The heart and soul of any electric brewery system is undoubtedly the brew kettles. While it’s possible to build a system that uses a separate pot/enclosure for the HLT (hot liquor tank), mash tun, and brew kettle, for aesthetic purposes often they are all build using the same kettle.
Sizing The Kettle
The size of your equipment ultimately determines the maximum home brew batch you can make using your system. A good rule of thumb is to choose a kettle that is twice as large as the maximum batch size you would like the system to accommodate. For example, if you would like to do 10 gallon batches, then a system built using 20 gallon kettles will be adequate.
It’s quite possible to squeeze a bit more beer for a batch out of your system (for example by making 15 gallon batches in a 20 gallon system), but you’ll increase your risk of boil overs during the boil stage.
The Megapot 1.2
The amount of variation on the internet of for brew kettles and mash tuns is almost endless. A person can easily buy a cheap brew aluminum brew kettle for $100, or can splurge for a 30 gallon stainless steel version with a pre-installed valve and thermometer. If you’re looking to save money on your electric brew system, then this is probably the best place to save some money.
When I was looking for the kettle to use for my system, I briefly considered the Blichmann Boilermaker, which is the basis for several electric brew systems. While they are definitely nice brew pots, I thought they were expensive compared to similar brew pots from other suppliers. They also come pre-installed with a thermometer, which is basically pointless when you’re using high-quality RTD temperature probes and PID controllers.
I eventually stumbled upon the Megapot 1.2 brew pots sold by Northern Brewer. Not only are these brew pots visually appealing, but they can also be purchased without a pre-installed valve or thermometer. My original idea was to to purchase 20 gallon kettles so that I could easily make. But when it came time to actually make a purchase, I realized that the 30 gallon kettle only cost $50 more than the 20 gallon one, and was only 2 inches wider. So I decided then to basically create an electric brewing system constructed using 30 gallon kettles for the hot liquor tank, mash tun, and the brew kettle. At that size it’s possible to brew up to 15 gallons of beer (enough for a large 60L keg), which is more than enough for what I brew at home with room to spare for this ever expanding hobby.
I have to say though, I wasn’t really prepared for how large these kettles were in real life. I had them shipped to a US-based shipping company in Sumas, Washington, and figured I could simply run down and pick them up one day. The kettles were actually so large that I couldn’t get them all into my car the first time around, and ended up having to make a second trip.
But hopefully in the long-term I’ll be happy with my decision to go for a full 30 gallons.