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DIY: Kettle Etching

Etching measurement units inside your brew kettle will ensure precise liquid levels when you brew. It’s an easy DIY project that won’t take too long, but your batches will be more dialed-in and just how you like them.

Jester Goldman Nov 4, 2016 - 8 min read

DIY: Kettle Etching Primary Image

While it is possible to brew without the simplest of measurements, a key to repeatable recipes is measuring your ingredients. Your grain and hops may come pre-measured, but you still need to know how much water you’re using and how much wort is in your pot. I’ve gotten by for several years using a notched yardstick, and one of my kettles has a sight glass, but when I read an article about etching volume markers on a stainless steel kettle, I got excited—it sounded cheap and easy, I’d have one less piece of equipment to hassle with, and, it just looked cool.

In practice, it turned out to be more time consuming than I expected, and my results didn’t turn out as pretty as some of the examples I saw, but it was still a great learning experience, and I ended up with a functional solution.

Basic Idea

Electrolytic acid etching sounds fairly technical, but it’s just a matter of combining a DC power source, an acid medium to support the chemical process, and an applicator. In this case, the medium is a blend of vinegar and table salt, and the applicator is a cotton swab. The swab is attached to the negative lead of your power source and dipped into the vinegar solution. The positive lead is attached to the kettle, so touching the applicator to the metal completes a circuit and the electric current pulls metal ions from the steel. The resulting surface is roughened and reflects light differently from the smooth, unetched metal.

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