Category: Brewing

Building a Heatstick

I spent some time last year/early this year building a burner stand for outdoor use to hook up to my whole house propane.  It has two 70,000 BTU low-pressure burners on it and does a great job with my 15 gallon heavy-duty pot.

The only problem is that during the summer most of my weekends are taken up and so I brew mostly from the end of September through to the end of May.  During those times, most of my brewing is at night on a Saturday.  I get the water going before dinner, mash in around 6:30, do baths with the kids and then they go to bed and I brew.

This has worked well with the brewing/family life balance.  Unfortunately it means that my heatsource is my stove top.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to have a stove top that is conducive to holding my 15 gallon pot.  It can straddle two burners which collectively put out about 28,000 BTU.  While I have made some good beers this way, I never really have a good, hard, rolling boiling.  I’d say it’s more like a hard simmer…

One of they guys in our newly formed brew club suggested that I make a heatstick.  I had never really heard of or thought about a heat stick until he suggested it.  So, kudos Jeremy for the insight.  He pointed me here for instruction:

I read through the materials and listened to the audio files.  I found that the authors description of the parts was a bit lacking.  I wasn’t able to walk into my local home depot and pick things up quickly/easily.  Also, he suggests that making a 90 degree bent heatstick is good for multipurpose use.  This is what I chose to make and again, his part list was lacking.

To address this I have put together a comprehensive parts list to create your own heatstick.  I’d follow the instructions on his site for the most part.  I explain what I did here specifically though.

Parts List

  Description UPC Code Price
J-B Weld Epoxy 043425826558 $4.97
Husky 9 ft. 14/3 Power Tool Replacement Cord 781756626323 $10.96
DBHL 1-1/2 In. x 7 In. L. Chrome Sink Drain Waste Arm 041193051806 $9.98
DBHL No. Hp9793a, 1-1/2 In. x 12 In. Pvc Tailpiece Extension 041193057259 $3.22
1-1/2" x 2" Double Slip Connector 041193057266 $2.98
MUELLER STREAMLINE 1-1/2 in. PVC Schedule 40 FIPT Cap 012871628603 $1.23
Camco Copper-Zinc Chromate MWD Electric Water Heater Screw-In Element
1500 Watt
014717158961 $9.67
Imagine some screws, nuts and washers pictured here.  I’ll try to snap a picture of these at some point. 1ea. 3/8" long #6 brass machine thread bolt, #6 brass nut, #6 brass washer 030699199815


Building the Heatstick


Putting the heatstick together wasn’t very difficult. 

  1. Assemble your parts
  2. Gather tools:
    1. A drill with a bit the same size as the outside diameter of the machine screw (I don’t remember what size I used)
    2. A screw driver
    3. A pair of long-nose pliers
    4. A disposable cub and a popsicle stick.  These will be used to mix and apply the epoxy.
  3. Drill a hole in the sink drain near the end with the bend large enough for the brass screw to fit through. It was probably about 1/2 to 3/4 inches from the end.
  4. Drill a hole large enough for the extension cord to fit through in the cap.
  5. Attach the tailpiece extension to the drain pipe using the slip collar.
  6. Attach the double slip connector to the tail piece in the same way.
  7. Unscrew the other side of the slip connector – you won’t need these pieces.  You will screw on the cap when you are done.
  8. Run the electrical cord through the cap and then through your pipe assembly.
  9. Insert the brass screw from the outside of the pipe.  Attach a washer and a nut to the inside.
  10. Attach the ground wire to the brass screw you just inserted and tighten down using the screw driver and needle-nose pliers.
  11. Attach the black and white wires to each screw on the heating element. 
  12. Cinch down the heating element using the screw and washer that came with the drain pipe.
  13. Mix up the epoxy.
  14. Apply generously to all areas around the union between the heating element and the drain pipe.  You should put some over the screw as well to ensure a water tight seal.
  15. Let dry overnight.

The next day you should test out your heatstick in a pot of water and check for leaks.  Note that as the plastic warms up your previously tight slip connector connections may become loose.  You an either epoxy these closed or simply tighten them once they have heated up.

So, was it a success?  Yes.  I brewed with it a couple of weeks ago and it was great.  I used it to supplement my stove top while bringing the mash water to temp.  Then, when I sparged (I batch sparge) and I added my water I under shot the temp and hit 164 instead of 168.  I used the heatstick to stir it up a bit and quickly raised the temp in my plastic cooler (yes, you heard me right) to 168.  Finally, I used it during my boil to give me a much more rigorous, hard boil.

I’ll try to get a picture of a completed heatstick up here at some point. Here’s the completed project after three batches of use…

I look forward to continued use of my heatstick and am very happy with how it turned out.




Summer’s Over

It’s been several months since I last posted here.  A lot of that had to do with the fact that during the summer months  my weekends are quite busy and brewing takes a back seat.  After the Doppelbock I brewed the following:

  • Northern English Brown Ale
  • American IPA
  • American Wheat
  • Scottish Wee Heavy

Sorry for not keeping the WILT posts up to date on each of those styles.  The Wee Heavy was the last batch I brewed before the summer.  I finally got back to brewing in late september and crafted a Baltic Pumpkin Porter.  I used about 3lbs of pumpkin in the mash.  The beer is still conditioning and will likely be kegged this week.  Early samples suggest that this is a winner.

I had the fortune of helping my brother in law get into brewing with his first solo (with oversight) batch.  I guided him along the way, but let him do all the work.  He elected to make a Schwarzbier  It was a lot of fun brewing with him that day.  I think he’s going to start brewing himself soon.

I’m thinking it’s time to make a stout of some sort.  I haven’t made one in a while and enjoy them so. I may also go down the path of a Belgian of some sort before it becomes too difficult to keep my basement warm. 

In other news I’ve decided to study for and take the BJCP exam in April of next year.  I’ve started the studying and am making good progress.



Keezer Expansion

As mentioned in an earlier post I spent some time making changes to my keezer to make room for the Munich Helles I was going to brew.  I just made the last of modifications to it for a while.  I now have three faucets hooked up the distributor for dispensing three different kegs at a time.  I also spent a few bucks at the hardware store and bought some quick disconnects like you’d use for an air compressor with different tools.  In doing so, off of my second regulator I have the capability to set the pressure to whatever I want and then attach either an air chuck (like you use to fill your car tires) or a ball lock disconnect.

I made my wife some Ginger Beer soda for her birthday and needed a way to carbonate it.  Rather than messing with yeast I decided to force carb.  I could have bot some carbonator caps (look like a ball lock) and then connected a regular ball lock disconnect to it.  However, at $20/cap they are kind of expensive.  I decided to get some tire valve stems, drill a hole a soda cap and attach them with the provider washers/nuts.  Then, with an air chuck attached to my CO2 tank, I was able to force carb them.  By using the quick disconnect I can either attach the chuck or a ball lock disconnect to carb a keg.  It’s a great setup and one I’m happy to show off.

Since I can only fit 4 kegs in my keezer I think I’m good with three faucets.  I could dispense 4 at a time, but I doubt I’ll ever get there.  As it is, I’ve kicked 2 of the three kegs I have in there.  Good thing I’ve brewed twice in the last month 🙂  I made a Honey Stout this past weekend.  My next batch is going to be a Northern Brown Ale. 



Scoville Christmas Ale

So far this brew has gone off without a hitch.  I hit my pre-boil gravity to the thousandth. Can’t beat that.  We’ll see where I end up with my OG post-boil.  OK.  So, I didn’t have time to really write/post between then and now.  Hit my gravities and everything is on target.

Scoville Brewery (that’s what I’ve dubbed my 5-10 gallon system) is brewing its inaugural Christmas Ale this weekend.  It’s my first completely custom recipe and uses 2-Row UK malt for the base, along with some Crystal 60, Munich, Chocolate Malt and Roasted Barley.  Centennial and Chinook make up the hops and an English Ale yeast (WLP002).  The starter is 1 cup of light DME that I’m getting to boil as I write this.

Looking forward to a good brew.