Author Topic: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review  (Read 2874 times)

Offline KellerBrauer

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Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« on: May 26, 2017, 03:52:42 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 02:09:04 PM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline Oginme

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. (15 gallon) Brew Kettle
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2017, 05:28:49 PM »
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.
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2017, 07:16:11 AM »
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!
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 02:08:27 PM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline mcoates

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. (15 gallon) Brew Kettle
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2017, 11:54:42 AM »
How about replacing the polycarb with hi-temp glass?

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

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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. (15 gallon) Brew Kettle
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2017, 01:32:52 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2017, 01:37:23 PM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline S-Tuna

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. (15 gallon) Brew Kettle
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2017, 05:11:17 PM »
Would something as simple as a small ball valve on the burner inlet help with reducing the gas flow/BTU?

Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2017, 06:54:43 AM »
Greetings S-Tuna - yes, point taken.  In fact, I have both a regulator and a needle valve at my disposal.  I happen to have been playing with the burner assembly yesterday and was able to dial the gas flow down considerably while still maintaining the proper fuel/oxygen ratio.  I also did some very rough calculations and discovered I should be able to bring my wort from roughly 140 degrees to boiling with half the capacity of my 72,000 BTU burner (36,000 BTU). However, the uncertainty is TIME. I'm not sure how long it will take to accomplish this.  Plus, I still will not be certain if I can raise the temperature and still be below the maximum temperature limit of 285 degrees Polar Ware warns about to protect their plastic sight tube.

So, the only way to answer the questions I've just outlined, I need to run a test by filling my kettle and firing up the burner.  However, I have two gaping holes in my kettle that are preventing the test and I don't want to spend $50 on a replacement sight glass assembly only to find out it won't work.  So I need to come up with a way of temporarily closing the holes so I can perform the test.  I have some ideas that I'm going to test soon.

I'm sorry S-Tuna, that was a very long and drawn out answer to your question.  But, thank you for your ideas and thoughts.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 02:08:05 PM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2017, 02:07:27 PM »
Well today I conducted an experiment to try and determine the nature of the issue I'm having with the plastic sight "gauge" (Polar Ware doesn't call it a Sight Glass) cracking and to find out if It's possible to boil 11 gallons of liquid and NOT allow the heat at the sight gauge to exceed the 285 degree warning posted by Polar Ware.

First, I trimmed the shield I installed under the sight gauge so I was only shielding the sight gauge and about a half inch on both sides.  I wanted to eliminate, or minimize, the possibility of ununiform metal expansion being the cause - or contributor - to my sight gauge cracking.

Next, I calculated that I would need slightly less than 50% of my 72,000 BTU burner to heat the liquid to boiling point.  I figured 35,000 BTU should be sufficient.

So, I configured a makeshift plug over the lower sight gauge hole that allowed me to fill the kettle without leaking.  Mission accomplished.  I filled the kettle to approximately 11 to 11-1/2 gallons of water at 101 degrees F, fired up the burner and began measuring temperature at various locations and my finding were quite remarkable.

I decided to start my test at an even lower BTU output just to see how the kettle and burner would perform.  The temperature directly above the sight gauge shield was averaging 145 degrees F and remained steady throughout the entire 80 minute test.  However, the "spill-by" temperature around the remainder of the kettle averaged over 485 degrees F. My digital thermometer didn't go any higher.

The results of my boil:  The water temperature raised 38 degrees in the first 20 minutes, 27 degrees in the second 20 minutes after I dialed the head down a bit to approximately 1/3 capacity, 24 degrees in the next 20 minutes and only 17 degrees in the final 20 minutes.  Now, this test was conducted with the lid on.  I was finally able to achieve a boil after 1 hour and 20 minutes @ roughly 33% burner capacity.  However, when I removed the lid, the boil went away.  Put the lid back on and the boil recovered.

So, what I learned is that more than 24,000 BTU's of energy is required to heat 11 gallons of water to boiling point.  Also, the energy loss when the lid was removed was equal to the energy used to heat the water.  Which is why I lost the boil when the lid was removed.

The most remarkable find was that even with the burner dialed down to 33% capacity (24,000 BTU) the spill-by heat was in excess tha 485 degrees F!!!  That's over 200 degrees higher than the manufacturer warns about!!!

So, exactly what is the intended use of this Polar Ware Boil Kettle with a sight "gauge"??  Perhaps they intended for it to be used to make soup.

Bottom line is If you're looking for a boil kettle with a sight glass for brewing beer, look at someone other than Polar Ware.....unless of coarse you intend on making a nice broth or consomme and your heat source is no hotter than a couple candles.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2017, 05:29:40 AM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2017, 05:42:42 AM »
Greetings All - well, my saga continues.  I finally received a response (through my local brewing supply shop) from LD Carlson (the distributer for Polar Ware) who passed on the note from The Vollrath Company, LLC, who purchased Polar Ware.  And, as I suspected, the respondent, Brad Johnson, Quality Systems Manager, had absolutely no idea what the problem was, what I have done to reduce the problem or what needed to be done to correct the problem.  His response was almost as if there was no problem at at all with my very expansive boil kettle.

The response was "The site glass must be seeing too high of temperatures. If he can?t reduce the temp the site glass is subjected to then his idea of removing the site glass may be his best bet.".

When confronted with my question on how to close the openings in my kettle after I remove the sight gauge, his response was "These options would be the responsibility of the end user though not Vollrath."

So, I responded - through the chain of people - and challenged this person to come and review this post which offers a very clear description to the entire situation.  I even put a link in the message.

Now I will wait to see if this person will come and actually learn what's going on and offer a solution.  Ultimately, however, you can't fix stupid.....I was stupid for buying a boil kettle with a plastic sight gauge.

Stay tuned.....
« Last Edit: June 03, 2017, 05:46:32 AM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2017, 05:30:20 PM »
Greetings All - this will be my final entry into this thread on the dysfunction of the Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge.

Three weeks ago, I challenged Brad Johnson, Quality Systems Manager from Polar Ware, to demonstrate, or explain, how to boil 11 gallons of wort without allowing their plastic sight "gauge" to exceed 285?F stated in their sales literature.  I believe Mr. Johnsons lack of response in this three week period is quite definitive; or, simply put, it cannot be done.

So, for those of you who have found this thread by querying "Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle With Sight Gauge Review", now you have my full story.  Polar Ware builds and is selling a product that simply cannot be used for the purpose for which it's advertised and sold and they have been given ample opportunity to defend their product and prove me wrong and they have failed to do so.

Further, I have lodged a complaint with Consumer Afairs and will soon lodge a complaint with he Better Business Bureau.  I have also posted a review of this product on Amazon.com and will continue to inform my brewing brethren via any social media possible to stay away from the Polar Ware Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge as it WILL NOT perform as it is intended.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2017, 07:32:06 AM by KellerBrauer »
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Offline timn8or

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2017, 08:12:50 PM »
I recently have had the same exact problem with my Polar Ware sight gauge.  It's very frustrating to spend that much on a product and have it fail without doing anything out of the ordinary.

Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2017, 06:17:04 AM »
Greetings timn8or - I have waited several months for Polar Ware to offer instructions on how to use their "brew kettle" in such a way so as to not allow the temperature of their plastic sight gauge to exceed 285 degrees.  I have decided to take my complaint to the Better Business Bureau.  While the BBB is more of a business advocate than a consumer advocate, the complaint will be public record and Polar Ware will have to respond or loose their AAA rating.

I have since figured out how to shield my sight gauge from the heat and the fix is quite successful.  However, now the gauge is cracking.  These are polycarbonate tubes for crying out loud and I'm on my 4th one!!!!  Now I want Polar Ware to tell me how any why this is happening on their very expensive product!

I will post any additional information I get on this thread.

Good luck!
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Offline Ck27

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2017, 02:58:42 PM »
Greetings timn8or - I have waited several months for Polar Ware to offer instructions on how to use their "brew kettle" in such a way so as to not allow the temperature of their plastic sight gauge to exceed 285 degrees.  I have decided to take my complaint to the Better Business Bureau.  While the BBB is more of a business advocate than a consumer advocate, the complaint will be public record and Polar Ware will have to respond or loose their AAA rating.

I have since figured out how to shield my sight gauge from the heat and the fix is quite successful.  However, now the gauge is cracking.  These are polycarbonate tubes for crying out loud and I'm on my 4th one!!!!  Now I want Polar Ware to tell me how any why this is happening on their very expensive product!

I will post any additional information I get on this thread.

Good luck!

BBB ratings don't do jack squat and leaving a negative one only fixed a issue of mine one time with FEDEX missing a overnight delivery.

Offline timn8or

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2017, 03:17:04 PM »
Definitely interested to hear if there's ever any resolution from Polar Ware.  It sucks that the replacement is 1) costly, and 2) includes extra parts.  It'd be great if there was a glass alternative.  In the case of my sight gauge, it has begun cracking around one of the gallon indicators, after warping slightly near the bottom.  It certainly wasn't my expectation that these things couldn't take any heat.  I've had mine for just over a year now, brewing about once a month.

Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Polar Ware 60 qrt. Brew Kettle with Sight Gauge Review
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2017, 04:12:14 PM »
BBB ratings don't do jack squat and leaving a negative one only fixed a issue of mine one time with FEDEX missing a overnight delivery.

Greetings Ck27 - you're absolutely correct.  The BBB is an advocate for Business, not Consumers.  I have dealt with these folks before and it is my belief that a company pays for their AAA rating and in order to keep it, they must respond to any and all complaints lodged against them through the BBB.  And once the BBB determines the company has responded enough they close the case allowing the company to keep their rating.  (Polar Ware has an AAA Rating.)  Right, wrong, illegal or otherwise, the BBB is inconsequential further than what I have outlined here.  The reason why I'm filing through the BBB is to go on record with this issue.  I'm also bringing this issue public through this forum (and soon others) to make the home brewing public aware of the issue so they will be more educated when making a decision regarding a purchase of this and other Polar Ware brew kettles that include a plastic sight gauge.

Thank you, Ck27, for your feedback!
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