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Old 02-28-2013, 12:48 PM   #1
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Default Bizzare E-kettle Malfunction/Meltdown

First, some background. I've been using a setup very similar to this -

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/stov...4/#post3650142

Almost identical actually. 120V 1500W high-density element in a 7.5 gallon aluminum pot.

I've successfully used this setup on 2 extract and 5 all-grain brews without incident. Then last night happened....

Shortly after I put my wort chiller (immersion) into the pot towards the end of the boil I noticed a slight burned smell. I didn't think much of it (I brew in my kitchen on the stovetop), but it continued to get worse, then I noticed intense steam (possibly smoke) coming from the kettle. Next thing I know the GFCI trips.

I was basically done with the boil so I went ahead and chilled. The wort definitely smelled scorched/burned and had a slight smoke taste (guess I will have a Smoked Saison now...), but the really bizarre part was how the element looked.

Once I scraped off the black burned material the element looked like it had copper on it, almost like it had electroplated itself. The element also clearly looked like it overheated significantly (used to be shiny silver, now looked like metal that had gotten extremely hot).

Anyone have any experience similar to this? I have several possible theories:

1) I was using a grain bill high in Rye and had a hell of time getting this thing to sparge. Ended up with a very cloudy (presumably protein-rich) wort. Did protein accumulate on the element eventually causing it to overheat?

2) Some sort of bizarre reaction with the wort chiller

3) Gremlins

Thoughts?

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Old 02-28-2013, 12:56 PM   #2
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I suspect that protein collected on the element, insulated the element and caused it to overheat.

The copper color would be normal for a non-stainless steel element once the protective plating wore off.

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Old 02-28-2013, 01:02 PM   #3
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Ah, that would make a lot of sense explaining the copper color - this was not a stainless element.


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I suspect that protein collected on the element, insulated the element and caused it to overheat.

The copper color would be normal for a non-stainless steel element once the protective plating wore off.
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Old 02-28-2013, 09:01 PM   #4
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Yes the protein sticks on the element and burns. You mentioned a difficult spathe? I had severe burning once when I paused a session to run a few errands. During this time the trub settled and burned once I turned the kettle back on.

Best to keep the element clean, and not to let trub settle while approaching boil.

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Old 03-01-2013, 12:18 PM   #5
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Yea the sparge was really problematic (I have a pretty mediocre stainless braid... it does OK with normal grists, but really has issues with things like rye) - took a lot of stirring and messing with it to get it done, which resulted in very cloudy wort.

I also realized another thing while thinking about this - the burning occurred right after I added a whirlfloc tablet. I'm guessing that it helped precipitate a bunch of proteins and junk right onto the element.

Two upgrades coming to attempt preventing this from happening again: 1) a legit SS braid in the mash tun, and 2) a low watt density element in the kettle

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Old 03-01-2013, 02:28 PM   #6
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What happened to the finished wort? Where did the plating that was on the element go?

Sounds like you used a high watt density element. It's always best to use an Ultra Low Watt Density stainless steel element.

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Old 03-01-2013, 03:22 PM   #7
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When I emptied the kettle the element was covered in a thick layer of burned material - most of this I scraped off, I assume the coating was part of it. Although, some of it did end up in the wort which has me a little concerned.

The finished wort actually seemed mostly fine - slight smoke flavor (not sure if that was real or just mind playing tricks after smelling burned element). Otherwise tasted like wort.

I'm letting it ferment out to see what I get.



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What happened to the finished wort? Where did the plating that was on the element go?

Sounds like you used a high watt density element. It's always best to use an Ultra Low Watt Density stainless steel element.
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Old 03-01-2013, 03:28 PM   #8
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Are the Camco ripple elements stainless steel? The are really popular on this board but i didn't know if they were stainless.

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Old 03-01-2013, 04:10 PM   #9
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No, the Camco ripple elements are a proprietary nickel-something plating that has a black/gray color. Lowes has stainless elements in their water heater section...no ripple ULWD ones, but regular foldback LWD. To be honest, I have both the camco 5500W ripple and a 5500W stainless foldback, and I dont think there is that much difference in watt density between the two to be honest. I only used the stainless one in my HLT because it is straight foldback and proved less of a space issue for the HERMS coil...but I would have no problem using one in my BK if the Camco one poops out.

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Old 03-01-2013, 05:50 PM   #10
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No, the Camco ripple elements are a proprietary nickel-something plating that has a black/gray color.
Almost correct - according to CAMCO the element surface is premium nickel and stainless steel. The ones from Lowe's are called Incoloy.

See page 29. http://www.thecamcostore.com/Images/...rdware2007.pdf
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