Homemade Wort Chiller (With “How To” Video)

When I started brewing beer, I was working with limited equipment for two main reasons: I didn’t want to spend a ton of money up front and I didn’t really know what all of the “extra” equipment was. Some of this “extra” equipment can sound complicated to the beginning brewer, and if it’s not absolutely necessary then who needs it, right?

Well once I got the hang of my very primitive brewing process, I began to get more curious about how I could improve my brew days. I realized that one of the most tedious parts of my brew day was chilling my wort from boiling temperature to fermenting temperature. After a little bit of research, I decided that I could improve my beer (and my brew days) by getting an immersion wort chiller. Let me tell you, I will never go back to brewing without one!

Rather than waiting nearly an hour to cool my wort, I can now chill my wort in less than 20 minutes! If you haven’t started using a wort chiller yet, then I highly recommend that you check out my video below where I tell you the benefits of a wort chiller and how you can make your own at a relatively low cost.

What you need:

  • 3/8″ OD copper tubing (I suggest at least a 20′ coil)
  • About 5′ 3/8″ OD of tubing (I used vinyl, but silicone is another popular option, this will not come into contact with your beer)
  • 3 tube clamps (and a screw driver to tighten them)
  • A hose or faucet adapter
  • A spring-type tube bending tool (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Brew kettle (for reference)

If I left any questions unanswered, I would love to hear from you! If you don’t think you’re up for making a wort chiller yourself, then send me a message and I can make one for you.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I look forward to hearing all about how your new homemade wort chiller turns out; cheers!

Hot Liquor Tank (Basic Equipment #2)

At first glance, you might think the hot liquor tank (sometimes abbreviated HLT) has nothing to do with beer and we’re venturing into the world of distilling spirits. Well not quite; in the beer world liquor just refers to hot water that is going to be transformed into beer. A hot liquor tank may sound like a really fancy and expensive piece of equipment, but a 5 gallon drink cooler will work just fine (or smaller, depending on your batch size). I found mine at a garage sale for $2! Another option is just a brew kettle with a spigot.

An example of a hot liquor tank on Amazon.com

There are two different main categories of water: strike water and sparge water. Strike water is just the name given to the water that is heated for the purpose of soaking your brewing grains (also known as mashing). The exact temperature of this water depends on the temperature at which you need your grains to soak. This temperature can vary, but a standard mash temperature is around 155 degrees Fahrenheit. A little more information on this is given under the “Malted Grain” section under the “Basic Ingredients” tab and soon I will add an article called “Mashing/Lautering” under “The Process” tab.

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Heating strike water in my brew kettle

A general rule for your strike water is to heat it up 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above the mash temperature you are shooting for. The amount of water you use is also important, and a typical ratio of strike water to grain is about 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain. You’ll find that more complex brews require various temperatures (for example 125 DegF for 20 minutes, 145 DegF for 20 minutes, then 155 DegF for 20 minutes), but holding a single temperature for an hour is a good way to start learning.

The second form of “liquor” is your sparge water. This is the name for the hot water that you use to rinse the sugars from your grain once they have soaked for around an hour. This “rinsing” step is referred to as lautering, and you will soon find more information about this in the “Mashing/Lautering” section as well. There are a few different methods for rinsing your grains, but you’ll want to use water around 165 degrees Fahrenheit or just a few degrees warmer. The amount of sparge water you will want to use is similar to the amount of strike water you used, or maybe just a little bit more.

Well there you have it, folks! Today we’ve learned that hot liquor can mean more than just spiked apple cider. I would love to hear from you if you have a cool DIY HLT, you have any suggestions to share, or if you have any questions for me! Cheers!

All About Icelandic Beer!

One of this year’s hottest travel destinations is a big island in the North Atlantic. Known for its beautiful coasts, stunning waterfalls, and massive glaciers, it’s easy to see why people are flocking to Iceland to see it all for themselves. A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I hopped over the pond and visited this amazing country for ourselves with a few friends, and today I want to share with you all what I learned about Icelandic beer!

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One of the many stunning waterfalls this country has to offer.

I have always loved to travel, and it was my four months of living in the Czech Republic that actually got me so interested in beer in the first place. Experiencing the cultures of different countries and learning about their histories has always been fascinating to me, and sometimes a country’s beer is an integral part of this experience.

However, I learned that the beer culture in Iceland is relatively new due to the fact that a 74 year prohibition of beer only just ended in 1989. The Icelandic government still strictly regulates the sale of alcohol, so my first tip for you is to buy any cans of beer that you would like to try in the duty-free store before you leave the airport. Not only will this be a little bit cheaper, but it will also prevent you from having to search for a store that sells alcohol.

Of course you can always just walk into a bar and order a beer in Iceland, and since we’re on the topic of saving money I’ll give you another tip: keep an eye out for happy hours! Everything in Iceland is quite a bit more expensive than it is in the U.S. (especially the Midwest), and beer is no exception. Luckily, many of the bars and restaurants we passed advertised their happy hour, and we were able to try many different beers for less than $5 per pint! If you order a beer outside of happy hour, be prepared to pay $10-$12 for that one drink.

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In the two cities we visited, their were also some brewery tours available. We didn’t end up touring any of them, but it was very cool to see that this was an option and I will definitely keep this in mind if I make it back some day. One of the breweries that offers a tour is the Viking Brewery in Akureyri. Even though we didn’t visit the facility, we did get to try many of their beers at a local bar. My favorite of these was the classic Viking Lager, a clean, slightly sweet, light lager.

One thing I noticed in Iceland is that there were a lot of pilsners and other light lagers available to try. This makes perfect sense for two reasons: the climate and the water. As you may know, it can get pretty dang cold in Iceland (I mean, the country has “ice” in its name!) This is perfect for brewing lagers because this style of beer requires to be fermented and “lagered” (or “stored”) at cold temperatures.

I also noticed that a few of the breweries advertised how they only use the finest and purest glacier water. I did a little research after the trip and found that the water the brewers are using is naturally low in minerals. This “soft” glacier water is perfect for brewing beers that are lighter in color, like pilsners. As I discussed in my article about grains, this is because lighter colored grains will not cause a large drop in mash pH, so water that is low in minerals is ideal for hitting your target pH during the mashing stage of production.

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Glacier melt in the summers feeds many large rivers, producing numerous waterfalls all around the island.

All in all, the trip was incredible. I won’t go too in depth about it all since this isn’t a travel blog, but I will say that you should definitely rent a car, visit a bunch of waterfalls, and check out at least one of the hot springs (we went to the most famous, The Blue Lagoon). There is also a lot of good food to try. I really liked the traditional lamb soup and the Icelandic hot dogs, but I wasn’t a big fan of the fermented shark (but I think people only eat that for the experience).

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Fermented shark in Akureyri. It smells like ammonia, and tastes exactly how it smells.

If you want to learn more about traveling to Iceland on a budget, then check out my buddy’s blog post about how we did it! I would also love to hear from anyone who has been to Iceland or anyone who has any questions, so please leave a comment below!

This is my first post in a little while due to a recently busy travel schedule, but I’ll be picking back up on my series “Basic Equipment” and throwing in some homebrew reviews and recipes in the near future. I hope you’ll come back soon, skál! (that’s Icelandic for “cheers!”)