Electric brewing

Electric brewing is becoming increasignly popular among homebrewers and small batch professional breweries. This article tries to answer the question what the fuzz about electric brewing is about, the pros and cons and other aspects like cost and safety. Disclaimer: I’m an eletric brewer myself.


Cost of electric brewing

Please refer the following table for some kWh prices. A “Kilowatt hour” is the amount of energy consumed, when a 1kW heating runs for one hour.

LocationEnergy sourcePriceSource
USAelectricity$0.14/kWheia.gov
Germanyelectricity0.32€/kWhco2online.de
USAPropane$0.175$/kWh see below.
GermanyPropane0.165€/kWh see below.
Prices

Calculation for propane price in Germany: A propane bottle with 11kg in Germany is 23.50€ (source). So its 23.50€/11kg=2.13€/kg. A kilogram of Propan has 12.87kWh (source). So for one kWh its 2.13€/12.87kWh=0.165€/kWh.

Calculation for propane price in USA: A propan refil / echange ranges from $3-6 (source) per gallon. 1 gallon of propane weighs 2.21kg (source). So its $5/2.21kg=$2.26/kg. This yields $2.26/12.87kWh=0.175$/kWh.

In summary: Going with electricity is a little bit cheaper in the USA. Due too the insanely expensive electricity in Germany, electric brewing is actually more expensive.

Safety of eletrics brewing

You can’t smell or see electricity. And when you feel it, especially high voltages like 120V or 230V it’s often already too late. The combination with humid air due to the evaporation while brewing and liquids (water, mash) is a dangerous combination. You have to take special care to make sure, water can never make contact with the electricity used for brewing.

On the other: Propane is not harmless either. You can smell it – sure. But using propane as heating you are constantly dealing with an open flame. Also, when you want to automate your brewing – which is especially helpful during mashing – you always need a always one little flame so the primary flame can be re-ignited.

Brewing is a dangerous hobby!

Pros and cons of electric brewing

Pros of electric brewing

  • Most homebrewers not using eletricity will most likely use gas from propane bottles. Every now and then they will be empty and you have to get and carry a new one.
  • While there’s a very low risk of an electric blackout in developed countries, there is a fair chance that your propane bottle runs empty before the brew day is finished. So you’ll always have to keep two bottles around if you want to be safe.
  • Electric brewing systems can be incredibly compact requiring only a small amout of space, consider, i.e. the eBIAB systems.
  • Relatively easy to automate.

Cons of eletric brewing

  • You require … well … electricity. This can cause multiple limitations:
    • You can only brew, where an outlet is within reach. This can, i.e., make outdoor brews on summer days more difficult to realize.
    • Depending on your country, you can only draw a certain wattage from one socket. In Germany it’s 16A*230V=3680W, in the USA it’s 20A*120V=2400W.
  • Harder to automate

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