Flame on?

So I have been looking at gas ranges.  Yeah, a new stove.  Mine came with the house, and it’s certainly a few decades old.  The other day the oven decided not to start up, until I cranked the dial a few times (turned it off and on). It was a somewhat off putting harbinger of doom. Or at least potential doom.  Or at least potential moments when I couldn’t cook.  Let’s not get too hyperbolic here.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at gas ranges, thinking that if I got a new gas range with enough BTUs, I wouldn’t need to get a special gas ring to boil the wort.

A former student of mine is partnered with (as in married or living together or something) a guy who works at Whirlpool–household appliances.  They also appear to be the distributors of a few other lines. They have an annual friends and family day, where friends and family get the employee discount.  One of the benefits of having “friended” this former student on facebook is now she has given me access to this sale. (I’m NOT getting you in on this, BTW)

While looking on the Whirlpool site for ranges, I learned that the top BTU output of the stove was abut 15000.  I’m not all that familiar with BTUs, so I looked up what a standard brewing gas ring is.  Remember, I have to bring about 7 Gallons of wort, that is basically water mixed with sugar, so a pretty heavy solution, to a boil.

It turns out that the standard gas ring BTU clocks in at about 60,000.  And they go up to about 150,000.  Apparently there is a formula I can use to calculate how many BTUs it will take to bring my wort up to a boil.  I suspect that it’s more than 15,000.

I found a decent calculation and discussion of this on a blog called Fermentarium.   I am quoting it here:

lbs of water x temperature rise = BTUs required for one hour (1 lb of water x 1 degree Fahrenheit) = 1 BTU for 1 hour

Water equals 8.3 lbs per gallon.  To boil one gallon of water starting 70°F in 1 hour you will need 8.3 x (212-70) = 1,178.6 BTUs.

This sounds do-able, because to boil 7 gallons of water, you’d need 1178.6 X 7 = 8250.2 BTUs, right?  Well, consider, as the author noted, this calculation assumes that 100% of the energy is used.  You’re lucky to get 50% of that energy (also called efficiency, which complicates things because that’s a term used to determine how much sugar you can get out of the grain when mashing it).  Then, there is evaporation, which takes heat away from the boil, so you need additional BTUs to boil the beer (apparently 8000 BTUs per gallon per hour).

This is all pretty fascinating if you’re an engineer.  What it means to me is that 15000 BTUs might get 5 gallons up to a boil, but it will take a long time, and a heck of a lot of energy.

Anyway, it’s all sort of a pipe dream.  I have to buy the right equipment, and if a gas stove won’t do it, I’m back to eyeing up a 60,000 BTU gas ring.

I have to be honest: gas sort of scares me.  I just have to decide which scares me more: really bad brewing outcomes, or cooking with gas.

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About danmalleck

Medical historian and jack-of-all-trades curmudgeon. I tend to ramble about politics, social incivility, and our self-centred culture more interested in buying the next cool ringtone or LED TV than actively engaging in the sorts of discussions and issues that matter. The more opportunity we have to buy more stuff, the less concern there is, it seems, in politics, social justice and let's face it, basic human decency, unless those things actually can save us money or get us more things to show how awesome we are through displaying our material wealth. And I like to brew beer, make cheese, and put food in jars.
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