it does work, even with hoppy styles it seems to work great. In short, you put the near boiling wort into a vessel that can be sealed tight and can withstand the high temps. You simply let it chill to ambient on its own overnight or even 24-hrs.

Hope one of those options gives you some ideas.

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brewchez's last option is worth your while investigating. Living in dry dry Australia (well, much of it is), I have found it necessary to no-chill, and have done so for about 5 years with no failures.

Try it. If you don't like the results, you can always look at the other options.

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