This is an honest review of Brew Hardware’s Steam Slayer. I was not paid or compensated in any way for this article. I’m looking to help homebrewers make informed decisions in their home brewery.
Dealing with kettle boil-off steam is one of the biggest hurdles of indoor brewing. Boiling wort for 60-90 minutes is going to generate a lot of steam. Potentially gallon(s) worth of water is evaporating off the kettle into your brewing environment. Without a ventilation system, you could run into serious mold/mildew build-up in your home. There are two options to approach this problem—a steam condenser or kitchen range hood or condensate hood to vent the air externally.
After doing a lot of research and nearly ready to commit to installing a range hood, I switched and decided to go the steam condenser route for overall functionality, price, and ease of installation. There are a handful of options on the market, but I decided to go with the Steam Slayer from Brew Hardware.
Quick Pros and Cons of Steam Condensing
- Easy steam condensing with better overall performance than a range hood (no condensation build-up)
- Can be installed anywhere and without electricity
- Quiet—no loud fan or motor
- Small and portable
- Less boil-off rate
- Less power needed to maintain a vigorous boil
- No need for return air/ventilation install
- Uses about 6 gallons of water per hour
- Requires kettle lid to be closed
- Needs additional water source to power
- Will need a bucket or drain to collect wastewater
- Need TC port in kettle or lid
How Does It Work?
Without getting overly technical, the Steam Slayer is equipped with a fine mist sprayer in the body of the unit. The sprayer requires a cold tap water source. As steam enters the tee, it encounters the sprayer, converting the steam back into water. The wastewater then runs out the bottom of the unit through silicone tubing and into a bucket or a sink in my case.
- Once the boil starts (after the hot break) and steam is generated, place the lid on the kettle and turn on the water supply to the Steam Slayer.
- Adjust the flow valve on the top of the unit either higher or lower if any steam is still evacuating through the lid. You want the flow as low as possible while still removing all steam. This renders less water usage.
- Reduce your heating element’s power. My Brew Commander is at 100% until I reach a boil and then I am able to drop it down to 35% power with the lid/condenser.
I thought the learning curve would be a little higher, to be honest. I was a little intimidated by the technology but be assured it’s super easy to get up and running in a matter of seconds.
The Steam Slayer requires a 1.5 inch TC port on either the sidewall of your kettle or in the lid. A lid mount will require an extra TC elbow fitting to clear the side of the kettle. The lid installation is nice because it gives you the flexibility of rotating the Steam Slayer freely. The downside is your lid is a little more cumbersome. It’s not a huge deal just know your lid will be a lot heavier now for doing hop additions etc. I would love to install some sort of glass port for easy hop additions and boil monitoring.
Food for thought on the lid install: If you’re looking to have a TC ferrule installed in your kettle, just note shipping the lid for welding will be a lot easier and cheaper than shipping an entire kettle.
Water Source and Drainage
You will need to have a cold water source to feed the steam condenser for it to function. There are a few different ways this can be done. Either a garden hose or a faucet supply line in. I had my plumber install a garden hose valve in my brewery for easy access to hot and cold water for kettle filling etc. The garden hose fitting can also double as a water source for my Steam Slayer while keeping the sink faucet fully functioning and accessible. This is the best way to go in my opinion. The water source is close to my kettle which makes for a really easy hookup.
Steam condensers also require a way to collect the wastewater. This can be done via a 5-gallon bucket or a direct drain to a sink. I built my brewery with this in mind. The sink drainage is really convenient and eliminates the need to swap out buckets. Which for me was just one more thing to monitor on brew day. Just note, if you plan on draining to a sink, it cannot be 3 feet away. The tubing must be draining almost directly downward or you will disrupt the vacuum/air supply to the unit. If the tubing has too much of a horizontal bend, the unit will sputter.
Now I know what you may be thinking. Can’t I just recirculate/pump the expelled water back into the top of the Steam Slayer in an infinite cycle? The problem is the wastewater contains boiled off DMS (dimethyl sulfide). Recirculating this water back into the unit risks returning or retaining the chemical in your beer. In a traditional non-lidded boil, DMS is expelled into the air and out of your brew. It’s also worth mentioning the wastewater is pretty hot from the steam. It’s best to have a continuous feed of cold, freshwater.
Downside of Steam Condensers
Of course, steam condensing comes with a few minor drawbacks. Number one, you will use about 6 gallons of water per hour during the boil. The wastewater will have a malt/hop aroma so it can be used for cleaning but that’s about it. Brewing, in general, consumes a lot of water, we all know that.
Some homebrewers have claimed the wastewater has a very strong smell. While I don’t totally disagree, I just don’t mind the smell. My basement smells like a brewery for 24 hours and then returns to normal. Personally, I love the smell of hops and grains—it smells like Heaven. It’s also worth noting the smell does not travel upstairs to the main living space. A vent fan will help with expelling your brewery aroma externally.
Lastly, as mentioned above, you’ll need an additional water source and draining system to properly run a steam condenser. Depending on the route you go, this will add another to-do item on brew day. If you configure it as I have, you won’t give it a second thought.
I would absolutely recommend the Steam Slayer or a steam condenser as the ventilation solution to your brewery. Overall I’m really happy with my purchase. The ease of use, simple installation, and overall price tag far outweigh the downside of extra water consumption. If you’re planning your basement brewery with a steam condenser in mind, it should go hand and hand with your overall plumbing needs and planning. It makes even more sense to go the condenser route if you don’t have window access close to where you brew. And lastly, you don’t need to cut a hole (or 2) in the side of your house for ventilation/return air.