View Full Version : Electric Kettle

08-15-2010, 08:55 AM
Wanted any opinions on this particular issue involving a brewkettle using an electric heating element (flange mounted near the bottom of the vessel).

The goal is to heat and boil wort without excessive carmelization and with some degree of efficiency.

A common solution is recirculation of wort (even though the pump requires additional electricity)while the electric element is "on" at a slow flowrate (avoid shearing forces on wort) and through a port in the kettle which has full contact with wort (to avoid hot side aeration and splashing).

I've wikid a bit about forced convection, whereby a pump (in this case) actually increases the heating capacity by influencing formation of convection currents (pushing hot wort up, bringing colder wort down).

The question...in this scenario (even though i may not be able to turn on my pump until the kettle is full) what would be the ideal location of ports, ideal position of element(s), ideal flowrate, and what should be the direction of flow (pulling wort from the top of kettle and pumping thru a bottom port or opposite?)? Also keep in mind there could be a tangential WP port on the vessel as well.

Anybody have experience with this?
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08-15-2010, 09:12 AM
I would bet you would have a lot better luck posting this ? on one of the better homebrew forums, since homebrewers use electric more than pros.

08-15-2010, 09:34 AM
The electric 3-7 BBL kettles I used in the UK had up to 3 individual elements with separate controls (on-off) for each, and were all located to one side of the kettle to induce convection currents. Start off with all 3 on, then turn one off at the beginning of the boil. They were not concerned with caramelization. Interestingly enough they thought direct fire would produce MORE caramelization than direct electric.

They did not use a pump to re-circulate, nor to whirlpool due to the use of whole hops as they had a screen at the bottom to filter them out.

It would seem that the easiest thing to do would be to take off from the bottom port, and recirculate through the tangential port. I think the problem with pumping the boiling wort is cavitation within the pump.

08-15-2010, 11:23 AM
Perhaps you could have a short T made with two of the heater element flanges and one tri-clover fitting, spacing the element slightly further outside the kettle. As you gently circulate, all the wort would flow along the element. This movement might also reduce the fouling that is such an issue with electric elements.

08-15-2010, 02:35 PM
Another couple of options...

You could brew with steam using an electric boiler. Not quite as efficient, but great beer with the low density energy from steam.

Also, my homebrew system uses an electric element in a tube...the pump pulls wort off the bottom and runs it over the element in the tube. Because the element is attached to a modified triclamp it is easy to remove and clean. Improper cleaning is the killer for immersion elements...a bit of gunk and they burn out. They can be pricey, too!

Whatever route you go, I encourage you to use as many smaller elements as you can get away with instead of one. If you have 5 elements, and one burns out, you can limp along on four. But if you have only one or two, you're hooped!

Another solution I have seen uses vacuum tube solar to help heat the wort and hot liquor. Worked better than I would have thought. That was on a direct fire system, but the brewer using it claimed that he had cut his propane costs by two-thirds.

Me, I'd go for the 3 or 5 elements in tubes with a single pump feeding all of them slowly. As long as you don't get too much turbulence (and oxygenation) and keep the wort moving over lower density elements, you should avoid excess scorching. Also, using elements mounted outside the vessel means easier cleaning, it makes whirlpooling possible, and you can modify any insulated vessel to do the job.