Home brewing is not just a hobby for most brewers. It’s a craft. You take it seriously and constantly strive to improve the quality of your brews and become a better home brewer than you were last year or even last week.
At some point, this means adding new equipment to your home brewery. There are many options, and almost always a limited budget. You have to make a decision about what to add next and what to wait on.
If you’re still struggling to create good beer, you probably want to spend more time perfecting your craft before adding new equipment to the mix. But if you’re creating good beer and you’re ready to improve the quality and the flavor of your brew, a wort chiller is probably your best investment.
If you are ready to take your beer to a new level of taste, a wort chiller can get you there faster than any other piece of equipment. Using a wort chiller will quickly cool your wort mixture to yeast-pitching temperature. This speed means less oxidation and better taste. You’ll also experience fewer spoiled batches because your wort chiller will reduce bacterial growth.
The key is in finding the right wort chiller for you, which can be a little difficult if you don’t know what to look for.
First, you should decide which type of wort chiller you want. Both immersion and counter-flow are very effective, but one may suit your home brewing workflow better than the other.
Many home brewers prefer immersion chillers for their simplicity, affordability and ease of cleaning and sanitizing. Others prefer counter-flow chillers because they chill the wort more quickly and reduce the time the wort spends in the dangerous temperature zone where it’s most susceptible to infection.
Immersion chillers are cheaper, which may be a deciding factor for you. Keep in mind that if you start with an immersion chiller, you can upgrade to a counter-flow model down the road if you’re not satisfied with the immersion model.
Next, consider brands. You may find a good deal on a no-name chiller. However, that deal may turn out to be not so good if the chiller doesn’t work correctly or fails after a few months and the no-name company is nowhere to be found for warranty service. Stick with reputable brands with good reputations, such as Bichmann. Avoid any eBay auction that identifies the chiller simply as a “wort chiller.”
Check out online reviews of the wort chillers you’re considering. While one or two reviews may be biased, the aggregate opinion is usually very helpful. You may also find one reviewer who says something especially useful to your situation, or who writes a detailed, high-quality review that helps you make a decision.
Finally, do not choose your new wort chiller based solely on price. While price is an important factor, you don’t want a bargain chiller that turns out to be a lemon.
Don’t assume you have to buy a used chiller for the best price, either. You can find used chillers at very attractive prices, but you may also find good prices online for new chillers. Prices in brick and mortar stores are usually much higher, but online merchants can have items drop-shipped from the manufacturer. They have lower overhead and no inventory costs, so they can offer much lower prices on home brewing equipment.
You’re a home brewer because you love the craft and you want to create great beer. You’re serious about your brewing and you want to do the absolute best you can. It’s a matter of pride, and you’re willing to invest in the equipment to reach your goal, which is excellent beer.
A wort chiller will help you get there. Knowing what to look for and how to find a good price will help you buy a wort chiller that fits your budget and your work flow and will help you craft an amazing brew.