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Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size

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hboebel:
I am in the market for a kettle upgrade and have my eye on the Blichmann Boilermaker for doing boils (not mashes).  I am really waffling between the 10 gallon versus the 15 gallon model.  Why?  Well, 95% of the time, I do the standard 5 gallon finished batch.  In my 3 years of brewing, I have only wanted to do a 10 gallon batches 2 times.  That 15 gallon kettle would have been awfully convenient for that.  However, most often, I am doing the standard batch size.  From what I gather, the 15 gallon kettle would work fine, except I might get a little more evaporation rate, and the thermometer probably would barely, if not even be in the wort for the 5 gallon finished batches.  But, I would like the ability to do 10 gallon batches when I need too.

Let's face it, these kettles are not inexpensive.  Would I be better off getting the 10 gallon kettle and taking full advantage of the features (ie. the kettle is sized correctly for 95% of my batches) -- forget about the 10 gallon batches and just do 2 brew sessions when I want 10 gallons?...  Or am I being short sighted for potential future growth and would be better off getting the 15 gallon and not fully utilizing the features of the kettle (ie.  thermometer)?

What have some of you done out there?  Have you sacrificed convenience, quality or introduced process problems by using a larger kettle than what is generally needed for a typical 5 gallon finished batch?

Would love to hear some of your experiences and thoughts on the matter.  Thanks!

weazletoe:
I typically do 5-7 gal batches. I have a 16.25 gal kettle, and LOVE IT!! One, I never have to be concerned about a boil over, and two, I can still knock out 10+ gallon when I want. If there is not price difference that will hurt you, I say go big. You can still brew a 5 gal batch in it nicely, but have a lot of room to grow. If you pop for a smaller one now to save a few bucks that you do have to spend, then in a year, decide to go bigger, you really did waste a ton on the smaller one. So, if you can swing it, if it's worth doing, it's worth over doing.

dan1076:
I have a 20 gallon kettle and was doing only 5 gallon batches until recently.  I made the switch up to a 10 gallon system due to another child on the way in May.  I also agree that you should go with the larger kettle.

jackfromjax:
+1
If there's one thing I've learned as a homebrewer, it's plan now for 10yrs from now.  I'm sure everyone (myself included) has stories about how much money they've wasted by not buying big initially.  "Damn, I should have bought the deluxe kit instead of the beginner kit", "I wish I would have bought a refractometer instead of my three hydrometers", "I should have just spent the $$$ on a Brew Magic system"...just venting a little bit, sorry.

Go Big!  ;D

hamiltont:
Go BIG!!  As big as you can.  I have a 15 gallon, sometimes wish it was a 20 when the wort is 2" from the top.  Remember the old days, one hand on the burner control & one with a spray bottle...  The key to reducing evaporation is to reduce the surface area.  IE. Tall not wide, smaller the diameter the less loss to evaporation. ;D

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