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General Category => Extract/Partial Mash Brewing => Topic started by: beer-for-my-horses on January 25, 2010, 12:32:31 PM

Title: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: beer-for-my-horses on January 25, 2010, 12:32:31 PM

New to home brewing and getting ready to brew my first all extract batch.  I have a turkey fryer with a large aluminum pot that will hold a full batch with plenty of room left over.  I also have a 4 gal. SS pot, but would have to do a partial batch.  Should I do a full 5 gal. batch in the alum. or partial batch in the SS?  I have heard that alum is not the best kettle material to use.  What are the pros and cons of using an alum brew Pot? 

Thanks.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on January 25, 2010, 02:58:07 PM
Aluminum pots are fine.
I would suggest doing full boil in aluminum put.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: Hokerer on January 25, 2010, 03:03:11 PM
Aluminum vs Stainless is one of those hot topics right up there with Glass vs Plastic, Secondary or Not, etc.  Be prepared.

When you boil it all down, though, it seems that Aluminum is fine, you just need to be aware of a couple of things.  Before you brew in aluminum, you want to "passivate" it.  Just fill it completely with water and boil for 15 minutes or so.  This builds an oxide layer that'll keep the acidic wort from reacting with bare aluminum.  Once you've got that layer, you're good to go.  Also, be careful when cleaning that you don't scrub off that layer or you'll have to passivate again.

Finally, most of the fryer setups have a 7 or 7-1/2 gallon pot which you may think has "plenty of room leftover" but is not really the case.  That's about the minimum size pot for a 5-gallon batch full boil.  When you take into account the extra you need so that you end up with 5-gallons, hot break, etc., you'll need to keep a pretty close eye on a pot that size.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: Hokerer on January 25, 2010, 03:42:18 PM
Also, regardless of whether they're aluminum or stainless, the pots that come with those fryer setups tend to be pretty thin.  You need to be pretty careful handling them as they're easy to dent.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: dean on January 26, 2010, 04:41:52 PM
If you're doing extract, why not experiment and do two batches at the same time, treat both the same at the same time including using the same yeast.  It might be a cool experiment.   :)
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: beer-for-my-horses on January 27, 2010, 05:54:56 PM
Thanks to all.  I was also able to find a post on another forum that was very helpful on this topic as well as some other newbie questions.  Hope it can help.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/vs-pro-con-analysis-109318/
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: beerocd on January 27, 2010, 06:35:41 PM
dean I thought you were gonna whip out your baking soda taste test  ???
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: mikebiewer on February 11, 2010, 02:27:37 AM
I would go with the full boil option and do what others have mentioned about boiling first.

I'm actually a little disappointed in myself for not picking up a bigger pot when I had the chance. I do partials in a 4 gallon pot. From what I'm learning a full boil can be one of my next biggest steps to making better beer.

One thing to mention as a first time brewer and using a turkey burner is that those things get really hot and you are going to have a major hot spot in the middle of your pot. Pull the pot off the burner before putting in your extract so you don't burn it to the bottom. Also, watch that hot break, a second can sneak up on you.

Happy Brewing

Mike
http://mikesbrewreview.com (http://mikesbrewreview.com)
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: euge on February 11, 2010, 06:19:34 AM
Sorry about the late post. I will add my $0.10

Aluminum is just fine. About a third of the cost of Stainless. However, if one can afford it go with Stainless. One already equipped with ball valve, thermometer, sight-glass etc would be optimal for sure.

If one does AG in particular and secondly Extract full-boils certain things have to be considered. Boil down being the primary factor. It's hopeless to do a full boil with the wort slopping over the rim. I do 12 gal batches in an 80qt aluminum kettle. That's a boil-down from 16-15 gallons. When the wort expands and the foam rises you will be grateful for the extra volume or inches at the top LOL ;D

Converted Sanke kegs appear almost ideal for 10 gal batches. Wish I had a couple.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: kgs on May 30, 2010, 03:00:49 PM
Sorry about the late post. I will add my $0.10

Aluminum is just fine. About a third of the cost of Stainless. However, if one can afford it go with Stainless. One already equipped with ball valve, thermometer, sight-glass etc would be optimal for sure. ...

I am seeing some very good deals for SS stockpots that make them competitive with stainless (at least for basic pots without ball valves, etc.). Where I hesitate is the weight of SS versus aluminum and the impact on hoisting it/heating it/cooling it. I have a 4-gallon SS pot and am trying to envision the weight of this pot at 7.5/8/9/10 gallons and the extra effort to bring it to a boil and cool it down. Thoughts?
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: euge on May 30, 2010, 04:17:25 PM
Yes! Certainly weight and ease of use of equipment and it's impact should be considered.
 
Moving up in capacity/volume does have it's challenges. Weight of wort for one. Ten gallons of wort- she's pretty darn heavy, probably close to 100#. And again, correctly predicting it taking longer to heat than those 3 gallon partial extract boils...LOL. Longer to cool down too.

One thing I wouldn't worry about too much is the empty weight of the kettle. However, as I understand it Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than Stainless. If one is to move up in volume then a chilling method will be required such as an IC or CFC. And, probably your kitchen stove will become useless to you. A burner rig is normally the easiest solution to this.

Unfortunately, upgrading equipment such as a larger kettle often requires further purchases or DIY solutions just in order to utilize them correctly. And then, once one has their expanded brewery, where does one brew? You'll be exiled out of the SWMBO's kitchen... ;)

Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: kgs on May 30, 2010, 05:42:36 PM
And then, once one has their expanded brewery, where does one brew? You'll be exiled out of the SWMBO's kitchen... ;)

Ah, but I *am* SWMBO... :) I want to stay self-sufficient with my brewing (Ye Olde Alewife), so keeping things manageable is key. I don't weigh a lot more than 10 gallons of beer... though that is changing as time passes and my brewing improves :-) ... and frankly I'm a 50-something librarian with noodle arms, which has also dictated smaller batches and partial-mash.

Mashing in the kitchen in my 2- and 5-gallon coolers is easy enough (and makes the house smell great). But brewing all-grain half-batches, as I'm increasingly doing, requires split boils, and I'd also like to get out of the kitchen for some/all of these brews to both enjoy the outdoors and be able to hose down any mess afterwards. Plus I'd like to move up to 3.5 - 4 gallons (about the most I can handle). But as you point out, with scaling up, other dependencies start to emerge, such as chilling.

I bought the Bayou SP10 with an Xmas certificate (easier to cook on than our gas grill during an earthquake/power-outage, or that was my excuse anyway) and I'm shopping around with about $35 in Amazon/gift certificates to augment the kettle purchase. No hurry, I'm just shopping/musing. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with my current setup for now. I met another local "librewian" at a library conference and we've been planning a brew day, and seeing how she manages her setup will be useful.

My gut inclination is that I would not regret buying a 30-to-36-gallon aluminum kettle regardless of whatever I stepped up to later on for homebrewing. Whether it's homebrewing or holiday cooking, there comes a time in most of my cooking projects where every single large pot is occupied... one more couldn't hurt. I prefer stainless steel aesthetically but think that will have to take a back seat to other realities.

Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: euge on May 30, 2010, 06:18:12 PM
SWMBO:

She Who Must Brew Often...  ;D

If you can find a true 40qt I think it would be ideal for those five gallon batches. A ball-valve to transfer right into the fermenter. Five gallons in the fermenter is fairly heavy- I put mine on cheap furniture dollies to move them around except i usually have 6+ gallons to each fermenter. Worries about my back...
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: kgs on May 30, 2010, 07:40:04 PM
SWMBO:

She Who Must Brew Often...  ;D

I like it!!
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: mnstorm99 on June 03, 2010, 11:51:42 AM
Just for my .02

Aluminum is perfectly fine, and better if you consider cost.  I am just chiming in to say (for anyone else reading this for their own reference), go bigger now, you'll thank yourself later.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 03, 2010, 12:38:54 PM
I am seeing some very good deals for SS stockpots that make them competitive with stainless (at least for basic pots without ball valves, etc.). Where I hesitate is the weight of SS versus aluminum and the impact on hoisting it/heating it/cooling it. I have a 4-gallon SS pot and am trying to envision the weight of this pot at 7.5/8/9/10 gallons and the extra effort to bring it to a boil and cool it down. Thoughts?

AL is fine.  SS will be heavier.  The conductivity of SS is lower than AL.  The difference in time for heating and cooling is negligible.   If it was really longer, professional chefs would have issues.

Since I am an engineer (but I must say that I am not a heat transfer engineer and that class was a long time ago) here is why.  The heat transfer will depend on the conductivity of the metal and the liquid.  Wort is mostly water so I will use that.
Aluminum = 250 (W/mK)   Stainless Steel = 16 (W/mK)   Water = 0.58 (W/mK)  A bigger number means that there is more heat conductivity.

The liquid controls the heat transfer due to its much lower conductivity.  That is why you stir your pot to heat or cool it faster. 
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: bonjour on June 03, 2010, 02:27:58 PM
Functionally I see little difference between them,  The Al MUST be seasoned prior to wort going in, and that may mean re-seasoning after a cleaning (depending on how vigorous),  SS is non-reactive and thus more forgiving.  But properly handled they both work fine.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: richardt on June 03, 2010, 02:34:02 PM
KGS,
I have used both aluminum and stainless steel.  I prefer the later which does have an aluminum disc at the base (tri-clad SS kettles).  I prefer SS’s aesthetics and cooler handles (to the touch).  Aluminum conducts heat so well, in fact, that I have stupidly burned my hands on the handles during my lapses in attention.   I now have oven mitts and or leather gloves in my brew gear to prevent this—I use the leather gloves when working with the hot kettle and liquids as it also has saved me from burning my hands on hot wort chillers or spigots or splashes.  It also gives me more confidence with my grip.  I realize that it makes me look like a wide receiver, but I don’t care.  I hate burns and my hands are important in my work.
http://www.instawares.com/nsf-stainless-steel-stock.rii-royssrspt80.0.7.htm (http://www.instawares.com/nsf-stainless-steel-stock.rii-royssrspt80.0.7.htm)
Royal NSF SS stock pot with lid, 80 quarts (20 gallons) = $181.69 (ships free).
http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Quality-Titanium-Step-Drill/dp/B000RP82F8/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1275570805&sr=1-12 (http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Quality-Titanium-Step-Drill/dp/B000RP82F8/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1275570805&sr=1-12)
Pro Quality Titanium Step Drill Bit 7/16” – 1-1/8” by 1/16” increments = $6.25 + $4.75 S/H ($11 total)
[If you want to make a spigot for your SS Kettle, you’ll need a 7/8” hole in your SS kettle located about 1.5 inches up from the bottom (on center).  You will need this extra room for the washer that goes on the inside of the kettle with the weldless SS valve.  This drill bit and your 3V corded drill at home will do this perfectly—just wear safety glasses when you do it.  I put the spigot directly below one of the handles on the SS kettle since I wanted to be able to carry the kettle w/o fear of knocking the spigot and to have the ability to lift the kettle with just the opposite handle  (i.e., tilt the kettle) to encourage drainage].  To finish off the hole, I used the drill bit from both ends (i.e., outside the kettle and inside the kettle)—taking care to keep the bit perpendicular to the hole/kettle wall—in order to de-burr the edges of the hole.  There was no need to use 3-in-1 machine oil (though some recommend it) or a metal file.  My dremel was worthless for deburring—use the drill bit with light pressure from both sides of the kettle—it makes a perfect, symmetrical, and clean hole.  Just take your sweet time and do it right.  Periodically test the size of the bulkhead fitting through the hole; you want it to be a snug fit.  The hardest part for me was the overcoming the mental aspect of drilling a hole in such a beautiful kettle!
http://cgi.ebay.com/Weldless-Stainless-Steel-Valve-and-Spigot-Free-Shipping-/380122770975?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5881152e1f (http://cgi.ebay.com/Weldless-Stainless-Steel-Valve-and-Spigot-Free-Shipping-/380122770975?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5881152e1f)
Weldless SS valve and spigot = $47.50 (ships free)
Total cost:  $240.19
I personally use the cheap metal or digital thermometers that run around $10 and don’t have much use for a sight glass since I boil at ground level and look into the top.  I have my spouse or a brew buddy help me lift the kettle to a higher location (e.g., table top or tailgate) after chilling to facilitate gravity transfers.
If you want to have the beautiful Blichman Boilermaker 20 gallon brewpot (spigot, thermometer, sightglass), then it will cost you about $400.  If you do it yourself, you save about $150.
http://www.rebelbrewer.com/shoppingcart/products/Boilermaker-Brew-Pot-%252d-20-Gallon.htm (http://www.rebelbrewer.com/shoppingcart/products/Boilermaker-Brew-Pot-%252d-20-Gallon.htm)
The big thing for you will be weight.  Aluminum pots are lighter than SS (a 20 gallon Aluminum pot is 16.5 lbs, while a SS pot is 36 lbs).  I like the 20 gallon kettles because it allows for easy brewing w/o boilovers of 10 gallons batches of any targeted SG you desire.  You’ll only be limited by how much grain you can stuff in your 10 gallon Igloo/Gott cooler or the larger rectangular coolers.
One US gallon of water weighs 8.35 lbs.  So lifting a 20 gallon SS kettle (36 lbs w lid) with 10 gallons of 1.050 SG wort (8.35 lbs x 10 gallons x 1.050 SG = 87.7 lbs) would mean lifting 123.7 lbs.
 Lifting a 20 gallon kettle with 15 gallons of wort (e.g., at pre-boil) means lifting 167.5 lbs (36 + 131.5 = 167.5).  Given the weight and bulk—any lifting or transfers should be a two person job (with the lid on).  I’ve done it alone once, but it wasn’t pretty and I won’t do it again.  There’s no way to lift it alone w/o having to prop the hot kettle against some part of your body during the lifting process.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 03, 2010, 03:15:18 PM
On the weight thing.  Invest in a March Pump, no heavy lilfting. 

With no pump, I would not brew as much.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: kgs on June 05, 2010, 11:55:45 PM
Thanks on the responses. I went to a restaurant supply store today and looked at/lifted various pots. The interesting thing was that SS wasn't always the heaviest, aluminum wasn't always the lightest, and for any particular line of stockpot, the weight difference between 32 and 40 was negligible. It is how much I put into the kettle that will make a difference. That's where I think that beyond half batches, I will have to go to a pump system.

But in looking at the surface area of 32 to 40 quart pots, I can brew 3-gallon batches (starting with 4 or 4.5 gallons) without detriment, so the pump could be another step, later. I might want to keep an eye on the rigor of the boil, but these pots aren't a quantum leap from what I have.

Also, I agree, the hardest part about the drill bit is preparing myself to drill into a new kettle.

Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: euge on June 09, 2010, 06:15:41 PM


Also, I agree, the hardest part about the drill bit is preparing myself to drill into a new kettle.



I am preparing to do such a thing. Had my March for about two months now and slowly working up the gumption to drill on my kettles. Almost out of beer and I need to brew. But its so darn hot already...
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: rkausch on June 23, 2010, 06:28:24 PM
Quote
Also, I agree, the hardest part about the drill bit is preparing myself to drill into a new kettle.

If you have a friend who is into woodworking, and has a full sized drill press (the kind that go on the floor, and are about 6ish feet tall), with an adjustable platform, give them some beer, and have them help you with the drilling operation.  I did this with my father's drill press on my new 25 gallon MegaPot, and had the same reservations. 

The drill press is a delta, and the table can lower down to about 1.5 feet above the base.  We clamped two pieces of wood on either side of the table, to act as a cradle for the kettle, and set the kettle on its side to drill.  Used a step-bit in the drill press, and went to town. It worked perfectly, and the drill press helped to keep the kettle from moving around while drilling. 

My only other advice is to wear gloves.  I'm used to wood working, and after a cut or drill, just brushing aside the sawdust with my hand.  I do it subconsciously, and tried to do the same with the metal shavings.  Those things are SHARP!  I cut my hand up pretty good (though I always cite superstition that if no blood is spilled while building something, the project is doomed to failure).
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: Hokerer on June 23, 2010, 07:19:17 PM
My only other advice is to wear gloves.  I'm used to wood working, and after a cut or drill, just brushing aside the sawdust with my hand.  I do it subconsciously, and tried to do the same with the metal shavings.  Those things are SHARP!

Been there, done that!  It's almost impossible to NOT subconsciously swipe - ouch.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: richardt on June 23, 2010, 08:54:16 PM
I did my drilling with a cheapo old corded drill and a new step drill bit.  I took my sweet time.  It was suprisingly easy to do.
Agree with the metal burrs and shavings being a bit sharp. 
But, if you gently brush it off with a brush or vacuum attachment--you won't cut yourself.
The shavings tend to fly off the drill--when the metal bits hit your skin it kind of feels like a 4th of July sparkler being held a little too close to your body.  Nothing too serious, but it does get your attention.
So, before you drill wear Safety Glasses (no matter what), gloves, and long shirt/pants if you're really timid or into protection.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: BrewArk on June 24, 2010, 04:56:04 PM
...
So, before you drill wear Safety Glasses (no matter what), gloves, and long shirt/pants if you're really timid or into protection.

& ear plugs!
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: silentknyght on July 20, 2010, 05:45:16 PM

When you boil it all down, though, it seems that Aluminum is fine, you just need to be aware of a couple of things.  Before you brew in aluminum, you want to "passivate" it.  Just fill it completely with water and boil for 15 minutes or so.  This builds an oxide layer that'll keep the acidic wort from reacting with bare aluminum.  Once you've got that layer, you're good to go.  Also, be careful when cleaning that you don't scrub off that layer or you'll have to passivate again.


What does this layer look like?  Is it a discoloration?
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: denny on July 20, 2010, 05:51:58 PM
Yeah, it's kind of a gray film.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: babalu87 on July 21, 2010, 01:34:08 AM
Yeah, it's kind of a gray film.

Yes, it almost looks............. dirty

Really.
Title: Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Post by: thomasbarnes on July 21, 2010, 11:07:05 AM
What does this layer look like?  Is it a discoloration?

Silvery gray, slightly dirty. Find a piece of bare aluminum that's been exposed to the weather; it's that color. Scratch that weathered aluminum with the tip of a knife and the color of the scratch is what unpassivated aluminum look like.