Questions about electric heating elements for brew kettles

I’ve doing some research on these electric heating elements that are available. It looks like they are basically modified hot water tank elements. How is this heating element not severely scorching the wort? Before I bought a propane burner and made extract batches on the stove, I also always inadvertently scorched some of the wort on the bottom of the kettle even with a good amount of stirring. So we’re now adding this very hot heating element in the wort, and so how is this not causing more scorching? Also, I’m curious as to how many of you all are now or planning on switching to such a system, and if so, what are the benefits outside of no longer being outside in the freezing cold? Thank you.

I don’t have a boil coil, but I think the keyword in your post was “extract.” LME in particular is prone to scorching on the bottom, so I imagine if you pour LME on the boil coil it will burn the carp out of it.
If you’re looking at a pot like that for extract brew, you’d be doing a full boil, so just get all the LME well mixed with the coil off.

As for indoor brewing, I’m making 3-gallon AG batches on a stock electric stove. Beside getting out of the freezing cold in winter, and the soul-sucking summer humidity, I can brew on rainy days too.
Pants-optional brewing is awesome!

OK, great. Thank you!

I had a plastic bucket thing called a Bru Heat. Basically a 6.5 gallon bucket with a hot water heater element. 220V so some wiring was required. I just adapted a plug to connect to the dryer outlet in the house. Since we had a gas dryer it was no problem. It had a dial type temp control so you could turn it down if a boil over started. I don’t think it scorched much and I used it for extract and all grain.

After having it for a a number of years the element burned out. I adapted a heating element from Home Depot and installed it in a 15.5 gallon converted keg so I could do ten gallons and used the wiring and temp controller from the old Bru Heat. It was great to brew in the winter without going outdoors.

There is a huge volume of wort that is always at the boiling point. It keeps the surface of the element fairly near that boiling temperature as long as the power input is moderated and the element has a low watt density. I’ve used electric heating in my RIMS for over a decade and in my kettle for several years and would never go back to gas heating.

This does not mean that you can’t scorch the wort. If you do put a lot of power into the wort and boil too energetically, its easy to scorch. Including some sort of power modulating device is recommended. The other thing that can happen is that stuff will build-up on the element and that coat can insulate the element and cause that coating to burn. It will impart smokey flavor and aroma to the beer. That is probably not desirable for most styles.

Electric elements come in different “watt densities”, namely High (HWD), Medium (MWD), Low (LWD), and Ultra-Low (ULWD). This means watts-per-square-inch, the lower this number the less heat is emitted at each point on the element, and the less likely you are to scorch your wort. So always go for the ULWD elements if you can find one that fits your kettle. The black Camco Lime Life elements are a very popular option with brewers.

I have a 3-vessel E-HERMS with a 5500W Camco ULWD ripple element and have never had scorching even when doing brew-in-a-bag in the boil kettle.

I also have a 3-gallon E-BIAB with a 5500W Camco MWD element (run at 120V for 1375W) and I did have massive scorching, but that was mainly due to bad circulation around the element allowing the grain dust and proteins to build up around the element. I’ve since replaced it with a Camco 5500W ULWD element and raised the false bottom for better circulation.

So two things to keep in mind: #1 - always use a LWD or ULWD element, and #2 - always make sure there’s enough circulation around the element. These two things will ensure you don’t scorch your brew.