Electric Heat Stick Brew Kettle Plan

20140104_223859I mentioned in a recent post that I had come into the opportunity to use a nice size stainless steel (formerly steam jacketed) pot as a brew kettle.  My initial thought was that I needed to purchase a considerably larger propane burner with a much higher BTU output, but a friend who has recently completed an electric setup in a converted 15 gallon keg brought up the possibility of crafting a heat stick.

I was somewhat familiar with electric systems from hearing his progress as he went through the build process, but was unfamiliar with electric heat sticks.  The gist of the idea is using a heating element from an electric water heater  as the heat source for a boil kettle.  Perfect for a setup with a borrowed kettle that I don’t want to modify!

There are a number of reference articles, posts, and threads for building full electric systems with kettle-mounted elements, but brewing with heat sticks seems to be a somewhat newer trend.  Even so, there are a number of designs in existence.  The latest generally seem to use an ultra low watt density element, though there are many reports that the regular elements are perfectly suitable and don’t impact even very light lagers.  I’ve already found an element that I think will be suitable assuming I have sufficient watt output.

This post is another of my evolving “project in progress” posts, so it will change and evolve as the project moves from research, planning, and design through the build, test, and finalization phases.

Project potential part/price/location list

Stainless build options/discussion threads

Electrical and Wiring

Abandoned Ideas

2″ Copper Endcap Threaded Into 2″ Stainless Steel Female Cap

20140128_194050 20140128_194035 20140128_194017 2" copper endcap, next to a quarter for thickness comparison.

One of my thoughts was to thread (NPT) the outside of a 2″ copper endcap, apply teflon tape, and thread it into a 2″ stainless steel endcap.  I would bore a centered hole in both caps, and the copper cap would be threaded onto the heating element, flat side toward the element.  An elbow would be threaded into the stainless steel cap and attached to a piece of stainless steel pipe through which wiring for the element would have been run.

I believe I have a threader which would have allowed me to thread the copper endcap, but I had several concerns about the longevity of the design in addition to the questionable cost-effectiveness.  Even Chinese stainless steel 2″ endcaps are north of $20, and that would not include any boring/threading/machining.  I was also concerned about the durability of the union between the relatively thin copper endcap (shown with a quarter standing beside it in the picture above for comparison) and the threaded fitting of the element.

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