Throughout the course of your homebrewing career, you may find that you pass through several phases of brewing process, complexity, and equipment. Homebrewers generally begin with small 1-2 gallon batches brewed with malt extract in a stock pot on a kitchen stove. After a few brews, it is common to begin increasing batch sizes to 5 gallons, or to switch to all-grain brewing. As batch sizes and brewing process complexity increases, brewers need to purchase additional equipment. As that happens, it can become increasingly difficult to use a kitchen stove to achieve a boil. When that happens, brewers have a decision to make: choosing an electric vs gas homebrewing system.
Propane and electric brewing systems each have their own pros and cons that should be considered when deciding which is the right system for you. Need some help deciding? Here is an overview of the pros and cons of both propane and electric brewing systems!
Pros and Cons of Propane Homebrewing Systems
Propane burners allow you to brew outside (or anywhere you can bring your gear!), boil much faster than a kitchen stove, and allow you to increase your batch size. Most of all, propane is a great solution because it is inexpensive to get started.
Pros of Propane Homebrewing Systems
- Propane systems are generally faster at bringing your water or wort to the desired temperature than electric systems.
- Propane systems allow you to brew in locations without access to electricity.
- Initial equipment costs for propane systems are cheaper than electric systems for an average 5-gallon batch size system.
- It is easier to clean a standalone kettle used with a propane system than it is to clean an electric system.
Cons of Propane Homebrewing Systems
- Because you will have to buy propane for each brew day, propane systems are more expensive per batch than electric systems, even though they have a lower upfront equipment cost.
- Propane systems are inefficient at heating because 30% – 50% of the heat is lost before it can transfer to the wort.
- With propane systems, you cannot brew indoors and must brew outside or in an open garage or brew shed due to the poisonous gasses created when burning propane.
- Propane systems have a higher risk of burning you or your equipment due to the presence of an open flame.
- Propane burners are louder than electric brewing systems.
Pros and Cons of Electric Homebrewing Systems
Electric all-in-one brewing systems, the most popular way to start with electric brewing, offer a “turn-key” solution for all-grain brewing that combines the mash, sparge, boil, chilling, and even fermentation process in a single machine. These systems eliminate the need for large, bulky equipment like a traditional 3-vessel system, and use substantially less space. Most of them can even sit on a kitchen counter. They simplify the all-grain brewing process substantially by automating the process with a “set it and forget it” approach to brewing. This can increase the consistency of your beer by reducing potential human error in the brewing process and timing.
Pros of Electric Homebrewing Systems
- Electric brewing systems have built in thermometers and temperature controllers, which turn the heating elements on and off as needed, which results in substantially more precise temperature control.
- With an electric system, you can brew indoors year round, with no concerns about bad weather, cold, or heat.
- Electric brewing systems are much quieter than gas burners.
- Even though they are generally slower to achieve desired temperature than propane systems, electric systems have more efficient heating because all heat generated is transferred directly to the wort.
- Electric brewing systems allow you set up a dedicated brewing area indoors.
- Electric brewing is cleaner than propane brewing.
- With electric brewing, there is no need to buy propane, and you have no risk of running out of propane part way through a brew day
- Electric brewing is cheaper per batch than brewing on a propane system is, even though it has a higher upfront equipment cost.
Cons of Electric Homebrewing Systems
- Electric brewing systems have a higher upfront cost than propane brewing systems.
- Because you are dealing with a lot of electricity and water, you need access to a GFCI outlet where you want to brew.
- If you want to take advantage of more power and faster heating, you will need a 240v outlet, which can be expensive to have installed in your home if you do not already have access to one.
- While the risk of burning is reduced, there is a risk of electric shock with electric brewing.
- Electric brewing systems can be harder to clean than simple kettles used with a propane system.
Electric vs Gas Homebrewing
So which is the best between an electric vs gas homebrewing system? It depends on which of the above pros and cons are most important to you! Overall, after years of brewing both on propane systems and electric systems, we chose to stick with electric and have never regretted the decision. The convenience of brewing on an electric all-in-one brewing system lets us focus on the fun of brewing without the stress of worrying about watching temperatures, moving water and wort from vessel to vessel, and cleaning more equipment. If you can afford the upfront cost, we recommend brewing on an all-in-one. If not, a good propane system will still make great beer!
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