Boiling in an aluminum kettle

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by redgorillabreath, Sep 3, 2018.

  1. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Here’s the thing...several years ago I bought a used,banged up, 16 gal capacity (to the brim) aluminum kettle w/ lid for $40. What the heck. 3/16” thick, worth the elbow grease to clean it up and see what it was good for. Not inert like stainless, but I figured worth investigating.

    I’ve now brewed various ales and beers with this kettle, and nobody has noticed any sorts of off flavors or other negatives connected to aluminum.

    There’s no question that a proper SS kettle has superior “inertness”, but no problems here.

    Does anyone know of particular sorts of brews that will cross the line when prepared in aluminum and end up tasting “off”?

  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,476) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Nope. I've brewed many, many styles in aluminum and in S.S., and have never detected an issue that I could attribute to the kettle. I suppose if aluminum was a theoretical issue, passivation makes it a non-issue.
    redgorillabreath likes this.
  3. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (372) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Aluminum is pretty much neutral for all things brewing.

    If you are using your pot to make tomato sauce or anything particularly acidic you could cause some pitting perhaps and off flavors. I can't think of any wort or beer with an acidity approaching tomatoes (reportedly around 4).

    As for "inertness", it either is or it isn't. Those are the two choices. Aluminum is inert in our world.

    If the price is good aluminum pots are perfectly acceptable.
  4. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (367) May 2, 2006 Utah

    Aluminum is actually quite reactive, but the "passivation" process develops a layer of Aluminum Oxide (Al_2O_3 -- sapphire, actually), that is quite inert. Cheers!
    NiceFly and SFACRKnight like this.
  5. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Yes...the aluminum surface certainly isn’t “nascent”. After Scotch Brite-ing the heck out of it when I got it, I boiled a vinegar solution in it to rip anything else off the surface and “condition” it. Not quite anodized, but passivated. Followed that with a sacrificial boil of weak wort.

    I really like the uniform heating, too.
  6. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Just b carefull with your cleaning agents. I use chlorine a lot and it may not b good for alluminum , stainless steel it's fine.
  7. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    The kettle just sees Starsan and/or dish soap. My glass and plastic that see yeast get a cocktail of bleach and Starsan to rip all life forms off, then an epic rinse process.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  8. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (372) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Chlorine bleach and stainless steel are not compatible.
    Though if it is a weak solution for a very limited time you can get away with it. I can't say, I avoid bleach with metal.
    Stainless should really be Stain resistant.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  9. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    We use stainless in out chlorine delivery systems with no issues at all. Chlorine will take off beer stone and disinfects nicely.

    To each there own
  10. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (196) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    I was surprised when I read that the lodo (low dissolved oxygen) brewers consider aluminum to be undesirable. For someone trying to use lodo techniques, a stainless steel kettle may be preferable. Also I probably wouldn't brew a kettle-soured beer in aluminum. Apart from that, I think aluminum can be a great choice.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  11. Stolowma

    Stolowma Initiate (25) Aug 29, 2018 Arizona

    Ii used an aluminum pot for many brews before reassigning it to HLT duty. Never had a problem I just made sure to boil some water in it first to build up a good oxide layer. After that a light cleaning with something nonabrasive after each brew and it held up for many years. I don't think you're supposed to let PBW or Oxyclean type of cleaner soak for any length of time.
    azorie likes this.