Electric Brewing Vs Propane Gas Costs, Equipment, and Pros & Cons)

There’s debate among homebrewers about which heat source is better for brewing: electric or propane. Is one actually better than the other?

Brewing with electric and propane both have their specific advantages and drawbacks. Electric is best for indoor brewing, small batches, and more precision during the process. Propane gas works best for those who brew outside and those who prefer to brew large batches. Electric tends to be more accessible and is likely to be better for beginners.

Keep reading for more on the pros and cons of electric and propane brewing and to find out more about which method may work best for you.

Which is better – electric brewing or propane gas?

When determining which heat source is best when brewing beer, it’s critical to take your own set-up, experience, and conditions into account. 

Generally, electric brewing works better for people who are new to homebrewing because:

  • The majority of homes are set up to handle electricity and may even have an electric stove to get started on.
  • It’s easier to get started with small batches as a new homebrewer.
  • The precision that electric offers takes away the guesswork that a rookie may not be able to easily troubleshoot.

Propane works best for people who prefer to brew outdoors for any of the following reasons: 

  • Better ventilation
  • It’s safer to brew large batches outside
  • A good burner can accelerate the boil

Either can be used regardless of your preferred brewing method, whether that’s extract, partial mash, brew-in-a-bag, or all-grain.

Total cost

It may initially seem as though electricity is less expensive than propane since your home is likely already powered by electricity. However, there are a handful of factors to consider when deciding between propane and electric brewing in terms of cost.

Basic electric brewing often has fewer start-up costs, but inexpensive gas and materials can mean propane brewing comes out to be cheaper in the long run.

Brewing small batches on an electric stove amounts to the cost of your vessel (which could be a heavy-duty stockpot you already own), ingredients, sanitizer, a thermometer, and odds-and-ends tools. The start-up cost can be very low. 

On the other hand, some people prefer large electric systems rather than the stovetop for brewing their beer. These rigs are loaded up with all kinds of features, come in a variety of sizes, and can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on size and features. For reference, here is an awesome starter kit that includes an electric kettle setup and everything you need to brew excellent beer in the comfort of your home!

Our Pick!
MoreBeer Premium Electric Starter Kit

The Premium Electric Homebrewing Starter Kit is one of the most approachable starter kits we’ve ever offered and represents the absolute best value you’ll find!


Most home brewing kits require a kitchen stove or outdoor propane burner, but with the DigiBoil you can make great beer just about anywhere you can find a power socket.


We also include the 6-gallon Fermonster fermenter, copper wort chiller, beer recipe kit of your choice, and all the time-tested brewing equipment you need to make beer at home!

Buy Now at MoreBeer!
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Starting from scratch with propane requires buying a burner, a propane tank, and an appropriately-sized kettle in addition to the same items mentioned above, like ingredients and tools. These burners aren’t usually very expensive, though: camp burners can cost as little as $20 up to $100+.

Pro-tip: a turkey fryer kit is often a great way to get started, and they frequently go on sale following Thanksgiving.

Time

Propane can transfer heat more quickly into the wort than electricity can.

However, in terms of efficiency, all the energy produced through electricity goes toward heating the vessel and wort. It’s common for only 50% of the propane’s energy to be transferred to the wort. Even more energy can be lost on cold or windy days.

You can control the speed of your brew by calculating the BTUs required for your batch size. Here is a handy beginner’s guide.

Ease of use

Both electric stovetop brewing and propane brewing are very easy to use.

Stovetop brewing requires an understanding of your stove’s controls. When brewing with propane, it is easy to become familiar with the valves and hookups.

All-in-one electrical systems are less intuitive but come with extensive instruction manuals. When used according to manufacturer specifications and with practice, a system becomes easier to use.

Safety

There are safety risks inherent in both brewing setups.

Household electricity (120/240 volts) is dangerous enough to be lethal. Do not attempt to build your own electrical rig without experienced help. There is a risk of electrocution even when using approved, professional setups. This risk is also elevated because you’re working with liquid, so exercise caution with your wort, boil-overs, and any exposure to wiring or outlets.

Propane is poisonous with poor ventilation. Make sure you are brewing in open air or a very-well ventilated outdoor shed/garage when using propane. There is also a risk of boil-over that can start a fire, so keep a working fire extinguisher handy. 

Portability

In terms of portability, electric brewing can be achieved anywhere there are working electrical outlets or an electric stove. Homebrewers can use propane wherever there is sufficient safe space and where propane tanks can be safely stored

Large electrical systems are difficult and time-consuming to move, especially compared to the ease of a 10-pound burner or some stock pots of various sizes. For the homebrewer on the move, stovetop brewing or propane brewing is the best choice.

Batch size

When brewing with propane, since you have to brew outside for safety considerations anyway, you can brew batches as large as your burner allows.

Propane brewing is great for large (over 10 gallons) batches. 

Smaller batches work well on electric stovetops (and induction, see below). All-in-one electrical systems can reach 18 gallons or more. 

Cleanup

Regardless of your method, using PBW or a similar formula to clean your equipment is the best way to prevent nasty buildups or cause off-flavors while brewing.

Here’s a great video showcasing the best practices for cleaning your home brewing equipment.

All-in-one systems are more difficult to clean than a simple brew pot and some hoses. Look for an electric brewing system that has drains on the bottom to prevent stray junk from getting caught. Use a recirculating hose to run water and cleaning solution through the system before a final rinse. 

Use soft brushes to scrub at tough stains on any brew pots. Avoid any corrosive materials or exceeding manufacturer recommendations in soak time, as the chemicals can damage the pot if left in contact with it for too long.

Want to know more about the best cleaners for your equipment? Check out this article!

Anything else?

In most cases, electric stovetop brewing makes the most sense for a brand-new homebrewer.

The start-up costs and therefore the commitment are low. If it turns out homebrewing isn’t right for you, then your investment was small.

For those with induction stovetops, small batches in a stainless steel pot up to 10 gallons are not only possible but also energy efficient.  

Electric brewing – when does it make sense?

Electric stovetop brewing is great for beginners, those with limited space, and people who intend to make small batches of beer. 

Electric all-in-one brew systems are best for slightly more experienced brewers with the space to devote to a large (5 to 10 gallon plus stand) rig that will likely stay in one place. 

Initial cost and equipment needed

Whichever heat source you choose, you will need a fermenter, bottling equipment, cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, a hydrometer, some kind of stirrer, and a bottling bucket with a spigot. These materials will cost between $150-200.

When brewing on an electric stovetop, you need an appropriately-sized stockpot or brew kettle. You may already own a stockpot that could work.

For those purchasing an all-in-one electric system, expect to spend between $350-$1800 depending on the capacity and features of the system.

Pros

  • Low barrier to entry – many beginners have access to electric stoves
  • Affordable set-up
  • Continuous energy source, with the exception of power outages/failures
  • Quiet and efficient

Cons

  • More difficult clean-up, particularly with all-in-one systems
  • Cost of equipment and set-up can be more expensive if starting from scratch
Our Pick!
MoreBeer Premium Electric Starter Kit

The Premium Electric Homebrewing Starter Kit is one of the most approachable starter kits we’ve ever offered and represents the absolute best value you’ll find!


Most home brewing kits require a kitchen stove or outdoor propane burner, but with the DigiBoil you can make great beer just about anywhere you can find a power socket.


We also include the 6-gallon Fermonster fermenter, copper wort chiller, beer recipe kit of your choice, and all the time-tested brewing equipment you need to make beer at home!

Buy Now at MoreBeer!
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Propane gas brewing – when does it make sense?

Propane gas brewing is best for people who have concerns about ventilation, who have the space to brew outside, and those that want to brew large batches.

Large batches (anything over 10 gallons) are not safe on an electric stove.

Propane brewing is also great for dedicated homebrewers. The long-term cost of propane brewing is less expensive than long-term electric brewing, especially in a cost-to-batch-size ratio.

Initial cost and equipment needed

In addition to fermentation equipment, cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, and other accessories homebrewers need, propane brewers need a burner, propane tank, and appropriate hoses.

Camp burners can cost as little as $20. Searching for ‘turkey fryer kits’ is a great way for beginner propane brewers to get a burner, all hoses, and a stockpot in one fell swoop. These often go on sale following Thanksgiving and many are under $200 regardless of the time of year.

Propane gas prices are tied to oil prices as it’s a byproduct. Keep an eye out for drops in crude oil prices – propane prices will drop shortly thereafter. 

Pros

  • Usually a faster boil
  • Brewing outside means greater ventilation

Cons

  • You cannot brew indoors
  • The gas is highly flammable 
  • Elevated risk of burning yourself and others
  • A gas tank is a finite resource, requiring pre-planning to ensure you don’t run out of gas before the boil is done

Most Recommended!
Start Homebrewing DELICIOUS Beer!
$262.09

Everything you need to brew 5 gallons of beer at home including full step-by-step instructions!

Buy Now On Amazon Buy Now On Morebeer.com
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
05/11/2022 02:25 pm GMT