Author Topic: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size  (Read 3264 times)

Offline hboebel

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Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« on: November 11, 2009, 07:45:59 PM »
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!

Offline weazletoe

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2009, 08:05:44 PM »
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.
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Offline dan1076

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2009, 11:45:34 AM »
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.
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Offline jackfromjax

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2009, 02:40:44 PM »
+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

Offline hamiltont

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2009, 07:11:45 PM »
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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Offline 1vertical

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2009, 07:16:23 PM »
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
I have learned that good evaporation rates really help reduce DMS.  I had that show up in a beer once....ewwww...
Just sayin..
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Offline slimsparty

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2009, 08:07:37 AM »
Go Big.  I count myslef lucky that I started supersizing after I had my 5 gallon pot and basic kit.  I had a feeling that I'd want to get to 10gal so I planned accordingly.

Like the others said-It's not like big pots are incompatible with 5 gallon boils.  I did 2 keggles with basic weldless valves and 1/2" Copper T Manifolds for about $110. 

But like a lot of us, I do like my tinkering time.

Offline onebarrel

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2009, 08:24:00 PM »
Bigger is always better... it just takes a bit more planning and slightly more time.

If I don't feel like lugging my big system out (cast out = 45gals) I do a slightly smaller batch with
a single converted keg which nets me 3 carboys at 1045.

How I do this quickly (6 hrs including cleanup) is usually skipping the sparge and maxing out the mash
tun (13gals) with 31-33lbs of grain. I usually do a 50 min mash and a 70 min boil. I do a concentrated boil
and top all the way up with water at knockout.
When I chill and transfer to fermentors I usually add 3/4 gallon of water to each fermentor to put me back
to 15 gallons (losses to heat expansion and trub)

With this method my efficiency is crap but I cut down my water useage, my propane useage, and maybe
one hour out of the brew day - for me it's all about maximum reward for the amount of time spent away from
the family.

At this point I could not see making only one carboy of beer unless that was my starter  :)

Offline wilypig

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Re: Brew Kettles - Appropriate Size
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2009, 09:03:01 AM »
For me I would go with the 15 - I do the same amount of work for 10 gallons that I did for 5 so I can brew less often and listen to the wife complain about my brewing less often. I retain my variety by never brewing the same thing. I can also get variety by spicing or fruit additions. this is especially helpful in the spring when I make 2 ten gallon batches of wheat beer. I get 4 beers for the work of 1 day with enough to keep everyone happy on a hot summer day.
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