1 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3 PM

Hello fellow brewers!

As the story goes with most home brewers, i am wanting to move on to all grain brewing. I am leaning more towards BIAB rather than a 3 vessel set up. Just want to know what you guys think of a Birko exposed element urn for this. I have come across one for sale quite cheap and want to know if they are suitable, or should i hold off and wait for an urn with a concealed element?

Any feedback will be much appriciated. Thank you.

(Its a 40 litre urn by the way)

2 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:02 PM

Don't know. I use a Crown and love it.

3 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:18 PM

Have no experience in this Rowbrew, but logic would suggest an urn with a covered element. The grain bag would no doubt sink and so sit on the element and burn the grains.

I'm looking at going the same way, but will use a big stock pot and a gas burner. But even so, same thing could happen, burned grains that is. I would put a rack, like a cake rack, in the bottom of my pot, again to keep the grain bag away from the more direct heat.


4 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:23 PM

The Birko do work just fine , be aware that you may get the element cutting out during boil if you get gunk over them or brew with rye malt
There is a mod going around that removes the boil dry protection but can drastically shorten life of urn so better off just keeping an eye on it and having a scour pad zip tied to a handle long enough so you can scrub it it does cut out

5 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:28 PM

Bill , i dont even have urn plugged in during mash .
heat to strike , mash in and stir
wrap in old sleeping bag or yoga mat and walk away

6 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 4:43 PM

Must be Sunday Mark, heads in the wrong place. Been reading about hops so that's where the boiling came from.

You're right of course, heat your water then add mash or BIAB. Wrapping of course will help maintain temp.

Still don't like electricity, expensive and IMHO, not as efficient as gas. Ripped out our electric stove and hot water and put in gas. Best move ever.

7 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:08 PM

I would have assumed he was going to boil it in there as well, as he said BIAB. I have never tried to use my urn for boiling wort as it takes an hour or two to bring a wash to the boil, so I assumed it is not powerful enough. That's why I haven't moved to all grain - $150.00+ for the pot, then another $150.00 for a burner. While grain is cheaper than malt, $300.00+ is a bit hard to come by…

8 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:11 PM

Ben 10:

Don't know. I use a Crown and love it.

+1 for the crown
I haven't used a birko but from what I've read they're fine. I think it comes down to if you'd rather an urn with a concealed element or not. I have a Crown with concealed element and its a ripper, so easy to clean at the end of a brew day. But I have no experience with an exposed element urn, so can't comment on the functionally of their use.

9 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:22 PM

Hours to bring to boil ? I get about a degree per minute so from mash out to boil takes 25 mins or less

10 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:33 PM

Thanks for the replies. Interesting point about the boil dry function Mark. If i were to purchase the exposed element one, i would buy or make some sort of false bottom for it and use a hop bag or spider for the hop additions. That should reduce the amount of crap able to build up on the sensor i would imagine. Also would help keep the bag off the element.

11 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 7:12 PM

the cover doesn't need to be complicated , i use a cake stand in my crown urn just in case i need to add some heat during mash or if i want to step a pils .
Didn't even use it today as was a single temp mash and a warm day .
by the time my bag has drained and i've done a small sparge i'm at a steady rolling boil …i like the KISS program as i also like to have a beer while i brew and have other brewers around to learn just how easy AG and BIAB brewing can be .
if the urn is a good buy then grab it , learn with it and if you later decide to go for a 3V rig you can use it for a HLT or sell it

12 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 8:24 PM

So Mark, im guessing that you use an exposed element urn? The main thing i was worried about was cleaning. Like you, i also am a big fan of KEEPING IT SIMPLE STUPID and having a beer or three on brew day! It is a good buy at $80. Stuff it im gonna do it!

13 Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 9:51 PM

I've had a Crown urn (concealed element) for 4 and a half years and it hasn't missed a beat. When I brew pilsners the boil very occasionally cuts out near the end (90 min boils) but I have a stainless wire brush on a long handle that sorts that out. I do have a false bottom as well so I can apply heat without lifting the bag.

I've not used a Birko or an exposed element urn so I can't vouch for them but I suppose the only downside is that the element itself would be harder to clean; with the concealed one it's a quick scrub off with some warm water with citric acid dissolved in it and it comes up like it's brand new every time.

14 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 12:44 PM


Still don't like electricity, expensive and IMHO, not as efficient as gas. Ripped out our electric stove and hot water and put in gas. Best move ever.

Street gas is cheaper than electricity, by quite a long way for the same given amount of energy, about 4 years ago when I ran some numbers, street gas (piped natural gas) was equivalent to about 4c/Kh, compared to say 26c/KWh for electricity.

If you compare to BBQ gas or elgas propane however, it's not the same, 4 years ago the elgas home propane (like the twin 45kg cylinders, we have at home) was equivalent to about 16c/KWh.

9kg gas bottles even more expensive than this, I forget what I concluded there.

In any case, you also get quite a bit of heat loss around the sides of a giant kettle on a three ring burner, whereas the electric element wastes less heat. The electric cannot be as fast to heat though when using a 10A 2400W electric unit. My electric setup, 2200W heats my 30litres or so at 1 deg per minute, so not so bad.

Micro breweries need the power and efficiency of street piped natural gas however, otherwise their energy costs and cost to upgrade electricity feeds would be crippling.

15 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 12:49 PM

I have an exposed element in the unit I built, and it does get crap on it, unless i am careful.

For me the solution is heating strike water enough so that I can turn off the element for a while after doughing in grains.

If at sach rest temp, this means by the time I need to turn element on again, much of the starch (which is the stuff that burns on the element) has converted to sugar.

If below sach rest in a multistep, like acid and or protein rest, I have taken to jumping steps with boiling water additions. I now have a three ring gas burner and 20l stainless pot for preparing this water. Recirc pump clarifies the wort as it goes, further reducing the chances of burning on to element.

16 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 1:01 PM

Headmaster, that was a very interesting post.

I had not even considered adding the cost of propane into my brews. Just the malt, hops, yeast and kettle additions.

The first (and only BIAB) that I have done seemed to use A LOT of my 9kg BBQ gas bottle. Felt like almost half of it was used up! We did the brew outside, it wasn't a cold day (November 2016), but it seemed to take a long time to come to the boil after the mash. We didn't put the lid on to get it to come to boil, but I think we will next time, then remove lid once it is at a rolling boil and start the timer.

I used a 3-ring wok burner underneath a big 50L pot.

Next BIAB is planned soon when I get some time and weather in April - a Cascade/Mosaic pale ale that is supposed to be close to Pirate Life's.

My inside gas stove is on street natural gas and can easily bring the pot and maintain it on the boil. I need to have the 2-ring wok burner and a smaller single burner on. So you think it is really THAT much cheaper to brew on the inside stove? Maybe I will and I don't have to be at the mercy of the elements

17 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 2:13 PM

Yes I do think street gas (natural gas) is that much cheaper.

Leaving lid on to boil really helps. But you need to know when approaching about 96 degrees, as hot break forms rapidly, and it will foam up and boil over and make an enormous mess if you don't take the lid off at this point. Happened to me once, even with my 2200w element.

Another efficiency you can have with electric, you can insulate your kettle, (mine with nitrile closed cell 10mm foam, in the form of a kmart yoga mat) meaning keeps more heat in rather than radiate it as loss. If you have insulation on a pot on gas, the gas flame will melt it, or set it on fire!

18 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 2:32 PM

Just ran a calc, BBQ bottle 9kg of propane is approx 18 litres of liquid propane.

LPG litres to MJ (1L = 25MJ)

18 litres is approx 450 MJoules of energy.

Aust average natural gas pricing in 2015 was approx 2.6c/MJ

That means your street gas is about $11.70 for the equivalent.

So if you pay $30 for a BBQ gas bottle refill, then it's three times as expensive.

3 ring burners often rated at 25 to 30 MJ/hr, meaning it should run for at least 12 hours straight on one 9kg bottle of gas. 4 ring closer to 50MJ. so a bit less than 10hrs.

Even so at $30/9kg bottle, if you burn for say, 2hrs at full power on a three ring, may cost max $5 with the BBQ gas and about $1.33 for the street gas

In reality you will not be burning at full power except when heating to the boil so you would use a lot less than this.

19 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 2:51 PM

Running a 2200w element, in a crown urn or equivalent, if it were running flat out the whole time, would be approx 60c/hour (2.2 X 26c/KWh) So $1.20 for the two hours.

power output a lot less than 30MJ/hr

1MJ = 0.278kWh

So 2200W electric element is only about 8MJ or about 1/3 as powerful as the three ring burner on max.

My 2200w element runs flat out during the boil, 60 mins or maybe 90 if a pils. plus half an hour to heat strike water, another half an hour to bring to boil after mash, so I'd say my average brew costs me about $1.20 in electricity.

I estimate the BBQ bottle gas may cost a tad more than this, maybe $2 a brew, and the street gas the cheapest at well below $1 for a brew. All 23 litre batches with approx 60 min boils

20 Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 3:40 PM


Even so at $30/9kg bottle, if you burn for say, 2hrs at full power on a three ring, may cost max $5 with the BBQ gas and about $1.33 for the street gas

Awesome analysis headmaster!

I use a 40 litre stockpot, and until recently did my brews on the gas stove in the kitchen. I now brew entirely in the garage on a two-ring propane camp stove. I find it puts out a fair bit more heat, reaching boil quicker and giving a more vigorous boil than the kitchen gas stove.

I was lucky enough to grab an in-test 9kg gas bottle someone was chucking out with their BBQ at a recent clean up. We have a local Swap-n-Go equivalent that does 9kg bottles for $15.80, so swapped it over for a full one, so now have one in the BBQ and another for the brewing.

I was curious about the energy costs but hadn't sat down to try and work them out. Good stuff.