Other Uses for the Water Tank

A while ago Noel came up with a great idea to save water while making beer.

Boiling wort for the next batch of beer

We make our batches of beer on this little portable burner on the side porch, in a 5-gallon pot. But when the batch is done cooking, we want to bring the temperature down fast, which is no small task given the thermal mass of water involved.

The way you deal with that is to buy a little item called a wort chiller, which is like an air conditioner cooling coil that you run water through to draw down the temperature of the wort: the cool coil in the wort sucks away heat very nicely. Normally you'd want to have the wort chiller running only cold water, so in places where they don't care about wasting developed water, they just attach it to a faucet and dump the warmed water down a drain or in a yard. To save water, a lot of people use a bucket of ice water and a small electric pump to run water through the coil. Even if you do that, the water you run through the wort chiller is basically waste water, though of course you can use it to water trees or plants in the garden.

Chilling the wort with the tank water

As it happens, we have a huge quantity of water sitting around in the water tank, enough that we don't need to recycle it to completely cool the wort. So Noel hooked the wort chiller up to the filter flushout valve on the irrigation system. The bonus of this is that it really cleans that filter well, and we brew beer just about often enough to not have to otherwise flush the system.

We'd already spent the money to get lead-free hoses safe for drinking water, which is good because warm water is even more likely to leach nasty toxic chemicals out of plastics.

The wort chiller

The water goes in one end of the chiller, and comes out the other end. The end hose is directed back into the sump, from which it gets sent back to the water tank. We already had a hose hooked up to the filter flushout, so it was just a matter of making a short end to do the splice there.

The water stays in the irrigation system 100 percent: it goes from the tank into the wort chiller into the sump and then back into the tank. The water in the tank is massive enough and cool enough that the small added heat of the waste water coming back into it doesn't make a difference. Yay for 550 gallons of water sitting in the back yard.

Pouring the wort into a carboy for fermentation

And ten minutes later, the wort was chilled down to the desired temperature and ready to move on to the next step.

The first batch he did this way was one of the best batches of beer we've ever made, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one comes out.

posted by ayse on 07/14/12