About Propane as it applies to Brewing Beer
I recently built a brewstand, if you are interested, check it out here: Brewstand. For the stand, I had initially thought that I would have a separate propane tank for each burner. This was mostly for simplicity’s sake, but also because I knew that if you drive one propane tank too hard, it cannot keep up. If you have ever been hitting a tank on full blast, you’ll notice condensation build up, and eventually freezing to the side of the tank. This is the result of a reaction in which the propane turns from liquid (in the tank) to gas (in the burner). The byproduct of this conversion is heat loss. The propane will drop from room temperature to below zero fairly quickly if you are using a large amount of it. As the temperature of the liquid drops, the pressure of the tank goes down and down, until you can no longer get the pressure you need to adequately keep the burners flowing. This is why I had initially though I would do a separate tank for each burner, so that this would not be an issue.
But 3 tanks seems a bit over the top, so after some though, I decided I would do two: one for the boil kettle (BK), and another for the mash tun (MT) and the hot liquor tank (HLT). I decided this because I know that I will never have a full burner going for the HLT and the MT at the same time, or if I do, it would be for a breif period of time (never over 10 minutes). Therefore, I decided that one propane tank would be sufficient.
The next step was to figure out how to get two burners to draw from the same propane cylinder. I had seen a couple of brewstands that use black steel pipe, so I decided that was the way to go. I went down to Lowes, and talked to the dude in the piping section (always a bad idea), and he sent me away to a propane specialty store. I went there, and they weren’t able to help much. So I decided to head back to Lowes and try to put it together myself. And it turns out your local box store is going to have eveything you need to put this thing together. Basically, this is what my manifold was comprised of:
- The first (and most important) piece is the propane regulator. This is the hose that goes from the propane tank to the piping. I made the mistake of buying one at the box store, only to find out that a normal barbecue regulator only delivers 0.5 PSI. This is not nearly enough to drive two burners! You need to find a regulator that is 20-30 PSI to run two high BTU burners. I am running 70,000 BTU burners, and so 20PSI was plenty for me. You’ll want to check, but the most common connection on the end of these is a 3/8″ male flare fitting. I got mine on amazon.
- So you need an adapter from 3/8″ flare to 1/2″ MIP. This will plug the regulator into the black steel pipe.
- From there you will need a ‘T’ fitting, followed by two 1/2″ valves rated for use with gas.
- After the valve (which you want as close to the burners as you can get them), you will need another adapter that goes from 1/2″ MIP to 3/8″ flare fittings again.
- Again, check on this one, but the adapter that my burners came with are 3/8″ flare. You do need propane specific adapters for the connection to the burner, otherwise you won’t get a proper flow. These adapters have a very narrow tube so that the propane is pushed out forcefully so that it makes it around your burner. I initially tried to use 1/4″ black steel pipe into the burners, and that did not work, you must have the proper propane fitting here. Mine came with the burners when I bought them. I got these from Agrisupply.com. I bought the BURNER CAST LOW PRESURE MULTI-HOLE 6″ which work great, but I would actually recommend you buy the CAST IRON HIGH PRESSURE BURNER because it has a higher BTU output for less money.
The most important part of working with black steel piping is to make sure that you wrench down the pipe really well. When you get it all put together, turn on the propane full blast and then spray on soapy water (I used my kid’s bubble mix) on all the joints and make sure there are no leaks.
All the black steel piping you could want is available at your local box store, just don’t ask anyone that works there, unless you’ve had success with that person in the past. Anyway, I just fired up my burners for the first time tonight after working out all of the leaks: