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I'm currently brewing in the limbo between extract and all grain. I plan to each batch (about 2 or 3 batches a year for me) buy a significant piece of equipment to get me closer to all-grain.

I still need a good propane burner, a full-size brew kettle, and the cooler-setup for my setup, but I'm not sure in which order to buy them, and since I haven't won the lottery, I can't buy it all in one go.

What would be a smart way to upgrade these 3 pieces of equipment?

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How big is your current kettle? What kinds of beers are you most interested in brewing? –  Brandon Dec 1 '10 at 18:31
    
@Brandon, I make ales with a 4 gallon kettle. I typically brew British and Belgian beers. –  Pulsehead Dec 1 '10 at 19:02
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I think you should check out this post here on Improving your brewing significantly.

FWIW, IMO:
Full size Brew Pot
Burner
Temp Contol
Yeast starters
Cooler

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If you buy the cooler (mash tun) first, you can start smaller-batches of all grain now.

If you buy the full-size kettle now, you can use it right away in your existing batches even if you don't do a full boil.

If you get your burner now, well, you can use it right away, I suppose.

You can also probably find both the kettle and burner for a cheaper price. I bought a large (10 gallon, stainless steel) turkey fryer combo at Sam's Club a number of years ago for less than a hundred bucks.

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I would say that you would get immediate use out of the burner and would probably invest in that first. You will need an 8+ gallon pot for all grain and this may be too big to use effectively on your stove but would be a good investment after the burner.

The cooler would be the last piece of the puzzle. Although you should keep your eye open for close out or clearance items that you can pick up cheap when they are out of season. You can always add the bulk head fittings and manifold at a later date.

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Also, a lot of lp turkey fryers come bundled with very large (32 qt or 8 gal) stainless kettles. I've seen some pretty good deals on them($140):amazon.com/Bayou-Classic-9195-32-Quart-Stainless-Steel/dp/… –  Room3 Dec 1 '10 at 19:26
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I'd say get the brew kettle. You can use it on your stove (I hardly ever use the propane burner). You can't do partial boils going all grain, so you'd have to do little batches, which is annoying since all-grain takes a bit longer.

Also, it's just after thanksgiving, I bet you could find a good deal on a turkey fryer, they come with both the brew kettle and burner. I got mine for $60 at home depot and it wasn't even on sale. Aluminum is fine for a kettle.

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I'm with PMV on this one. If you have enough heat with your current setup, you can bump up batch size immediately. If not, you'll have to wait for the burner. Generally, though, if you had sufficient equipment for full-size batches, I'd recommend a mash tun, since that gives you infinite more options for flavor and complexity, and makes brewing much more of a science. –  Brandon Dec 1 '10 at 19:08
    
My 8 gallon plumbed kettle holds a solid boil on my Frigidaire stove. The big burner is 18,000 BTU. If I was unhappy with it, I could squeeze a bit more efficiency out if it with some sort of heat shield to keep it from losing heat around the sides (read:foil). But I don't intend to buy a propane burner unless I move. –  Rich Armstrong Dec 1 '10 at 21:45
    
I think the turkey fryer is a great idea. I may just have to pick one up myself. –  D J Dec 2 '10 at 5:03
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