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Old 02-19-2010, 07:17 PM   #1
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Default Electric burner idea for brew kettle

I'm getting ready to make the move to all grain and trying to decide what to do about a brew kettle. I want to brew indoors - don't have a water source in my garage and it's too hot to be outside in the summer anyway. Also don't need more than 5 gallon batches. I really like the idea of going electric, but can't get a large (10 gallon) pot on my electric stove (even 8 gallons would be awkward). I had considered using a water heater element mounted in the kettle but I'm a little worried about the things I'm reading here about rust and the zinc coating disappearing from the elements - also worried that cleaning the kettle would be difficult without taking out the element. I would like to use a stainless "Megapot" with the sandwiched aluminum bottom for even heating.
In one thread I saw someone (IIRC it was the "Bargain Fittings" guy) who had taken the coils and controls from an electric stove and made his own stove with three of the coils placed close together. I like that idea, but don't have an old stove - there are some on Craig'sList, but I don't have a truck to pick one up and don't want to have to dispose of the remains anyway, and so far I haven't found a drop-in range top for a reasonable price.
So I looked around a bit and see that I can get 6 inch 1250 watt coils for about $18. Now I'm thinking, why not build a "burner" using a flat piece of metal with 4 holes for six inch elements placed close together, mounted on legs (metal tubing?) and braced as required to support the weight. New element temp control units are pricey, so use 15 amp SPST toggle switches (about $5 each) to turn on 1,2,3,or all 4 coils as needed. If I could turn on one of the elements to half power, I could get even more levels of power control. The 240 v outlet I have access to doesn't have neutral, only the two hot lines and safety ground, so I can't use 120 v (which would only be 1/4 power anyway), but why not use a rectifier (10 or 15 amps should be enough) and another toggle switch (SPDT) to allow the fourth burner (only) to be selectable between full 240 v power and half-wave rectified 240 v power. This would give power levels of 625, 1250, 1875, 2500, 3125, 3750, 4375, and 5000 watts, depending on how many elements were turned on and whether the fourth element was on full or half-wave current. I hope this would be a fine enough level of control to maintain the boil level I want. I don't know what effect this would have on a GFCI, but it seems to me that it shouldn't have any because even with the half-wave rectified current, the same amount of current is always flowing in each of the hot lines - any electricians out there who might know if this would cause problems with the GFCI?
This is just a wild idea I had, so feel free to shoot it down before I spend any money on it.

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Old 02-19-2010, 08:18 PM   #2
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It takes a lot of electrical ooommmmppphhh to boil five gallons in the conventional manner.

You gotta jam the heating element right into the wort like it was a water heater tank.

That's why most guys use those high pressure banjo burners

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Old 02-19-2010, 08:23 PM   #3
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I think it should work. I don't know about the heating elements and how they work, but assuming you don't fry the system, 5000 watts should be enough to boil 6g for a full 5g batch.

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Old 02-19-2010, 09:06 PM   #4
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You should find a drop in stove fairly fast. If you want the controls like I used I would just post on the Wanted section of craigslist. Also keep a simple set of tools in your car and do some alley drives and you can strip a stove in about 2 minutes flat!

The On off switches would probably work just fine.

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Old 02-19-2010, 09:08 PM   #5
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The reason I think 5000 watts is enough is that I can get 5 gallons to a boil in a 6 gallon Megapot (not insulated) on 1 8 inch element, which I think is only about 2200 watts (but it is slow).

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Old 02-19-2010, 09:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BargainFittings View Post
You should find a drop in stove fairly fast. If you want the controls like I used I would just post on the Wanted section of craigslist. Also keep a simple set of tools in your car and do some alley drives and you can strip a stove in about 2 minutes flat!

The On off switches would probably work just fine.
How did you mount your elements - did you just modify the stovetop, or build a special stand? Are you happy with the system you made? Anything in particular to watch out for in building or using it?
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Old 02-19-2010, 09:40 PM   #8
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I built a custom stand. The burners just sit on top and I drilled a small hole to attach the element electrical connector to. Very simple set up. Aluminum foil to provide a reflector and to be easily replaced after I get some spills on it.

Build thread and more pictures here



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Old 02-19-2010, 10:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BargainFittings View Post
I built a custom stand. The burners just sit on top and I drilled a small hole to attach the element electrical connector to. Very simple set up. Aluminum foil to provide a reflector and to be easily replaced after I get some spills on it.

Build thread and more pictures here

Thanks ---
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Old 01-05-2011, 12:31 AM   #10
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Hello DeafSmith, did you get it working? I am striving for the same thing but am having problems (see my post at http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/elec...g-gfci-169210/).

To sum up, my electric burners had an electrical leak that caused a ground fault, tripping my GFI. I concluded that it was caused by cheap electric burners. I just wanted to see how your's came along.

Craig

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