When it comes to brewing, I don’t like anything as much I like brewing simple and easy—and what’s simpler or easier than “nothing?”
It was this thinking (and a switch-up in brewing equipment) that led me to try my hand at no-chill brewing. The most remarkable thing about the switch is just how little difference it has made in the finished beer. All it costs me is time, and time I’ve got.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: hop flavor and aroma. If you’re not chilling, aren’t you losing all of that wonderful, fresh, hop character? For reasons that a brewing chemist might or might not be able to explain, the answer is, “not really.”
Admittedly, I’m not trying to churn out world-class hazy double IPA regularly. But I’ve brewed plenty of American pale and amber ales, altbiers, and other relatively hop-forward beers using no-chill—and they match the flavor profile of their predecessors just fine. The quasi-experimental efforts of the good folks at Brülosophy have had similar findings. I have noted a slight increase in piney/grassy flavors in some paler styles, but that could also be variations in the harvest. The short version: If you’re not looking for the world’s best all-hops extravaganza, then this method should present no significant challenges.
The slightly smaller elephant in the room would be concerns about off-flavors, such as DMS, or concerns about clarity from the lack of cold break. Again, all I can say here is that it’s simply not evident or substantively significant. A continent full of Australians (who seem to love no-chill brewing) could be wrong … but in this case, they don’t seem to be. More to the point, those are both issues we can address upstream (via a longer boil to drive off DMS) and downstream (via fining or filtering).
So, how is it done? Simple. First, get your hands on some five-gallon food-grade HDPE (that’s high-density polyethylene) “cubes,” which can be had for about $25 from a variety of reputable suppliers.
On brew day, after finishing the boil (or whirlpool, if you do one), transfer your beer into the cube, filling it to the brim. Then attach the cap or stopper, and … that’s it, actually. You’re done.
Go ahead and clean and sanitize the cube first, of course. But you’re also pouring near-boiling liquid into it, which means it’s more or less self-sterilizing. Wait 12 to 24 hours for the beer to cool to pitching temperatures. You can transfer to a sanitized carboy and pitch your yeast there, or you can even ferment right in the cube—this is perfectly possible if you’re brewing less than the volume of the vessel. Just mind the blow off.
Tinker with your recipes to see if you like them any better with delayed hop additions, or by adding hops into the cube at transfer, but I’ll leave that to you. The simple and easy truth here is that no-chill is simple and easy. It’s a perfectly viable option for the lazy (smart?) brewers with time on their hands.