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So I am looking into upgrading the gear I use to do a boil. Currently I have a 5 gallon stainless steal pot, I use an electric range to heat the water, and my kitchen sink to cool down the wort. It works, but I have had problems with my wort boiling over lately. I have tried putting less water in for the boil, then top up in the fermenter later, but this has lead to some scorching. Not to mention that fact it takes quite a while to get the wort to a boil and even longer to cool it off. The obvious answer is to upgrade my gear.

I know very little about boiling setups. It seems propane is a popular choice, but anything that can boil water quickly and keep an even, controllable temperate I will consider. Also, what should I look for in a brew pot? Are cooling coils for the wort worth it? Amazon has some good deals, but I wouldn't mind giving a specialty home brew site my business either. I would like to keep it under $150.

Update

Thanks for all of the feedback. Amazon had a great combo deal with a propane burner, 8 gallon stainless pot, and wort chiller for $150. However, the shipping put it over $225. So I went with a 10 gal pot (same brand just bigger and no shipping fee for the same price) and a Bayou burner. I will get the wort chiller some other time. I decided it was better to get some good quality gear, rather than go for lesser quality pieces that I know I will replace in short order.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've been contemplating this myself recently. I've looked into induction hotplates, but I've found that they're too expensive for my blood. Here's what's on my list right now:

Just grab a turkey fryer from Walmart that comes with a 7 gallon kettle ($60). Sure it's aluminum, but that makes it significantly cheaper. I've been using aluminum so far with no ill affects (but that's a topic for another thread :) ). If the fryer doesn't heat evenly enough, just put a cast iron griddle or something similar under the pot to distribute the heat.

Then I would make a insulating jacket for the pot using some foil insulation from Lowes ($15). Those aluminum pots lose heat almost as quick as they get it. Just be sure to keep the insulation an inch or two above the bottom, we wouldn't want it to catch on fire.

Lastly, I would make my own cheap-and-dirty wort chiller (which I've done before). You can grab 20' of 3/8" copper tubing from Lowes ($25) to start off. You're also going to need a connector on one end to thread a hose onto. You can solder one on or just find the right combo of connectors to screw one on (that's how I did mine, just remember to use Teflon tape). On the "exit end" of the chiller I just make sure the tube is clear of the water and have it spray out on the deck/driveway/wherever you're chilling. If you're chilling indoors you could just fit some plastic tubing over the end and return the water to your sink. I think all-in-all mine cost around $30-$35 to make.

That comes in at around $110 (plus the cost of propane) and should definitely be an improvement on your setup.

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I've been using a 10 gal aluminum brew kettle for 12 years with no problems, and you're right - they are much cheaper (mine was about $50 from a restaurant supply store) –  Germ Jul 1 '10 at 23:26

I'm setting up a system to allow me to do all grain, haven't started yet. I am building my own wort chiller, and decided that it would be pretty wasteful just to use tap water to cool the wort, as it would use hundreds of litres of fresh drinking water!

So I came up with the idea of recycling the cooling water through an ice bath. I have done some calculations based on the latent heat of the melting of ice, and figured out that 5 kg of ice (one bag of party ice in Australia) has the ability to cool a 22L wort by about 75 degrees C. When you add on the heat capacity of the water in the ice bath, reaching a good pitching temp should be very possible with only 1 bag of ice and 10-15L of tap water.

My design for the wort chiller is pretty similar to what other have been outlining, except that I incorporate a submersible pump (the type you would use for a water feature in the garden) and an esky filled with ice water. All you need to do is attach a PVC tube from your pump to the chiller, then have the outflow from the chiller feed back into the esky. The ice will continually melt, keeping the water around 0 degrees.

I have picked up a pump for $25 from my local garden store. Apart from saving water, this should also chill the wort quicker as it is using colder water.

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I use a 8.5 gallon enamel canning kettle ($46) from Amazon, and a copper immersion chiller from MoreBeer ($60) (it probably would have been cheaper to build the chiller myself). I added a prechiller by splicing a short length of soft copper coil into the vinyl tubing with hose clamps and dunking that into a sinkful of icewater. Once you can do full boils and chill rapidly, you can do all grain batches if you insulate your bottling bucket (mash tun) and use your old kettle (hot liquor tank).

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One thing to consider would be a turkey deep-fryer kit. Something like http://bayouclassicdepot.com/turkey_fryer_kit.htm. This should allow you do to a full 5 gal boil without any problems.

This was my first brew-kettle setup, and it worked great. I eventually upgraded to a fancy stainless kettle, but I'm still happily using the burner.

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Bad news:
I doubt you can do the whole shebang for under 150.

According to Northern Brewer, burners range between 50 and 140 bucks, chillers range between 60 and 200 bucks. Kettles are going to be a problem. I don't see anything (in the 8-10 gallon range) for less than 150.

I'd suggest going the route I decided on: First, get a chiller. You can use it for your current setup. Second, get a burner. You can use your current pot and chilling system on the new burner. Third, get the bigger pot. Space it out over a couple of months/batches between buys, and you should be able to get it all and not have to cut corners just to match the budget.

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