I feel it is important to address a number of myths about aluminum. First, aluminum pots are not linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A number of medical studies since the 1970’s have found zero link between Alzheimer’s and the use of aluminum. Keep in mind that every day you drink soda from aluminum cans (though most are lined) and eat food prepared in aluminum cookware – it is safe.
A second myth is that aluminum will react with acidic content of the wort and either add off flavors or eat away at your pot. This is also untrue – water has a pH of7.0, your wort has a pH of around 5.2, while spaghetti sauce can run as low as 4.6 and the most acidic diet sodas you drink run as low as 2.5. For comparison, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Your wort is simply not acidic enough to react with your aluminum pot.
Aluminum pots are widely available and inexpensive because aluminum cookware is widely used for preparing foods. Inexpensive Turkey pots in the 36 quart range can be found at your local Walmart, particularly right after Thanksgiving at great prices. Aluminum pots cost considerably less than stainless steel – often half as much. Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than steel, so your pot will come to a boil faster and also cool down faster after you are done boiling.
The only major disadvantage of aluminum is that it will oxidize, so you can’t use oxygen-based or caustic cleaners such as Oxyclean. This is the major reason why professional brewing equipment is made of stainless steel and not aluminum – the stainless steel is easier to clean with caustic cleaning agents. Also, over time aluminum will get an oxide layer over it which can discolor the aluminum and give it a grey tone. This is not a cause for concern – the layer of aluminum oxide actually protects the pot, but it is not as pretty as stainless steel.