Bucket heater cut 30 minutes off my brew day

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Well-Known Member
Mar 28, 2009
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Gadget of the month for the brewer who is perpetually short on time and money:
That's a 1500 watt bucket heater and a 120VAC mechanical timer. I treat the whole volume of liquor in the (stainless) HLT the night before, wrap a blanket around the HLT, and set this to be passing 160-170 degrees when I think I'll be ready to dough in. I drain a couple gallons of the treated cold liquor to use to adjust mash temp before covering it up, and dough in by dumping all the grist in the kettle (or mash tun) and underletting using gravity, while stirring. Zero doughballs and it's dead easy to hit your temp.

Cheap, easy--best thing since sliced bread for people who don't have any electronics in the hobby brew house. 15-45 minutes, right off the top.

Mine came from Amazon. Make sure to either get one without an internal thermostat or one with an adjustable thermostat. Do a test to determine how early to turn it on. (This 1500 watt model, with my HLT and my blanket, will get 9 gallons to 180 in about 2.5 hours, even when it's 32 degrees outside.). If you miss it a little either way, it won't matter--it's relatively low power so you won't be a mile off, plus, you can use extra hot liquor or adjust with some cold to get your temp where you want it. This works so well for me that I wish I would have spent a little more and used a bulkhead-mounted element like the brewhardware.com kit.

Bonus: after doughing in, the remaining liquor heats much faster, and gets close to boiling fast enough to allow subsequent infusions that can significantly raise mash temp. I am no-sparge biab and generally do a step in the 140s followed by a step at 158. I don't have to stress over the exact mash temp this way, because it's dead easy to hit a time for beta and a time for alpha. Temp just has to be close. Of course, with underletting, it's easy to hit your number exactly without a PID. With a normal size beer (1.040-1.050 for me) and a very fine crush, I can produce a highly fermentable wort in 45 minutes, or a fully converted chewy wort in 30. And that's the time from stepping outside in the morning. No cooler, no pump, no electronics. Just a burner, 2 cheap pots, and this.

I hope this helps somebody....