How to Clean a Counterflow Wort Chiller

When you’re making your own homebrew, there are tons of things that you need to keep clean and sterilized. While most of the time this is pretty straight forward, nothing can be as intimidating to keep clean as the counterflow wort chiller.

But failing to keep this spiral of copper tubing clean can have disastrous results – for both your brew and your health. Bacteria and mold are just two of the many things that can take up residency inside a wort chiller if you’re not maintaining it properly. Even worse, since you can’t see in it, you might not know anything about it until you get sick after drinking your brew.

The good news is that if you take the time to clean, store, and prep your counterflow wort chiller before and after each use, cleaning a counterflow wort chiller is easier than you might think.

Just keep reading our guide on how to thoroughly clean and maintain your counterflow wort chiller to keep you and your friends enjoying a homemade beer without having to worry!

What is a Counterflow Wort Chiller?

Northern Brewer Stainless Steel Counterflow Wort Chiller
  • Chill your wort like the professionals do!
  • A full 18' of contact area for your wort! The tube-within-a-tube design allows for hot wort to flow through the chiller in one direction, while cooling water flows the opposite direction in a cooling jacket surrounding the wort.
  • Threaded Stainless Steel Fittings for ALL Connections (unlike units from other manufacturers). No Brass Connections and No flimsy tubing clamps required.

If you’re new to homebrewing and are still trying to figure out all the different parts and tools you need to make the perfect brew at home, you’re probably wondering what a counterflow wort chiller is and why you need it.

A counterflow wort chiller looks like tightly wound copper tubing, which is precisely what it is. Except that instead of one tube, it’s two. A smaller tube is inside the larger one; the inner tube is hooked up directly to the boil kettle and carries the hot wort through it.

Meanwhile, the outer coil carries cold water in the opposite direction of the wort, hence the name counterflow. You’ll need either a counterflow wort chiller or a plate chiller for most homebrews.

How to Clean a Counterflow Wort Chiller After Use

After every use, you need to clean your counterflow wort chiller. You’ll need a good cleaner solution, like bleach water, and a little patience. Multiple flushes of the system are necessary to get all of the potential contamination out of the system.

You should start with a forward-flush, proceed to a back-flush, and finish with a regular flush. You’ll need to take your time with this to ensure that your cleaning solution reaches all the nooks and crannies and grabs whatever gunk is in there.

Typically, 40 minutes is the recommended amount of time, but this can vary depending on the temperature of your cleaning solution.

Once you’ve completed your flushes with the cleaning solution, always give it another flush with clean water. Finally, once you’ve given it a final flush, do your best to dry the inside of the counterflow wort chiller.

If you can’t get it dry, you’ll need to be extra thorough with your counterflow wort chiller before starting your next brew. Stagnant water with no place to go easily molds, but you can kill it and flush it with some boiling water before your next brew.

How to Keep a Counterflow Wort Chiller Clean in Storage

As long as you’ve thoroughly cleaned your counterflow wort chiller, storing it is the easiest part. You’ll need to keep it somewhere at room temperature, where excessive moisture can’t get to it.

When it comes to storing your counterflow wort chiller, the dryer, the better, this doesn’t mean just keeping it out of the rain, though. Even locations with high humidity can lead to potential problems.

This humidity can lead to condensation forming inside the pipes, which leads to mold and other harmful buildups during your brew. While preventing these buildups is ideal, it’s not the end of the world if some of it does build up.

As long as you properly prepare your counterflow wort chiller for use before your next brew, you won’t need to worry about anything ending up in your brew that shouldn’t be there.

How to Prep a Counterflow Wort Chiller for Use

While prepping the chiller might not seem like a logical step in the cleaning process, when you’re talking about cleaning a counterflow wort chiller, it’s the most crucial step you need to take.

It doesn’t matter what precautions you take after cleaning, and while storing your counterflow wort chiller, there are still some simple precautions you need to take before you can start your next brew.

It’s not as complicated as the cleaning process, but it’s just as important. As long as everything has been sanitized and appropriately stored between brews, all you’ll need to do is flush the system with clean water and then flush it one final time with some boiling water.

This will kill any potential mold or bacteria built up inside your counterflow wort chiller while in storage. If you haven’t meticulously cleaned your counterflow wort chiller, you should run through the cleaning process before running the boiling water through it.

This will help to ensure that everything is good to go by killing any potential mold or bacteria before running your wort through it for your next brew.

Summary

There are few things in life as rewarding as starting your own brew. But that fun can be quickly spoiled if you’re not meticulously cleaning and maintaining your equipment. This goes for every step of the process because having bacteria buildup is easier than you think.

While it might sound like a giant headache and you might be struggling to figure out how to reach all the different nooks and crannies, it’s easier than you think.

Take your time, use the right materials, do your homework, and you’ll be back to enjoying your brew in no time – without any uninvited microscopic visitors. Cleaning a counterflow wort chiller might seem impossible, but it’s really not that hard.

If you’re trying to decide between a counterflow wort chiller or a plate chiller, hopefully this how-to guide has provided some insight. After all, proper cleaning is an essential part of the homebrewing process.