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Alternative boiling methods?

A tank of propane lasts me exactly 2.5 brews, so in reality 2 full brews. A propane tank costs $23 to refill so this is not a very cost effective way of boiling water. I have an electric stove, the kind with the flat ceramic top, that I have used a few times to finish a 7 gallon boil but I’ve never used it to boil from start to finish so I don’t know if it would take such a long time as to be useless. Does anybody else have any ideas for boiling water that are more cost effective?

I used to have an electric coil stove that I brewed on, then the wife wanted the glass top stove and it doesn’t bring things to a boil all that quickly and won’t give me a good rolling boil on 4gal. I do heat my mash water on it, but have gone to propane for my 60-90min boil. I do get more runs out of my tanks than you are, maybe you can find a more efficient burner system? I’m thinking of finding a heavy duty 110v electric coil hotplate that would let me go back to indoor boiling, but I’m learning to use my propane for the time being.

The other thing you might do is find a place that refills the tanks, I think mine only costs around $15 to refill.

I’ve recently become quite a fan of heat sticks. They’re simple to make a insanely cheap to use.

what size batches are you making and which burner?

I do five gallon batches and I use a turkey fryer. I’m not sure what type of burner it has. I will look into those heat sticks. They look nice and anything that uses electricity has to be more economical.

heat sticks might be a good solution. or perhaps a new burner if you decide to stick with that. although expensive, i have a blichman floor burner and get about 4.5 five gallon AG batches per tank…

Sounds like you might need a more efficient burner.
Have you shopped around for propane? Refills only run me $19.
Any chance you are doing a propane exchange instead of getting it filled. I know of a few companies that are not completely filling their tanks.

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The really cool thing about heat sticks is that they make step mashing a breeze. Think of it as a mash paddle that makes things get hot in a hurry. This expedites the brew day in a big way. Rather than hovering over thermometers, you simply use the heat stick to quickly reach your step temperature.

Mash outs are a breeze, you just stir for a couple of minutes. Best of all, heat sticks simplify the mash. They allow you to select your strike water/grist ratio and leave it at that. That makes batch sparging even easier, all you have to worry about is absorption. In short, dividing by two is all the math you need for a mash.

They are truly wonderful things, those heat sticks.

How much money do you have in a homemade heat stick?

The link above puts it at $40 bucks. I came in around $65. Copper is expensive and a long run of 12 gauge wire for a 2000w unit will cost you dearly. Combined with a competent range top, a 1500w stick will work great and that should get you into 14 gauge wire, although I haven’t done the math yet. My 2000w stick is wort-flying-out-of-the-kettle massive overkill on my modest range top, so I’ll be making a 1500w stick this winter for the boil. I’ll also build the 1500w stick with a potentiometer. Heat sticks are hugely powerful: we normally think more is better when it comes to power, with heat sticks controlling the power is the issue.

Here’s the break down for my parts list. I dumped a ton of money into epoxy because I was concerned about waterproofing and I want this stick to last a very long time.

Electric element: $8

Chromed metal collection pipe w/ compression fitting: $7

PVC collection pipe w/ compression fitting $4

PVC cap and 3/4" inch coupling: $3

14 gauge prong: $2 (I couldn’t find a 12 gauge locally, my cord is cool to the touch, so I guess the 14g is working, although I’ll upgrade soon.)

12’ of 12 gauge three prong wire: $19

4 packs of two part 212F safe 120 minute epoxy: $25. (DO NOT use cheap 5 minute epoxy here, you want a long working time. The long working time allows the epoxy to flow into all of your connections and create a waterproof seal. It took me three days to encase my stick, but it should be water proof for years to come.)

The cedarcreek plan has waterproofing issues. I grounded my stick differently (and subsequently avoided drilling a hole in the stick) and encased all of the electrics in 212F safe epoxy. My stick required 3 packs of epoxy to fully encase the electrics, which absorbed $17. I used a further pack of epoxy to seal the connections above the electrics and slathered the rest on outside of the vulnerable lower unions.

Is your burner clean and free of obstructions? Are you sure you’re getting a full tank, and draining it completely? Unless you’re brewing in gale-force winds, you have a problem, and I’d try to figure out what it is before you throw good money after bad.

I can get around 8 batches on a tank, I do use an electric turkey fryer to heat my sparge water though. My burner is like this one:

My burner is just like the one above. I’m sure I’m getting a full tank, i get it refilled at Ace hardware. Regardless of the problem this heat stick is definitely the way to go. I’ll be building one soon. Thanks for the directions.

A brew buddy of mine had a burner so dirty that he almost had to freeze his regulator just to get a boil. A simple cleaning made the burner more efficient and his propane now goes alot farther.

Do they fill it there or is it a trade in thing? I have a friend who works for a propane company and he’s told me that the exchange places usually only fill the tanks to 15-17 lbs.

any pics? maybe a wiring diagram? not sure if you got the time or care to share but would you be interested in making a separate post with details? makes it easy to search later on. just a thought.


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