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Old 01-03-2012, 03:44 PM   #1
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Default Little help on equipment decision?

Hey guys,

I've got a bit of a question, and I figured only brewers would be helpful here...

I'm an extract brewer, and have only 6 batches under my belt. My beer has its issues (beginners stuff) but I think they'll start coming together nicely soon enough.

For Christmas, I asked for kegging equipment, as I'm already tired of spending a lot of time bottling. Instead, I got a 10 gallon kettle. So I have a few questions - if I go with the 10 gallon kettle to do full boils I will need to buy the thermometer that screws into the kettle, certainly a wort chiller (was going to get one anyway, but would now need a bigger one...) and possibly need to get a burner/propane setup if using 2 burners on my stove can't get the approx. 6 gallons of wort to boil. All of this versus staying with my current 5 gallon kettle, getting a smaller wort chiller, and buying kegging stuff.

I'm not looking to go to all grain anytime in the next couple of years as I'm in grad school and don't have the time/space/money to spend on that big of an upgrade.

So given all of your experience and wisdom, which way do you think would be best - go down the road of using the bigger kettle with all the additional expenses (maybe partial mash???) or return the kettle and move towards putting together a kegging system?

As always, much appreciated!

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Old 01-03-2012, 03:57 PM   #2
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If cost is your primary concern, I'd stick with the bigger pot and the related upgrades - they're pretty certain to be less expensive, in the end, than the kegging setup.

Keep in mind, doing full boils will certainly have some positive impacts on your brews - hop utilization will improve, and I know searching around HBT will name at least a couple other big improvements.

As to the upgrades you're talking about: I don't know that you'd necessarily need a "big" wort chiller for that sized batch - I've chilled a 12 gallon batch with a pretty standard sized chiller before, it just takes a few extra minutes' time. And I've had success chilling a full 5-6 gallon boil in an ice bath - maybe not the ideal setup, but it still works while you're getting everything else together.

Also, while adding a thermometer to the kettle can certainly look cool, unless you have the hole for one already drilled (or a welded fitting), you don't really need one - you can certainly get away with a floating thermometer or a simple hand-held one to check your temps while cooling.

The propane setup, however, is probably a must. This is a pretty decent time of year to find turkey fryer setups on the cheap at Walmart or Home Depot too - and such setups should also net you a decent sized aluminum pot that you can then use if you want to try a PM batch or two.

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Old 01-03-2012, 06:40 PM   #3
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I agree. If you decide to keep the big kettle, buy a turkey fryer. I see them for next to nothing on craigslist and it's much MUCH muuuuch nicer (required even) than trying to heat that amount of water on a stove. As a bonus, I saw an instant improvement in my beer as soon as I started going with a full boil-- even the extract based ones.

I've been meaning to get a weldless sight glass / thermometer fitting in my kettle but, honestly, I do just fine without it.

Of course, kegging is muuuuch nicer than bottling, too, but can get pretty dang expensive.

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Old 01-03-2012, 06:50 PM   #4
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I see - I guess I should have also mentioned that I live in an apartment in the city without a backyard, so the only place where I could brew and move to ferment would be up in the suburbs - which just adds a bunch more time to the whole process...

What makes kegging get so expensive? I'm thinking the kegging set from a place like Midwest Supplies for 160, fill the CO2 for 25, and I would eventually scrape together a small fridge off of CL.

2 other questions - do I need a false bottom or is that just for all grain? That's what I thought it was for... and what considerations do I need to take for a turkey fryer? Can just about any of them get 6 gallons of water boiling?

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:09 PM   #5
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OP - if you have a electric stove (not gas) and nowhere to use a propane burner, you need a 2 burner pot. Wish I knew where my parents got theirs to do canning with - they were large and 'rectangular' Otherwise our 10 gallon pot won't really fit well on 2 burners. Without 2 burners driving 5 gallons t a boil takes a bit more power/time than the average electric stove has.

I can't find what they have.. probably something from a different time. This is 'close'
http://www.cookswarehouse.com/cookwa...-poachers.html
notice it says 'can be used over 2 burners' I have no idea the volume it does, proably not as much as a 5 gallon batch. I know the pot my parents had did almost 2 bushels of apples to apple sauce.

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:15 PM   #6
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Hey ACBrewer - I have a gas stove, however, the 10 gallon kettle covers both burners, so I thought that might be an option. I figured since 1 burner could get 3.5 gallons boiling, 2 burners could get 5.5... but what do I know...

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:21 PM   #7
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If space is an issue look at the BIAB sticky one an done so to speak.

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:26 PM   #8
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You'll end up saving money on ingredients if you do all grain...just a reminder. And if you have a large pot that is the most expensive piece, all you need now is like others have said a turkey fryer and a large picnic cooler with a drain close to the bottom for mashing(with a small amount of modification required). Finding a place is a problem maybe, but any garage or outdoor space will do. You can call it tailgaiting.

Oh yea almost forgot, a big-ass paddle for stirring

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Old 01-03-2012, 08:00 PM   #9
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OldStyler - Well if you have a gas stove... I'm a bit jealous. I've got electric. My problem with the gas stove I used to have (before the move, and the other move and a few more moves) was that I couldn't get it low enough in temps. If anything I suspect with only 1 burner you can get the pot going, so with 2 it will just be faster.

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Old 01-03-2012, 09:10 PM   #10
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ACBrewer - well hopefully you're right! Worse comes to worse my boil size will certainly get bigger and maybe I only top off a half gallon or so? That would still help beer quality right? Also - doesn't it mean that I no longer would use regular kit schedules? I would have to learn to modify them for the higher wort amount / lower boil gravity right? I suppose that can't be too hard...

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