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Propane Burner Questions

Hi Everyone,

I have a Low Profile Banjo burner from this site: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew … stand.html and have yet to really figure out the proper usage of it. I seem to a use A LOT of propane ( like 1-2 all grain 5 gal batches per 20 lb tank ).

  1. What size should the flames be? Little perfect triangles of blue flame or crazy tall blue flames with it roaring like crazy?
  2. It seems that the tank freezes up and has to be swapped out with another tank after a certain amount of usage? Is this normal?

Any tips or tricks on this thing?

Thanks everyone!

I have one. It does freeze up. It does eat a TON of LP. My plan it to have a welder cut the welds and move the flame closer. The head space is a pain. The wind affects it drastically. I have to feather the gas all the time. If I could focus the heat and reduce the flame that would be ideal. It does however get a boil fast. I just brewed last week and it froze on me.

I use this exact burner and have had the exact same experience. I’ve learned to keep an extra tank on hand, and typically switch out about halfway through the boil, when the first tanks starts to lose momentum. I guess the upside to this arrangement is that between the two tanks, one of which is significantly fuller than the other, I don’t have to worry about running out of fuel during a boil.

To start, I will typically open up the flame pretty generously until I reach a boil and then taper back so that I can maintain a healthy boil while using a minimal amount of fuel. This being said, I’ve also learned to keep an eye on the boil, especially once one of the tanks dips below half full. On several occasions I’ve had to increase the gas flow mid-boil because, for whatever reason, the burner lost it’s ability to maintain the boil, even though the valve was not adjusted down. I’ve also noticed that at some point during a 60 minute boil, the original tank will no longer be able to maintain a boil, regardless of how much the valve is opened. The problem is corrected once I move over to the new tank.

I placed a call to NB a while back to ask about this, but did not get a definitive answer as to why this happens. As I said, my solution has been to keep two tanks on hand, and this has solved the problem, even up to 90 minute boils.

I, too, would be glad to hear from anyone out there who could explain this phenomenon…

So what do you do with the now half-full tank? Refill it? If I did that I’d have to pay full price for the refill. That would make the cost of propane a lot higher.

If you are using a keggle you MUST adjust this burner or it will put you in the poor house with the cost of propane. If you adjust it, it works great.

So what do you do with the now half-full tank? Refill it? If I did that I’d have to pay full price for the refill. That would make the cost of propane a lot higher.[/quote
I use each tank until empty…

[quote=“Dan S”]
So what do you do with the now half-full tank? Refill it? If I did that I’d have to pay full price for the refill. That would make the cost of propane a lot higher.[/quote
I use each tank until empty…[/quote]

are you refilling it or exchanging it?

if you refill it, you shouldnt have to pay full price. most propane ‘dispensers’ will guage how much propane is added by the lb. Whenever i refill my tanks, they charge me by the lb

[quote=“S.Scoggin”]
are you refilling it or exchanging it?

if you refill it, you shouldnt have to pay full price. most propane ‘dispensers’ will guage how much propane is added by the lb. Whenever i refill my tanks, they charge me by the lb[/quote]
I’ve been exchanging the empty tank for a full one for ~ $17 – is refilling generally cheaper?

Glad to hear I’m not the only one with this problem, but my one question still remains, what is the proper flame height? Anyone with a picture or diagram that would help? I was worried that my crazy flames may have been powerful but not very efficient on fuel and there had to be some kind of sweet spot between propane usage and output.

I think my biggest issue was with the tanks freezing up, I’d waste a lot of time and energy trying to maintain a boil with a tank that wouldn’t cooperate. I guess I just need to prepare myself for this and be ready to swap tanks.

Thanks!

[quote=“kazmiekr”]Glad to hear I’m not the only one with this problem, but my one question still remains, what is the proper flame height? Anyone with a picture or diagram that would help? I was worried that my crazy flames may have been powerful but not very efficient on fuel and there had to be some kind of sweet spot between propane usage and output.
[/quote]
I think my best advice would be to just watch the pot. Boil size, wort temperature and ambient temperature are just a few of the variables that come into play – it’s hard to give a straight answer. This in addition to the fact that the flame can be hard to see in daylight. Slow as I am, over the course of the first few batches I learned pretty quickly what worked (I think I went more by sound and heat radiation in addition to what the flames looked like) and I’m sure the same will be true for you.

Yes refilling tanks is cheaper than the swap-out, its just typically less convenient. although if you swap with the gas company and cut out the convenience store middleman it might be about the same.

As for the tanks freezing up, thats from the liquid turning to gas right? Exactly like the refrigerant in a refrigerator coil. So if you let the tank sit and warm up, you can use again and use it up.

Hard to imagine you needing so much gas, you’ve got to be blowing a whole lot of BTUs right off the sides of the kettle into the air. I think I’ll stick to low pressure burners or at least something I can regulate down to an acceptable level.

This has been my experience too, and it happens faster when the weather is cold. Having a spare tank (or two) that you can swap out with the grill in a pinch keeps the boiling going and the grill doesn’t freeze up on a 3/4 empty tank.

When you have a big high BTU burner it really helps the fuel usage efficiency to have a large diameter kettle, to maximize the surface area over which the wort can absorb heat from the burner’s flame. The bigger the bottom of the kettle, the more efficient it is at transferring more of the heat from a large flame.

I trickle warm water over the propane valve/tank when the burner starts to slow down.

[quote=“Dan S”]
I’ve been exchanging the empty tank for a full one for ~ $17 – is refilling generally cheaper?[/quote]

You have to pay attention on the tank exchanges - you usually only get 15 pounds of gas in a 20 pound tank! Near me I can get a full tank refill for a buck or two more than the short-fill exchanges.

And hey - this could also be one reason why you think the burner eats gas. I remember when the tank exchange companies first started doing this I thought my gas grill had developed a leak since it used up the gas so fast.

I have the same burner. I brew 10 gal AG batches. I get 3 batches per 20 pound tank. There’s still LP left in the tank but probably not enough for a 4th batch. When I bring water to mash temps or wort to boil, I crank the burner up: loud as heck and the blue flames form about 1 inch above the burner… Are you seeing flames coming up and around your kettle? If so, you may have it cranked up too much and wasting energy.

It doesn’t take more than 20 min for me to hit my target temp (9 gal of H2O from 55F to 170F or 12 gal of wort from 150ish to boil). Once the wort reaches a boil, I can cut the fire way back and keep it low enough to maintain a nice rolling boil.

I haven’t had freezing problems, although the tank does sweat a lot. I brew inside my garage so I don’t have to worry about the wind affecting things.

I was having problems firing the burner up. Bayou Classic recommends that you close the damper when lighting it up then open it as you crank up the regulator. I had the damper on too tight. I followed their recommendation and it worked great.

This is a beast of a burner and it has worked great for me.

Point well taken – this is something I’m going to look into…

Yes, look around. Call and ask price per pound. You will find a deal. The place I found was near a boating and camping area 10 minutes away. They know what they are doing too. Refill fast, safe, etc. They are my go to now. Just refilled 4 - 20G tanks for $64.00 ($16 per tank) which is $4 cheaper than the 15lb exchange and 5lb more propane (which is 25% more).

Look at some garage sales, estate sales, and you will find an extra tank for cheap. Take that to an exchange where they don’t check for OPT valve, like a gas station. Pick a nice tank, then get it refilled from then on.

Just upgraded to a SQ14 which is a killer burner. That thing is like brewing on a nice gas stove. Real fine adjustments and no soot! I suspect it is real efficient too. Previously, I used a 200k BTU torch kooker for like 20 years and got around 5 batches of 5G AG per tank. Perhaps you could better adjust the air intake for efficiency? Also, IIRC the 30 psi regulators (yours) are better suited for larger propane tanks than 20lb. I think the SQ14 would pay for itself in a few batches if you don’t figure something else out…

I sound like a broken record with this suggestion, but to really make the banjo burner work like you want it to, I recommend modifying it. Please see this thread:
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=88514&hilit=KAB4&start=15

I posted a few pics showing what a local welding shop did for $20. With this mod, I get A LOT of 5 gal batches from a tank of propane. With the flames almost turned off I can maintain a nice rolling boil.

[quote=“mccabedoug”]I sound like a broken record with this suggestion, but to really make the banjo burner work like you want it to, I recommend modifying it. Please see this thread:
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=88514&hilit=KAB4&start=15

I posted a few pics showing what a local welding shop did for $20. With this mod, I get A LOT of 5 gal batches from a tank of propane. With the flames almost turned off I can maintain a nice rolling boil.[/quote]
mccabedoug - THANK YOU for reposting! I’ll be calling around for a welder tomorrow…

[quote=“Dan S”][quote=“mccabedoug”]I sound like a broken record with this suggestion, but to really make the banjo burner work like you want it to, I recommend modifying it. Please see this thread:
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=88514&hilit=KAB4&start=15

I posted a few pics showing what a local welding shop did for $20. With this mod, I get A LOT of 5 gal batches from a tank of propane. With the flames almost turned off I can maintain a nice rolling boil.[/quote]
mccabedoug - THANK YOU for reposting! I’ll be calling around for a welder tomorrow…[/quote]
You’re welcome. The first welding shop I visited agreed to do the work for me.

I see a lot of posts where people who purchased a banjo burner complain that it doesn’t perform like they expected (that was me) and it goes through a lot of propane. Both of these can be remedied.

It’s a shame that the poor design of the frame detracts from the performance of the burner. I am sure the manufacturer has their reasons, but by simply lowering the kettle, the burner performs like you expect while being stingy with propane consumption.

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