Author Topic: Choosing a brew kettle  (Read 1626 times)

Offline mikemartin53

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Choosing a brew kettle
« on: January 15, 2016, 08:28:16 PM »
I am in the process of choosing equipment for my first serious attempt at homebrewing.  My previous experience includes making wine from a kit, making wine from my own grapes, making hard cider from fresh juice and making Hefe from a Coopers kit (a gift from my wife).  So I know the basics of fermentation, but graduating from one-bucket hopped extract is a whole new ballgame.  I want more control than I got with the Coopers kit.  All-grain is my eventual goal, but there's no guarantee that I'll ever get there.

For the most part, starter equipment seems pretty straightforward and relatively cheap.  But there are a lot of different manufacturers and configurations of brew kettles. What I'm looking for is a kettle that will will serve me adequately for extract brewing and that will then have some use in an all-grain setup.  I have few friends and family that drink beer, so I don't anticipate brewing anything larger than 5 gallon batches - 5-6 batches a year.

How important is a built-in thermometer and ball valve in extract brewing?  Is it really worth $100 more to get one with thermometer and ball valve versus using an external thermometer and auto-siphon?  I realize that I can drill and add these later to an undrilled pot - just not sure I have the nerve to do so to a $100+ pot.

On another note, I live in a major metropolitan area (Washington, DC).  There are over 100 breweries and brewpubs in the area, lots of craft beer bars and plenty of craft brews available in grocery stores and specialty beer stores.  I can get virtually any style of beer imaginable within a half hour drive or subway ride from home.  Why the heck would I want to brew my own beer?  Somebody talk me out of this!  ;D

Thanks,

Mike




Offline BrewArk

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2016, 08:51:56 PM »
For me it was after I got a pot w/a spigot that I realized how glad I was that I did.  Prior to that it didn't matter to me.  Now I'm really grateful for it.  I think that's up to your individual situation for the cost/benefit of each add on.

I will pass on my experience.  I started w/an old surplus navy stainless pot.  It served me well for a long time.  While I was using it, I stuck by the adage "If it's cheap, and stainless, buy it. - You'll find a use for it later."  Now I have a lot of stuff, and am still acquiring.  I continuously am trying to upgrade my system, and suspect I will never be finished.  Question yourself if this is the road you want to travel.

That said one recommendation I will strongly make to you is to get a pot big enough for the entire batch.  If you are doing 5 gallon batches, get an 8 gallon pot or bigger.
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Offline Stevie

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2016, 08:56:31 PM »
I would start with an inexpensive 8 gallon kettle with a ball valve. Siphoning is a PIA.

Offline atodd

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2016, 09:14:04 PM »
I started with a cheap 5 gallon pot, which was replaced in a year for a bigger 8 gallon kettle.  I now have a 10 gallon with a ball valve and have to say get one with a ball valve as they are well worth it.  If I had just bought the bigger one to start I could have saved some money. 

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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2016, 10:00:51 PM »
I agree to getting a bigger pot than you think you'll need.

Ball valves are nice.  I didn't have one until I drilled and added it to my 13 gallon pot.  It was not hard at all.  You just have to get over the fact that your drilling a hole in your pot.  I liked it so much that I added a valve to my 7 gallon pot.  It's a huge convenience for smaller batches and a necessity IMO for larger batches.

Both of my pots are stainless Bayou Classic pots.
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Offline cempt1

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2016, 11:03:07 PM »
The more you learn about the brewing process and the ingredients that go into beer, the more you will appreciate all the craft beer you have available. There is also a tremendous feeling of satisfaction knowing that you crafted a beer as good (and often  better ) than you could buy in the store.

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Offline kpfoleyjr

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Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 12:01:49 AM »
First, for me it's not a hobby - it's an obsession.  Buy a 10-gallon brew pot for 5-gallon batches of all-grain recipes to avoid boil over.  Thermometer is optional, to me.
The ball valve is a must.

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« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 12:03:28 AM by kpfoleyjr »

Offline leejoreilly

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 02:29:05 PM »


On another note, I live in a major metropolitan area (Washington, DC).  There are over 100 breweries and brewpubs in the area, lots of craft beer bars and plenty of craft brews available in grocery stores and specialty beer stores.  I can get virtually any style of beer imaginable within a half hour drive or subway ride from home.  Why the heck would I want to brew my own beer?  Somebody talk me out of this!  ;D



Mike, think of it this way: just because there are lots of great restaurants near you, does that mean you shouldn't cook a meal yourself? There's more than just "drinking beer" involved in brewing; there's all the joy of planning, designing, producing and sharing Your Own Beer. Oh, yeah, also drinking it.


Offline bengelbrau

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 02:35:48 PM »
I used a siphon for years, until my back demanded that I start using a pump. I then got a Spike kettle with a welded valve. I wouldn't bother with an integral thermometer. The handheld ones are more versatile, and don't have crevices that need to be cleaned.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 02:37:42 PM »


On another note, I live in a major metropolitan area (Washington, DC).  There are over 100 breweries and brewpubs in the area, lots of craft beer bars and plenty of craft brews available in grocery stores and specialty beer stores.  I can get virtually any style of beer imaginable within a half hour drive or subway ride from home.  Why the heck would I want to brew my own beer?  Somebody talk me out of this!  ;D



Mike, think of it this way: just because there are lots of great restaurants near you, does that mean you shouldn't cook a meal yourself? There's more than just "drinking beer" involved in brewing; there's all the joy of planning, designing, producing and sharing Your Own Beer. Oh, yeah, also drinking it.




Exactly. Not sure if Mike sounds very committed to the idea. I wouldn't spend $ on equipment until I had that sorted out.
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Offline mharding73

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 02:42:57 PM »
I get bored with the beers available to me.  It's nice to be able to formulate a recipe and drink something different.   It's also fun to share and talk about it with friends. 

Offline 69franx

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 08:56:25 PM »
As for the kettle add-ons, I am in the camp of minimalism. I have a 15g kettle that came with welded tri-clamp ports for both a valve and a thermometer. I love the convenience of the valve even if I dont always use it. The thermometer sounds nice, but like others have said, not necessary. It is not like the newer ones that you can bend up or down, its fixed in place. In order to read it,(my kettle and burner sit fairly low) I have it mounted essentially upside down so I can read temp(upside down and backwards) without bending over every time I want to check it. If I did it all over again, I would leave the thermometer out and may even still buy a tri-clamp cap to take it out and cover the fitting. Just my .02
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2016, 09:49:22 PM »
Whenever I read discussions of gear for beginning I always think it's best to buy gear that you can use down the road in all grain. Either that or just scrounge around and borrow any old pot that's big enough.

My boil kettle with valve and thermometer is probably $250-280 brand new. But I've used it about 150 times and plan to use it for another thousand. My first kettle was about $30 and I used it once then gave it away.

Offline norcaljp

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2016, 11:04:42 PM »
Stainless steel is the way to go. I use the 14 gallon stainless brew kettle from MoreBeer. It ran around $140 with two welded threaded ports for a spigot/valve and a thermometer. After buying the spigot and thermometer I was in it for about $180.

Before that I used a 7 gallon aluminum pot. It did the trick, but the 14 gallon pot is great. 5 gallon batches are a breeze with no worry of boil over, and if I want to do a double batch there's enough room. Definitely a purchase I'd make again.
Joel Prater

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Offline flbrewer

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Re: Choosing a brew kettle
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2016, 11:29:54 PM »
10 gallon, ball valve. The thermo and sight glass are pointless (even though my kettle has this)!