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Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review

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KellerBrauer:
Greetings All - I wanted to take a moment to let my fellow brewers know about an issue I've experienced with my Polar Ware 15 gallon brew kettle.  This kettle has a polycarbonate sight glass that has failed several times and Polar Ware is not offering any advise on how to correct the issue.

I bought my kettle in February 2013.  This kettle is used on a edelmatell 72,000 btu propane burner.  The sight glass, being plastic, warped within the first two brews.  While it still held liquid, it was noticeably distorted and very discolored.  That said, this may have been my fault since the literature stated the plastic sight glass was good to 285 degrees F.  I'm not sure one can boil 10 gallons of wort and not allow the sight glass to exceed 285 degrees F.  So, anyway, after about 18 months and about 20 brews, I decided to replace the sight glass at a cost of $50.  However, to help prevent this from happening again, I decided to install a shield on the burner to help deflect the heat away from the plastic sight glass.

Well, the new sight glass cracked badly.  I thought it was a factory defect, so I ordered two more - at $50/ea..  The next sight glass cracked after three brews.  (Perhaps it cracked earlier and I never noticed it, I'm not sure.)  So, I replaced it again.  This time I kept a very close eye on the situation.  The new sight glass has begun to crack on the very first use.

So, my local home brew shop happens to be a Polar Ware dealer, so she has sent all my pictures to LD Carlson (the distributor).  That was nearly three weeks ago with zero response from either.

So, if anyone is in need of a SS Brew Kettle with a sight glass, look at an alternative.  The Polar Ware version is certainly NOT money well spent - about $400 to be more precise.



I attached a PDF of the information and pictures I sent to LD Carlson.  If my situation changes I will certainly update this post.

Oginme:
Wort boiling would not get above about 215F.  It may be that you are getting a lot of heat from your burner coming up around the outside of your kettle, which would be a great loss of energy to reach the softening temperature of polycarbonate.

Some added shielding or, as I did, raising the burner to be closer to the bottom of the kettle would reduce the heat loss you appear to be experiencing.  Net result would be a reduction in propane or natural gas usage and cost.

KellerBrauer:
Greetings Oginme and thank you for your input.  Yes, I'm certain the burner is dumping excess heat up the sides of the kettle and that is the cause of my first sight glass becoming contorted and discolored.  This is the reason why I installed the shielding directly under the sight glass assembly.  And, it works!  The sight glass is no longer getting distorted.  Instead, it's cracking.

What I suspect is happening is the kettle is expanding evenly throughout the entire kettle except for the 5" spot where the shield is installed.  So now I'm wondering if that 5" shield may be wider than I truely need to protect the sight glass.

But, all that thought process aside, your suggestion of reconfiguring the burner is quite interesting.  First, I need to cinsider the actual BTU capacity needed to boil up to and including 11 gallons of wort in a reasonable timeframe; and perhaps my burner capacity of 72,000 BTU's is larger than I really need.  Second, if I understand your suggestion, you say that moving the kettle closer to the flame will prevent or prohibit "spill by" heat from rolling up the sides???  I will need to examine my burner to see if that move is a possibility.

Again, thank you for your input.  I have much to consider.  I think my best option might be to block the two holes once utilized by the sight glass and simply make a dipstick to measure quantity.  Long story short, I was a fool for buying a boil kettle with a plastic sight glass.  I should have known better.

Thanks Oginme!

mcoates:
How about replacing the polycarb with hi-temp glass?

https://www.mcmaster.com/#glass-tubing/=17tpesz

Mark

KellerBrauer:
Greetings mcoates - that's a great suggestion, one I've already considered. The problem is the polycarbonate tube was machined for a precise fit into the stainless steel angle fitting that attaches the tube to the kettle.  As such, the machined size is smaller than its glass counter part.  In other words, I cannot find a piece of high temperature glass that will fit the angle fittings and to get new fittings made would be cost preventive.  But, thanks anyway for the great suggestion!!

I'm actually following up with an idea posted by Oginme and looking into the possibility of de-rating my burner; reducing its BTU capacity to reduce the spill-over heat rising up the side of my kettle.  Sounds easy, but I need to crunch the numbers to see if it possible.

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