After upgrading to a 10 gallon system (sometimes 15 Gallons Parti-Gyle) about 6 months ago, I've recently started streamlining to try to cut down by brew time. My biggest time thieves seem to be heating up and cooling down my wort.
With my 50ft immersion chiller it was taking about 30 minutes to cool to pitching temps. To save water I modified a $20 pump from Harbor Freight and recirculated water cooled with several frozen water filled milk jugs. Last week I build a 20ft counterflow chiller for about $60 and my new method is to run the immersion chiller for about 5 minutes until I get a good cold break, then drain through my immersion chiller. I use a false bottom with a diptube which combined with freeballing my whole hops filters out a good portion of the proteins so I have relatively clear wort in the mid 60s almost immediately and still get to use my water recirculation method. That fixed the cooling issue, now the heating issue:
When I upgraded burners 6 months ago I had the choice of a Bayou Classic SQ14, The Bayou Classic KAB6 (the KAB4 not being able to fit my keggle), The Blichmann Top Tier Floor Burner, and a Camp Chef daisy style burner with adjustable legs.
Having used the one the one at our shop several times while teaching homebrew classes, I opted for the SQ14 which I found on sale on Amazon with free shipping for about $60 after tax. The Bayou Classic SQ14 currently retails for $50-60, has a steel frame, 10 PSI regulator, and Bayou Classic reports that it's output is 55k BTU. Unlike it's big brother the KAB6 and the Blichmann, it doesn't have a flameguard which is one of it's biggest downfalls. With this burner it takes about 90 minutes to heat approximately 14 gallons of preheat/strike water using a keggle. I began looking at a Banjo style burner hoping that would cut down on the time it takes to heat my strike water and go from lauter to boil.
My two viable options looked like the Blichmann and the KAB6.
I've always told my customers Blichmann is to homebrew equipment what Gibson is to Guitars; a lot of what your paying for is the name and what it comes with. Sure, you can buy that Korean Epiphone and it might play just as well but it wasn't made in Nashville and some of the electronics and hardware are going to be lower quality. The Blichmann Top Tier Floor Burner retails at $139.99, has an all stainless frame, 10 PSI Regulator and a reported 72k BTU. Blichmann Engineering claim on the website it should only take just over 20 minutes to heat 6.5 gallons of water from 60-212F. They also claim that Bayou Classic's published BTUs are incorrect and that their burner outperforms comparable Bayou Classic models with a bunch of spiffy charts and graphs which can see here.
The Bayou Classic KAB6 retails for $100-120, has a steel frame, 30 PSI Regulator and claims to have a minimum output of 210k BTU and the company also has a good equipment reputation in the homebrewing world.
I decided on the Blichmann for a few reasons: The stainless steel frame, what they claim about it's performance in comparison to Bayou Classic on their website, and most importantly my employee discount lowered my cost of the Blichmann to about the same price as the KAB6.
When my burner arrived I wanted to do a simple side by side comparison with my SQ14 to get an idea of what the improvement would be.
I filled a 30 quart Progressive pot with 6 gallons of 50F hose water, covered it and started the clock. First, I lit the Blichmann burner and adjusted the regulator and damper so I had an all blue flame that didn't lift off of the burner and didn't make a roaring noise, as per the instructions. I did the same with my SQ-14, adjusting it as I normally would on brew day, except it was making a small roaring sound as is common with this burner. I used the same propane tank for both.
My final results from 50f to 212f were 55 minutes for the Blichmann, 45 minutes for the SQ14. I'm beginning to feel like I got burned if you'll pardon the pun, and am wondering if I should have gone with the KAB6, or if I'm using the burner incorrectly.
Has anyone here done a similar comparison, only between the KAB6 and the Blichmann? What about any of the other burners I mentioned? Was anyone else disappointed by the performance of their Blichmann burner?