In my pursuit in making great beer, there are two things that I strive for in my home brewing process: 1) to achieve consistent results every time I brew; 2) ease of brewing. I achieve the second goal by using an electric brewing system using an induction range.
Induction Range Setup
I purchased the Avantco IC3500 Countertop Induction Range for my brewing process. It’s a 3500 watt unit that has plenty of power for a 20 litre (5 US gallon) batch. It can bring 10 C (55 F) water to 100 C (212 F) in about 40 minutes. At the time of this posting, I brewed four batches with it with no issues. I used two layers of Reflectix Bubble Pack Insulation (a heat resistant insulation) to insulate the kettle and secured it using some aluminum foil tape. Although the range can sustain the boil without the lid, I noticed that I get a raging, rolling boil with the lid half-on. I like that, so I went with it and I have great results. I still leave plenty of room for the vapour to escape the kettle (which allows the Dimethyl Sulfides, a.k.a: DMS) to escape as they evaporate.
For me, everything has been good so far. These are some of the ways that it helped my brew day.
- Ease of Use: What I like most about induction brewing is that it’s very easy to apply heat; you just turn it on and away you go.
- Heat Control: There is no messing around with a burner that can be difficult to control the heat. The control panel on the front of the unit allows you to control the heat if needed.
- Indoor Brewing: As it is electric, there no propane fumes to exhaust, making indoor brewing possible.
- Protability: I used to brew in the kitchen and my family hated it. Now I’m able to brew in my garage, which is perfect for me. I could have chosen to brew anywhere I needed.
- Cost Saving: I like that I can still brew electric because I’m saving money on energy costs (electricity is fairly cheap where I live compared to other energy alternatives). Plus, the unit itself is very reasonably priced.
- Unit Cost: The unit is only $179.99 USD. No other manufacturer has even come close to the cost of the unit, and it’s great value for what you get.
- Easy to Clean: Unlike immersion elements, there is no element coil to clean. The bottom of the pot where the heat is created gets a little dirty but that is very easily cleaned with an oxygen based detergent. There are no crevasses where old kettle trub can hide, so I can get everything nice and tidy in a very short time.
- Range Features: The features of the range are handy. It has an automatic timer that shuts off after a period of time. It’s a safety feature that I’m glad is there. The range itself very sturdy. It can hold plenty of weight, so there are no issues there.
There are a lot of little things that may turn you off of induction brewing altogether.
- Induction Kettle Requirement: You need a kettle that is magnetic for this to work, and most kettles are not. I had to buy a new kettle for this, but in my case, I was looking to upgrade to something bigger anyway.
- Kettle Size: I use a 60 litre (15.85 US gallons) kettle in my brewing process, and my pot is a little too big for the range. It still works, but the circumference does exceed the recommended capacity of the range. The edges of the kettle hang over the edges of the appliance, and according to the manufacturer, that could affect the ability of the range. Getting a pot that fits onto the 25 cm (10 1/4 inch) maximum diameter that the range is said to require could be tricky.
- Mixed Reliability Reports: The reliability reviews for this pot are mixed. Some claim to have used it for two years without any issues, and others claim that after the six month warranty period is over, it broke shortly afterword. I’ve seen some online claims that the fan that fails, whereas some claim that the unit can burnout due to lack of airflow at the bottom of the unit. My range is sitting on a mobile kitchen island with grated shelves that allows excellent airflow for the unit to mitigate heat issues.
- Soldered, Built-in Fuse: Some have had trouble with the 15 A, 240 v fuse built onto the circuit board. The fuse amp capacity is probably a little too low for the unit. 3500 watts divided by 240 volts equals 14.58 amps, so it gets very close to the 15 A threshold. With the odd power surge, that could cause the fuse to burn-out, and it’s not easily replaced. If you have the right skills, you’d have to open-up the unit and solder a new one in place.
- No International Warranty: Regarding that warranty, it’s only valid in the United States. Ouch! So if you order this outside of the U.S.A., don’t count on having the warranty honoured. It’s not going to happen. If you get stuck with a unit that breaks shortly after you buy it, you’re going to be stuck with it.
- Efficiency Compared to Immersion Elements: The energy exchange is never going to be as efficient as immersion elements. I’ve read that induction range loose roughly about 60% – 70% of their total energy to inefficiencies and the environment. So the full 3500 watts does not go into the boil, whereas immersion elements is completely submerged in the wort where virtually 99% of the energy goes right into the volume in your kettle.
- 240 v, 20 a Requirement: To use this, you need a 240 v 20 A outlet. The unit simply needs this kind of power to deliver 3500 watts of energy. I had to have a special, dedicated receptacle installed to accomplish this.
This solution has worked out well for me so far. For the low cost of the unit, I think that it’s worth giving it a try in spite of some of the reported reliability issues. If you’re in the U.S.A., you are at least somewhat protected by the 6 month warranty. Plus, you can get great customer support if you have any issues if you buy it from the right place. I bought mine from the Westaurant Store, and I can tell you that their customer service is second to none!