View Full Version : Cleaning an Electric Element

03-16-2011, 11:28 AM
I'm wondering if anyone who's brewing electric would be willing to share their experiences cleaning the kettle element, and keeping it clean. We have a 6 bbl kettle with an 18 kW high-density element. The problem I'm running into is that with every brewday the buildup on the element gets worse and worse, and it's gotten to the point that no amount of elbow grease will get it off. I've tried PBW, CMC, and caustic, none of which has been able to get the worst of the spots clear.

Is there some magic solution I'm missing that will get it clean? Or, assuming we can fit a new element into the budget, some proactive method of keeping it clean, so things don't get to this point again? Thanks in advance for any pointers.

03-16-2011, 11:49 AM
I've encountered this before.

Try an orange product, like TKO. Super concentrated should work best, but even Gojo Hand cleaner may work, though the pumice might cause some clean up grief. After you're done, use a mild detergent, then caustic and acid sanitizer as usual. Another product I have had luck cleaning elements with is a military cleaner called C16...but I've no idea where to get more.

The TKO works best with a short soak period. Spray it on, leave it for 20 min, then scrub.

Both of these products can be easily removed by your normal cleaning regimen. Don't listen to anyone recommending industrial-type solvents containing xylene or weird terpenes. They are a royal pain to keep out of your beer. I once encountered a kettle that had been cleaned using Castrol Royal Purple ...it took days of cleaning to get that vessel food safe again.

good luck


03-16-2011, 01:56 PM
Heh... my electric elements are my nemesis. I have tried a few things too, but resort to scrubbing with a stainless scrubby after soaking in PBW. Even then it never gets completely clean and new-looking. That mineral scale is just too tough sometimes. The best thing I have found is a LONG PBW soak at high temps. Every week I will fill up my kettle above the element with PBW solution and heat to 170-180 or so. I recirc this hot caustic solution to clean my knockout lines and heat exchanger. I let it run for more than an hour usually. The scale comes off and loosens up a lot and it makes cleaning them as easy as I've experienced, but still not perfect.

On a different subject, how do you handle hops in your electric kettle? I found that the element was extracting lots of "green" grassy and bitter flavors with super-high utilization. I use bags now to keep the hops from going loose in the boil and interacting with the element for an improved taste.

03-16-2011, 07:16 PM
Try using a larger (in physical size), LOW density element. Or multiple low density elements. High density means extreme heat transfer and very high temperature differentials. Might also help with hop extraction issues, too. Good luck and may your next brewery be run with STEAM!

03-17-2011, 09:41 AM
How feasible is it to buy a spare element so it can be cleaned out of the kettlel? Yes, I know they are not cheap, but consider that it might be faster to clean it out of the kettle, and also that if one died, then you would have no down time while you waited for another to ship to you, Having spare parts has saved my tail more than once!

03-17-2011, 10:16 AM
Have you tried straight TSP yet?

I know when I used to homebrew I had an electric element that got sparkley clean when I soaked it in warm TSP solution for a couple hours. The crusties would puff up and get doughy and then you could go in with a scrub brush and it was much quicker.

+1 on the extra element.

03-18-2011, 10:13 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I'll try TKO and/or TSP and report back.

A new element is definitely going to be necessary at some point, and I'm bending the owners' ears in that direction, but they are quite pricey. If and when that happens we'll definitely investigate the Teflon coating. Unfortunately, we don't have propane or NG, and the brewery is in the basement, so we'll be electric for the foreseeable future.

On a different subject, how do you handle hops in your electric kettle? I found that the element was extracting lots of "green" grassy and bitter flavors with super-high utilization. I use bags now to keep the hops from going loose in the boil and interacting with the element for an improved taste.
The former brewer threw hops in loose, but he was using extract for the bittering additions, so there wasn't as much hop matter - or as much contact time - to worry about. I've been bagging everything. We boil at 194F, so a little more utilization lost due to the bags is pretty much a non-issue.

03-23-2011, 04:44 AM
i use holchem "holchel" with their "causdetta 25" my elements are sparkly;)

http://http://www.holchem.co.uk/default.aspx?categorycode=HOME&articlecode=HYGI0003 (http://www.holchem.co.uk/default.aspx?categorycode=HOME&articlecode=HYGI0003)

dont know if they ship to the states though

03-23-2011, 09:23 AM
Find out how long it would take to get a replacement element and ask the owner how long it would be OK to be out of production when the element burns out...
You might get some better response from him.

05-15-2015, 04:14 AM
A rinse with hot water after each brew helps to reduce gunk of the elements. I've found that hot caustic can only do so much to remove build up. A hot acid rinse can help loosen residues and scale. I use Ecolab's Horolith FL at 80 C after a few batches or when the elements starts to show a stubborn buildup that can't be removed with caustic and a good scrubbing. My tanks have such small manways that no person can fit through. All cleaning has to be done by normal CIP and scrubbing with a long brush. So far the elements have kept clean.

05-15-2015, 04:48 PM
I'm pulling the elements after every single brew and giving it a quick scrub with Five stars PBW - this includes the middle of multi brew days. At the end of the day the elements stay in the kettle for the CIP cycle and then come out and soak in more very hot PBW overnight before getting another scrubbing.

05-21-2015, 03:28 AM
At my last place, we would give the elements a scrub to knock the trub off after each boil, but that only slowed the build up of gunk. The only method that worked was a caustic boil (which also shined up the rest of the kettle like nothing else). A regular CIP wasn't good enough because the elements weren't really in the path of the sprayball.

05-21-2015, 09:17 AM
We immediately pull them off after each brew, scrub with a scouring pad and put them into a container with caustic. Like new every time.

05-23-2015, 02:01 AM
We pressure wash the kettle & elements before the hot caustic. That seems to keep the build up at bay.