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Should I spend extra on stainless steel brewing pots?

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Ultimately, your choice of a stainless steel vs. an aluminum brewing pot will depend on your budgetary constraints and a balancing of the various pros and cons.

Stainless steel brewing pots tend to be more expensive than equivalent aluminum brewing pots.  Stainless steel is the better choice when it comes to ease-of-cleaning, however.  As the surface remains clear and shiny, it is easier to determine when the pot needs cleaning.  Further, stainless steel can be used with oxygenated cleaners.

Stainless steel also tends to be stronger than aluminum, which means it will last longer and with fewer dents and scratches.  Unfortunately, stainless steel is not as good of a heat conductor as aluminum, so your brewing process may be negatively affected by the longer boiling and cooling times.

The main advantage of aluminum pots is that they are relatively inexpensive while remaining quite usable.  A thick aluminum pot is not as strong as a stainless steel pot, but a well-built one will last a reasonably long time.  Also, it is not as easy to clean as a stainless steel pot, as an aluminum pot will oxidize, so it cannot be used with caustic cleaning agents as well as stainless steel pots.  The long-term discoloration caused by this makes it more difficult to determine when the pot is dirty and requires cleaning.

Overall, an aluminum brewing pot will do just fine if your budget does not allow for a stainless steel purchase, but in the long-term, most brewers do prefer stainless steel.  Of course, hybrid brewing pots are also available that have aluminum layers sandwiched between stainless steel.
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