I keep reading about how good it is to chill my wort as quickly as possible, but I can’t afford an immersion or a counter flow chiller right at the moment. What are some other options for me?
Most people are already familiar with the idea of taking your hot brewpot and immersing it into a sink (or bathtub) of cold water. Though this does work, it isn’t very efficient in that it can take quite a while to cool the wort, even if you do regularly change the cold water.
A much better method that we developed on our own the odd time we do an extract batch is freeze a couple of 2 litre soda bottles ahead of time. Then after the boil I cut the plastic away from the ice and carefully lower the ice right into the kettle. BE REALLY CAREFUL ABOUT DOING THIS THOUGH, AS YOU CAN SPLASH BOILING WORT ONTO YOU. We find the best way is to put the block of ice into a large grain bag and hold the end of it to lower the ice into the water.
Our extract batches are usually brewed with about 10 litres of water in the pot. So obviously to do this you are going to need about a 20 litre (20 quart) pot. In the time it takes the ice to melt (10 minutes) it brings the pot contents down below 100F. Then when we add cold water to it in the carboy, we’re already down to fermentation temp. All it takes is 2 x 2 litre soda bottles.
It works like a charm. Just make sure those soda bottles are well cleaned and sanitized on the inside. Be careful putting the ice in, and also be careful cutting the plastic off the ice. As soon as you get a good sized cut in the plastic, the pressure differential caused by the cut will cause the ice to crack violently, making a huge noise that will likely scare the pants off you if you don’t know to expect it. I’d wear eye protection when doing this, since a piece of ice could conceivably fly off during that cracking, and could take your eye out.