No-Chill Brewing Examined 

HPDE container used in No-Chill BrewingHPDE container used in No-Chill Brewing

The No-Chill brewing method was developed in Australia where the availability of water to chill to chill the wort down to fermentation temperature can be an issue, and the ground water temperatures are also high enough that additional chilling might be necessary.  The method was championed on the brewing forums and many homebrewers across the country and across the world were talking about it or trying it to save time and water.  It must be noted that one of the main objections of this method was that your beers would end up with DMS due to the fact that the boiling wort was not allowed time to release the remaining DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide).  Apparently this is not an issue, possibly due to the fact that the remaining DMS was gassed off during the vigorous fermentation that followed.

In a nutshell, during the No-Chill brewing method, the hot (just boiled) wort is transferred to a sanitized HDPE (high-density polyethelyne) container and allowed to cool naturally until the homebrewer decides it’s time to ferment.  In some cases, this can be up to 8 weeks later with no ill-effects. 

I have not tried this method and do not plan on trying it, mostly because I’m an old school brewer and the benefits do not outweigh the faults in my opinion.  But, I did do a lot of research before I came to this conclusion and I’ve included my findings below.

After researching the topic of No-Chill brewing, here are my takeaways:

No-Chill Brewing, Pros and Cons:

Pros:

1.       Time saver-by omitting the sparge, you will save around 0-30 minutes over the batch sparge method and up to 45 minutes over the fly sparge method.

2.       Less Cleanup-No HLT rinse and dry.

3.       Only a slight reduction in mash efficiency, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5%, negligible to most homebrewers.

4.       May produce clearer and less astringent beer by keeping the pH of the wort low, thus reducing the tannins and phenols extracted during a traditional fly or batch sparge. (Learn about testing the mash pH)

5.       Less water chemistry adjustments since you will only be adjusting your mash water and not your mash and sparge water.

6.       No-chill method’s hop timing and utilization calculations are now integrated into BeerSmith’s brewing software in their new update.

7.       You can brew now and ferment later, allowing you to make more beer.  Fermentation temperature control requirements usually tie-up a cooler or refrigerator for the duration of primary fermentation.  With the No-Chill brewing method, you can brew multiple batches when the weather or your time permits and hold them in their sterile “cubes” until your temperature-controlled chamber becomes available.  Those with limited fermentation vessels can benefit as well.  Fermenting batches back-to-back allows you to re-pitch yeast immediately, reducing the amount of work involved in washing and storing yeast until you can brew another batch.

8.       You can ferment in the HDPE container that was used for cooling and storing the wort.  But, since you’ve most likely used a container size close to the wort volume, you won’t have much room for the krausen during the primary phase of fermentation.  To remedy this, use Fermcap-S (or any anti-foaming agent) during fermentation to alleviate blow-off issues.

9.       You will save close to 20 gallons of water, or more depending on the efficiency of your chilling method by using the No-Chill brewing method. 

10.   If you are just starting out in all-grain brewing, you can save a good chunk of change by not having to purchase an immersion chiller or plate chiller for your all-grain system.

 

Cons:

1.       You must adjust your hop additions by using a chart, rule-of-thumb, or brewing software.  By exposing your hops to hot wort (above 140°F or 60°C) for a much longer time period, your hop utilization does not follow conventional guidelines.  You can either adjust hop additions by subtracting approximately 20 minutes from the boil additions (late hops will have to be added at flameout) or use first wort hops (FWH) additions and flameout to eliminate boil additions altogether.  BeerSmith now accounts for the hops carried over to the “cube” by, “carrying over the hop utilization and setting the whirlpool time equal to the time a "no chill" cube is above 85F, BeerSmith will do a hop-by-hop estimate of the remaining potential for each hop addition and estimate additional IBUs added as the cube is chilling - similar to an extended whirlpool”. 

2.       When making hoppy beers, the No-Chill brewing method tends to produce off-flavors due to the hop’s extended contact time with the hot wort.  These beer styles tend to be “grassy” and “minty’ depending on the type of hops used.  Malt-forward beer styles to not exhibit this problem however.

3.       To attain crystal-clear beers when brewing with the No-Chill brewing method, you will have to fine or filter the beer. Beers brewed with this method will almost always be hazy and some exhibit chill haze as well.   I’ve had great success using gelatin during crash cooling prior to transferring to a keg, or even in the keg when it has been chilled, conditioned and carbonated.

4.       Your mash tun will have to be large enough to hold all the mash volume plus sparge water at the same time.  This will eliminate many high-gravity recipes for those brewing in coolers, and you can forget about 10 gallon high-gravity batches unless you are ready to purchase a 120 quart marine cooler and use that for your mash tun.

5.       For those homebrewers who are old-school and worry about mash efficiency, this method may not be for you since you will leave some sugars in the grain.

My personal opinion is that the time and water saved does not justify limiting my recipe choices to only malt-forward styles, lower gravity recipes that will fit in my mash tun, or taking the chance of having beers that exhibit chill haze.  I live in South Louisiana so water availability is not a problem and I don’t brew often enough for the extra cost of water to chill my wort to amount to much. 

REFERENCES: Information for this article on No-Chill brewing was adapted in part from the blog article written by Aaron Collier of BRÜLOSOPHY entitled: "A YEAR OF NO CHILL | LESSONS FROM A SECRET XBMT", the beer blog from BeerSmith that I received on September 15, 2016 called "[BSHB] BeerSmith 2.3 Update - New Features Detailed Overview", the HomeBrewTalk forum entry from Dr. Deathweed here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=117111, the article from Brewersfriend.com called: "Australian NO CHILL Brewing Technique TESTED", Saturday, June 6th, 2009, and the article in Beer and Brewing Magazine "No-Chill Brewing" by Dave Carpenter, published 2015-07-17.


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