Hot Water Urns

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I recently came across the idea of using hot water urns used at catering events for keeping coffee and other beverages hot as a mash tun/boil kettle. After a little research it sounds like this type of this is common overseas with 240V power, but I haven't found much about it being used in the states. Is there any reason that something like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Adcraft-Countertop-Water-Boiler-Capacity/dp/B004FNZM9C/ref=pd_sim_sbs_79_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=41NDGLluFDL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=1JW2SFDP24HTX07E421A
couldn't be used as a poor man's grainfather (for smaller 2.5 gallon batches of course)? Sure, it would take a while to heat up with only 1350W, but it looks like with a little work you could add insulation, a thermometer, and a stainless steel valve (and recirculation, why not?) to build a pretty solid system on the cheap.
 
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Dhruv6911

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Funny you ask this, i'm actually debating myself of going this route as i prepare myself for a all automated electric setup.

Now i've used these urns quite a bit with work and let me tell you... it's not the quickest as most use a heating element lower than those available in home depot.

I dont know how you plan on utilizing yours but I will be using mine to heat the water for sparge. I currently have one kettle that i use to boil water and wort and so i cannot really sparge unless i use a cooler to mash in. In the next few weeks I'm going to insulate my kettle so i can mash in it and during the mash switch over a controller to use the urn to heat up my sparge water. I'll simply lift up muslin bag from my kettle and transfer into the urn while my wort starts its boil. Hopefully that will simplify things.
 

ChuckO

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Make certain that you know what size "cup" they are talking about. Some coffee urns measure volume in 5 oz. cups or 6 oz. cups instead of 8 oz. standard measure.
 

Hanglow

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I use a 20l one as an HLT now and used to use it as my main copper but as it was only good for smaller batches I got a bigger copper.

I replaced the crap tap and the original concealed element burned out so I just added a kettle element


As yours would be fairly low wattage, I would suggest adding another element to it to get it to heat up in a reasonable time.
 

iamwhatiseem

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Hmmm...I have a different idea to use one of these.
Preheating mash/sparge water. These heat water to about 195-200 degrees. SO I would have about 2.5 gallons at 195 degrees. Using a water calculator, if I add in 2 gallons of 68 degree water the result is 135 degree water.
Hmmm
 

cyberbackpacker

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I had this same idea years ago for a DIY Braumeister project; I bought some 2500w elements they use in these urns and I was going to then use my own pot-- they are perfect for mounting in flat bottom kettle, and very low profile (~3/4"). My plans never happened, but the idea is sound.

If anyone is interested in trying what I intended, I do have some new elements I'd sell!

:mug:
 

Revvy

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I've been looking for 10 gallon ones cheap for years, I totally regret passing a couple up at a salvation army dor like 20 bucks a piece a few years back, I expected them to still be there the next time I went in.

It's pretty common in England to do it.. And there's actually a lot of threads on here talking about it... there might even be some in the similar threads box below this. I use a gallon and a half one with an stc=1000 as my ghetto sous vide machine.

ScubaSteve actually started a build thread on here years ago.

And another build thread.
 
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According to the amazon Q/A for the urn I linked, it has a usable capacity of about 5.5 gallons and the element is 1350W. Definitely wont be the fastest, but since it doesn't sound like there are any gotchas, I think I will buy one and give it a try. Thanks for the advice everyone!
 

Dhruv6911

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After more research, you're better off getting a portable 1500watt immersion heater for 7-8 bucks shipped on ebay. That's the route i am going to take... what good is an urn if i have to 1. replace spigot 2. replace element... i mean outside the container itself those are the only two things that i use.

What the above poster said is correct. I barely get a rolling boil with a 1500watt immersion heater for a 5gal batch and that's after a considerable amount of time. Make the initial investment and you will enjoy your hobby more.
 
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My concern would be that 1350w won't produce a boil?

These are made to produce hot coffee, not boil?
I usually brew 2.5 gallon batches, so 1350W should be enough to get a good boil. It claims that it will get it up to boiling, and I figure if its too slow a cheap heat stick will help it along. I'm most interesting in the temperature for mashing anyways.

thanks
 

Dhruv6911

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Yeah but.....

If your looking for an underpowered electric kettle, an electric turkey fryer may suit you....just a thought. Likely less money, as they are plentiful used on CL. And larger at 28 qt and more wattage at 1650w

http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/photos/uncategorized/masterbuilt_turkey_fryer.jpg

I actually went the other way, started with a turkey fryer and went electric because having to deal with propane tanks and an actual flame is much more costly and difficult to control respectively.
 

cyberbackpacker

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I actually went the other way, started with a turkey fryer and went electric because having to deal with propane tanks and an actual flame is much more costly and difficult to control respectively.
I think you missed the part where he said electric turkey fryer! ;)
 
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I know that resurrecting old threads is sometimes frowned upon, but I wanted to provide an update on this one. I went with the hot water urn that I mentioned in the first post, replace the crap tap, and made a insulated jacket for it. My average brew day is about 4.5 hours long, and I do not have to babysit it very much. My only complaint is that when brewing inside, it does not maintain a rolling boil the entire time. If I brew in my garage on a cold day though, it maintains a rolling boil the entire time. I think it is just a thermostat issue. In any case, the lack of a rolling boil has not hurt the quality of my beer. I brewed a munich helles that was well received at a homebrew club meeting; no mention of DMS or other flaws.

At the end of the day, I am pretty happy with it. The built in thermostat holds temperature well (enough), and I don't find my brewdays to be excessively long. I am considering replacing the thermostat with something more accurate, and I am debating if I want to add recirculation to it.

IMG_20160805_185613.jpg
 

Revvy

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That's awesome. Resurrecting an old thread by the person who started it for the purpose of updating it is far from frowned upon, in fact it's encouraged. Most of the time when someone bumps one of these, it's because they're hoping for an update.

I still want to build something electric for indoors on the cheap.... but it's been on the back burner for awhile now. (See what I did there?)
 

golfindia

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I put a 1300w 120v element in my cheap aluminum turkey fryer. I put 4 long SS bolts in the fry basket so that it sits just above the element. PT100 temp sensor and 12v solar pump with valve at the bottom. Recirculation port at the top. I have only used it for sous vide so far (I cooked a whole pork roast in it once). One of these days I've been meaning to test it to see if it will boil 3-4 gal. If so, it's the cheapest BIAB rig on earth. I've got less than $100 in the whole setup.
 

wilserbrewer

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1300w is very low wattage fir an e kettle.

Perhaps insulating the kettle, leaving the lid partially on, a lot of patience and a bit of luck you could make beer.

I'm not overly optimistic, but worth a try I suppose.

Good luck :)
 
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I put a 1300w 120v element in my cheap aluminum turkey fryer. I put 4 long SS bolts in the fry basket so that it sits just above the element. PT100 temp sensor and 12v solar pump with valve at the bottom. Recirculation port at the top. I have only used it for sous vide so far (I cooked a whole pork roast in it once). One of these days I've been meaning to test it to see if it will boil 3-4 gal. If so, it's the cheapest BIAB rig on earth. I've got less than $100 in the whole setup.
I'm pretty sure the element in my system is lower wattage than that and it is able to get a good boil going in a reasonable time. Add in some insulation and there should be no problem at all.
 

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