Anyone who homebrews needs a brew pot. The basic process of brewing involves boiling your wort for an hour or so. Without a pot, this is pretty tough. There are a few options to consider when you are choosing a pot; what is it made of, how big does it need to be, what is my price range.
What is it made of?
There are three basic types of pots out there to us for your homebrewing. The first is an aluminum pot. It is a pretty typical kitchen accessory and they are readability available. Aluminum has a few key advantages. The first is that aluminum does an excellent job of distributing heat. This means that as you heat the bottom of the pot, the heat is spread to the rest of the pot efficiently. This is good for you becasue it means no burned wort on the bottom. Another great thing about these pots are that they are easy to find, and can be found in large sizes. The biggest deterrent for these pots is that the wort will actually leach some of the aluminum off of the pot during the boil, causing aluminum to be in your beer. A few recent studies have found that this will happen for the first or second time using to pot, but an oxidized layer will form on the surface of the pot and the wort will no long leach.
Another common pot used is an enamel coated pot. They are easy to find and can be found in various sizes. The biggest problem is that the pot is iron coated in enamel. If you scratch or chip off some of the enamel, the iron will be exposed to the wort. Not a big deal at first, but the iron will eventually rust (another type of oxidation) and you will be boiling your wort in rust, not the most favorable of conditions.
The last type of pot is stainless steel. Like the others they can be found in many sizes and are pretty easy to find. They do not distribute heat very well but do a decent enough job at it. The biggest thing is that stainless steel does not rust, stain, or do anything bad to your beer. It is food safe and durable. Lets take a look at sizing.
A brew pot needs to fit your wort and still provide head space for the hot break foam that occurs during boiling. I personally have a 20 qt stainless steel pot that does a fine job of making 4 gallon all grain batches or 5 gallon extract batches. The reason for the difference is that your generally want to do a full boil in all grain brewing and in extract you can do a partial boil and add water in the fermenter to get to your final volume. Your pots height and width are things to take into consideration for how much you can boil. If you wanted to do a full boil 5 gallon batch you would mostlikely want a 7.5 gallon pot. I’ve heard of people getting away with 6 gallons, but the chance for a boil over is much higher this way.
While all of the pot types can be easily found and come in a great number of sizes, you may want to look at the price tag. Enamel pots are generally your cheapest, with a 5 gallon pot going between $15-25. Just remember that if any of that enamel chips, you need to get another pot. The middle pot is the aluminum pot that can be found anywhere from $25-35 a pot. The most expensive is the stainless steel pot coming in at $40-55 for a 5 gallon pot. The thing is, you will never need to buy a new one ever again (unless you start doing higher volumes). You could always try yard sales or asking around, sometimes people have the perfect brewing pot, just sitting there. A friend of mine recently got a 20 qt stainless steel pot for $5 at a yard sale.
Well there you have it, the basics on brew pots. They can be very simple or very complex, but I’ll get into that at a later time.