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Green Brewing – Eco Friendly Home Brewer

Green Brewing – Eco Friendly Home Brewer

Part 1: Water

The brewing process uses a large amount of water, and in some places in the United States, there are water restrictions. The best thing you can do is reuse and recycle your water.

Of course this can’t be done with the water that will become the wort, but in a sense you will recycle that at some point too. You can precisely measure the water you will mash and sparge with, and any remaining water can be used in the cooling or sanitation aspects.

Typically, the cooling process uses the most water.

Cooling boiling hot wort in a very short time takes a lot of something cold. Usually water and ice are used for this, maybe in a sink or bathtub.

But what happens to the water once it gets hot and no longer cools the wort? It gets run down the drain!

I’d have to say that this model doesn’t quite make the “eco-friendly” status. If you change your setup slightly, you can move closer to that brewing greener goal.

In this model, I currently recycle all cooling water and effectively cool the wort in a much faster time frame. However cheap the supplies might be, you could already have all you need to adapt this greener brewing method.

Wort Chilling

When you take the boilpot from the burner, wort temperatures exceed 200F. I use a 3/8″ copper tube immersion chiller. I picked up the tubing (already coiled) at the home improvement center for around $40.

I carefully bent the ends, not to kink the tubing, to the configuration I wanted. I also got some tubing that will fit over the copper, and some hose clamps to secure them.

The only thing that will touch the wort is the copper, so contamination is not an issue, unless you have a leak and cooling water enters the wort. The copper should be cleaned before the first use to remove any grease or grime that may be present.

You definitely don’t want that in your beer!

An acid sanitizer works quite well for this, and you will know it’s clean because you can visually see that the copper is shiny. After the first cleaning, only rinsing is necessary. The wort will clean it with each use, but it will only have wort contact, so don’t worry about contamination.

I found some food grade containers, 10 gal and 20 gal, from a vitamin  manufacturer in my local area. I use the 10 gal for sanitizer, and the 20 gal for the cooling process.

I found a fish tank pump(submersible) on eBay for under $10. This one is rated for 5 gal per minute. And lastly, I use my empty cornelius kegs for water storage.

The corny kegs take up much less room in the keg fridge than do 5 gal buckets. But buckets can be stacked, it’s just the footprint and volume is much larger. Currently my keg fridge will hold 5 cornelius kegs, and I might be able to squeeze a 6th one in.

I also made, but you can buy, an quick change setup for the immersion wort chiller. You want to be able to quickly, and without a chance of contamination, move boilpot and chiller from the garden hose to the tubing from the pump.

The Process:

On the day I make the yeast starter, I also put (2) 5 gal cornelius kegs full of water in the keg fridge to cool to around 45F. This is usually 1 or 2 days prior to brew day. The kegs could be cooled enough in 10-12 hours, but that typically requires adjustment to the temperature control.

After the boil, I connect the immersion wort chiller to a garden hose and run water through the chiller, collecting it for future use. If you need hot water, this is a good time to collect it.

It’s hot tap water, heated by the boiled wort! This water is good for cleaning a carboy or other brewing equipment, or just saved for future use. Any water that was used for cleaning brewing equipment can be used in the garden of for the compost.

After the wort has cooled to a level where steam has stopped rising, typically 15 minutes or less, I move the boil pot and chiller to the cooling setup (the cold corny kegs and pump).

This is where the quick disconnect setup comes into play. In my model, I use the garden hose to chill the wort and the pump to super cool the wort.

After switching the boil pot and chiller to the pump, I pump water from the cornelius kegs through the chiller into the 20 gal container. After both 5 gal cornelius kegs have been emptied, I stick the pump into the 20 gal container and simply recycle the water through the chiller.

By the time both kegs have been emptied, the average temperature of the collected water is still quite cold. By recycling it back through the chiller, the 5 gallons of wort will quickly reach the same temperature level as the chilled water.

So the time required to cool the wort, to less than 80F, is within 30 minutes. You can effectively cool wort to lagering temperatures with this model. The 30 minute time limit is simply the range that chill haze and head retention issues exist.

The wort doesn’t have to be aerated and yeast pitched within this time frame, but the sooner you can contain the wort, the less chance of contamination will occur.

In this part of eco friendly brewing you’ve learned how to recycle and reuse the water to cool the boiling wort and reduce your water usage.

Using the hot water for other things like cleaning and soaking brewing equipment uses the transfer of energy as a product of the chilling process.

By using the remaining cold water left after the cooling process (typically stays in the 50F – 60F range) to fill the spare cornelius kegs and put back in the keg fridge to cool again, reduces the energy needed to cool the water from a warmer temperature.

Let things cool down overnight before putting in the fridge to cool. Initially heating water during the day, in the sun, will require less energy to bring it to the temperature needed.

Visit the Brew Blog for more information and tips on home brewing.