Author Topic: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?  (Read 5996 times)

Offline beerrat

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Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« on: December 22, 2010, 07:22:25 AM »
Can anyone can cite a source, or even from personal experience if boiling wort in a copper vs stainless steel vs aluminum brew pot impacts final taste of a beer.  I'm thinking if any, maybe lagers could be impacted.

I'm interested in historical brewing, specifically 1890-1910,  and from what I understand, boil kettles were made of copper then.

Wondering if I need a copper kettle to replicate taste. I have a stainless one now. 


Offline oscarvan

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2010, 07:37:02 AM »
AFAIK Kettles in most micro breweries are still copper. Although not a brewer, my chemist dad says it helps to bind sulfites. But mostly copper is valued for it's heat conductivity properties, ie, the heat spreads out nicely instead of concentrating anywhere which can cause scorching. Aluminum has similar properties, and many people use it to brew. Stainless tends to be less optimum in this regard which is why extract recipes make you turn off the heat when adding things.

The reason they used copper "back then" is because they had two choices, copper or iron and I do believe iron is not conducive to tasty brewing.

I have been using copper for my extract brews, and they taste great. Going all grain I will have to use a converted keg though as finding a 10+G copper kettle would obliterate the budget.
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Offline hokerer

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2010, 07:48:54 AM »
Stainless tends to be less optimum in this regard which is why extract recipes make you turn off the heat when adding things.

It's not just stainless, to be safe, you want to kill the heat as you're adding the extract regardless of your kettle material.
Joe

Offline oscarvan

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2010, 08:05:43 AM »
Understood, I do.
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Online hopfenundmalz

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2010, 08:16:31 AM »
A little copper in the wort is a micronutrient for the yeast.

You can brew in stainless, copper of aluminum pots.  Cantillon has an iron brew kettle, so I have seen one that does not follow the rules.

Not all microbreweries us copper kettles.  Some do.  Many are stainless.  If you ever go to the New Glarus Hilltop brewery they have a gleaming copper brewhouse.  If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.   
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Offline oscarvan

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2010, 08:59:03 AM »
Quote
If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.

Fooled again....... :-\
Wooden Shoe Brew Works (not a commercial operation) Bethlehem, PA
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Offline beerrat

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2010, 09:27:15 AM »
Thanks for the replies.  I understand the history and why copper used - interested in the taste aspect.

I'm wondering if it makes a taste difference in final beer - either from personal experience, or able to cite any reference as I have found none.

If there is a difference, I may be able to get same effect by placing my copper immersion chiller  in the kettle with the wort before boil.

I'll do a small batch experiment with and without copper to see.

Offline tumarkin

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2010, 09:33:50 AM »
probably hard to prove, you'd have to brew the exact recipe with everything the same except the 2 kettles (and have them as close as possible other than the metal type). lots of good beer is brewed without copper. copper provides the yeast with additional nutrients, but you can have a healthy fermentation without use of copper. anything you can do to make your yeasties happy (well, not including a high ferm temp, though they certainly like that ..... party time!) makes for better beer. you could always use some copper tubing in your kettle to provide the yeast with a taste of copper.
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Offline kerneldustjacket

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2010, 10:22:56 AM »
Copper is used in stills to help remove sulfer based compounds...or so I've heard...I've never engaged in distilling...I really only know how to do it in theory.

But I'd have doubts that any such effect occurs with a wort boil in copper.

As others have pointed out, trace copper is helpful to yeast, but some sources say malt has trace amounts of copper in it...but how much "trace" is enough?
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Offline denny

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2010, 10:24:10 AM »
My guess is that the use of copper in traditional boiling vessels came about pretty much for reasons...it worked, and obviously SS wasn't an option back then.
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Online hopfenundmalz

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2010, 10:42:24 AM »
Quote
If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.

Fooled again....... :-\

You will find smaller systems that are copper on the inside.  Some of the ones in Europe are probably copper.  You have to look to be sure.
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Offline euge

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2010, 11:21:03 AM »
So for the copper to benefit the wort how much should there be? My pick-up tube is copper. And so is my IC- though I generally put that in at flameout.

How long should the exposure/contact be and will a minimal amount suffice? I think someone posted in another similar thread that they toss a copper penny into the boil.
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Online Kaiser

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2010, 11:24:30 AM »
I have a copper immersion chiller that I boil in the wort for the last 15 min. I think using a copper kettle would be similar to that. It would be interesting to brew a beer w/ and w/o this chiller in the wort. 

Copper was popular because it was easily formed into kettles. These days it only serves as decorative cover over SS brewing equipment. Mostly because SS is cheaper and is more easily cleaned than copper.

Kai

Offline beerrat

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2010, 03:31:36 PM »
Thanks everyone!

Kai - thanks for the info, and thanks for a fine history of German brewing on your  web site.  I'm finding this very helpful in my research as the brewers that I am trying to replicate (Robinon's, Scranton, PA) trained in Worms Bavaria around 1860-1870. They came back to Scranton and build a "state of the art" brewery in 1876. 

For my historic brew, I'll keep the immersion chiller in the pot for bout 30 minute before end of boil to help replicate a copper kettle when using my my stainless brew pot.

I'll be posting more question/updates on this research project, already have a lot of question on replicating ingredients and methods.  May need a historic brewing section of this forum. ;-)

Offline tubercle

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Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2010, 05:37:53 PM »
Throw a piece of 1/2 copper tubing about 1" long in the brew pot. It makes a great boil chip but rattles like hell.
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