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Full boil all grain equipment, heating rod/propane?

So I have been doing research lately about the equipment I need to buy if I ever want to move to all grain brewing. The only real trouble I am having is the propane burner, and here is why:

I normally brew with some friends, each of us doing our own beer. My friends either do small batch brews or 5 gallon extracts, so they can all be done on a stove top. I happen to have an electric stove in the basement of my house, so we all just gather down there because it’s out of the way and the cool basement is perfect for fermenting.

If I jump to 5+ gallons of all grain, I would need to be running outside to boil the sparge/strike water and then to do a full boil on the wort. If I were brewing alone, then that’s no big deal. But if I am still brewing with friends, then this would be really awkward.

So… I have been looking into heating rods to add to my pot while it’s also sitting on a stove burner, but I just don’t know where to really look because they are listed as “water bucket heating” items, so no one really ever says they’re great for beer. Also, the only 230VAC in the basement is already being used for the stove, and I don’t feel like getting too crazy with the wiring (I am more than capable, just don’t want to do it). So I don’t know if a 120VAC model is on the market for an affordable price that will also be strong enough for 6.5 gallons of wort.

I also looked into induction “burners”, which are really cool… but a little expensive, and like I said before, I don’t know if there is an affordable 120VAC model that would be powerful enough.

I also happen to have an unfinished room in the basement with a door and a window. There is always the possibility of getting a propane burner, and sticking it in that room on brew day, opening the window and closing the door. This feels like the worst idea of the bunch, but it is still technically viable.

My question is… what do you forumites suggest? I really enjoy the all grain process the most, and I really want to make 5 gallon brews, but the heat required to do a full boil seems to be my undoing. If the true answer is “Stick to extract brewing for now”, then so be it. I’m just curious if anyone had any ideas?

I just made the move to all grain a couple of batches ago. I use propane and I like how fast it is. I have been thinking about electric but many all grain batches start with a boil volume of 7.25,or so to get 5 gal to the keg or bottles, so if I look at anything electric it will be 240 to get the wattage. For me it’s pretty easy to put the breaker in the panel and run about 20 ft of line to where I would want the receptacle.
You can prob find some benchmarks or estimations on how long it would take to get 7 gal of wort to a boil using a 2500 watt element ( that assumes you have a 20A circuit).
But honestly once I started boiling that kind of volume on the propane burner I started asking myself if I would want to be doing a 60 min boil in my basement. I think I would want a good exhaust fan.
I do have a bulkhead access from my driveway so my thoughts were to make a larger platform on the stairs that I could do the boil, have all the gasses and steam exhaust to the atmosphere but still be working mostly from my basement.
There is a lot of options for sure.

I brew indoors. Many years I did it with propane… Open window with a high velocity fan, another window open to supply fresh air. The bathroom exhaust fan running too! I’m not going to tell you its, no problem. I do have a CO monitor not too far from where I brewed… The heat that comes with propane made it miserable in the summer, and in the winter, well, windows would fog up… That meant I wasn’t exhausting 100% of the by product. I did an electric build up, go look into to beer gear, It is the best thing I’ve done in regards to my equipment. You already have a stove, there can be you power source for when you brew. Make a brew stand on wheels so you can put it away afterwards and your down stairs kitchen is back to normal… I am an advocate for electric brewing! Purpose made kettle, not gimmicks like hot rods or the such… Keep doing your small stove top batches, and plan out and build your new setup! I am thankful for the input I received as I researched my controller… Sneezles61

Sneezles strikes again - right on target!

Building an electric kettle is not difficult. I installed my 5500 Watt water heater element following the directions on the electric brewery site: Heating Elements. You don’t have to use the VERY expensive hole punch The Electric Brewery specifies; I used a hole saw for the heater element hole and a plain old drill bit for the spigot.

I did not build their control panel. I used an STC-1000 controller (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008KVCPH2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) to activate a relay (Amazon.com), which lets me set-and-forget the strike water and sparge water heating process, and a silicon controlled rectifier to control the power level during the boil.

I believe Sneezles uses a slightly different sytem that he has posted in this forum.

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Just do small batch when brewing with your friends. It’s going to be awkward if they are doing small batch extract and you are doing 5 gallon all grain anyway. Invite anyone who wants to do 5 gallon batches another time and just do it outside.

3-gallon all grain is also doable stove top.

I’ve been considering an electric kettle like @sneezles61 suggests for 5-gallon, indoor AG batches, but I haven’t gotten the green light from the wife (yet)

Till then, I brew 3-gallon AG or 5-gallon extract.

I had a gadget called a Bru Heat years ago. Basically a plastic bucket you could boil your wort in or mash in. Can only find them for sale in the U.K. now at around $100. Shipping is “contact us” for U.S.A. near as I can tell. The thing actually work really well. When the element finally went I bought a water heater element from the hardware store, kept the controller and moved it all to a converted Sanke keg.

It’s too bad they didn’t catch on here. You do have to wire your own plug on the cord and use a fairly big supply. I fashioned a cord and plug to go into a dryer outlet. We have a gas dryer so it wasn’t being used anyway.

2 friends are doing small batch all grain, 2 others are doing 5 gallon extract… so it’s a big mixture there.

So, thanks to old_dawg for those amazon links. I will look into this, since I already own plenty of relays and junction boxes (my occupation has me use these all the time). Looks like it’s a little expensive (mostly the heating element, everything else is pretty cheap), about 2-3X the price of a propane burner. Maybe I will just buy a small junction box and buy the heating element from Amazon as well, and make the whole apparatus myself rather than buy from the electric brewery. The ability to do it indoors (safely) with my friends will be a lot of help and fun. It will also make for a fun DIY project, for once I get to use my knowledge of electricity for fun!

I plan on buying or making a mash/lauter tun and a hot liquor tank before I make the jump to all grain, so it will be good that I can make a big pot of boiling water, then just pour the water into the different tanks, then just dole it all out until I have my ~7.5 gallons of wort to boil with the heating element again.

I would strongly recommend against using a propane burner anywhere indoors. In addition to the obvious flame hazard and the carbon monoxide poisoning risk, propane is heavier than air so it can accumulate, especially in a basement, leading to risks of asphyxiation, fire, and even explosion. The burners common to brewing are “high pressure” (5 to 30 psi) and definitely intended for outdoor use only - they can deliver or leak much more propane a lot faster than a natural gas stove or low pressure (1/4 psi ballpark) propane stove (e.g. an RV stove). Even when operating properly, the much faster propane burn rate will produce much more carbon monoxide than a low pressure stove.
I would also worry about legal trouble with your fire department and voiding your home insurance ?

Thats whom guided me to my build up… I appreciate his input. You can get another gizmo comparable to the SCR, but I think its a VRC, voltage regulator controller… Its basically a knob, just like the stoves used to use, to control the element… I would advise you to get the purpose built heating element with the plug on it… You’ll save time and be very satisfied with how it connects! Brew hardware carries the one I got, and Spike has an identical element… Just look at options and think through your build before you start getting stuff… That way you’ll know where you are going! If I can be of help, feel free to ask away! Sneezles61

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