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Old 10-05-2012, 09:37 PM   #1
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Default Excess kettle(element) caramelization

Ok, after a number of batches on my 8gal 5500w kettle, I'm switching back to propane.

My high gravity beers have slightly more kettle caramelization flavor than they should.

-Under 1.060, and it's unnoticeable.
-From 1.060 to 1.070, it's barely there, and I genuinely mean barely.
-1.070 up, and especially 1.080+ there's a noticeable sweet caramelized flavor to the beer. More than you'd expect.

It's something that would easily go unnoticed in a barley wine, or even an IIPA with a lot of caramel, but when I've made big double IPAs with very little crystal malt, it's there.

I'm posting this thread not for help troubleshooting, but rather to let other people who are considering electric boil kettles know that everything isn't rainbows and unicorns in the world of electric boils. It's a very slight issue, and one that rarely pops up (how many people brew lots of 1.080+ beers with very little caramel character), but still an issue nonetheless.

So, no real regrets. My boil kettle will become my new EHLT, and I'll just be moving back to propane for the boil, no biggie. But if you're like me and you've been beating your head against the wall trying to figure out where a slight off flavor is coming from, despite the majority of electric brewers that seem 100% happy, know you're not the only one.
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Old 10-05-2012, 09:55 PM   #2
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Specific what elements are you using?



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Old 10-05-2012, 10:02 PM   #3
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Specific what elements are you using?
Camco 4500w element. (sorry, i said 5500w in the first post, meant 4500). It's an ULWD element. Duty cycle is set to 1.5sec, and for my specific PID, it only needs around 50% on Manual to maintain a boil.

I told myself over and over and over that it was all in my head, but I finally realized that firstly: You're going to increase maillard reactions when you condense your heating source significantly. Secondly, convection does prevent scorching and caramelization issues, but convection isn't as efficient as specific gravity climbs.

I really don't want to over-hype my issue, as it's not that big of a deal. I more wanted to post this so if someone like myself is searching the forums say, 8 months from now, they'll realize they aren't going crazy =)
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:30 AM   #4
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funny.... I have been thinking lately that every since I went electric on the boil kettle, I am getting overall LESS caramelization and my beers are lacking a backbone. I was starting to wonder if the small heated surface area of the element (as compared to the high surface area of a kettle bottom on a burner) was the cause.

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Old 02-20-2013, 05:18 AM   #5
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Let's have a heated debate!

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Old 02-20-2013, 12:14 PM   #6
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For reference sake, could you post a picture of the kettle with the element and thermocouplein it? Also, what PID are you using? I'm just wondering if it has something to do with the controller or the placement if the element in relation to the thermocouple.

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Old 02-20-2013, 01:22 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by uberg33k View Post
For reference sake, could you post a picture of the kettle with the element and thermocouplein it? Also, what PID are you using? I'm just wondering if it has something to do with the controller or the placement if the element in relation to the thermocouple.
Element placement in the kettle matters in this case. Element placement in regards to the where the temp probe is, has zero bearing.

I boil with the PID on manual (55% duty cycle or so), so the temp probe makes absolutely no difference. My element is mounted rather low, with very little space between it and the bottom of the kettle. That could make a difference.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:18 PM   #8
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Element placement in regards to the where the temp probe is, has zero bearing.
I'm not sure I agree with that. However, since you're not looking to fix it, it doesn't really matter. Why did you choose to manually control the element over letting the PID do it in full auto mode? I could see how this might have more to do with caramelization than anything.
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Old 02-20-2013, 03:24 PM   #9
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I'm not sure I agree with that. However, since you're not looking to fix it, it doesn't really matter. Why did you choose to manually control the element over letting the PID do it in full auto mode? I could see how this might have more to do with caramelization than anything.
I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone that runs their PID on Auto during the boil.
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:04 PM   #10
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I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone that runs their PID on Auto during the boil.
I only know one person with an electric brewery and he has a full on touchpanel controller, computer, arduinos, etc. He just hits the "Boil" button and can walk away. It wasn't till I emailed him about it and had a cup of coffee that I realized "oh, yeah ... that doesn't work with Auber PIDs and setting them for 212".

My original thought is still the same though ... how did you know that was just enough on time to get a decent boil and not so much that you're scorching/caramelizing? For clarity, I don't know the answer, I'm asking so I can learn and hopefully not have my build caramelize too much on me.


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