new gear?

So I recently purchased a Barley Crusher grain mill which will allow me to buy base grain in bulk (big savings) and control how fine my crush will be. The local homebrew store’s mill has been way off lately, and it seems like it’s always been worked on or modified again every time I go in. Had a terrible crush last brew and had to scramble and add dried malt extract to the boil on brewday just to get a drinkable beer. My bad for not realizing how course the grain still was when I put it through the lhbs’s mill, but relying on their mill (and therefor their store hours) kinda sucks. I was buying/crushing my grain often at least a week before my actual brewday. Far from ideal.

So, I am looking forward to using it very soon.

However, I now need to buy yet another piece of equipment. A kettle to heat my strike water in. I had been using the aluminum pot that came with the turkey fryer. However, for Labor Day, we hosted a big cookout and I used the turkey fryer to steam about 30 lobsters. Needless to say, I’m never getting that stink out of that pot. Ever.

My current set-up is a rectangular cooler/mash tun, an 8 g stainless pot (no ports), and the turkey fryer burner and aluminum pot. Aluminum pot for heating strike water, stainless pot for boiling wort. I lift and dump aluminum pot into the cooler/tun. Cooler has at ball-valve from which I run my wort to the kettle (gravity). I currently have to use a siphon to get the wort from the kettle to the fermenter.

The burner is very basic, and looking a bit beat. The burner itself doesn’t have nearly all the nozzles that I see on the banjo/Blickman burners.

So, my issue is I no longer have my pot for strike water. The question is, do I simply replace that pot. I do 5 gal batches as rarely need to heat more than 5 gallons of strike or sparge water, OR do I step up my boil kettle and use the current one for strike/sparge water?

If I went with this 8.5 gal economy kettle from morebeer, I would have the ability to use a ball valve to run wort via gravity to my fermenter. But, I would need some kind of false bottom, correct? So as to leave as much of the solid matter behind? Or, is only used for boil and not mash, can i skip the false bottom and use the kettle tube screen?

I could step up to the Heavy Duty Brew Kettle, which is a good amount more money. My current Stainless pot fairly thin and probably more like the economy kettle More Beer offers. Perhaps move that to the be the strike/sparge water pot, and replace with a better quality kettle?

Eventually I’d like to step up to a better burner too, but wouldn’t be able to do that right away if I go for the heavy duty kettle.

Thoughts?? Please add comments here, as I could use feedback from those experienced with these various kinds of equipment.



6 comments on “new gear?

  1. I have a policy that I never want to purchase the same item twice. So spending a little more money is worth it to me in the long run. I would look for a brew pot that would allow you to brew in it forever. If you have no intentions of brewing more than 5/6 gallons at a time, I would look at a high quality 10 gallon kettle with 2 welded in ports. This would leave your current brew pot at your new HLT.

    But without a solid burner you might have to relook at your current situation. A solid burner will not only save you time and money, it will streamline the brewing process. I know 3 brewers personally that only have one pot that they use for a HLT and a brew kettle, collecting the wort in plastic, food grade buckets. Now this is not optimal, but it works and they brew great beer. One even received third at this years NHC with this set up.

    Thus adding more questions to your problem.

    • Thanks Chris. I fully expect more questions than answers, but that will just help point out some ideas or potential issues I haven’t thought of yet.

      I can always use something else to collect first runnings while heating sparge water in the boil kettle. I am thinking that a quality burner could save me gas and time. The Blichman burner seems to be the Cadillac of homebrewer burners. $150, 1/3 more than the banjo burner. But, if I got this, I could eventually move up to a large kettle or “keggle” even, and utilize my current stainless pot for strike/sparge water. Of course, going to keggles would basically require a sculpture of some sort, and/or pumps.

      Hmmm… more to ponder!

      • For example, I have a more beer 3 tier system. I can brew 7 batches on one tank of propane. Including boiling hot water to run through my march pump and chiller before and after brewing. The people I know with Banjo Burners can only get through 2-3 batches per tank. That cost difference really adds up over the long run.

  2. I made the mistake of buying a really big banjo burner and it eats propane WAY too fast on my old kettle. It’s a little better on a keggle as it covers the burner better but still not great. I’d search around and see what people are getting out of a tank on the blichman. It could save you a lot of money spending the $ on the burner and using less propane. As for a kettle, bigger is better imho. I used an 11 gallon kettle for a while and just switched to a keggle and I do 5.5 gallon batches. That extra space keeps me from making a mess on my deck and gives me some future proofing if I do want to do a 11 gallon batch with a buddy.

    • I’m thinking Blichmann burner is next up. The turkey fryer burner scorches the bottom of the simple 8 gal stainless pot I use for my boil kettle. I can tell just by the design of both the banjo and Blichmann I would get a more even burn and get to a boil quicker. The Blichman is 150 vs the almost 100 for the banjo. But the efficiency and general construction makes it worth the extra in my opinion. My 8 gal SS pot is fine for the time being. I can use it to heat strike and sparge, and collect 1st runnings in a smaller kitchen pot now that the turkey fryer pot is out of the lineup.

      If I wanted to tap it and install a weldless ball valve I suppose I could, but that would require some kinds of false bottom or screen on the inside, right? Would love to avoid having to use my racking cane to move wort from kettle to fermenter, but would it be worthwhile doing it to this 8 gal pot?

  3. pulled the trigger on a Blichmann burner. Ordered it from Williams Brewing. $14 S&H from Cali. Should have it by Saturday. Also just picked up a 50 lb sack of 2-row today, along with the specialty grains for my next two brews (a Black Butte Porter clone, and a west coast IPA so I can use up some of my Mosaic hops). $53 for Briess 2-row. Not most people’s favorite 2-row, but it’s what I’ve been using out of my lhbs for a couple years now. If I could have gotten rahr or great western w/o shipping I probably would have).

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