Gear Test 2017: Brew Kettles

In our 2017 Gear Guide issue (April/May), our editors tested and reviewed a variety of brew kettles. Here are the results.

Jun 21, 2017 - 8 min read

Gear Test 2017: Brew Kettles Primary Image

In our 2017 Gear Guide issue (April/May), our editors tested and reviewed a variety of brew kettles. Here are the results.

Anvil 20-Gallon

A simple, well-made, ergonomically sound kettle built for budget-conscious brewers (above, far left)

Test lab notes

Anvil has already used the best word to describe their kettles, “rugged.” Cousin to the Blichmann kettles, they bring the quality of Blichmann Engineering without all of the bells and whistles (or price). We put this kettle through our standard testing regime (handle strength/comfort test, heat disbursement, kettle fall, hops pickup, and of course our favorite, brew enjoyment), and it was among our top rated kettles in every test. During our final test, brew enjoyment, we found ourselves wanting two things: 1) Welded components—we like the aesthetic and the permanence and durability of a good weld. 2) A couple more bells and whistles (or at least the ability to order them on checkout): sight glass, whirlpool valve, HERMS valves (for HLT). The kettle does offer very legible, nicely etched volume markings on its brushed steel finish, which is easy to clean and offers a beautiful aesthetic. At the end of the day, if you’re on the hunt for a durable kettle at a fair price, Anvil will not disappoint.

Scorecard

Easy to Use? X
Easy to Sanitize? X
Build Quality? X
Enjoyment?
High Value?

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Price: $349
Manufacturer: Anvil Brewing (a Blichmann brand)
Available from: anvilbrewing.com

Spike 20-Gallon

A great budget choice for the brewer hell-bent on customizing everything (above, second from the left, top)

Test lab notes

Aside from boosting the local Wisconsin economy, Spike’s focus on domestic manufacturing offers a level of flexibility and customizability that we haven’t seen with most manufacturers. Do you have a system where you need a kettle with three temp probes, two HERMS coils, a sparge port, four drainage ports? Spike does all of their shop work (drilling, welding) in Milwaukee, which means you can call them up and have them do the work that you once tried before realizing that you weren’t really qualified to do it (we’ve gone through a few kettles too). The kettles we tested had a tri-clamp fitting for an electrical element, rotatable racking arm, temp probe, drainage valve, and whirlpool arm, all of which were beautifully welded. They also offered a pickup valve that was wider than the other kettles we tested and had a dual-stage false bottom, which gave us more confidence in using them for a mash tun (to avoid grain scorching). The kettles offer a semi-gloss finish that’s relatively easy to clean, and the nice tri-clad base allowed for proper heat disbursement and no scorching issues. The only criticism we have is that there was a minor burr on one of the tri-clover fittings, but who could complain at this price point? They offer 10–50 gallon kettles, any of which we would recommend.

Scorecard

Easy to Use? X
Easy to Sanitize? X
Build Quality? X
Enjoyment? X
High Value? X

Price: $350 as tested (20-gallon kettle with sight glass)
Manufacturer: Spike Brewing
Available from: spikebrewing.com

Ss Brewtech 10-Gallon Brewmaster Edition

A significant step up from your standard kettle (above, far right)

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Test lab notes

Ss Brewtech continues to innovate with new products almost every quarter. This latest addition to the Brewmaster Edition series applies their knowledge of pro systems to the homebrew scale with welded fittings, sight glasses (we were concerned about having them so close to the heat source, but they passed our test), a rotatable racking arm, a dished bottom for even heat and convenient whirlpooling, and a badass-looking heat shield. The brushed stainless-steel looks good and is easy to care for, the wide coated handles are easy to lift, and the extensive tri-clover fittings were cleanly welded and reliable. While the heat shield did discolor slightly through use (as expected), that didn’t affect our enjoyment of brewing on it, which was off the charts.

Scorecard

Easy to Use? X
Easy to Sanitize? X
Build Quality? X
Enjoyment? X
High Value? X

Price: $300
Manufacturer: Ss Brewtech
Available from: ssbrewtech.com

Stout 9.8-Gallon Electric Kettle w/Element Port

Mirror polish and thoughtful design make for a kettle that both looks and performs great (above, second from the right)

Test lab notes

Stout is another one that offers endless customization out of their metal shop, with fittings for the most complicated brewing systems. Aside from the tight welds, the immediate visual differentiator for Stout is the gloss. With a Stout kettle, you could get rid of your bathroom mirror—they’re gorgeous. If you take out the element and switch to propane, their kettles offer a domed bottom with a heat shield to better capture and disperse that heat throughout the body of the kettle. Documentation on setup was minimal, so these are best for folks who can manage on their own, but the tubular handles felt great, and the tri-clamp tangential port made whirpooling a breeze.

Scorecard

Easy to Use? X
Easy to Sanitize? X
Build Quality? X
Enjoyment? X
High Value?

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Price: $373
Manufacturer: Stout Tanks
Available from: conical-fermenter.com

Blichmann 10gal Electric

Immaculate design and amazing attention to detail (above, second from the left, bottom)

Test lab notes

Blichmann is the Apple of the homebrew world—amazing attention to detail in everything from the product to packaging is what sets them apart, and the interoperability of their ecosystem is unmatched. As with Apple, you’re locked into proprietary fittings such as their BoilCoil, but they work so well that there isn’t a need to hack in custom parts. Speaking of the BoilCoil, that round element is one of the best parts of their electric brewhouse, producing a nice even convection current while allowing space for the paddle to do its work. The Tower of Power is built like a tank but easy to use, making it very enjoyable to brew on.

Scorecard

Easy to Use? X
Easy to Sanitize? X
Build Quality? X
Enjoyment? X
High Value?

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Price: $1,235 as tested
Manufacturer: Blichmann Engineering
Available from: blichmannengineering.com

*For more gear reviews of breathalyzers, mash tuns, fermentors, coolers, glassware, and much more, check out the April/May 2017 issue of *Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Get your copy today!

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