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Both the propane burner and electric kettle have their advantages, but for reliability and speed, the burner is our preference
There are almost as many different homebrew set-ups as there are homebrewers. And like all good hobbies, it can be started with very little investment, but as you become more experienced, you can begin to improve your gear and get better and better results. Throughout this book, we have used our favourite set up, but much of it can be substituted. Think of it as a modular system where you can upgrade elements when you want to work on bigger batches, go all-grain or make the brew day a little shorter.
The first aspect to consider is the size of the brew. In homebrewing terms, the two most common brew sizes are 3.8 litres (one gallon) and 23 litres (five gallons). All the recipes in this book are for 23 litres but can be easily scaled down. One gallon brews (usually extract) can be made on the stove top with a large stock pot and a plastic fermenting bucket. As you jump up to five gallons, it’s unlikely your stove will have enough energy to bring it all to a rolling boil (and your kitchen ceiling will thank you). You’d need to invest in an electric kettle (a converted tea urn basically) or a burner and a large pot.
We’re fans of propane burners. They are reliable; they heat water very quickly, you can use the pot with an ice bath. They are, however, pretty fierce and need to be used with the utmost care. In my experience, the two electric kettles I've had have both failed pretty early on and the way they were contructed meant that I couldn't replace the element leaving them completely useless. Admittedly, it was my own fault leaving it to boil dry. The Edelmetall Brü Burner pictured, for example, churns out a whopping 72,000 BTUs. You’ll need to invest in a propane cylinder and the gas, and it needs to be used outside. It is fierce!