Aluminum kettle?

Anybody ever have any issues with an aluminum boil kettle? Considering using one for brewing in my kitchen. Living in Florida makes brewing outdoors in the summer a real event. I normally use an old stainless Busch keg as my kettle on a big propane burner. Any feedback? Thanks, Bill

Absolutely fine to use AL.

I’m stepping beyond my credentials here, but that said…

I’m satisfied that aluminum composition is not a problem. I haven’t been convinced (or can’t remember :? ) any aluminum flavor.

I do fear that surfacetexture* of cheap aluminum kettles may pose an infection risk. A nice smooth-finished kettle is probably fine, at least until you scratch through the oxide. A cheap kettle with enough texture to feel is conveniently pre-scratched and textured to retain spores.

My first two batches used a 32qt aluminum tamale pot (cheap!) and turned out fine; they didn’t live long enough for infection to really show. Then I thoroughly boiled a full pot to cool covered overnight hoping to have a bunch of sanitary rinsewater (I don’t fear StarSan foam, but it does annoy me)… only to find it growing some fuzzy colonies the next morning. I’m guessing the “spun aluminum” surface texture retained some boil-tolerant spores and even some nutrient through as much scrubbing as I’m willing to do.

So I coughed up and bought a 42 qt SS kettle (I need the volume anyway). I might use the tamale pot for sparge HLT [size=50]or liquor treatment (slaked lime)[/size], but I won’t use it on the cold side until I polish it nice and smooth and reestablish oxide.

No, I won’t do that myself nor suggest anybody should.

I forgot that I decided against exposing aluminum to alkaline limed water that could strip the oxide. That’s how stray oxide is stripped from aluminum to present bare-metal surface for anodizing to build a new pretty oxide surface.

[quote=“DavidS”]
I do fear that surfacetexture* of cheap aluminum kettles may pose an infection risk. A nice smooth-finished kettle is probably fine, at least until you scratch through the oxide. A cheap kettle with enough texture to feel is conveniently pre-scratched and textured to retain spores.[/quote]

How can that be when all you do is boil in it? Why would it matter? FWIW, I used an AL kettle with a rough interior for years. No infections and I won a lot of ribbons.

I boil and chill in the kettle. It’ll spend some time full of wort at pleasant bug-growing temperatures.

When I did that with simple water, “chilling” by simply covering overnight, the next morning I found stuff growing where I’d expected to find only sanitary water. I can only imagine how much it might’ve grown in sweet, tasty wort.

Could I have prevented that by scrubbing harder? Don’t care. If that pot needed more scrubbing than I gave it, it needed more scrubbing than I’m willing to do and know is enough for a smoother surface.

Was it bad stuff? Dunno. Would it have detached into wort? I expect thermal cycling and agitation raise that possibility. Would it survive fermentation and compete with the yeast enough to be noticeable in the beer? I dunno. You’re telling us those stars haven’t aligned with your kettle to be a problem, and I’ve seen enough of your posts (BTW: Thank you) to take you seriously and not challenge your credentials.

My kettle at issue is a cheap tamale steamer pot from Fiesta with a surface texture much like it was aggressively wire-brushed, coniderably rougher than anything I’ve seen on any aluminum stockpot, turkey fryer, or other kitchenware. That suggests it may be rougher than what you mean by “rough”, or maybe not.

Call it newbie paranoia. I’ve still got plenty of mistakes to make on things I haven’t thought of yet.

I didn’t think spores could survive boiling? Even if they did grow between batches, would the act of boil wort in the vessel kill them until they die?

Ordinary boiling sanitizes but doesn’t sterilize. My “understanding” is that (atmospheric) boiling kills most actively growing bacteria, etc. but some can endure boiling in a more deactivated spore state that can resume growth when conditions improve. Botulism is a notable example; that’s why low-acid foods (pH>4.6 IIRC) need to be preserved in a pressure canner that gets hot enough to kill any spores that could grow when things cool down.

Good news: Beer is too acidic for botulism bacteria to grow. Ordinary boil is enough to suppress any active botulism population and destroy any pre-existing toxin, and oxygenation suppresses any new toxin production until the yeast get the pH down.

It’s not the aluminum-nature that concerns me, it’s my tamale pot’s lousy surface texture. Maybe I’m just paranoid or need to rationalize buying a nicer kettle. Certainly my advice is worth about a third what you paid for it. Maybe Denny’s just been lucky… but that does sound like a long streak to credit to luck even against long odds.

If you want to get a nice new kettle then get one. But stop trying to justify with all this half baked (or half boiled) pseudo science. There is no way that you could have boiled water and cooled in a covered pot overnight, and had visible living organisms in the water the next day. I have a concrete bird bath in my back yard and if I fill it with a hose this morning and let it sit through the day, through the night, uncovered, and look at it in the morning it will still appear clean. There may be micro organisms growing in the water but not enough to be visible in that short of a time period. 175 degrees F for 10 minutes gives you sterilized water. Boiling for 60 minutes damn sure gives you sterile liquid, regardless of the pot construction.

Perhaps you have crappy water and boiling it causes the particulate matter in it to coagulate and settle out and that is what you see. But even that would be sterile material.

I boil and chill in the kettle. It’ll spend some time full of wort at pleasant bug-growing temperatures.

When I did that with simple water, “chilling” by simply covering overnight, the next morning I found stuff growing where I’d expected to find only sanitary water. I can only imagine how much it might’ve grown in sweet, tasty wort.

Could I have prevented that by scrubbing harder? Don’t care. If that pot needed more scrubbing than I gave it, it needed more scrubbing than I’m willing to do and know is enough for a smoother surface.

Was it bad stuff? Dunno. Would it have detached into wort? I expect thermal cycling and agitation raise that possibility. Would it survive fermentation and compete with the yeast enough to be noticeable in the beer? I dunno. You’re telling us those stars haven’t aligned with your kettle to be a problem, and I’ve seen enough of your posts (BTW: Thank you) to take you seriously and not challenge your credentials.

My kettle at issue is a cheap tamale steamer pot from Fiesta with a surface texture much like it was aggressively wire-brushed, coniderably rougher than anything I’ve seen on any aluminum stockpot, turkey fryer, or other kitchenware. That suggests it may be rougher than what you mean by “rough”, or maybe not.

Call it newbie paranoia. I’ve still got plenty of mistakes to make on things I haven’t thought of yet.[/quote]

If you boil in it first, you’ve killed anything that could be a problem down the line. If you got an infecttion, it’s from somehting that got into the kettle, not something that was already there.

You ever go out to eat? 90% of restaraunts cook in aluminum stock pots. Of course I wouldn’t leave them full of wort in the refrigerator for an extended period I’ve heard that could be a problem

Boiling is not sterilization although it is pasteurization. Even 149* F for 5 minutes will kill 99.999% of water borne microorganisms. I like my odds with a 90 minute boil!

now now gentle brewers, we ALL have a horror story we can share, er, don’t want too. I will keep my stainless and believe its a life time investment. Ifn my health deteriorates so I can’t drink a brew, well then I can make creamed anything fer me food! Sneezles61 :cheers:

For a while I used an aluminum turkey fryer pot. The problem is it was tall and narrow and nearly impossible to prevent boilover. The wort would launch out of it like a rocket. I only use it to heat water now.

So much is cooked in aluminum pots, you won’t know any better. Temps need to reach much higher than stove top cooking can reach, in order to emit gases that are bad for you. BUT stainless is always better. I’m still using aluminum. But have been looking for the right upgrade.

I used an aluminum pot for my first 20 years of brewing. Never had any issues related to the aluminum pot. I did eventually replace the aluminum with stainless after all of the stories about potential issues with cooking in aluminum, but I still have the aluminum as a backup.

Homebrewers don’t sterilize anyway…we sanitize.