This is a contraption new to me, but boy will this come in handy on brew day. I’ve tested it with just water in my kettle and it works very well. I will be using it in a three days for my next brew. This is a stainless steel electric bucket heater from Allied Precision, used to heat water on a farm for animals in the winter to prevent if from freezing. This one however, is used to actually bring water to a boil, most other models are only designed to warm water to keep from freezing. This one specifically says it will bring water to a boil and is being used by many homebrewers around the country. There a few uses for this device, and I’m sure I will use a few. The first, is you can plug this into a timer in the outlet and set it to start heating water at a specific time. This about this, let’s just say you have a limited schedule for brewing and perhaps maybe you want to brew either when you get home from work, or very early in the morning. Well, heating the initial strike water can chew up a large chunk of your brewing session. So you fill a stainless steel pot with your strike water, insert this heater, plug it in and set the timer to start 3 hours before you wake up or get home from work. When you walk into your brewery, your water will be heated up and ready to brew with.
Another scenario is if you use this heater to heat your strike water and your sparge water (even in one vessel). This will allow you to use your propane for boiling only, saving a little bit of money in the process on propane costs. This is 1000 watt unit so it will cost a little in energy, but I believe the cost is about $0.15/hr. Which is cheaper than propane.
The third scenario, will take a little extra equipment but has potential. While I wouldn’t recommend using this in plastic mash tun, for fear of overheating it and leaching chemicals from the plastic, if you are using a stainless pot for mashing a person could hook this unit up to a temperature controller and set a mash temp of 152, and heat the mash with this. Step mashing is possible. Just be aware that because this unit does not move the liquid in any way you would have to stir it a lot. This could also be used to hold a temperature if you tend to lose a lot of heat in your mash kettle.
One final scenario, while not ideal, it is possible to use your electric heater as a backup energy source if your propane runs out. I only have 1 propane tank and there has been the occasion where I take a gamble on if I have enough propane or not. I did get burned on this one time. But if your wort is hot, at 212 degrees, you could plug this in and bring it back to a boil in no time. If you are doing a 5 gallon batch you should be able to maintain a boil without issue, however I would be suspect as to how vigorous the boil would be. But it could work in a pinch. I was reading about how some extract brewers use this heater on their stovetop because it heats up and boils harder than their electric stoves, but it sounded to me like those are partial boil batches where the brewer is boiling 3-4 gallons and not 6-7 gallons. But again, that backup source is there.
Now it’s not all peaches and rainbows for this unit. There are some drawbacks. The first is that you are dealing with electricity and water, so you need to be careful and have the proper GFI outlet in your brewery. Also, if you only have one unit it can take a long time to heat the water. I had mine set in my keggle and poured 8.5 gallons of water from the hose into the kettle (just shy of a typical total water volume I need for brewing a 5.5 gallon batch). Since I live in Wisconsin and it’s fall, the water was about 42 degrees F. It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to heat that volume of water from 42 degrees to 168 degrees. I have read about people using these and using 2 at once. That would cut the time down considerably.
The bottom line for me though is the benefits and the potential far outweigh the negatives. This unit is only about $38-$40 on Amazon and ships for free with 2nd day shipping if you are an Amazon prime member (Something I highly suggest if you shop online often). If you want to purchase on, I will provide a link, but for me…this is a new “must have item”. CLICK HERE to purchase one…or two.
Keep in mind that this is the very scaled down version of an “electric brewing operation” and I don’t think it’s the most efficient. My goal is to shorten my brew day and cut costs on propane. If REAL electric brewing interests you, I suggest you check out the site The Electric Brewery. They have conversion kits that allow you to convert you kettle to a fully electric setup. Granted it’s not cheap, but if a set-up like that interests you, that is the source to check out.