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Old 11-15-2011, 04:50 PM   #1
jfowler1
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Default 4 Popular Brew Kettles Compared

This thread was inspired by this post...

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/32-q...atches-280240/

A question in that thread about kettle selection for 5 gallon batches prompted this post. Maybe this will give someone in a similar position something to think about.

I have been brewing 5 gallon batches on an undersized 30 qt aluminum kettle (and undersized 5G coolers for HLT and MLT) for a few years. I decided I wanted to upgrade all of my vessels, and spent a lot of time thinking about which SS kettles to go with. I looked at several options - B3, Megapot, Blichmann, and Polar Ware. HBT has threads for Megapot vs. Blichmann, Polarware vs. B3; it has been done. However, I have never seen someone lay out the +/- of all 4 kettles and really dive into how they made their choice. To try and keep things apples/apples, I will price compare each kettle with a ball valve and where possible, a port (or option) for a thermometer/thermowell. Also, the kettle sizes I was looking for are 10/10/10 (MLT/HLT/BK). IME, 8 gallons is too small for a kettle, and I'll explain why.

(Please give me a minute to get everything posted)

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Old 11-15-2011, 04:51 PM   #2
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Default B3

B3

Heavy Duty Brew Kettle - With Ball Valve (32 Quart/8 Gallon) | MoreBeer

32 Qt – $159.95 13H x 15W

60 Qt – $239.95 15H x 19W

Pro’s – Good price, Welded fittings

Con’s – Sizing didn’t work for me

I’ll start by saying the B3 kettle with 2 welded fittings is a great deal. I am pretty certain the kettle itself is sourced from the BrewRite line by Polar Ware (Stainless Steel Brew Pots ). Again, I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure this is also the same pot you will see sold under the Megapot product line at Northern Brewer. Several reviews of the Megapot mention the bottom is stamped “Polar Ware”. The obvious difference is that B3 features welded fittings - either fabricating the kettles themselves or buying them in a large enough quantity to have the fittings pre-welded by Polar Ware (after all, they are the same exact fittings used on the Polar Ware Kettles). As nice as the price and welded outlets are, I think B3 alienated 5G all grain brewers with their kettle sizing. From experience, 5G batches in a 30 QT (in the B3 case, 32 QT) kettle are do-able but not fun. Let me explain....

I want to collect exactly 5 gallons of clear wort in my kettle at the end of brew day. I opt for a 90 minute boil. I currently boil off 1 qt/ 15 minutes. My current kettle has 3 qts of dead space below the valve, and I understand that the B3 kettles are somewhere around that. So 20 qts finished beer + 6 qts boiled off + 3-4 qts of deadspace is a pre-boil volume of 29-30 qts. Personally, I can not justify an expensive upgrade that is still undersized for my desired batch size.

B3 continued to screw the 5G brewer by skipping the available 40qt kettle and electing to offer the 60 qt kettle as the next size up. On a forum somewhere I think JP mentioned that it was like $30 more for the 60 Qt over the 40 Qt, so B3 decided to just skip to that. I suppose you can opt for the 60 qt and still use them for 5G batches, but the appeal of a low cost disappears....and is there such a thing as an over sized kettle and mash tun? I know people struggle with the 15G Blichmann kettles in a 5G batch because the thermometer is too high for the kettle volume. The argument will quickly come that you can buy a 60qt now, and use it later for 10 gallon batches. However, aren't 10 gallon batches in a 60 qt kettle going to be just as tight as 5 gallon batches in a 30 qt kettle? To back me up, some literature (Blichmann’s website for example) states a 10 gallon batch should use a 20 gallon kettle. I understand that boil off and dead space will not scale linearly, but they still scale. If B3 offered a 10 Gallon kettle, I would have probably jumped at it…but they don’t.

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Old 11-15-2011, 04:53 PM   #3
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Default Megapots

Megapots (Priced from Northern Brewer)

10 Gallon MegaPot - MegaPots - Brew Kettles - Equipment - Brewing : Northern Brewer

10G – Plain Stock Pot - $132.99 13H x 17W

10G - (weldless w/ Ball Valve and Thermometer) - $219.99 13H x 17W

Pro’s – heavy duty, DIY option available

Con’s – weldless (a con to me), shaped like a can of tuna instead of can of soup – doesn’t fit my rig

Mega Pot offers an 8 gallon (just like B3), but I eliminate it for reasons I listed above. Basically, I find it undersized. The plain 10G Mega Pot is a great option for someone who can weld, or is brave enough to drill a hole in their new $130 kettles. I am neither of those things. The weld less option with thermometer puts you in the normal price range, but as odd as this seems, I really wanted welded fittings. Also, the ratio of height to width was a far cry from what I am used to, so I was a little scared the dramatically increased surface area would screw with my boil off and dead space. Also, the 17” width of these kettles didn’t really work with my existing rig. For someone else, the weld less feature and low height may be the two biggest selling points, but for me, they were the deal breakers. On the flip side, for someone who can weld, the stock pot option is a very inexpensive way to get the features of the 10G Polar Ware kettle I will be talking about later but with a kettle shaped more squat than tall.

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Old 11-15-2011, 04:54 PM   #4
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Default Blichmann

Blichmann
Boilermaker Brew Kettle - BoilerMaker Brew Kettles - Brew Kettles - Equipment - Brewing : Northern Brewer

10G – $315.99 (dimensions not listed, roughly 14W x 16.5H)

Pro’s – Everyone loves Blichmann….don’t they? Re-imagined false bottom for mash tun, A height to diameter ratio I am accustomed to (shaped like a can of soup instead of a can of tuna).

Con’s - $$$$, weld-less, limited choices when it comes to options

I know everyone loves Blichmann…but man are they expensive. I know the cost is justified by Blichmann when you price out a competitive model (like Polar Ware) with the added sight glass and thermometer, and 3 piece ball valve upgrade….but what if you didn’t want those options.

I personally don’t want a sight glass. I see it as a fail point; something extra to break or clean. I can see into all of my vessels, and I think a notched stick works just as well at checking volumes as a sight glass. A sight glass in my mash tun or boil kettle just seem odd to me. I also don’t need a three piece ball valve. I had one on my old kettle, and I’ll give you 1 guess as to how many times I took it apart (If you guessed zero, you would be right.) The thermometer is nice, but what if I wanted so sub out a thermowell for a HERMS system? That multi-angle thermometer retails for about $75 – that is an awfully expensive door stop. Again, I dislike that they are weld less. Several reviews talk about the weldless feature resulting in scratching the hell out of the kettle every time you reinstall the valve. I am sure these are nice kettles, but passing on them saved me almost $300.

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Old 11-15-2011, 04:55 PM   #5
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Default Polar Ware

Polar Ware

42 QUART BREW POT WITH 1/2" VALVE @ Williams Brewing

10G with BV – $232.90 – 16H x 15W

Pro’s – Welded fittings, available without add-ons, my preferred kettle shape

Con’s - $$$

So I chose to order 3) 10G Polar Ware kettles from Williams Brewing. I basically chose them because they met criteria for me that the other kettles didn’t. First, they came with welded fittings – for me that was huge. The bottom fitting is ½” male thread, and the kit includes a 2 PC stainless Full Port ball valve to screw onto that fitting. That bottom fitting also has an inner ½ female thread, which would accept a boil/mash screen. It also comes with a ½ female threaded (plugged) port above the ball valve for an added thermometer or thermowell should you choose. This is the same welded set-up that B3 uses for their kettles. You can even add a sight glass, but the price then matches the Blichmann kettle. No sight glasses for me.

They are also shaped like the Blichmann kettles (taller than they are wide) which fit seamlessly to my existing system. Finally, they shipped the day I ordered them from Williams Brewing, rather than drop shipping from Blichmann in 2-3 weeks…not super important, but nice.

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Old 11-15-2011, 04:56 PM   #6
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Default In conclusion....

That’s it – I went with the Polar Ware Kettles and I am really happy with my purchase. I’ve never seen a comparison quite like this for the popular 5 gallon systems, so I hope it helps.

Joe

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Old 11-15-2011, 05:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfowler1 View Post
However, aren't 10 gallon batches in a 60 qt kettle going to be just as tight as 5 gallon batches in a 30 qt kettle?
I haven't found that to be the case, I have both a 10 gallon kettle and a 15.5 gallon keggle. For your statement to be true, you have to assume that the boiloff rate per hour would be twice at much for 10 gallons as it would be for 5. That hasn't been my experience. While a 10 gallon batch may boil off more hour than a 5 gallon batch, it's not significantly more.

Good review, btw.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:20 PM   #8
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Let me add:

Bayou Classic 44 QT Stainless Steel ($87.99 WITH optional basket...about $102.00 shipped) 15" W x 19" H
AKA Barbour International 44 QT Stainless Steel

11 Gallons with optional Stainless Steel Basket for BIAB

PROs: Taller, less diameter shape = lower boil-off, lower starting volumes. Price, much cheaper than other quality pots this size. Optional SS Basket is PERFECT for BIAB, sitting 3" above the bottom and providing a perfect way to drain the bag.

CONs: Thinner walls than most pots. Some have reported this leads to denting, though I have never dented mine in 4+ months, 10-11 batches of use.

If you are looking to BIAB, I believe this is one of the best options for 5-7 gallon batches. The pot itself is lower gauge (304 gauge) Stainless Steel than the MegaPots, PolarWare, and Blichmann, but I find that it is VERY sturdy, and the lack of a "tri-layer" bottom is actually a plus, as the pot heats faster to mashing and boiling temps, and cools more quickly to pitching temps than higher gauge SS does. Uneven temps is nto an issue at a rolling boil or when mashing in/mashing out (due to stirring), which are the times when it would be most critical. The thinner pot also makes it much faster and easier to install a ball valve. I did my first one in about 10 minutes. A weldless bulkhead, three-piece ball valve, and pickup tube cost me about $35.00 from Bargain Fittings.

The real beauty of this pot is the optional SS basket, which makes it ideal for BIAB batches. The SS basket has ample holes to allow the wort to flow freely though it. It is shaped to naturally sit 3" above the bottom of the pot, so no chance of scortching your bag or grains. The 3" space below the basket can also accomodate valves, pickup tubes, and even a heating element without it ever coming in contact with your grain and grain bag. On brew day, I just line the SS basket with a 5 gallon paint strainer bag, which fits perfectly, then mash into the basket. Once the mash is complete, draining the bag is as easy as pulling everything out by the SS basket's handle. I then put the entire basket over a ferm bucket to drip, then sqeeze the bag by pressing down on it with a smaller cooking pot lid. With this method I can squeeze pretty much all of the viable wort out of the grains in less than 5 minutes without having to manually suspend the bag.

Anyway, just wanted to provide an alternate pot review for you guys looking to get into AG through BIAB!!

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Old 11-15-2011, 06:29 PM   #9
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Yeah, I have the 62Qt Bayou Classic and love it. I'm sure the Polarware kettles are very nice, but double the cost nice? Hard to imagine.

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Old 11-15-2011, 07:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartan1979 View Post
I haven't found that to be the case, I have both a 10 gallon kettle and a 15.5 gallon keggle. For your statement to be true, you have to assume that the boiloff rate per hour would be twice at much for 10 gallons as it would be for 5. That hasn't been my experience. While a 10 gallon batch may boil off more hour than a 5 gallon batch, it's not significantly more.
My friend started doing 10 gallon batches in a 15 gallon pot, and he does it with success. There is a lot more room in his 10 gallon full volume boil in a 60 qt pot than there is for my 5 gallon batch in a 30 qt pot...but I still wouldn't turn my back on it when it gets started. I would call it more than do-able, but maybe not ideal.

And good adder on the Bayou Classic review. I left out Bayou Classic as well as converted kettles only because of their DIY nature - and my desire to avoid DIY this time. But for someone else, they could be perfect.
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