Author Topic: I'm ready to trash my kettle  (Read 5443 times)

Offline galapagos jim

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I'm ready to trash my kettle
« on: June 12, 2013, 02:35:49 PM »
After last Saturday's brew session I'm about ready to trash my kettle, and probably also the burner, and blow a ton of money on a Blichmann set up. Talk me off the edge of this cliff or egg me on.

I've had the kettle for about a year. It's an el-cheapo thin SS 10 gallon model I got from an online HBS, who pre-drilled holes and included a weldless ball valve and thermometer. It's actually worked pretty well, all things considered.

The big problem is the evaporation rate. The kettle is low and wide so it loses something like 20% an hour. That means increasing my pre-boil volume, which for 90-minute boils puts me on constant boil-over watch.

But the catalyst of my ire this past weekend was judging the liquid volume in the kettle. This kettle has some coarse gallon markings (2/4/6/8 only) embossed into the side. My pre-boil calc for this long-boil batch was about 9 gallons, and I had a terrible time guesstimating where that was. I must have overshot it a lot when draining the MLT because my OG came in about 10 points short. (Oddly, my SG was on target, though I think I get to blame that on better-than-expected mash efficiency.)

I'm aware that I could solve the volume problem by installing a sight glass. I'm not keen on attempting to drill through SS, though. Metal fab is not in my skill set.

There's one other problem with this kettle that annoys me. The hole that the HBS drilled for the valve is so low that it extends into the curved corner at the bottom of the kettle. Net result is that the valve points downward from horizontal, maybe only by 5 degrees, but enough that the kettle doesn't sit flat, it sits resting on the barb.

All this combined is making me dream of a new kettle, a tall, narrow one with little evap rate and welded fittings. Having looked at the Blingmann shinies, I'm pretty well hooked. One thing I'm not sure of is what size to get. I make 5 gallon batches, which in practical terms means 6 going into the fermenter, and I don't see myself going larger anytime soon. That said, the cost difference between the 10 and 15 gallons kettles is relatively small but there are complaints on the 15 gallon model that the thermometer is mounted at 6.5 gallons and not useful for smaller batches. I think I'd be OK with the 10 gallon model as long as the evap rate is reasonable and don't have to worry about boil overs so much.

Hey, that's a lot of words. I guess typing this mostly helps me sort out my own thoughts. But let me know what you think. Always good to get advice from outside one's own head.

Offline Jeff M

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 02:47:06 PM »
From what i have read secondary mark sight glasses are garbage.  I would honestly suggest in putting some cash into getting a blichmann.  if you do long boils i would go with the 15 gallon kettle fi you going to do 5 gallons.  otherwise if you plan on going to 10 gallons in the future spend the short money and get the 20 gallon.

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Offline thebigbaker

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 03:13:21 PM »
If you decide to go with a new kettle and burner, I would highly suggest the Bilchmann kettle and burner.  I don't have the kettle (yet ;)) but do have the burner.  The burner is great and I can add it to their Top Tier Brew Stand if I decide to go that route in the future.  The people I know that own one love their Blichmann kettles.  I'm currently happy with my 8 gal kettle, however if I decide to get a larger one, I will be getting a Blichmann kettle.  I only do 3 and 5 gal batches, so I will probably go with the 10 gal kettle but it's tempting to go ahead and get the 15 for just a few more $$.

One thing I did to measure my boil volume is to make some marks w/ a sharpie on one of my ladles.  Works great and you don't have to drill into your kettle. 
Jeremy Baker

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Offline repo

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 03:24:09 PM »
Too high evaporation- add back a gallon or so of water after 60-75 minutes
Can't read volume- make a measuring rod/ stick , mash paddle 
Won't sit flat - put the barb in only when you want to use it, or shorten it if that will work.

Drilling into stainless steel is not hard, just expensive if you mess it up...


Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 03:28:32 PM »
+1 to the measuring rod/stick.  Low tech and reliable.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 03:41:38 PM »
Once upon a time I considered sight glasses but cleaning changed my mind. And the thought of breaking it and having a spill or having to wait for a replacement to arrive.marks on my stir spoon work just fine. Now I don't even use that. I can tell by looking when I've got enough

Offline gsandel

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2013, 04:02:09 PM »
If you have the cash, and you are in the "I just want it to @#@%!^$ing work" camp, Blichmann, Stout Tanks, or Sabco all have nice stuff.  (Full disclosure: I have a Stout HLT w/HERMS, and use Sabco's false bottom in my mash tun keggle.  I have a few Blichmann pieces parts, but nothing substantial to comment on...all works as nice as advertised).

Boil off rate is a combination of surface area and temperature.  You can do a moderate rolling boil and still be okay (it doesn't have to be super vigorous)...sight glass is nice, but you do have to clean it.  Drilling stainless is relatively easy with a step bit (cone shapped bit).....but the bit costs $15 (add to cost of sight glass).

Let us know what course you take and your impression of the outcome!  good luck.
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Offline euge

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2013, 04:38:10 PM »
My opinion is one has to be consistent. I measure from my fermenters' markings and don't worry about kettle volume. Only thing that matters is what ends up in the fermenter. I've made marks in my kettles based on what I've poured in from my fermenters, but they are for quick reference usually.

What is the big deal with a 20% boil-off rate really? Compensate. Your ten gallon kettle should handle a five gallon AG batch just fine. Maybe turn the burner down a bit- and use some anti-boil-over drops... Boil for 60 minutes not 90. On and on.

Appears to me that you just have the itch to buy some different equipment.

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

Offline hokerer

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2013, 05:05:41 PM »
Appears to me that you just have the itch to buy some different equipment.

You say that like it's a bad thing :)
Joe

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2013, 05:54:45 PM »
Boil for 60 minutes not 90.
If he's using pilsner malt, then a 90 minute boil is a good thing.

As for a measuring stick for volume, I just use an old racking cane that had cracked. I poured water into my kettle at half gallon intervals, and made marks on it using a permanent marker. 45 brews later, I still use the same device. Hit my volumes right on, every time.
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Offline In The Sand

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I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2013, 06:08:20 PM »
Buy a 20 gal kettle because you'll be doing half-bbl batches soon enough :)

Scribe some graduations in the inside of the kettle (but make sure to always clean good) or scribe some marks in a metal stirring spoon.

Happy brewing!
Trey W.

Offline tcanova

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 08:50:46 PM »
Just to add, I love my Blichmann.
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 07:20:41 AM »
I marked my 12g kettle with a finishing nail - center punch in 1 gallon intervals.  I used a 1 gallon distilled water jug to add 1 gallon at a time and made a small dimple with the punch and a hammer at the water line.  I just count down from 11 until I reach the bump where the wort is.

I also live with a 20+% evap rate.  I just adjust my starting volume to accommodate it.

The pre-drilled port sounds like it is too low to me.  If it can't sit level on a table that would really bug me. Out of the 3 this would be my reason to petition the goddess of household finances for a replacement.  I would most likely look around for a different valve first though, because I'm cheap and the petition documentation is grueling.   ;D

It's all a personal decision.  If you want a new kettle/burner and can afford them, buy them.  It's your hobby, it shouldn't be frustrating.

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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 07:35:49 AM »
[quote author=Slowbrew link=topic=16115.msg1#msg1 petition the goddess of household finances for a replacement.  I would most likely look around for a different valve first though, because I'm cheap and the petition documentation is grueling.   ;D

[/quote]

Hilarious stuff!

Offline weithman5

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Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2013, 07:55:09 AM »
Too high evaporation- add back a gallon or so of water after 60-75 minutes
Can't read volume- make a measuring rod/ stick , mash paddle 
Won't sit flat - put the barb in only when you want to use it, or shorten it if that will work.

..
+1.  also could partially cover your kettle, and you could reduce the heat input, once you are at boiling, the higher the heat input the faster the boil off and vice versa. you should be able to control this with a gas burner.or electric with a pwm.  i have a 1500watt element. slow boil off. if i put in a 2000w element, without a pwm it would just get boil faster and boil off more water.
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