I recently pondered about purchasing a PHE (Plate Heat Exchanger) for rapidly bringing the wort to pitching temperature.

Initially I underestimated how important this step is

  • it generates a better cold break, yielding a clearer beer
  • prevents infection
  • stops the hops from isomerising

A PHE is fitted outside of the kettle and unless one switches a vessel in-between, the cold-break will usually end up in the fermenter.  Not so great.  Some people let that break settle, then rack it into a new fermenter where they actually pitch the yeast.  More work, time-consuming, and extra time for the wort to risk being contaminated.  Unless the PHE can be disassembled, they can become veritable sources of infection if any particles, such as hops, get trapped and not flushed out.  This now means filtration before cooling… This may add the extra risk of hot-side oxygenation…

All of a sudden a PHE does not sound so good any more.

What works for a huge brewery may not work best for a small brewer.  I do want a good cold break and I do want to stop the hop isomerisation as soon as the boil finishes in order not to lose their aroma.

The simplest solution is to stick to immersion wort chillers and have them designed for the kettle.   Plunging the IWC into the boil 10 minutes before end also sanitises the equipment.

Like most German brewers, I do filter the wort.  But since the wort is now cold I am not so worried about splashes either.  If anything, a bit of splashing may contribute to provide more oxygen for the yeast to work efficiently!