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When A Pot Is Not Just A Pot

Posted by zVulture on 9/03/2015 at 09:57:18 PM


With a short break from the dunkelweizen series as I wait for the latest batch to finish fermentation, my investigations turn to equipment. Moving into a place with more space by the end of the year I wanted to price out a set of equipment. I was hitting limits as far as making higher gravity beers or doing new processes for my experimental brews. So I started digging into the research that is one reason I enjoy this hobby, there is always so much to learn (and subsequently rant about). First I needed to get a pot, that can't be hard to pick right?

The right size is (not) all you need

It should just be simple as moving from my old 5 gallon pot when I was doing extract or partial mash brews to the one I have now at 8 gallons for full mash brews. Yet what I saw as the size I needed changed with the processes I used. Now I have this expensive pot and I am looking to replace it in less than a year! My method of no-sparge brewing suddenly became impossible when trying to brew a Strong Scotch Ale as apparently 7 gallons wasn't enough in one go. And that isn't even the only one as I started looking into parti-gyle brewing.

Planning ahead really is the key to a smooth brew day and equipment which is the most expensive piece is the most important. I only plan on doing 5 gallon batches as I love to brew more often. I find that the 8 gallon is perfect for normal gravity or normal processes but who wants to be normal? So stepping up the game to a 15 gallon pot leaves me with plenty of room to do the max batch of a parti-gyle or dual brew day. Not to mention I can then use my 8 gallon as a second boil pot, Perfect.

Would you like a probe with that?

Well there is more I like in a pot than just having it just by itself. Add in a built in thermometer probe and you can enjoy the convenience of back bending and neck stretching goodness as my burners are on the ground. Not to mention just how it likes to catch on the mash paddle when I am mixing or cooling the wart. Let alone that the stick jutting out makes the BIAB mesh get caught up each time I brew making me worry about a rip. Why is this important again? I think I need to save this research for another time...

A port is (not) just a port

A lot of these pots come with nice NTP connectors and ball valves included. That really does make my life easier just getting the kit like the Northern Brewer's Megapot (my 8 gallon). Easy enough to setup and I can just forget about it as it works so well. Until I have to clean it anyway as we have to pull off all those lovely connectors I got nice and water tight with plumbers tape. And that's just one connector, I haven't even gotten to the thermometer or if I wanted a whirlpool port.

lazy people p0rn material

Step in the tri-clover sanitary connectors to save the day. I saw these at NHC this year and was quite glad to find they are not expensive at all as an addition. Just a few quick turns of a screw and it all comes apart and the seals are sanitary (anti-bacterial). This makes pulling off connectors and valves so much easier so I can then work to clean parts much easier or put on new parts easier for that matter.

Just how much does this all cost?

Note: None of these links are affiliated and are just here for examples and ease of use.

My old 8 gallon Megapot is about $180 bucks for an all inclusive setup. Quite the decent cost for going into all grain brewing really at the time. There are less expensive options like the 8 gal AIH pot that is only $80 though it doesn't come with attachments, with the same setup it's still only about $124 which is damn good for getting into brewing. I don't have experience with this but it does look a little on the thin side. Now jumping up to my target 15 gallon pot is a bit different as I intend to make this thing last for a long time. The initial contenders:

  • $140 14 Gallon Economy Brew Kettle from More Beer (no attachments, ~$200 w/ attachments) [or at AIH]
  • $300 15 gallon BrewBuilt Kettle from AIH
  • $310 15 gallon Megapot from Northern Brewer
  • $430 15 gallon Blichman Boilermaker from Northern Brewer
  • Note: I know there are plenty others but I use these as an initial price point

  • These are the 'usual suspects' as it were for homebrew brands and all quite similar yet the prices were quite up there. None of it came with the Tri-clamp and one even without the thermometer included in the package (not even an add-on option). Well at least we have a price range to look for around $300, excluding the economy kettle, for a good pot so to google, our lord and master, we went! Well the results came up with a new set of competitors:

  • $275 15gal kettle from Brewers Hardware (no attachments)
  • $275 15 gallon ProBoiler from Bru Gear (w/ thermometer, ball valve, two triclamps, internal line markings)
  • $280-Up 15 Gallon Pot from Colorado Brewing Systems (w/ thermometer, ball valve, two triclamps, internal line markings)

  • The Brewers Hardware pot seems like back to the 'cheap' AIH pot that just was a bit flimsy and this one is tall as well so heat retention might be more an issue with the increased surface area. The Bru Gear is quite all inclusive, no customization needed and at a nice price which puts it at top chart for me as I remember seeing the brand at NHC as well. Late to the party and quite lively comes Colorado Brewing Systems. Their site allows me to go in and completely customize the pot that I want! If I am paying near $300 I think getting something I can plan for future use. There were so many options I was getting a bit click happy but it really can be customized to your setup. The only downside? "Current manufacturing lead time is approximately 2-3 weeks" and that doesn't include shipping time.

    Tri-clamps in action!

    Overall I think for the price you can't beat either Bru Gear or Colorado Brewing Systems for heavy duty kettles (tri-clover or not). Though it's hard to turn down a $200 economy kettle at that price savings. There are plenty of manufacturers that have I have missed though and I am welcome to update the list with more. For my purpose as I have time till the move, I think I will build out a custom order to do a Minimal Sparge method and get two pots for this. Using my current as an extra MegaPot for doing parti-gyle or dual batches. Now just think you read an entire blog post just about pots...what next, thermometers???

    Note from Homebrewdad: I think these fancy pots are great.  So far, though, I've been doing fine with an 11 gallon Bayou Classic from Amazon, which goes for around $80.  Of course, it has no valve, no ports, no thermometer, etc.

    Steven, otherwise known as zVulture on reddit or in games, is a homebrewer with two years and counting under the belt. Ambitious enough to think he can work his way up to opening his own brewery but knows he has a lot to learn. Beyond having fun doing experimental homebrewing to such an end, he enjoys learning and using old techniques, useful or not, to make beer. "[We] are only concerned with giving homebrewers accurate information based on our own experience in the hope that they will find the information useful and employ it to make their own homebrewing hobby more fun and rewarding. Because that’s what it’s all about– fun. If you’re stressing over homebrewing, you’re doing something wrong." - Denny Conn

    Tags for this post: pot, kettle, equipment, tri-clover clamp

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    Best bang for buck IMO:

    20 gal Concord for $130 -

    Sightglass/Thermo kit for $44 -

    Bulkhead/Ball Valve/Hose barb for $37 -

    Get fancy with camlock fittings (> triclover) if you want for a few bucks more, grab a hole saw for $10ish and you've got a huge fantastic full-featured pot for ~$215!

    posted by bovineblitz on 9/04/2015 at 10:01:27 AM

    I would like to add that Brewers International has a VERY nice selection of Tri-clad kettles. I personally have the 8 gallon and love it.

    posted by diegodangers on 9/04/2015 at 12:55:25 PM