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I have been brewing in my kitchen using a giant stockpot.

My brother (my brewing partner) was thinking about picking up propane top and moving it outside. I think that it would be better to use an induction cooktop instead. He had heard from someone however that induction wasn't good for brewing, but we have no evidence of this.

Are there any opinions on using induction cooktops for brewing?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've actually been thinking about getting one myself since I too currently use my electric range. It would be nice to have the super fast boil times of gas but the even heating of electric, not to mention you can brew indoors.

I think the major concern would be in controlling the temperature. I've seen some induction burners with only 1 or 2 heat settings (basically a hot plate), while I've seen others with a lot more control. One with less control might be more difficult if you need to hold the water at a certain temp since you'd have to just be turning it on and off to regulate the temperature. However, for this same reason it would be a lot easier to automate than a propane burner if that lies in your future.

EDIT: Brewchez is correct, that the results of this test could be misleading, so I removed it. For instance they were using a gas stove-top rather than a propane turkey fryer, which would definitely have provided different boil times.

After looking around a bit however, I did find something written by a guy who actually brews with induction which might provide you with some insight:

Yes they work with SOME stainless steel pots, not most though. We bought our first unit at a cooking store and paid ~$200. Of course then we had to buy some more cookware as my favorite SS pots weren't ferrous enough. We hunted a long time for a pasta pot that wasn't $$$$$. We used to go to kitchen stores and grab a fridge magnet to check the pots with. I've learned where to go now for pots that are relatively inexpensive.

One day we were in our local Target store and were checking out the clearance sections at the ends of the aisles and we saw two induction cookers for $35 each. Needless to say they both immediately went into our cart. One nice feature is that they are extremely portable. All you need is a 110 V outlet. It is nice in the summer to cook outside and not heat up the house. Particularly for things like boiling pasta. They are a blast to cook with. It is very similar to gas. Instant heat when you want it and instantly off when you want it. Extremely uniform heating in the bottom of the pot. They do draw a fair bit of power. You can't operate it on the same circuit as a microwave (in use) of a airconditioner.

Now my units don't have enough power to boil 6.5 gal. of wort. I use propane for that. I use one two heat my mash tun, and one to heat my hot liqour pot. They work fabulously for this. Step mashes are a breeze. I use the aluminized bubble wrap for insulation and do not have to worry about melting it. It is a very uniform heating so scorching is a non issue.

It looks like he couldn't boil 6 gallons, but if you read on he's also using a 1400 watt unit. If you do decide to go with induction, just remember, the more wattage, the faster it can boil water, so I would try to get one that can get up to 3000 watts or so at least.

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Thanks Room3, I'm thinking that I'll buy a higher grade one with enough power to boil the 5+ gallons. –  Nathan Koop Jun 14 '10 at 18:30
    
I think those values will vary equipment to equipment and makes that linked post somewhat misleading. Gas burners and coils come in different sizes and efficiencies. And boiling rate is dependent upon pot geometry. I would take those #s with a grain of salt. My propane burner can bring a gallon of water to a boil in well under 5 minutes. –  brewchez Jun 15 '10 at 12:16
    
Brewchez is definitely right, a stove-top gas burner (which is what it looks like they used in the study) will take a lot longer than a propane turkey fryer to bring water to a boil, and the pot size, shape, and material will affect the efficiency. I would still say though that induction would probably cut the brew time dramatically and be competitive with propane when it comes to time savings. Its advantages are being safer, cleaner, running indoors, and cheaper to run than propane, while its disadvantages are having less temperature control (with some burners) and initial cost. –  Room3 Jun 15 '10 at 17:24
    
Thanks for the additional info Room3, I'll hunt for a really big one. The issue may be the power draw –  Nathan Koop Jun 15 '10 at 19:31
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How much will a 3K wattage induction top cost? Seems like you may be able to jump into turkey frying with a couple burners using propane. –  brewchez Jun 16 '10 at 14:09

As long as you can get a good rolling boil with about 8-12% evaporation rate per hour then there is nothing wrong with an induction cooktop. Just my $0.02.

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Thanks Dean, it seems to me that as long as there are no severe hot spots the heat source should be irrelevant. –  Nathan Koop Jun 14 '10 at 16:58

Heat is heat; the source is somewhat meaningless when you first start brewing. The key is that you are happy with how long it takes to get up to a boil, and that you don't scorch wort in the bottom of the pot.

Many brewers move outside with a propane cooker because the propane burner is a bit faster to get things boiling which shortens the brew day. If you are boiling a full batch of wort (5 gallons or more) many standard induction cook tops just can't handle that level of heating in a reasonable period of time.

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I normally agree with you, but induction heat is different. –  Rich Armstrong Jun 15 '10 at 21:20
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Still disagree Rich, post the edits by room3. Standard induction tops may out pace in 1 gallon race, but 6 gallons seems like propane wins. –  brewchez Jun 16 '10 at 14:08

I have done this for my first batch (extract). It is not recommended.

I was using this model, which has a big-looking cooking area, but only actually heats about a four-inch circle in the middle.

The heat is great. It doesn't heat up your house. It gets 85% efficiency. I calculated the watts to BTU's and it does get the efficiency they claim.

The hot spot on the pot scorched the wort right above it, then somehow let liquid wort under the scorch, so my wort was filled with little sheets of burnt wort. The beer turned out okay, but this is obviously not an ideal heat source for wort. I tested it against my gas stove and it wasn't anywhere near as fast.

I will use it for heating strike water, especially in summer.

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If you're using a pot designed for the induction plate, they often have a pure iron "plug" embedded in the center of the bottom of the pot. As you said, this leaves you with a hot-spot and makes it not suitable for a wort boil. But if you were using a regular iron pot then the entire bottom of it -ought- to heat up evenly, rather than just in the center. As I asked in my answer, I wonder if anyone knows if using an iron pot would otherwise adversely affect the wort... –  KO Jun 20 '10 at 0:46

Rich mentioned induction heat is different, but No. Induction heat isn't different, it's just a precisely placed (and consequently sometimes too hot) heat. What's different is that for the pot to react to the induction field it has to have a high percentage of ferritic iron in the metal alloy. A high-nickel, high-chromium stainless pot is strong and shiny, but wouldn't react well with an induction field because of the low iron content in the metal alloy.

However, that leads me to another question - would a high content of bare iron or iron oxide on the inside surface of the pot cause an unwanted reaction in the wort? I think it would. My guess is that is would leave a distinct metallic taste in the final beer, if not also killing the yeast off too soon.

I plan to keep my eye out for mentions of the effect of bare iron on a cooking wort, since I don't remember seeing it ever mentioned in what I've read recently. If anyone knows the answer to this, please speak up. Though I have to think there's a pretty good reason why kettles are usually always copper. (Yes, I know it's a good conductor of heat - but I'm betting copper is also non-reactive to a boiling wort where iron is more reactive and leaves traces in the resultant liquids.)

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What if you put the bare iron under the boil pot, between it and the induction coil? –  Dustin Rasener Feb 24 '11 at 23:00

I brew with totally an induction system. 3 1500W cooktops, burton. One takes care of my HLT, the other 2 are on my 24 Gallon boilpot. It takes approx 1 hour to get to a 12 gallon full boil using the 2 cooktops. Better is the cost, at $0.08/KWh, I spend all of $0.48 for the one hour to get to a boil and the 1 hour boil. Not getting there with propane.

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Thanks for the real world experience. I also love the big volumes that you are doing. thanks again –  Nathan Koop Feb 1 '11 at 20:42

I've brewed about 10 all-grain batches on my induction cooktop, and have found it to be vastly superior to anything else I've used. These things are made to boil water quickly, and they do. I've seen several types of induction cooktops, and all of them had plenty of temperature settings (like 30). Of course they're very efficient, but another big pro is you can actually wrap a blanket or something around your mash tun to heat it faster and keep it at temp during the rest phase. No, they don't work on aluminum, but if you're looking for the ultimate setup, why use that anyway?

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I have been following induction brewing for a while. At one point, where I lived I could only do electric (I now have a big gas stove, but I do have to compete for the kitchen space still). So I will share what I know..

Induction boil times and boil capacity is determined by the wattage of the Induction plate. Just like gas is for BTU, or resistive-electric (traditional) stoves and wattage. Wattage for induction electric does not equate to wattage for resistive electric stoves, either.

The highest power anything you can plug into a kitchen 20A 120V circuit is 2000W. 2000w portable induction plates are very rare in the USA. (They're more common in countries where energy prices are higher, which forces people to buy energy efficient appliances).

There are also premium induction stoves or built-ins for the kitchen, which use 240V. Expect to pay an extra $1000 for such a stove. However it may be worth it if you value the conservation value or faster boil times. (If you don't, it will take a long time to pay for itself in energy savings, but eventually it will...).

It looks like you can find 2000W portable induction plates for $200-$400. Pricey, but they are not things you can find at Target or Walmart. Using a smaller induction plate like 1300W will get you results like some have posted here. I would love to hear from someone who uses a 2000W portable or a built-in model....

The other option for electric brewing is a DIY brewing rig, using 120V heating elements, or 2 120V heating elements (on separate 120V circuits!), or 240V electric if you are so lucky to have that option.

Here is a nice build of a single-120V element brewing system, from Brew Your Own magazine: http://www.byo.com/stories/issue/article/issues/266-november-2009/1987-countertop-brewing-system I have been considering building this with 2 120V elements (just unplugging one once the roiling boil kicks in).

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I have only brewed a couple malt extract batches using my built in induction cooktop. But I have to say that I love it and don't think I will ever switch to another method again. My cooktop has a 10" 3400 watt burner and during a recent brew day I was honestly concerned that I was bringing my wort to a boil too fast. My concern was primarily that I wasn't steeping the grain long enough.

I did do a lot of research regarding the pots and pans that I needed to be compatible with my cooktop before it was installed. You just need to make sure that your pans are induction ready. The premium brand is All-Clad but I have had no issues with my Cuisinart set. Though I actually used a different 12 qt stock pot that I bought years ago from Wal Mart. It has a triply "disk" attached to the bottom of the pot that makes it compatible.

I made three different batches during this recent brew day and from start to finish it took me about 4.5 hours using just the one pot and my induction cooktop.

My cooktop is the Frigidaire FPCC3685KS. This cooktop gives me fantasitic control over the temp and certainly brought my wort to a boil very fast. I will probably be looking for a larger pot soon to make larger batches.

We got a fantastic deal buying this from a scrath and dent appliance retailer. Probably paid half or less than what the Frigidaire website lists as the MSRP.

I would strongly recommend using induction if you have the chance. I bet you will never go back.

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