When it comes to cooling your wort, no chill brewing using a food-safe cube or container is one of the simplest and most economical innovations and inventions ever developed in the world of home brewing.
We will get into more detail further in this post in regards to exactly what is involved in this method of cooling your wort, however, a brief explanation of no chill brewing would be that instead of using a wort chiller it involves pouring your hot wort into a HDPE and BPA free container, purging the air, sealing the container, and letting the wort cool on its own over time, typically about 12 hours.
When done correctly it works very well with no risk of infection, it saves anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes on brew day and it is very cost-friendly.
The goal of this post is to provide you with a quick overview of the history of this wort cooling method, the pros and alleged cons of it, and instructions on how to do it successfully.
So let’s get into it…
The History of No Chill Brewing
When it comes to brewing (and many other reasons) I love the Australians. They are one impressively innovative group from down under.
First, they invented my favorite method of brewing beer called Brew in a Bag or BIAB.
This first innovation cut back significantly on the time, expense, complication, and clean up involved in all-grain homebrewing. Then they go ahead and develop this amazing common sense and straightforward method of chilling your wort.
Apparently, water can be scarce at times in Australia, at least enough water to be able to chill your wort using the traditional methods such as an immersion or plate chiller. Also apparently the temperature of their groundwater is at times too high to chill the wort properly so you could say that out of necessity they developed this idea of not chilling your wort at all.
This method has gained popularity in recent years with brewers who are looking for simpler, quicker, and less costly methods of making beer (like myself) have jumped on this method and love it.
Do not get discouraged if you do not see many of the old-time traditional homebrewers using this method. This is not because it does not work, but rather because they have been brewing for years and years using 3 vessel systems with immersion chillers and are perhaps somewhat stuck in their ways. Which is all well and good as this is a hobby for everyone and if you enjoy brewing a certain way and it gives you good results why change?
When this idea first came to fruition there was concern that the beer could end up with high levels of DMS or Dimethyl Sulfide. The thought was this would be as a result of the wort not being chilled down quick enough to stop this from occurring.
This has been proven to be a non-issue as the buildup of DMS using this method does not happen. It is believed that this is due to any remaining DMS created during the brewing process is actually released during the fermentation stage.
How It Works
The great thing about this chilling method is that it is simple and easy. It is as complicated as simply taking the wort that you have just boiled and immediately transferring it to a clean and sanitized no chill brewing container, which must be an HDPE and BPA free container.
You then seal the container and very carefully using oven mitts you shake the container, making sure the boiling wort touches all of the interior of the container. (this helps ensure the container is thoroughly sanitized).
You then pull the air valve at the back of the container and then again very carefully using oven mitts or a towel you squeeze all of the air out of the container, and then put the air value back in place resealing the container.
You now leave the container to cool down to room temperature on its own.
I’ve heard tell of some people putting it in the fridge or freezer (do not allow the wort to freeze) or outside if it is cold in order to bring the temperature down quicker. I have never done any of that. I simply leave the container alone overnight and by morning the temperature of the wort has dropped to room temperature and I proceed with the fermentation process.
I have also heard tell of people leaving the wort in the container for weeks. I also do not do this. I tried it one time and left the wort in the container for 4 days and it became infected. I believe this happened because it was a container I had used many times and over time the groves you screw the cover onto had become warped and twisted due to the heat from the boiling wort; allowing oxygen to penetrate the cube.
So as of yet, I have never attempted that again as it is no fun dumping a batch of beer down the drain. All I do is leave the wort in the container for 12 – 18 hours at most and then transfer it to the fermenter and add the yeast. The wort has never become infected and I have never had a problem doing it this way.
The following is a video where I walk you through step by step how to chill your wort in a no chill cube…
No Chill Brewing Instructional Video
Next, we will take a look at a few of the benefits and things you should know about this method of chilling homebrew
Benefits and Thing’s You Should Know
1) Time Saving – Chilling wort using the other methods takes at least 30 – 60 minutes if not longer. Using this method takes about 5 – 10 minutes of work.
2) Ferment Later – One of the benefits people claim regarding this method is you can brew now and ferment later. They are referring to you being able to leave your wort in the container for as long as you like.
Again I do not do this because it backfired on me, once bitten twice shy, but as indicated I believe that was due to a failure of the container I was using and I feel confident that you could indeed do this as long as the integrity of your container is intact.
If you decide to brew now and ferment later it allows you to make more beer while you are waiting for space in your fermenters or temperature-controlled chambers to become available. Also if you are fermenting back-to-back like this and use liquid yeast you can save money and time by re-pitching your yeast immediately instead of having to wash it and store it.
3) Doubles as a Fermenter – An interesting benefit is being able to actually ferment in the no chill cube itself. This can save you money on fermenters as these containers are inexpensive in comparison to a fermenter. It would also save you time as you do not have to transfer into a fermenter.
One thing to consider if you decide to ferment your beer in the container is that the wort will probably take up most of the space in the container and a typical air lock will not suffice, so you will want to rig up a blow-off hose to the container. On my cube I would run tubing from the spigot itself into a bucket of sanitized water.
4) Save on Water Usage – The water savings using this method are significant. Other methods of chilling your wort use large amounts of water. With no chill you are saving anywhere from 15 – 20 gallons of water at least. If you are conscious of conserving water you may want to try this method out.
5) Save on Equipment Cost – I started using this method of chilling when I got into all-grain brewing for the simple reason that it saved me from having to spend money on an immersion, counterflow or plate chiller.
Plus it was one less thing I had to figure out how to do. Cooling your wort using the other methods is not rocket science but there is definitely more involved with them. Simple is better in my books.
6) Hop Utilization Not Affected – Some people claim that doing this results in your hops staying in contact with the hot wort longer which will result in hop utilization being affected and as such you should adjust the timing of your hop additions accordingly.
While this makes sense to me in theory, I have never noticed any negative consequences to keeping my hop additions the same as I do with other chilling methods.
If this is a concern of yours simply adjust your hop additions by 20 minutes. Meaning if a recipe calls for hops at 60-minute mark change it to 40-minute mark, etc. Late hop additions can be added at flameout. And you could also whirlpool at 180 degrees and add hops then.
One thing to note is that if you whirlpool instead of transferring directly to the cube make sure your container has been thoroughly sanitized with StarSan. This is because since the wort will no longer be boiling hot it will not sanitize the container for you.
7) Does Not Produce Off-flavors – Some people claim doing this is not a great idea when making hoppier beers. They claim that it produces off-flavors because the hops are in contact with the hotter wort longer.
I do prefer more balanced and malt forward beers than hoppier brews and as such tend to make more of those styles. However, I do brew my share of IPA’s and APA’s and I have never noticed any of the grassy off flavors some warn about. But it is something to watch for if you like your beers hoppy.
8) Clarity of Beer Not Affected – The same people who claim off flavors can be produced by doing this also claim that beers cooled in this fashion become hazier or cloudier. Again I have never experienced this and my beers brewed when doing this are as clear as any I make.
Now perhaps this is because I do love a clear beer and implement fining techniques such as adding whirl flock, gelatin and cold crashing into my brewing process. Here is a post with 7 proven methods on how to clear home brew that I implement on most of my beers and always end up with a clear beer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Chilling Your Wort Necessary – It is absolutely necessary and crucial to the fermentation process that prior to pitching your yeast into the fermenter your wort (unfermented beer) is within the temperature range specified on the yeast sachet. If you pitch your yeast when the wort is too hot you will kill the yeast and if you pitch when it is too cold it will put them to sleep.
Although putting them to sleep is not as serious as killing them it can also cause problems as they will not wake up until the wort has reached the correct temperature which means you run the risk of an infection occurring due to the slower start to fermentation. If you find that chilling your wort is too time consuming or expensive then try the no chill method out.
Can You No Chill in a Kettle – Although I have heard tell of people doing this I do not recommend it as you run the risk of bacteria getting into your wort and causing an infection. Unlike the no chill cube the kettle is not airtight.
As you can tell I am a fan of this method of cooling your wort. This is not to say that I have not and will not use other methods, I have and do and will continue to from time to time as doing so is fun for me. I like to mix it up so that brewing is always an exciting adventure.
However, there is no question that this method has many advantages and very few if any disadvantages so if you are considering giving it a try I highly recommend you do. The minimal cost is worth seeing if it is for you.
If you want to learn about the other methods of chilling your home brew the following is an article where I review the top 5 methods of how to cool wort.
If you want to see what one of these containers looks like this is the exact cube I use.
If you have any questions on this subject by all means drop a comment below and I will be sure to help you out. Also if you have ever tried this method let us know what your experience has been with it.
Cheers, Big Robb is out!