It’s been a while since Part 1 of my series on all-grain equipment. I’ll have Part 2 up soon but in the meantime, the bonus is that I’ve brewed a few more batches and am more familiar with my setup. The 15-gallon BoilerMaker brew kettle and the Hurricane burner continue to be a great combination. There are, however, a few minor negatives with the kettle that I will mention for the sake of others shopping for a large boil vessel.
First, I’ve had mixed results with the standard boil filter screen that comes with the BoilerMaker. Each time I’ve used it, there seems to be a lot of good wort left in the bottom of the kettle after draining the contents through the ball valve. (I should note that I do create a whirlpool after chilling and let the full kettle sit for 15 minutes so the majority of the hop and trub particles collect in the center, away from dip tube.). Not sure if the lack of pickup is the fault of the screen (which doesn’t seem to clog–it’s only meant for whole hops, by the way) or the dip tube. On my last batch I forgot to put the dip tube in before the boil and used an auto siphon to remove the wort instead. There was noticeably less “lost” wort remaining at the end of the transfer.
While the kettle’s glass sight gauge is a fantastic tool to have to accurately determine the volume of water or wort inside the kettle, it is a small pain to clean. It comes with a specialized brush and an Allen wrench. If you are occasionally unorganized like me, tracking down these two smallish (read: easy to lose) items can put a real dent in your brew day preparations. The brush, once you find it, does make the job much easier. Just be careful not to displace/lose the small O-ring at the top of the sight gauge assembly when cleaning, and don’t crank down too hard on the screw when you are sealing the tube back up. Instructions say to tighten only until you feel the slightest bit of resistance. While the glass is well-protected by metal on three sides, I do fear a worst-case scenario of accidentally breaking the glass and bringing an abrupt end to the brew day. Still, the benefits outweigh the negatives here.
Finally (and least important to me since I have a good, digital thermometer–namely a Thermoworks Mini Handheld Thermocouple with a PTFE/FEP tip probe) is the fact that the nice Blichmann Brewmometer that comes installed is indeed located too high on the kettle to be effective for 5-gallon batches. I’ve been collecting extra wort–about 7.5 gallons or more–since learning how much volume was lost to the boil filter screen/dip tube during my first all-grain batch. With that much wort, the built-in thermometer’s probe is covered. As liquid evaporates during the boil, though, the surface level drops below the probe and readings are, obviously, no longer accurate.
Let me emphasize that these issues are minor and that I would definitely buy this brew kettle again. The benefits (sturdy construction, smart design, easy to clean, seems to heat up quickly, versatile, aesthetically pleasing) outweigh the negatives by a wide margin. I do, however, remember agonizing over my decision, searching the Web for all the information I could find. Hopefully this will give you a few more details if you are facing the same decision, so you can make a more informed choice.