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I've been brewing with extracts and specialty grains for two years now, and I want to step up to all-grain brewing. From what I understand, it's important to get a full boil when brewing all-grain and electric heating elements don't suffice to achieve this. Propane burners are preferred. However, I live in a loft apartment, and so propane burners are not an option for me. (I shudder to think about what could happen if I have a leaky propane tank.)

So my question is this: How does one brew all-grain recipes indoors?

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Where did you hear that electric elements don't suffice? Do you mean electric stoves don't suffice? –  sgwill Nov 24 '10 at 18:16
    
Yes, I meant the electric elements on stoves. I only boil about 2.5 gallons when I brew, and I just barely get it to a boil. –  Bill Nov 24 '10 at 22:08
    
check this out homebrewtalk.com/f39/easy-stovetop-all-grain-brewing-pics-90132 - it's basically stove-top brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) though he doesn't call it that. I've done this though, makes great beer. –  paul Feb 21 at 22:34

12 Answers 12

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I've heard of people using the elements from hot water heaters to make heating wands. A lot of people who make their own computer controlled breweries use these because they actually get more temperature control than propane gives them. They're pretty cheap to make too.

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I currently brew indoors with a fully electrical system. I used a hot water heater element (like that shown above) installed into my kettle to achieve boil. It is a 240V 5500W element and I have a hard time NOT boiling the wort right out of the kettle. In my opinion electric is the way to go, it just takes a little engineering to get working correctly. Heres a link to the equipment I used: spreadsheets.google.com/… –  KRock Nov 24 '10 at 20:35
    
Those look kind of bad ass. What are the chances that I burn down my entire block with these things? –  Bill Nov 24 '10 at 22:33
    
I brew in the garage with a ventilation fan above my boil kettle that vents into the attic, right next to my gable vent. I still usually brew with the garage door open, and a large fan next to the kettle blowing outside. If you're in an apartment, ventilation will be almost as important as heat source. I also have a fully electrical system now, and I cannot stop talking about how awesome it is. It is not cheap, that spreadsheet KRock shows is correct, cost me about $500 as well. I also recommend the ULV elements, can survive dry firing. –  Mlusby Feb 9 '11 at 15:19
    
Even though I don't feel this is 'the' answer. It deserves a +1. Those elements do look mean! –  iWeasel Jul 1 '11 at 22:13
    
You can't use these for mashing, can you? Wouldn't these scorch the grain? I have one built to help with a stove-top boil and have been playing around with the idea idea of getting a voltage regulator and possibly use it in the mash. I'm just trying to figure out how to do it without scorching the grain and not buying another pot/kettle. –  Chris Dargis Feb 20 at 15:19

You can use an electric stove. The boiling point of wort isn't much higher than water (give or take a degree depending on gravity). I use one in the winter, it just takes a bit longer to get the boil started.

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I was doing this for a while in the winter and it is do-able. It takes a while longer to get the boil going though. –  dzachareas Nov 24 '10 at 17:15

I have heard of people using the electric turkey fryers as a brew kettle. I have searched an they do make 7 gallon models that would hold enough wort to brew 5 gallon batches.

Here is a link http://www.turkey-fryers.com/MB_20010406_turkey_fryer_kits.htm

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This is interesting. I'll keep this in mind for the future. Thanks! –  Bill Nov 24 '10 at 22:58
    
These are slow compared to the full 4.5kw+ that you get with water heating elements. –  DougEdey Sep 11 '13 at 12:29

I've had mixed experiences brewing indoors. Depending on the type of stove you have, you might not be able to reach a rolling boil on a full-size batch. You'll might want to look up your stove specs online and check the burner rating. Electric stoves tend to struggle to put out enough heat.

If you're close to reaching a boil, you can also buy an immersion heating element to augment your heat. If you're on an electric stove, you can wrap your kettle in a towel to minimize heat loss through the kettle sides - just be careful.

I recently moved into an apartment, and I have a propane burner that I use on my patio. Would that be an option? Or a friend's place that you can use on a Saturday for the price of a few pints? If so, it's probably your best bet for good heat.

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I have no porch or patio, but I do have roof access. I'm not interested in exploring the roof as an option, and generally feel lazy about lugging equipment from site to site. –  Bill Nov 24 '10 at 23:00
    
Bummer...looks like you'll be brewing on two stove burners. Read up on dimethyl sulfate, and decide if you want to try an immersion element like Room3 suggested. Oddly enough, I actually made the decision that I wouldn't live in a place where I couldn't brew before I moved into my current place. Of course, that isn't much help to you. As a sidenote, make sure you have the chilling equipment and faucets for cooling a full 5+ gallon batch, if you don't already. –  Brandon Nov 25 '10 at 2:17

I've been brewing all-grain indoors for a few years now. It's not as nice as brewing outside, but if it's your only option...

Right now I have a gas burner, but previously I was electric as well. I just placed the kettle across two burners. You end up getting two hot spots instead of one, and the boil looks sort of silly sometimes, but it does the job.

You can also cover the kettle, but you need to be super vigilant for boilovers in that case.

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+1 on putting the kettle across two burners. Like others have said, brewing on an electric range can work but the time to get to a boil can be much longer than with propane. –  RobM Nov 24 '10 at 18:44
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You can cover the kettle until it reaches boiling temp, but don't keep it covered during the boil. You'll end up with high levels of DMS if you boil covered. –  JackSmith Nov 24 '10 at 19:27
    
@JackSmith DMS? –  Bill Nov 24 '10 at 22:59
    
Sorry - Dimethyl Sulfides. I wanted to link to it but you can add linked text in comments. So... here: homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/DMS –  JackSmith Dec 2 '10 at 15:55
    
I've seen large stockpots that are designed to fit over two stove top burners –  Dave Baghdanov Feb 14 at 23:37

Living in the middle of a city at the moment, so I have to do all my brewing indoors and so far I haven't had many problems. I have a pot that takes 14 litres (3.7 gal) and I usually top it up to make about 16 litres (4.2 gal).

The advantage that I do have is that we recently installed a really nice new induction hob which easily boils 14 litres fast and seems to be pretty efficient.

We live on the top floor of an apartment block and I just open up the windows, turn on the extraction fan and brew away ...

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Induction hobs are cool! Closest electric gets to gas. We can even stir fry a wok on our booster setting. –  iWeasel Jul 1 '11 at 13:45
    
It was a revelation to me! I didn't even know about them a year ago. The best thing is that you turn them off and they are almost immediately cool enough to touch. –  Poshpaws Jul 1 '11 at 13:51

I brew in a shed, technically indoors, but I could just as easily brew indoors if the 'war office' would let me. I use a Brupak electric boiler. It gives a good rolling boil and doesn't go all floppy when it's hot. It has a 2kW element holds 29 litres and is not much bigger than a 5 gallon bucket.

Brupaks BoilerInside the Brupaks boiler

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I was looking at one of these on a brew shop website. Would you recommmend them? One commentator complained about a lack of fine control on the thermostat meaning that you can't always get the boil you want. Can you use it a mash tun? –  Poshpaws Jul 1 '11 at 14:42
    
I would recommend it, yes, but I have nothing to compare it with as this is the first electric boiler I have bought. I don't think it is suitable as a mash tun as the thermostat is quite course - I use a ~30l cool box for a MT. Although the thermostat is course, the only boil I want is a rolling one, so I just leave it on MAX. The only caution is adding sugars or extracts. I recently made an extract Barley Wine, adding thick extract will cause it to cut-out (by design) as the liquid fills the recess causing an overheat. Sugars and extracts need 'thinning' in hot water first. –  iWeasel Jul 1 '11 at 15:09

I've always brewed indoors on my electric stove. I may have a more powerful stove than most though because I routinely boil 6+ gallons with little issue. I haven't needed to straddle the element either (though the pot is so big it sometimes does balance on another one).

The one downside to brewing indoors is that my wife doesn't like the smell of boiling wort (I love it though). You have to have air flow (no extraction fan for me) so I open up the two windows right beside my stove and some others in the house.

I would like to get an induction hob (I'm jealous of @Poshpaws) and a vent.

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theelectricbrewery.com details a full build of an electric brewery, including mounting the elements securely, safely and firmly in the kettles through the kettle wall and designing the control panel.

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I brew indoors only (20l / 5 gallon batches). It worked with a glass-ceramic stove top and with a gas powered stove. A lid helps to get to boiling temperatures. Usually my tamales cooker is not that full that I need to worry about spills during boiling.

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I am going all electric after making 10 gallon batches on my stove. As far as boil overs go, use boil over solution from most brewing companies. I can boil boil 9 gallons in my ten gallon pot with no worries - a couple squirts and I am good to go

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of course, the alternative is to simply use a bigger pot. –  mdma Feb 20 at 10:08

Brew batches smaller than 5- or 5.5-gallons. Accounting for evaporation and loss to hops/trub in the boil kettle, you have to start with a boil volume of at least 6- to 6.5 gallons for a five-gallon batch. That is pretty hard to boil indoors, especially on an electric element.

On the other hand, I can fairly easily boil 3.5 gallons for a 2.5 gallon batch on the kitchen stove in my "starter kettle".

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