Selecting a Homebrew Pot (Aluminum vs Stainless Steel)

Selecting a brew pot can be a life changing event. It will likely be with you for a very long time. I mean these things last forever don’t they? So the question is which is better aluminum or stainless steel?

Stainless steel is the most widely used material for homebrewers and professional breweries. But, aluminum pots are much cheaper and conduct heat better. Many myths surround aluminum pots but, aluminum is definitively more fragile. Special cleaners that do not cause pitting must be used on aluminum.

Before you jump into purchasing an expensive stainless steel pot only to be disappointed. Learn more below and make a more informed decision. Also take a look at some of the brew pots I recommend.

Stainless Steel vs Aluminum Pots

Stainless Steel seems to be winning the overall debate on which is better for cooking wort. Plus stainless steel is beautiful. But, aluminum isn’t entirely useless. Especially if you are on a budget or have a limited heating ability.

Lets say you are limited to an electric stove it could take much longer to get to a boil. In this case aluminum is the clear winner as it will not only save you money in the cost of the pot but also your heating bill.

The trade-off is aluminum is much tougher to keep clean since you can’t use oxygen based cleaners. Aluminum is also a much softer metal making it much more likely that if you don’t take good care of it, there will be many dents on it.

Building an Oxide Layer with Aluminum

When it comes to brewing with aluminum pots, they typically darken but this is not a bad thing. The dark layer is actually a form of protection. Its an oxide layer that can only be removed by using acid based cleaners.

Technically using acid based cleaners on aluminum is bad and it could result in a metallic taste. So the uglier your aluminum pot gets the better it is to use. That’s why its suggested to not use heavy acid or oxygen or alkaline based cleaners as it will remove this protective layer.

You do need to watch out for pitting in the pot. This means any chips or a rougher feel created by smaller holes is bad. This is often created from cooking overly acidic foods or improper cleaning.

Tips for Buying and Using Aluminum

  • Buy Thicker Aluminum Pots so its harder to create dings and disfigure.
  • Aluminum helps homebrewers hit temperatures quicker
  • Do a 30 minute boil with water to create the dark layer of oxidation.
  • Don’t use Oxyclean or any oxygen based cleaners.

Check out this very informational video on how aluminum will make you a better brewer.

Tips for Buying and Using Stainless Steel

When you start getting up to 10 gallon stainless steel you are going to be hitting much higher price points, so its important to know how they are made and how that benefits you.

  • 10 Gallon stainless steel pots are tri-clad which means that there is a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two sheets of stainless steel in order to help with conductivity. Make sure the one you are buying has this otherwise you are paying more for something that is not as great.
  • Stainless steel will always look great and you will be able to tell how clean it is visually.
  • Stainless steel can use caustic cleaners such as oxyclean.

How to Tell if Your Pot is Stainless Steel or Aluminum

You can tell if your pot is stainless steel or aluminum by its weight and color. Aluminum will be more light and dull silver, and stainless steel will be a darker silver.

I had no idea about the debate between stainless steel and aluminum when I first began brewing. Many pots just come with homebrewing kits so that’s basically what you use.

But those pots are generally 5 gallon stainless steel pots, so instead of opting for a kit, if you are looking to brew in aluminum for cheaper, you should buy your own pot separately.

What Cleaner To Use For Aluminum Pots

I found it ridiculously difficult to find information on how to actually clean aluminum. Plenty about how not too though, also some of the information seems contradictory so I had to get to the bottom of this.

You should not use oxygen based cleaners or overly acidic cleaners. As for the most popular cleaner among homebrewers, Star San, it can’t be used on aluminum.

But, what you can use to clean your aluminum homebrew pot is barkeepers friend. It may remove the protective oxide layer, but you can just build it back up again by boiling some more hot water.

Best Brew Pots for Beginners

Check out this video for more info on selecting a brew pot or just read down below.

Whether it is stainless steel or aluminum the best brewing pots are most definitely the 5-8 gallon variety. If you are impatient and have trouble heating up your wort then you should opt for the aluminum pot. Plus it will be less expensive for more space to work with.

Its actually become incredibly rare to find fully aluminum pots. But you can check out this 8 gallon one on Amazon. Its essentially near the price of a 5 gallon stainless steel pot but with 3 more gallons to work with.

The 8 gallon aluminum pot could easily get you brewing 5 gallons of wort instead of the 2-3 you will be limited to with stainless steel 5 gallon pot. I say this from experience, brewing 5 gallons of beer in such a small pot makes it incredibly easy to have a boil over, this happened many times to myself and friends.

To be honest those 5 gallon attempts only came out to probably 4 gallons of beer anyways.

Brew Pots for the More Advanced Brewer

When you are looking into doing more advanced brewing, such as BIAB (brew in a bag) sparging or just plain brewing larger quantities of wort you will need to graduate to 10-15 gallon pots.

At these levels is where the price difference really comes into play. An aluminum pot that is 15 gallons will cost you under 100 bucks. Whereas this 15 gallon brewtech kettle will cost you nearly 300 dollars.

Mind you the brewtech kettle comes with additional features to make the price tag less of a shock, but in reality the additions are not whats creating the extra cost. This brewtech model does have the tri-clad bottom which helps with the heating on the bottom.

If you are curious what I’m using you can check out my recommended products page and look at the sparge brewing process.

Electric Brewing Kettles

There are some interesting electric brewing setups out there, and they are let me tell you… expensive. I don’t believe any of them are even using aluminum but instead using stainless steel.

Two of these products that I know of are the grain-father and clawhammer supply. I’m sure there are many others but these are the two that stick.

Many people have to purchase insulation jackets in order to keep these systems efficient and get them to a boil.

Induction Cook Tops

If you have an induction stove top, one of the three types that I talk about in my brewing on electric stove top article, then you are out of luck with aluminum.

Aluminum will not work because it is not magnetic. So instead you will need to rely on the more expensive stainless steel kettles. Interestingly enough you could skip the tri-clad since it will not help with heating the wort, although it certainly shouldn’t hurt.


Hey, I'm the the creator of I have been brewing beer since 2013 and started by brewing in my parents home. I have written copy on numerous websites. Most notably Seeking Alpha, where I analyze small cap publicly traded companies. I have also written content for and

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