With so many options out there it can be hard to decide which brew kettle to purchase for your homebrewing. Everyone wants the best for their needs but it can be hard to narrow it down
Of the most common brew kettle alternatives, the best choices are stock pots, turkey fryers, and electric brew kettles. Kitchen stock pots are best for the price, turkey fryer sets offer a great experience, and electric brew kettles are efficient. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages depending on your goals and budget.
Read on to explore the various features common in brew kettles as well as the pros and cons of each brew kettle alternative.
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What is a traditional homebrewing kettle?
With as old of a hobby as homebrewing, it can seem like everyone is deadset in their ways and it can be hard to tell which way is actually the best. The same is true with brewing kettles.
Typically, quality homebrewing kettles are made out of stainless steel, have a built-in thermometer, a sight glass, a ball valve spigot, and a height to diameter ratio of at least 1.2 to 1. Most of these features are for convenience in the end and certainly add to the price of a kettle. If you are just taking a test drive of the brewing hobby there are plenty of less expensive options without these extra features.
However, the convenience of these features is nothing to scoff at. Homebrew kettles are made this way because they directly contribute to the brewing process.
In the end, a cheap homebrew kettle can be any container that allows you to boil your wort, including a standard kitchen stockpot, a turkey-frying system, or even an electric brew kettle.
Different metals have different properties that affect the brew kettle.
Steel and aluminum are used most often and both have their own advantages and disadvantages, but other metals have been used.
Stainless steel is easy to clean and does not oxidize as quickly. It does tend to be more expensive than aluminum though.
Aluminum on the other hand is a better conductor so it will react to changes in temperature quicker. The drawback is that it oxidizes easier. As it is cheap, containers made from aluminum can be of low quality.
Size affects the kettle in a couple of different ways. The capacity, diameter, and height all influence wort quantity and boiling mishaps.
Capacity affects how big of a batch you can make. As a rule, it is important to have more available volume than the volume of your wort. This will help prevent any wort from boiling over.
Diameter and height also affect the chance of boil over. If your kettle is wider than it is tall, there isn’t as much buffer space between your wort and the lip of the kettle.
A wider kettle does have the advantage of more material being exposed to the heating element., which can result in a faster boil. Keep in mind that this also means more area on the top for heat to escape from. It’s a give and take.
If you use the whirlpool method to separate your trub, a wider kettle is for you. The larger diameter will make the whirlpool a little easier. If you don’t and worry about boil over, go for a taller kettle.
The extra options for brew kettles are what help turn an art into a science. Many extra features allow for more consistent conditions resulting in more consistent beer.
The most useful features for a brew kettle include built-in thermometers, sight glasses, and ball valve spigots.
Built-in thermometers are great for a multitude of purposes. They allow you to avoid the hassle of using an exterior thermometer during boiling, provide constant, consistent measurements, and in general simplify the process.
Sight glasses can be useful as another way to measure your pre and post-boil volumes. There are plenty of other methods, but sight glasses can be convenient.
Having a ball valve spigot can either be necessary or a convenience, depending on the size of your brew kettle. With large capacity kettles, pouring can be a struggle to avoid splashing or spilling. This means either siphoning or using a built-in spigot.
Smaller capacity kettles aren’t as annoying to deal with so a ball valve spigot isn’t as necessary.
The most common brew kettle alternatives
It is helpful to know your options whether you already have a brew kettle or are just getting your first. Homebrewing provides a great chance to experiment and different styles of brew kettles can facilitate that.
While there are plenty of options, the most common brew kettle alternatives include kitchen pots, turkey fryers, and electric kettles. Each one meets a particular need from a low budget to greater efficiency.
Some alternatives are better for a tight budget, convenience, or efficiency. These alternatives will have a mix of the features, dimensions, and materials discussed above. For that reason, they will have different appeals and drawbacks to each homebrewer.
Whatever your reason for exploring alternatives, let’s get started.
Large kitchen pots
While this is the least fancy option, kitchen pots are serviceable brew kettles. Best of all, you likely already have one. If not, then buying one will fill two jobs.
A large kitchen stockpot is the best option for those on a budget and those who aren’t certain this is a hobby they want to dive deep into. If you buy one and don’t end up enjoying homebrewing you still have a useful cooking pot.
Most stock pots are made from either aluminum or stainless steel. Both of these will work well. Other metals can work but tend to need special care.
Stainless steel kitchen pots can range between $15-30 for average sizes from 8 to 20 quarts. Past the 20-quart size, prices can get into the several hundred dollars range.
Aluminum pots will be less expensive, but will require more maintenance and may not last as long.
While you can find pots with as little as a gallon capacity, you will want something larger since you’ll need headspace to prevent boil over. For a gallon-sized brew, you’ll want a pot with at the very least a 1.5-gallon capacity.
Some pots go as big as 180 quarts, or 45 gallons if you want to make a huge batch.
The dimensions of kitchen pots vary quite a bit depending on capacity and shape. A standard 12-quart pot – which is the smallest I would go for home brewing – has a length of 10.2 inches, a width of 12.99 inches, and a height of 8.66 inches.
Most stock pots viable for home brewing will be larger.
Kitchen pot features are minimal, but that is not necessarily reflected in the price.
Most pots will have handles and a lid with not much else. When looking at handles, be sure to pick a pot that has riveted handles. These will be more secure than if they were welded.
Another thing to keep in mind is the heating element you use. Some pots have concave bottoms which can reduce the surface area exposed to heat. This is the case if you use a glass top stove.
Additionally, many of the larger pots could be difficult to fit on a stovetop.
- Multiple functions
- Comes in a variety of materials
- Can be cheap
- Tend to have small capacity
- Lacks brewing features
- Can be a hassle
- Can be low quality
Turkey fryer burner and pot combinations
A turkey fryer set is another option that you may already have. As with the previous option, this one comes with multiple functions.
Turkey fryer sets do well for home brewing purposes and can be modified to further meet your needs. This makes them ideal for experiencing the brewing hobby.
On the other hand, most turkey fryers run on propane which will add something else for you to manage. Not to mention that they have to be used outside.
The same considerations for kitchen pots apply to a turkey fryer pot. When looking for turkey fryers be sure to consider the following.
The price is primarily determined by the choice of a full package or just the turkey fryer. A good turkey fryer package can cost roughly $150 for the cooker, pot(s), thermometer, lifting rack, and a pair of fry baskets.
A propane burner on its own can run for around $70. Pot prices have a large range depending on the size as discussed above.
Most burners are of a similar size.
On average they stand about a foot tall with a length and width of around 12 to 15 inches. These sizes should accommodate a pot as large as 20-24 quarts easily.
You should take care when using larger pots as they may be unbalanced.
Turkey fryers typically don’t come with brewing specific features. They can come with wind blocks to shelter the burner, adjustable regulators, and timers.
Wind blocks can be useful to protect the flame, but do nothing for the pot. If it is windy while you boil, you may experience more water evaporation than normal.
Propane regulators are very useful. If you come across a turkey burner without one, keep looking.
Timers might not get as much use unless you know exactly how long it will take for your wort to boil.
- Multiple functions
- Variety of materials
- Can be cheap
- Allows for larger capacity pots
- Kettle can be low quality
- Lacks brewing features
- Must be used outside
- Requires propane
Electric kettles and brewing systems
Electric brew kettles are the best alternative for specifically brewing. These are also multi-function, but their other functions tend to be brewing-related.
Many electric kettles can be used for both boiling and cooling as well as mashing.
The most notable issue is that this is not a cheap alternative. This alternative is for those who know they want to get further into home brewing and want an efficient option.
Unlike many brew kettle alternatives, this is an upgrade rather than a less expensive option.
The lowest price I have seen is for the Klarstein Maischfest brewing kettle which is roughly $270. Prices only go up from there, but the general quality of these machines is high.
Another great option that is a little bit more expensive is the NutriChef All-In-One Home Beer Brewing Mash and Boil Device. It sits at around $350, but it is worth it for all that it can do.
Since electric kettles are usually all-in-one, they tend to be on the larger side.
On average they are 14 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 28 inches tall.
With their high price comes a variety of features. Some come with fancy digital interfaces that allow you to delay start boiling if you so desire.
Other possible features include fine temperature control, built-in spigots, double-walled insulation, and sieves for filtration.
- High quality
- Brewing specific features
- Need electricity
- May need extra accessories