The No-Chiller Method / Using A Cube
by Cortez The Killer on 06-17-2008 at 02:55 am
You will find a lot of posts on this forum mentioning the "no-chill" method and also the use of a cube. There isn't really any great mystery about the no-chill method and it can be utilised easily, cheaply and with excellent results.
Traditionally there has been a school of thought that suggests; that after boiling wort it must be cooled quickly to promote the formation of cold break and allow for the pitching of yeast ASAP. As a result there are a plethora of weird and wonderful chillers out there to allow you to chill your wort quickly and effectively.
Another school of though has recently gained momentum which promotes the use of cube to effectively "hot-pack" the wort post boiling, thereby allowing it to cool over an extended period of time eg overnight.
I will try and explain, to the best of my ability, what this method involves, possible problems and important points to consider in its use. I'll start at the beginning...
What is a Cube?
This is a common question one sees on beer forums. Essentially it is a food grade sealable plastic water container or jerry can made of the same material as a fermenter. A picture is worth a thousand words, so...
They are available in a range of sizes eg 15L, 20L, 25L from camping / hardware stores and typically range from $10 to $15.
Also worth mentioning is that, for example a 20L cube will actually hold 23 odd litres.
OK I've Got A Cube, Now What?
Essentially the method involves the following:
- You make your wort as you normally would.
- After flameout and whirlpooling, and with appropriate hosing, drain the still near boiling wort into a plastic cube, trying to avoiding splashing.
- Once you have drained the kettle into the cube, squeeze as much of the air out of the cube as you can and seal it with the lid.
- Put the cube on its side for 10 minutes or so to allow the hot wort to come into contact with handle and lid.
- Leave the hot cube to cool overnight (upright) or however long it takes to arrive at pitching temperatures.
- Pour the contents of the cube into a fermenter, splashing as much as possible to assist in aeration and pitch yeast as you would normally.
That's the crux of it!
Cleanliness with this method as with all aspects of brewing is essential.
Before using the cube ensure that it is clean and sanitised. My personal regime sees me storing cubes (when not in use) with a couple of litres of bleach solution in them. I occasionally give the cube a shake when passing to cover the cube walls. On brew day I clean out the bleach solution and give it a shot with idophor to sanitise. I always clean out the cube thoroughly immediately after use. There are many ways to clean the cube - use what works for you in other aspects of your brewing.
The hose used for transferring the hot wort must also be cleaned. Typically I connect the hose to the kettle during the later parts of the boil and recirculate boiling wort through it and the ball valve to flush out any nasties. The end of the hose that goes into the cube gets put into the boiling wort during the boil to sanitise. Again do what works for you to ensure everything is sanitary.
Storability (Extended Storage)
Cubes that have been properly packed may be stored for extended periods. Some users have reported good results with cubes being stored for over a year. Personally I have stored cubes for 1 to 2 months without issue.
Getting The Air Out / Squeezing The Cube
It is suggested that most if not all of the air in a cube should be expelled when sealing. However occasionally it may be impossible to do so. I have not encountered any ill effects from not expelling all the air. But as a general rule, if I intend to store a cube for over a week I ensure that most of the air has been expelled or use a smaller cube.
No-chilling has a series of benefits including
- minimal outlay (no chiller required to make all grain beer, only a cube)
- minimal time required (the time usually allocated to chill the wort is avoided on brew day)
- minimal water required (ie sanitisation only)
- storability of the wort for extended periods (wort production does not have to coincide with yeast starter preparation)
- ability to make wort in bulk and store for later fermentation
- portability of wort in the cube
Making Higher Gravity Wort (Dilution at Fermentation Time)
An option with this method is take wort of a higher gravity eg 17 litres of 1.060 SG wort can be diluted with 3 litres to give 20 litres of 1.051 SG wort. This allows you to use cubes of a smaller capacity and make double batches ie two cubes of wort without having the capacity of doing a full final volume boil.
Dry Hopping In The Cube (Cube Hopping)
No-chilling allows hops to be added to the cube before the hot wort is transferred into it. There is some discussion about the possibility of doing away with the normal aroma / late addition and replacing it with cube hopping - effectively allowing more of the hop aroma to be trapped within the cube. I am not aware of any definitive examination of this however but have dry hopped in the cube for extra hoppiness.
Can I Replace the Cube's Bung With A Tap?
I have put taps on a couple of my cubes and have not had a problem. They do make it easier when transferring wort to the fermenter. I find it a bit of a challange sometimes, when trying to tip a full cube into a fermenter, to get the wort in without spilling any.
What If My Cube Starts to Swell?
You will find that as a cube cools its sides begin to get sucked in (essentially cooled wort is about 4% smaller (volume wise) than hot/boiling wort). This is nothing to be concerned about.
However should the cube begin to swell after it has cooled this may be an indication of an infection. What you do in this scenario is your choice. You can discard the wort or ferment it to see how it turns out.
I have never had a cube swell / be infected in over 20 batches. Some users report the same for 100 plus batches.
- Ensure the cube and hose are sanitary.
- Do not be tempted to cool the cube prematurely by putting it into a swimming pool or other body of water. Rapidly cooled hot packed wort can give rise to infections as it does not allow for the cube to be exposed to the hot wort for long enough to ensure that any bacteria in the cube is killed.
- Remember to place the cube on its side after packing to expose the handle and cap directly to the hot wort.
Some research into the no-chill method will bring up some criticism of the method. Arguments against include
- Beer haziness
- Problems with long term beer stability
- Loss of hop aroma
- Increased bitterness
- Leeching plastic
- DMS production
- And in the extreme the risk of botulism (a deadly anaerobic bacteria)
I have not encountered any of these problems in the beer I have made nor have members of the Illawarra Brewers Union who employ the method almost exclusively.
The no-chill method is advantageous to the brewer as it allows him/her to do away with a chiller (which can be expensive and consume water / resources / time). It basically allows the novice brewer to cross over to all grain brewing (the dark side) much more easily. Further other advantages are to be found in storability of bulk wort and being able to control when you ferment the wort.
Before discounting the method give it a go to see if you find any of the benefits to be had in no-chilling exist for your brewing.
Cortez The Killer
Discussion Topic Link
Here is a picture of a finished cube on its side