Electric Heating Elements & brewing

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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Electric Heating Elements & brewing

Post by apd1004 » Sat Mar 10, 2007 8:23 am


For those of you who are using electric water heater elements for heating water/wort/etc..., How have they been working for you? I've been looking at the 1500w 120v screw-in type elements to make my maiden voyage into all-grain brewing.

Wottaguy has a cool-looking brewing setup on his blog (URL is in his profile), and he uses an electric heat exchanger for heating and an ice bath heat exchanger in the fermenter for cooling. I really like that setup and will probably base my own setup on that.

I have had some Ben Franklin moments with electricity (LOL), so I have been a little leary about switching to electric heating elements. But, it seems like electric would be so simple, accurate, and efficient compared to other methods.

My other concerns are scorching of wort with the element - how hot does that thing get - and proximity to plastic & melting, such as putting one in an Igloo cooler.



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RE: Electric Heating Elements & brewing...

Post by wottaguy » Sat Mar 10, 2007 9:40 am

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for visiting my blog..glad you enjoyed it!

When I was putting together my higher capacity brewery, I did incorporate a heating element which is housed in a 3 gallon igloo type cooler. I use a digital temp controller to monitor the element and the temp inside of the cooler. Inside the cooler there is 25 ft of copper stuffed into it and the wort is slowly pumped from the bottom of the mash tun, through the copper coil in the heat exchanger coil, then back to and on top of the mash. The cooler is filled of water, and the element heats it up. I set the temp controller usually at 200 degF.

After using this setup for a couple of batches the shortcomings were apparent:

It works great on 5 gallon batches, but not on 10 gallon batches as there is not enough "horsepower" to keep the bigger mass of mash fully heated.

On 5 gallon batches, it maintained the desired temps very good, but if doing a step mash, the next step in the program was slow to get at the desired temp. It took a long time! It never could get to a correct mash out temp in a decent amount of time.

All in all, the setup was disappointing as it did not allow me to perform the steps i wanted to do in a timely fashon. Who wants to sit around baby sitting a 10 gallon batch for 12 hours? Complete nonsense!

I have since reconfigured my brewery setup and have done away with the heating element heat exchanger. I am now using my IC as a heat exchanger inside of the boil kettle and recirculating the wort thru that. Much more efficent and I get to finish my brew day a LOT earlier too. And with the new setup, I am able to perform any kind of step mash that I desire.

With all being said, I was pretty much disappointed with the hElement exchanger. It was just too small and not powerful enough to allow me to do what I really wanted to do. I should have some new pics on my blog with the new configuration..(and a new boil kettle) in about 2 or 3 weeks.

Keep posted and thanks for your questions. You can also post questions on my blog at the bottom of each post.

Thanks again!

Visit my blog @ http://www.wottashomebrewblog.blogspot.com

On Tap:
HL Pale Ale
HL Lite Lager
HL Simcoe Pale Ale
HL Wizeguy Weizenbock
HL Reveur Saison
HL Dry Stout
HL Kentucky Common

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