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  • February 23, 2024 7 min read

    Choosing the Right Material for Your Coil-in-Coil Counterflow Chiller: Copper vs. Stainless Steel

    Wort chillers are an essential component in the brewing process. They play a crucial role in cooling down the wort, the liquid extracted from malted grains, after the boiling stage. This rapid cooling helps to lock in the flavors and aromas, as well as prevent unwanted bacterial growth. In the market, wort chillers are available in various types and materials, with SS304 and copper being two popular choices. In this article, we will explore why SS304 is a superior option compared to copper coil in a coil counterflow wort chiller.

    Understanding the Basics of Wort Chillers

    Before diving into the comparison, it's important to have a clear understanding of how wort chillers work and their significance in the brewing process. Wort chillers are essentially heat exchangers that facilitate the transfer of heat from the hot wort to a cold water source. These devices expedite the cooling process, allowing brewers to reach the desired fermentation temperature quickly.

    The Role of Wort Chillers in Brewing

    Wort chillers are instrumental in minimizing the risk of bacterial contamination in the wort. By rapidly cooling down the liquid, they create an environment that is unfavorable for microbes. Additionally, wort chillers aid in improving the beer's clarity by helping to coagulate proteins and other unwanted particles that can contribute to haze.

    Key Components of a Wort Chiller

    A typical wort chiller consists of coiled tubing that is submerged in the hot wort. The tubing is connected to an inlet and an outlet allowing cold water to flow through it. The heat is transferred from the wort to the surrounding water through the walls of the tubing.

    It's worth noting that there are different types of wort chillers available to brewers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Immersion chillers, for example, are simple and cost-effective, making them a popular choice among homebrewers. On the other hand, counterflow and plate chillers offer more efficiency in cooling but come with a higher price tag and require more maintenance.

    When selecting a wort chiller for your brewing setup, it's essential to consider factors such as the batch size, cooling time, and budget. Investing in a high-quality wort chiller can significantly impact the quality and consistency of your beer, making it a crucial piece of equipment for both amateur and professional brewers alike.

    Introduction to SS304 and Copper Coils

    SS304, also referred to as stainless steel 304, is a popular grade of stainless steel known for its excellent corrosion resistance, high temperature resistance, and durability. Copper, on the other hand, is a soft and malleable metal that boasts excellent thermal conductivity. Both materials have their unique properties, making them suitable for different applications.

    When it comes to choosing between SS304 and copper coils for specific applications, it's essential to consider factors such as the type of liquid being processed, the operating temperature range, and the desired level of heat transfer efficiency. While SS304 coils excel in corrosion resistance and are ideal for applications where purity is crucial, copper coils stand out for their superior thermal conductivity and rapid heat transfer capabilities.

    Properties of SS304 Coils

    SS304 coils are favored in various industries, including brewing, due to their remarkable corrosion resistance. Stainless steel's non-reactive nature ensures that it does not interact with the wort or introduce any unwanted flavors or impurities into the beer. Furthermore, SS304 coils possess exceptional heat transfer capabilities, ensuring efficient cooling of the wort.

    In addition to their corrosion resistance and heat transfer efficiency, SS304 coils are also known for their strength and durability, making them a reliable choice for applications that require long-term performance and resistance to wear and tear. The versatility of SS304 extends beyond brewing, with applications in industries such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, and chemical processing where hygiene and product purity are paramount.

    Properties of Copper Coils

    Copper coils boast unparalleled thermal conductivity, allowing for rapid heat transfer during the chilling process. This property is highly beneficial in wort chillers, enabling brewers to achieve the desired temperature quickly. However, copper is prone to corrosion and can add metallic flavors to the beer when exposed to acidic wort or water.

    Despite the potential drawbacks of corrosion and flavor leaching, copper coils remain a popular choice in various applications where efficient heat transfer is critical. The aesthetic appeal of copper, along with its antimicrobial properties that inhibit bacterial growth, makes it a preferred material in plumbing systems, HVAC applications, and heat exchangers where both functionality and visual appeal are important.

    Comparing SS304 and Copper in Wort Chillers

    When it comes to selecting the material for a wort chiller, a few key factors must be considered, including thermal conductivity, durability, and longevity.

    Wort chillers are essential tools in the brewing process, used to rapidly cool down hot wort to a temperature suitable for fermentation. The choice between SS304 stainless steel and copper coils can significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the chilling process.

    Thermal Conductivity Comparison

    Copper is renowned for its high thermal conductivity, allowing for rapid heat transfer. This property makes copper coils ideal for quick cooling of wort, reducing the overall chilling time. However, SS304 coils, although not as conductive as copper, still offer efficient cooling capabilities. The thermal conductivity of SS304 may be slightly lower, but it is often sufficient for most homebrewing setups. Moreover, the difference in thermal conductivity is offset by SS304's superior corrosion resistance, ensuring longevity and reliability in the long run.

    Furthermore, the design and construction of the wort chiller can also impact its overall efficiency. Factors such as coil diameter, length, and spacing between coils can influence the heat exchange process. It's essential to consider not only the material but also the physical characteristics of the chiller when making a decision.

    Durability and Longevity Analysis

    While copper is a softer metal, making it prone to external damage, SS304 coils are durable and robust. They can withstand the harsh brewing environment, including exposure to acidic wort and sanitizing agents, without corroding or deteriorating. This durability ensures that SS304 wort chillers have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance compared to copper counterparts. Copper, on the other hand, requires meticulous maintenance to prevent corrosion and ensure longevity. Regular cleaning and passivation are necessary to keep copper coils in optimal condition.

    When choosing between SS304 and copper for your wort chiller, it's essential to weigh the trade-offs between thermal conductivity, durability, and maintenance requirements. Both materials have their advantages and considerations, so selecting the right one depends on your brewing setup, preferences, and long-term goals.

    The Advantages of SS304 Over Copper

    Brewers often choose SS304 coils over copper due to the numerous advantages they offer.

    When considering the advantages of SS304 over copper coils, it's essential to delve into the material properties that make stainless steel a preferred choice in the brewing industry. SS304, a type of austenitic stainless steel, is known for its high strength and excellent formability, making it ideal for withstanding the rigors of brewing operations. The versatility of SS304 allows brewers to achieve precise temperature control during the brewing process, resulting in consistent and high-quality beer production.

    Cost-Effectiveness of SS304

    While SS304 may be slightly more expensive upfront compared to copper, it proves to be highly cost-effective in the long run. The durability and corrosion resistance of SS304 coils save brewers from frequent replacements and repairs, reducing overall maintenance costs.

    SS304's Resistance to Corrosion

    One of the significant advantages of SS304 is its exceptional resistance to corrosion. The stainless steel coating provides a protective layer, ensuring that the chiller remains intact and free from rust. This corrosion resistance translates into improved beer quality and eliminates the risk of metallic off-flavors.

    Furthermore, the hygienic properties of SS304 make it a preferred choice for breweries aiming to maintain strict cleanliness standards. The smooth surface of stainless steel is easy to clean and sanitize, preventing bacterial growth and contamination that could affect the quality of the beer. This aspect is particularly crucial in the brewing industry, where maintaining sanitary conditions throughout the brewing process is paramount to producing safe and delicious beer.

    Potential Drawbacks of Using Copper Coils

    Although copper has its merits, it is not without its drawbacks when used in wort chillers.

    Copper's Susceptibility to Corrosion

    As mentioned earlier, copper is prone to corrosion when exposed to acidic wort or water. This corrosion can lead to leaks, contamination, and a shorter lifespan for the wort chiller. Regular monitoring and maintenance are necessary to prevent these issues.

    The Impact of Copper on Beer Flavor

    Copper has the potential to impart a metallic taste to the beer, especially if there is prolonged contact between the wort and the coil. While this flavor is not always noticeable, it can be undesirable for certain beer styles or brewing preferences.

    Another aspect to consider when using copper coils in wort chillers is the potential for oxidation. Copper is known to react with oxygen over time, which can result in the formation of oxides on the surface of the coil. These oxides can affect heat transfer efficiency and may require additional cleaning steps to maintain optimal performance.

    Furthermore, the malleability of copper can be both an advantage and a drawback. While it allows for easy shaping and bending of the coil during manufacturing, it also makes copper more susceptible to damage from external forces or impacts. This means that extra care must be taken when handling and installing copper coils to avoid any deformation that could impact their functionality.


    It's no wonder we at Bräu Supply only use SS304 to make our counterflow wort chiller.  With 1/2" x 3/4" tubing and tri-clamp wort connections with one handed quick disconnects we give you everything you need to get started right out of the box.  Experience the best the industry has to offer!


    Ready to elevate your brewing experience with the superior quality and efficiency of SS304 stainless steel? Look no further than Bräu Supply, the pioneers in all-in-one brewing systems. Our flagship Unibräu system revolutionizes home brewing by consolidating the entire process into a single vessel, while the Unibräu Pro offers an even more streamlined approach, enabling you to complete a brew in under four hours. For traditionalists, our HERMS system provides one of the most efficient electric three-vessel breweries on the market. Our brew kettles are the backbone of our systems, designed with modularity and the perfect number of Tri-clamp ports. And for those seeking the ultimate in fermentation, our Unitank jacketed fermenters are unmatched in quality, capable of withstanding 15psi pressure. With the most extensive range of accessories available, Bräu Supply ensures that you have everything you need for your brewing requirements. Check out our products and discover why Bräu Supply offers better value and higher quality than the competition.