Brewing Heatstick

Before we talk about the construction of this useful brewing device, let’s talk a little about what it is and some of the precautions that must be taken while using it and building it. Basically, a Brewing Heatstick is a submersible hot water heater element based kettle heating system that is attached to a long handle. It has been used for quite a few years in the home brewing community and I have found it useful as well. The element that is used is a 120 volt 2000 watt Camco hot water heater element and it draws approximately 16.7 amps. It is important to note that you can only use one element on a single circuit and depending upon your wall voltage, it needs to be run on a 20 amp circuit (which is what I do). If your home is wired for 15 amp circuits, choose a smaller wattage heating element (like 1500 watts). Also, if you have an old home that has old wiring with brittle insulation, it is possible that you can overload the circuit which is a possible fire hazard. It is important to make sure that the system is properly grounded and terminates in a GFI outlet. Failure to follow these precautions is like taking your life in your own hands. I use three of these to bring 10 gallons of liquid that starts at 57 degrees to a boil in 34 minutes. You may need more depending upon the wattage of the element. Once again, I assume no liability in the event that you harm yourself by constructing one of these heating sticks. Take the necessary safety precautions and be sure to check for leaks. Also, do not operate the sticks outside of water. They must be submerged in order to work. If they hit the air and are plugged in, they will burn out.

Component List

  • 120 volt hot water heater element. I used a 2000 watt Camco variety. You may need a smaller one depending upon your home’s circuitry.
  • 14 gauge, heavy duty replacement cord with plug
  • 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe
  • 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube with Compression Fitting
  • 3/4″ PVC Coupler
  • 1″ PVC End Cap
  • 1 ea. 3/8″ long #6 brass machine thread bolt, #6 brass nut
  • 1 spade lug
  • Aquarium Sealant
  • Rivet gun and pop rivets

Construction

HeatStick

  1. Begin by forcing the 1″ PVC end cap onto the 3/4″ PVC coupler. I used a rubber mallet to pound on mine.
  2. Insert the 3/4″ PVC coupler into the 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube with Compression Fitting and drill a hole on each side of the 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube with Compression Fitting where it overlaps the 3/4″ PVC coupler. This will be where the rivets will attach the two pieces. It is okay to pull them apart at this point. Don’t rivet them until the end.
  3. Drill a suitably sized hole in the end of the 1″ PVC end cap to accommodate the 14 gauge heavy duty replacement cord with plug.
  4. Disassemble the 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I.D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube and slide the Compression Fitting and seal over the small end of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe.
  5. Slide the 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube onto the end of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe and tighten the Compression Fitting securely.
  6. Drill a small hole near the large end of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe and thread the 3/8″ long #6 brass machine thread bolt part of the way through the hole.
  7. Remove the washer and fitting from the end of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe.
  8. Insert the wire end of the 14 gauge, heavy duty replacement cord with plug through the 1″ PVC end cap hole and thread the cord through the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe assembly.
  9. Attach the spade lug to the green ground wire of the 14 gauge, heavy duty replacement cord with plug.
  10. Place the #6 brass nut on the end of the 3/8″ long #6 brass machine thread bolt.
  11. Place a little aquarium sealant around the threads of the 3/8″ long #6 brass machine thread bolt that are on the outside of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe assembly.
  12. Tighten the bolt and nut together with the spade lug pinched between them.
  13. Attach the two remaining wires from the 14 gauge heavy duty replacement cord with plug to each side of the 120 volt heating element.
  14. Center the element in the end of the 12″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Chrome Plated, Brass Drain Pipe and apply copious quantities of Aquarium Sealant around the hex portion of the element and around the drain pipe’s threads.
  15. Place the drain pipe’s rubber washer over the end of the element and tighten down the drain pipe’s associated fitting.
  16. Wait approximately 48 hours before you submerge the heat stick in liquid to test for leaking. Use a flashlight to look through the end by the drain extension.
  17. If all look well and there are no leaks, you may now tie a not in the cord below the 1″ PVC end cap assembly.
  18. Slide the knot and the 1″ PVC end cap assembly into the 6″ drain extension.
  19. At this point, you can now put rivets in the holes you drilled in step 2 and permanently attach the end cap. By the way, if you need to get inside later, you can always loosen the 6″ Long X 1 1/2″ I. D. Plastic Drain Pipe Extension Tube with Compression Fitting.
  20. You are now ready to plug it in and test it’s heating ability. Only do this under water because as soon as the element hits the air, it can burn out.

Usage

I use three heating sticks in my boil kettle to heat my water. They can bring about 10 gallons of water to a heavy boil in about 34 minutes starting from 57 degrees. Using one heatstick from this point maintains the boil. I begin by heating all my brewing water to strike temperature. This is usually about 10 gallons but can vary depending upon the recipe. The water is then distributed to the necessary tanks throughout my brewery. After the mashing and sparging are complete, I use the heatsticks to bring my wort to a boil. This only takes a few minutes and after a rolling boil has begun, I can take it down to one heatstick to maintain the boil.

Conclusion

Remember to be safe when using these. There is a lot of electricity involved here and I would hate to see someone get hurt during their usage. Make sure everything terminates in a properly wired GFI outlet. Also make sure that if you run separate circuits to use for each individual heatstick that you use the appropriate Romex wire for the circuit.