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Old 10-03-2011, 08:15 PM   #1
cayergeau
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Default Advice on buying equipment

I'm looking to buy some new equipment so that I can stop using the old, rather sketchy stuff that I've been using. I'm in the market for a new brewpot and a new 5 gallon carboy.

Since the beginning, I've been using stuff that I got from my grandparents, but it isn't meant for brewing. I have a pretty big lobster pot that is coated with enamel or something (I know aluminum pots and generally anything that's not stainless steel is a big no-no) and it's extremely unwieldy and starting to get kind of warped due to the fact that I'm assuming it wasn't meant to be heated at such high temps for more than the time it takes to boil lobsters.

Should I be looking for one with a multi-layered bottom? Riveted handles? Stainless steel? How many quarts for when I'm making 5 gallon batches (with no real plans to expand into bigger batches in the future)?

My carboy is either a 6 or 6.5 gallon glass jug that I spotted sitting in a dark corner of my grandparents' basement. It's certainly usable, but the bottom has always been questionable, since it has got some surface cracks that I certainly don't want spreading. I tested it with water before putting beer in it, and have brewed several batches with it so I know the innermost layers of glass are okay. My biggest problem with it however is that since I brew 5 gallon batches in a bigger carboy, the krausen foam doesn't come out of my blow off hose; it just sits on top then settles back in, and the foam crusties are an outrageous hassle to clean out when I'm done.

Seems that most carboys are more or less the same, but does anyone have any advice on brewing in glass vs things such as a "Better Bottle?" I've read up on why plastic isn't advisable for fermenters, but those were generally about buckets.

Sooo, to get to the point, I was looking for some advice on what to look for in buying. I'm not looking to spend a fortune, but I don't want to buy this stuff from my local brew shop, since I believe last time I checked, their stainless steel brewpots were about fifty bucks, and I just found ones online for about ten...

Advice?

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Old 10-03-2011, 08:25 PM   #2
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Get the biggest brew-pot you can afford. You can do a 5-7 gallon boil in a 15-20 gallon pot, but not the reverse. At the very least you want to 8 gallon to do 5 gallon full-volume boil. As are boiling beer vs. boiling lobster...they boil at the same temp

Better bottles are also plastic, and have the same disadvantages as plastic buckets...although I think that whole oxygen permeability thing is a bunch of hooey. Buy some buckets or better bottles and save grandma's carboy for those time when you want to do some extended aging. Then you have more money to buy a bigger pot!

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Old 10-03-2011, 08:26 PM   #3
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A 60 qt pot, stainless or aluminum, is great for 5 gallons and can do 10 if you are careful. Don't waste money on multilayer pots, but riveted handles are worth a few extra bucks.

Nothing says the foam has to come out. The only reason you use a blow-off tube is in case it does.

I've always used brewing buckets. I've never had a problem and they are easy to clean. I just don't trust big glass containers since a pitcher exploded in my face as a child. Lots of people love Better bottles, the plastic used in them is great for brewing. It comes down to personal choice, period.

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Old 10-03-2011, 08:50 PM   #4
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As for the brewpot, when you say that I should get a 5-7 gallon pot, are you talking about actually boiling 5 gallons? Granted I haven't been doing this for very long, but all of the recipes that I've done only required boiling at most two gallons of wort to make a five gallon batch. I'm also concerned that if I buy a huge brewpot I'm going to have a hard time fitting it on the stovetop, since my lobster pot already overlaps onto other burners. Another concern is that if I have to do this process by myself that I may have trouble maneuvering the brewpot. The last batch I brewed was solo, since my brew buddy moved and everyone else kind of flaked out on me...

Also, the reason I want the foam to come out is because I've read that it's mostly composed of things that contribute to hangovers and the like. I'm sure that this is not a large effect, but I sure wouldn't mind getting rid of any and all hangover makings that I could.

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Old 10-03-2011, 09:29 PM   #5
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Regarding the brew pot, it looks like you are brewing extract or partial mash recipes. If you plan to brew all grain, something between 10 and 15 gallon would be good, but if you stick with extract, a 5 gallon is enough.
Aluminum pots are good to use as long as you maintain the natural layer of oxide that develops after the first time you heat them.
For extract, I was using a stainless pot from target, 5 gallons. Now I use a bayou classic 62quarts, but it would not fit on my stove. I brew outside now. It is really up to you and what you need.

For the fermenter, buckets are really cheap and sturdy. I also have a couple of better bottle carboys when I need to make room for a new brew. For cleaning, a good soak of oxyclean is the best. You are not suppose to use a brush on plastic as it might damage it and make room for nasties.

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Old 10-03-2011, 09:43 PM   #6
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So far all I've used is extract recipes, and as of now I don't have any particular plans to branch into using mash or malting my own, but I guess I'll shop around and see if it looks like a five gallon pot would be sufficient for my needs. Once I build up my bank account a bit more and if necessary, I have no problem buying a larger brewpot, but I don't want to be using an overly large pot for boiling a couple of gallons.

For brewing outside, what exactly are you using to boil? I've heard of people using a fire, but I won't try to fool myself into thinking that I've got anywhere near the knowledge to attempt something like that, and I don't have the means to do anything else.

As for brewing in a bucket, I know not to use a brush because of the nasties, but what should I use? I stopped using a bucket precisely because of that reason, and I feel guilty filling up a bucket all the way just to soak the inside walls. Perhaps putting something else such as another small bucket inside to raise the water level without filling it up all the way?

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Old 10-03-2011, 09:46 PM   #7
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Also what kind of Oxiclean do you use? From just looking at their site, their products are mostly just laundry stuff. I've been using C-Brite to sanitize everything, but thinking of starting to use Star-San from the rave reviews I've read.

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Old 10-03-2011, 10:04 PM   #8
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I use the store brand equivalent of oxyclean free, no odor/adjuncts.

If you do not want to fill-up a fermenter to clean it, do not get a better bottle. Just get fermenting buckets, and use a regular sponge+dish soap to clean it, and rinse well. Do NOT use the scratch pad side of the sponge.

Also, cleaning is different from sanitizing. One will not replace the other. Indeed starsan is a good sanitizer. I like iodophor as well, as it is cheap.

To brew outside, I use a propane burner.

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Old 10-03-2011, 10:26 PM   #9
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I guess I'll have to reconsider using the buckets to brew in. I know for sure that it was easier to take hydrometer readings when I could just open up the bucket, rather than setting up the siphon to grab a few ounces of beer to measure.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

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Old 10-03-2011, 10:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by broadbill View Post
Better bottles are also plastic, and have the same disadvantages as plastic buckets.
This is incorrect. Better bottles are plastic, but they are made of a different type of plastic that is impermeable to oxygen. They've got all the advantages of glass in that regard, but they're much lighter and you don't have to risk huge catastrophe every time you move it.

regular old Oxi-Clean Free (unscented) does an amazing job of cleaning the gunk that gets stuck to the sides of the Carboy/Better Bottle. You don't even have to fill the carboy...you can just add 1/2 gallon of water and shake (with your hand over the opening). This is obviously another advantage of the Better Bottle, because it only weights ~1.5 lbs and you can easily shake it. Cleans up really quick.

As for pots, I opted against the multi-layered bottoms, because the purpose of those bottoms is to retain heat...which is exactly what you don't want when chilling your wort. The layered bottoms hold on to the heat and essentially re-heats your wort, making the chilling process take that much longer.

Size: if you have any aspirations of ever doing all-grain (and if you like home brewing, eventually you will want to try it), get the biggest pot you can afford. I would suggest 10 gallons minimum. I do 5.5 gallon batches, so when I boil 7-7.5 gallons, my 9 gallon pot is right on the edge of too small...I've never had a boil-over yet, but if the pot were a little bigger I wouldn't be so nervous during the hot break.
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