Author Topic: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?  (Read 5478 times)

Offline beer-for-my-horses

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Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« on: January 25, 2010, 05:32:31 AM »

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.

Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2010, 07:58:07 AM »
Aluminum pots are fine.
I would suggest doing full boil in aluminum put.
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Offline hokerer

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2010, 08:03:11 AM »
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.
Joe

Offline hokerer

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2010, 08:42:18 AM »
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.
Joe

Offline dean

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2010, 09:41:52 AM »
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.   :)

Offline beer-for-my-horses

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2010, 10:54:56 AM »
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/

Offline beerocd

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2010, 11:35:41 AM »
dean I thought you were gonna whip out your baking soda taste test  ???
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Offline mikebiewer

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2010, 07:27:37 PM »
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.

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Offline euge

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2010, 11:19:34 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.

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.
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Offline kgs

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2010, 08:00:49 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. ...

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?
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Offline euge

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2010, 09:17:25 AM »
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... ;)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline kgs

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2010, 10:42:36 AM »
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.

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Offline euge

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2010, 11:18:12 AM »
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...
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline kgs

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2010, 12:40:04 PM »
SWMBO:

She Who Must Brew Often...  ;D

I like it!!
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Offline mnstorm99

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Re: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2010, 04:51:42 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.
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