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Old 06-21-2012, 07:38 PM   #1
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Default Which way to go: electric or gas?

So I am starting to get more serious about brewing beer. I've got four 2.5gal batches under my belt, and I've got the ingredients for my first two 5gal batches sitting there waiting to be brewed (a hefe and a raspberry wheat).

I am starting to collect equipment as I can. Here is what I already have:

several aluminum boil pots 2-4ish gallons
2x 6gal better bottles
2x 3gal ported better bottles
2x 2.5gal Mr. Beer fermenters
1x Bottling bucket with spigot
2x 5gal corny kegs with sanke coupler
1x 20lb CO2 tank

Obviously some other odds and ends like racking cane, hydrometer, refractometer, bottle washer, drying tree, sanitizer, etc etc etc.


After work I am going to pick up a 15.5gal keg, which I am planning on using as a future boil kettle (need to cut the top out and add a drain spigot/thermometer/etc).

Saturday or Sunday I will probably be picking up another 15.5gal keg, which someone decided to turn into a lamp. It is as ugly as it sounds. I will have to cut the top out of this one to remove the lamp post, and it already has a "pinky-size" hole in the side towards the bottom for the electrical cord.


Tomorrow after work I am going over to another brewers house to see what all he has for sale. Should be several pin lock and ball lock kegs, a couple 5gal glass fermenters, a homemade chiller, and some other things. I will probably buy everything I can use, assuming I have the funds.


My thread title pertains to where I go from here. I will most likely have two 15.5gal keggles to work with, probably as a HLT and BK. I am considering getting a 10gal cooler from Home Depot to convert to a MLT.

Using this setup, I'm trying to decide which of three options it would be better to start off with:

1. A simple propane burner or two, for heating strike water and boiling in the keggle.

2. Get a little more into gas and hook up some natural gas burners on a DIY stand (I have natural gas supply in my house/on my deck), which would be cheaper on the gas, but probably not in initial costs.

3. Go all electric. I have a 50amp 240v line running from its own breaker box in the laundry/storage area to an outlet in the garage. I could build a bench brewing area in the laundry room, and run from the breaker straight to a spa panel there (permits and inspections), or use the outlet in the garage, and set up an outlet plugged spa panel in the garage (no permits since not a permanent installation). Probably most expensive option as far as initial set up is concerned, but probably cheapest in terms of energy usage.


This is where I'm stuck. I see that most people just use propane burners, they're cheap, easy to use, small, and portable, and they work.

Others have gone with natural gas, which I like the idea of, since I already have lines to tap into.

But then I look at the electric builds, and my jaw just drops. Considering I've got a dedicated 50amp outlet in the laundry/garage not being used, it seems like I have a perfect reason to dive into electric.

Cost is an issue. I am on a very tight budget as far as brewing equipment goes. My wife is tolerant of my hobby so far, but she doesn't like me spending a lot of money all at one time. I don't want to be stuck brewing small batch/extracts on the kitchen stove for too much longer, but I don't want to invest in propane burners if I'm just going to end up going all-electric anyways.

What do you guys think? Is it worth it to put off doing larger AG batches while I save up for an all-electric setup, or should I just get some propane burners and not worry about the electric for a few months/years?

p.s. wow. I just scrolled to the top, and realized how long of a post this is. Sorry to those who've actually managed to make it this far.


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Old 06-21-2012, 07:53 PM   #2
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Natural gas. It's the best of both worlds. Electricity is incredibly cheap and efficient, but the initial outlay is tough/expensive. Propane burners (with tiny tanks) is cheap right away, but rapidly gets expensive if you swap them (rather than refill). Natural gas is super cheap and if you choose your burner right you can use NG at home and LP on the road! I got the Hurricane burner from williams (with propane parts) and the NG orifice. I also added an NG tap in my garage (off the water heater) and a long enough hose to run outside. Total cost was around $200. I can run that burner ALL DAY without a noticeable blip on my gas bill.


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Old 06-21-2012, 07:53 PM   #3
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if money is an issue i would just get a couple propane burners to start with.. with a keggle you wouldn't have to mod it any further for propane, and you would still be able to use it when you decide to "upgrade" to electric.. this way you can also learn and get comfortable with the AG steps and know a little more about how you would want to design your electric setup.. i've been doing AG for over a year now with 2 keggles, though someday i hope to do an electric setup as well.. i'm comfortable with my process that i know when i have the money (ha, whenever that happens) i know i can build a kickass electric system exactly how i want it
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Old 06-21-2012, 07:54 PM   #4
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oope.. i mean natural gas, i use propane, just used to typing that.. since you already have that accessible would be a better bet for you
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DOWN THE HATCH BREWING
Stainless Hop Spider | Wooden Brew Rig | Dual Hinge Keezer Build

Primaries: Apfelwein, Nugget Nectar, Brinner, Sticky Red, Smoked IPA
Keg 1: Nugget Nectar Clone | Keg 2: Brinner | Keg 3: Oaked Bourbon Vanilla Porter
Bottles: lots full and even more empty
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Old 06-21-2012, 08:05 PM   #5
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I personally would work on technique and recipes with 5 gal batches before spending a lot of money on an electric setup. I'm 10 5 gal batches in and not yet ready to jump into all grain until I work out more recipes and fermentation and kegging technique. Extract is just so convienant and not that expensive when you factor equipment and time necessary for AG. You could spend thousands and learn that you really aren't drinking that much. That will really pi$$ off wifey. I am focusing on yeast harvesting, starters, wort chilling and kegging to get some pretty good beers. Just my 2 cents
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Old 06-21-2012, 08:42 PM   #6
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I will say I'm not a BIG beer drinker, although I have been drinking more often since I started brewing. I drink almost daily now, although usually only 2 beers (3 if its a homebrew, they're just so damn good!).

I plan on doing some extract and extract with specialty grain batches to kind of work my way into doing 5gal batches, and then move on to all grain batches once I'm more comfortable with the keggles and whatever heating method I use.

The biggest difference between propane and NG for me is going to be where I brew. For propane, I can brew on the deck, on the front porch, in the driveway. Right now I only have NG accessible in the laundry room and on the deck. I can easily run some NG line over to the garage. It just wouldn't be as easy as propane until I get that run.


ajwillys, I assume this is the burner you're talking about? http://www.williamsbrewing.com/HURRI...AND-P2677.aspx I was looking at this just earlier today. I have decent woodworking skills, and can build a nice wood stand with metal hardware for burn protection quite easily.
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Old 06-21-2012, 08:51 PM   #7
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I guess my other question is should I just stick to using 1 keggle and do BIAB until I get the hang of things, or should I try to use the other keggle as well, before I'm able to purchase and convert a cooler for a mash tun?
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Old 06-21-2012, 08:59 PM   #8
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Only buy the ball lock kegs tomorrow, the pins will be a waste of money. You're only going to be set up for one or the other most likely.

On the gas or electric thing, go natural gas. 2 burners is going to cost you probably $40 each. Maybe a propane tank $40, and $20 per refill depending where you live. You'll easily be over $200 (I'm using Ajwillys number as the estimate). And you'll still have to keep buying propane which adds incremental costs.

Technically you can save some money by not buying the glass carboys tomorrow too, you have plenty of fermenters right now...spend that on a NG setup.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeardedIdiot View Post
I guess my other question is should I just stick to using 1 keggle and do BIAB until I get the hang of things, or should I try to use the other keggle as well, before I'm able to purchase and convert a cooler for a mash tun?
No need to go BIAB before you go AG. They are really creating the same product done different ways. I would choose one that sounds desireable and just go with it. I've never done BIAB, but after several years of AG I still have no desire to change my method.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:02 PM   #10
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I was thinking on passing on the glass carboys, just because they are only 5gal, and I can get 6gal better bottles for less than he's charging for them. I guess they'd be nice for secondaries...

I was planning on only buying the ball locks, but not sure how many he has. I figured I could always resell the pin locks if I didn't need them, or save them for later.

I'm gonna talk to my dad about running a NG line to the garage...


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