Double Down on Propane

Propane TanksAs we all know, brewing requires a lot of heat.  Unless you’ve build or purchased an all-electric setup or have a dedicated natural gas line, you likely have to generate this heat using propane burners.  One of the most frustrating things that can happen on a brew day is to see these burners sputter and go out mid-boil!  On no, the propane tank is empty!!  Let me give you a simple tip to avoid this dilemma and save you time and money in the process.

I am personally guilty of trying to squeeze every last drop of propane from my tank… praying that it will last until the end of the boil.  With no gauge built onto most propane tanks, you are stuck with the very imprecise “lift and guess” method (empty tank ≈ 17lbs; full tank ≈ 37lbs).  I hate exchanging a tank without knowing it is completely empty, because it’s just a waste.  The solution seems obvious – buy a second tank, so you will always have extra on hand in case you run out.  Great, but if you’ve checked prices, those extra tanks cost around $50 at exchange locations… ouch, that’s an expensive insurance policy!

Here is the route I’ve taken.  Check your local craigslist for propane tank listings.  Look specifically for 20lb tanks, and you may be surprised how cheap they can be.  A quick search of my local craigslist yields empty tanks for $5-$10 and full tanks for $10-$20.  Some people even THROW IN A GRILL along with the tank for only $10!!  Crazy!  If you decide to pick up the empty tank for $5-$10, simply take it to the nearest exchange location and trade it for a full tank.  This generally costs around $20, effectively saving you 50% off the purchase price of a full tank!  Now you will not have to worry about giving away that last bit of propane in your tank, because you will always have a back-up ready to step in.PTERS2

If you are near a Tractor Supply, Costco, or U Haul location, you can opt to have your tank refilled and pay per gallon.  A 20lb tank holds 4.7gal of propane, and I have seen prices as low as $2.49/gal at Tractor Supply (prices fluctuate).  For a full refill, you can expect to pay between $12-$20 depending on price per gallon at various locations.  Some tanks also include gauges, but they are usually a rough estimate.

Finally, for the ultimate cost savings, you may be able to strike a deal with a farmer to exchange your spent grain for propane refills.  Farmers often purchase propane in bulk at a significantly reduced cost for use in grain drying.  Spent grain can be used as feed for animals, and they may be willing to give you a propane refill from their supply tank… it’s a long shot, but maybe it will work for you!

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