I bought two of these heat sticks from amazon last week for 6.78 each, and have cut over 45 minutes off my brew day when using just one of them. About an hour cut off of my brew day using both. This is mostly due to a stove top that while able to boil 6 gallons, it takes far too long to get there on it’s own.
From 140F tap water to a rolling boil it took my stovetop about an hour and a half. With one heatstick, in additon to the stovetop, I went from 70F tap water to boil in 36 minutes! I also timed to strike temp, 70F to 170F in 16 minutes! That’s faster than my propane burner was, and a lot cheaper.
Using a single heat stick to speed up the heating times, I completed a brew day in 3.5 hours. A half hour of that was spent dealing with draining and sparging the sparge buckets then I had to boil down .4 gallons after the 60 minute boil and that added about 20 minutes. So using both heat sticks, no chill, and a no sparge full volume mash I might be able to complete my next brew day in under 3 hours.
First use and a word of warning
So there are two things to remember when dealing with these psuedo heat sticks.
1) These must ALWAYS be used on a GFCI protected circuit, one per heat stick. NO doubling up, no using with appliances. These must be dedicated and separate all by themselves. Moreover, 1 outlet does NOT mean one circuit.
2) Submerge before plugging in, and do not remove from the liquid without unplugging and waiting a bit to allow the stick to cool. Failure to do either of these things risks failure and breaking the heating elements one time fuse.
3) Run it in water for an hour, and allow to cool. The fake chrome will burn off, exposing the aluminum heating element and developing a layer of passive aluminum oxide. When you pull it out the stick should be a dark gray.
4) Do not expose to cleaning, or sanitizing agents. You don’t need to, and it’ll ruin the passive patina layer on the aluminum. No PBW, oxyclean, starsan, iodophor, bleach etc. Just wash it off when you’re done and dry off. It’s used in the pre-boil side anyway so no need to worry about it.
One more thing, I would recommend measuring your boil off again with these, as you can create local hot spots in the water before a real boil is reached.
All in all I’m very happy I bought these up. However at the current price ($18~) I would be more inclined to build one instead. At the original price they were amazing, cutting my time down significantly each brew day for very little money. My current recommendation is to buy at least one of these once the price drops down again, if you use an amazon price tracking service it’ll alert you when the price drops back down to a reasonable amount.