Hands on Review: Spike Brewing Equipment Spike+ Kettle

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

Spike+ Kettle + Mash Tun Conversion

Spike kettles come in sizes from 10 gallons all the way up to 50 gallons. The 10, 15, and 20 gallon kettles all share a common trait of 1.2 mm thick walls and a 5 mm thick base. The 30 and 50 gallon units up those numbers to 1.5 mm walls and a 6 mm base. Spike is quick to point out that these are the thickest kettle walls on the market. At first that might not seem like something that matters, it just seems like something that makes them heavy to lift and move around. But if you accidentally bang it into a doorway or a table you’re thankful for sturdy kettle walls that keep it looking new rather than beat up.


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The heavy bottom is sturdy enough to hold a level flat bottom rather than a slightly convex shape thinner kettles experience from stamping pressures. This lets it sit truly flat on your brew table and keep its weight centered low for a sturdy footing. The bottom is a tri-clad design that has layers of stainless steel on the bottom and top for strength and stain resistance, and a layer of aluminum inside to make use of its thermal conductivity properties to help distribute heat across the bottom of the kettle. The heat distribution helps avoid wort scorching on cooktops and gas burners.

Cut-away view showing stepped bottom

The bottom has a step designed in that helps simplify the false bottom. With the step, the false bottom rests on this and lets gravity and the hydrostatic pressure of the wort keep the false bottom sealed to the bottom of the kettle without requiring a grommet or seal on it. And the Spike custom false bottom is unique. It’s heavy-gauge and sturdy like the rest of the kettle, but that’s not what makes it unique. It’s perfectly sized to the stepped bottom of the kettle, and provides 2 stages of filtering. The top layer that the grain rests on has slots cut into it, and the bottom has a supporting ring that has holes cut into it. The Spike custom pickup tube extends to the center of the false bottom, collecting wort from inside the ring. So most of the wort getting to the pickup tube has to first pass through the top layer slots, and then through the holes surrounding the pickup tube.

A look at the top of the false bottomOutlet Port and Inlet Port Level Inside

The bottom port of the standard kettle sits at about the 2.5 gallon level with the 15-gallon kettle. If you’re using the Spike pickup tube, this extends in and touches down on the bottom. So if you’re transferring wort out with a pump, you can vacuum out the last bits of wort, leaving almost nothing behind. The temperature port sits a bit higher, and a temperature probe requires about 4 gallons of wort to be submerged. The Spike thermowell accessory that mates to the TC port is extremely well made. A polished, smooth surface extends in and has no visible gaps or crevices at the joints and a mirror-like shine.

Outside TC Fitting Weld

Spike+ Kettle with a 1″ Sight Brewers Hardware Sight Glass Installed

Hands on Trial

Butterfly Valve Attached to Pickup Tube

The heft of the 15 gallon kettle was noticeable while moving it around my brew area (30 lbs empty weight with butterfly valve, center pickup tube, false bottom, and thermowell w/ temperature gauge). But its strength was impressive, and definitely seemed liked something you’d use until you passed it down to your kids (or something like that). The 15-gallon size was just about the limit for my 2 ft x 2ft stainless sink to fit in for cleaning. With the weight of it, I was definitely having to be more creative with more of bringing the water to the kettle and less filling at the sink and lugging it around.

The weld quality of the TC flanges was phenomenal. The surface of the weld was so smooth and uniform, it made for very easy cleaning. Which of course is great, since that’s the whole point of the TC ports. This was my first experience with these ports. Cleaning was made so easy, as fittings were removed just by hand loosening the clamps and pulling hardware out. And when putting them back on, I kept thinking that I would end up needing to fiddle with the clamp/gasket to get a good seal, but they were flawless. There really is no comparison to NPT fittings with Teflon tape, or weldless fittings with O-rings in this regard. You pay more money, but there are tangible results with speed/ease of cleaning and hassle free no-leak operation.

The dial temperature gauge was large and readable, with markings every 2 degrees, making it easy to read within 1 degree (i.e. if you’re on a line or in between two lines). The gauge did require some adjustment to be accurate, but luckily the adjustment screw was easy to reach. After adjustment it maintained accuracy in the couple batches I brewed after.

Conclusions

These kettles come with a price tag that’s a step up. Sometimes you can’t afford that, and there are other options out there. But if you do pony up some extra money for nice gear, you expect to see a benefit from it. The Spike kettle/mash tun definitely delivers on that, with durability and super high quality that’s plain to see. The TC fittings fall into that category as well, providing you extra benefits with ease of use and ease of cleaning. Overall, the whole line up from kettle to accessory is exactly what you’d expect to see in a high quality offering.

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More Photos

Closeup TC Weld Quality – Inside the Mash TunBottom View of the False BottomA look inside Spike Brewing Equipment’s Mash Tun – note that a Blichmann AutoSparge is installed in this photo
TC Clamps and Silicone Gaskets

Special Thanks to Spike Brewing Equipment for for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

By Brad Probert.  Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com

Also: All Grain Tips & Gear | 10 Gallon Mash Tun Conversion Kit [Review] | Cereal Killer Grain MIll |  Batch Sparge SpreadsheetBIAB Brew Day Spreadsheet | The Brew Bag – Purpose Made BIAB

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