The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Intro to brick ovens

Mako's picture
Mako

Intro to brick ovens

Hi I was hoping to get a thread started about everyones oven.  I'm looking to build my own in the spring and would like to know what people have.


Some questions


Did you make your oven from plans or a book?


Did you get your oven from a manufacturer?


-please provide link


How much did the oven cost? free pizza counts :)


-parts


-labor


Did you do the work yourself or have it installed?


How big, and how many pizza's /loaves can you get in your oven


Please post pictures

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The following sites are well worth the time.  It will give you a rough idea of what's available from both commercial sources and DYI plans:


Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community - The Pizza Oven Installation and Cooking Community


traditionaloven.com: Wood fired brick ovens for baking bread making pizza pictures.


Earthstone wood fire ovens: Wood burning brick pizza ovens for the home


The Brick Bake Oven Page


Maine Wood Heat - Organic Wood Fired Ovens


 


The Forno Bravo forum is the most active site and has enough oven build threads that will keep you in wood fired oven heaven...,


Wild-Yeast

volunteerpride's picture
volunteerpride

I explored this same desire 10 years ago and came up with an alternative that is superior for small scale or family type use. It is a ceramic (High tech ceramic like the space shuttle tiles) product called the Big Green Egg. It has an advantage or two over brick ovens, exact temperature control,(2 degrees), much lower cost than a brick oven, mobile, excellent for baking, smoking, dehydrating, and also, grilling. You can bake on multiple levels or use two Eggs, bake at different temps.The  high tech ceramic holds heat better than bricks yet it is only about 3/8 inch thick(my estimate). At 800 degrees F you can put your hand on the exterior without a burn. It is an incredible ceramic material, nearly indestructable unless you drop it off a tall wall.Like space tiles it can heat to 2000+ degrees and go thru ice or rain without damage, and what ceramic or brick does THAT ? You can also bake on multiple levels and being  totally airtight when sealed, you can snuff the fire when baking is complete and reuse leftover fuel remaining in the lower fire chamber on your next cook.Excellent brick oven taste in breads, pizzas, etc. Try a Spatchcocked chicken in one, wooow. Incredibly efficient, very little ash, miserly on fuel, easy to operate. The website has an active "Forum", lots of photos from users, recipes, etc. They have multiple EGGFESTS around the country which are  sponsered by USERS to help new owners and interested bakers, grillers, BBQers, etc    When Users sponser the product without compensation, you know it is worth looking at.??? www.biggreenegg.com Check their forum. Like most users, I swear by it.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I did a fair amount of research before building my oven. A VERY general summary of my research/experience is as follows:


For "black ovens" (ovens where the fire is in the same chamber as where the food is/will be cooked), there are two types of baking -- with the fire going, and with retained heat after raking the fire out of the oven. Things that are generally "broiled", or cooked at VERY hi heat, like pizza, roasted veggies, etc., get the "fire in" treatment. Things that are "baked" or "roasted", like most breads, roasts, poultry, pies, cookies, etc., generally do better using the retained heat of the oven after the fire is raked out.


The kit ovens I looked at are composed of relatively thin tiles and insulation. They heat quickly and are great for "fire in" cooking, like pizza. They are also generally igloo-style, i.e., round hearth and relatively spherical domes. These qualities help the oven heat faster and concentrate the radiant heat in the center of the hearth. They need less wood to heat since there have relatively low masonry mass. Because these are typically kits, your oven "A" will work pretty much identical to my oven "A", so users can share times/temps relatively reliably. The commercial "wood-fired oven" restaurants typically use this type of oven since they keep the fire going at all times while operating. Operating temps of 8-900° are common -- one common goal users have is "the 90-second pizza".


Home-built ovens tend to be arch-domed ovens, typically made of fire brick that is nominally 4" thick, and covered with 3 or more additional inches of reinforced concrete, and insulated. They typically have square hearths with the corners angled off. The hearths have similar masonry structure as the dome -- insulation topped with reinforced concrete topped with firebrick. Due to their increased mass, they take more time/wood to heat, but stay hot longer. Their arched-roof shape is a bit less efficient for pizza, but they excel at retained-heat cooking. Since these ovens tend to be custom made, with no two exactly alike, each oven will have it's own cooking characteristics. So "recipe" baking is out -- the times that work in my oven will probably not work as well in yours.


There is a third type -- mud ovens. These can be built from clay and binders for virtually nothing. I did not research these, however, since one of these ovens would not have suited my location or passed building code.


Unless you plan to cook just one thing (e.g., only pizza), whichever oven you choose will be a compromise. You'll have to decide which type best suits your location, use and, perhaps, building skills. Either type can be built by a reasonably proficient DIYer.


Costs vary widely. My own self-built (with the able help of My Lovely Assistant) oven cost around $2K -- somewhat high because it is integral to the house and was therefore subject to strict building codes and safety concerns, with the 22' tripple-wall stainless chimney alone accounting for well over half that cost. Building a similar oven away from the house where a rated chimney is not needed, and using salvaged materials, found rocks, etc., can bring the cost down to several hundred dollars for cement, firebrick and steel. Prices for the kits are the cost of the kit plus cost for the foundation and surround (similar to those required for the home-built). I've seen some pretty fancy ovens of both types that, due to the complexity of the structure surrounding/supporting the actual oven, probably cost as much as my house!


I recommend the book "The Bread Builders" by Alan Scott (who, sadly, passed away recently. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/dining/06scott.html ) and Daniel Wing. http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Builders-Hearth-Loaves-Masonry/dp/1890132055 It's a great tutorial on ovens as well as bread. I used plans ($100, IIRC), available from Scott's company, OvenCrafters, because they helped convince the building inspector that the oven was safe. http://www.ovencrafters.net The book alone, however, probably has enough info to get you to where you need to be to build one.


There are some pics of mine in the photo section from about 6 months ago if you can figure out how to search 'em out.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

frankie g's picture
frankie g

I also reccomend this book.


I have built my oven from this book and i am very happy with it.  If you would like to see pictures, I have a website that documents the building of my oven...


http://www.deltabluesfestival.net/pizza_oven.htm


Feel free to email with any questions.


Frankie G

wutan's picture
wutan

 


Wood fired ovens have become very popular, the process of building the oven is the easy part. Sorting out the plans, discussion groups and various types of oven is actually the most difficult part of the construction process. Bottom line the larger and more dense the ovens ( AS type) require more fuel to heat, but hold the heat much longer. They also cook almost anything, the process of firing the oven preparing ingredients and cooking will use most of a weekend but that's what weekends are all about.  I find the process totally relaxing.....While bread baking  was the main purpose of our oven, we have much more fun with pizza parties. Guests are invited to make their own pie, enjoy a glass of wine and have fun with the oven. Involving friends and family with the oven and cooking process is an absolute joy. We start each party with a description of the oven and cooking process and only ask our guests to bring the frosty beverage of their choice.. Anyway build whatever type of oven that suits your needs and budget and have fun, invite friends and family and enjoy......


 


Wutan Finder Of The Path


 

toyman's picture
toyman

I designed & built my oven.  It is a vault oven made of med duty fire bricks, with ceramic insulation under the hearth and on top of the vault.  I built mine for about $800, but I only had to buy the firebricks, insulation, & concrete.  The brick & block were leftover from my house build.  It is a more unusual design, as I also built a fireplace underneath.  They both work well, but I did spend a lot of time staring into the project to figure out the flues.  It is 31x32 interior.  Since pizza cooks in about 1.5-2 minutes I only cook one at a time, but I have space for 2.  I can bake approx 10 loaves at a time, which is very nice.  The insulation is the key to these ovens, especially if you plan to do both pizza & bread.  It makes the unit very efficient and helps retain heat with less mass. 


The poster that mentioned the Egg.  I have a large.  Cooked many pizza's on it while I was building my oven.  You are correct that they are the closest "portable" cooker to a stationary wood fired oven.  But, one of the main differences is that you lose a lot of ambient heat when you open the lid, and you can only see a small portion of the pizza thru the top vent, if you can stand the heat.  Ceramic Cookers are fantastic for any & all types of cooking.  I use mine year round.  I actually smoked a chuck roast for 12 hours with the outside temps under 20* without even using a full load of lump. 


if you goto the forno site & join they have free plans, recipes, etc.  Great site.

gavinc's picture
gavinc

I put this on another thread tonight, but just found Makos questions, so I apologize for the duplication.


I made my own and had great fun doing it.  It's given many hours of enjoyment with friends and family.  It's made mostly from second hand materials and build in 2005 for about $500 AUD.  It's a dome type 1.1 meter internal diameter.


I have some pictures on flickr that demonstrates how I built it.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/27771627@N07/sets/72157605676561760/


Mako's questions:


Did you make your oven from plans or a book?  Mine is a mixture from lots of sources and ideas.


Did you get your oven from a manufacturer?  No.


How much did the oven cost?  $500 AUD


Did you do the work yourself or have it installed?  Self


How big, and how many pizza's /loaves can you get in your oven?  Lots - I can only cope with two pizzas at a time as they get eaten too quickly otherwise. :-)



Cheers,


Gavin


 

barneycelt's picture
barneycelt

Hi Gavin. Great job you done there! Thirsty work for sure! I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about how the dome gauge works and where i could get one? Did u make your own? Thanks

gavinc's picture
gavinc

Hi Barneycelt,


I made the dome gauge using a length of steel rod and a short section of angle iron.  The total length from the end of the rod to the inside of the angle iron was 55cm which gave me final inside dome diametre of 110cm.  I glued a steel washer to the brick floor of the oven to use as a pivot point for the dome gauge.  I assume you have seen the pictures on flickr about how to use it.  The dome gauge is then used to position the bricks one at a time until you get so high gravity will not allow - I then used the sand mould supported on ply wood disk.  I cut each brick in half and positioned them end-on with the dome gauge.


Cheers,


Gavin.

jemudd's picture
jemudd

Beautiful oven!! The question is if it is worth it to build one in terms of the texture and flavor of the breads?


 

scott lynch's picture
scott lynch

Absolutely worth it.  My oven is mud with a firebrick hearth.  We built it in a weekend, and had kids as young as 2 helping.  It was a blast and really easy to do.


I am going to build a brick oven this fall, but a mud oven is a great first project.  It allows you to test-drive the concept for very little money (a couple hundred bucks tops, less if you can scrounge stuff).  If you decide to knock it down, you can use the firebricks again and again.


I can bake 6-8 2 lb freeform loaves at a time, then 3 dozen buns, then 4-6 loaves of sandwich bread on my 30" hearth.  2 large pizzas at a time with the fire inside is no problem, and they cooks so fast that you can't make them as fast as they cook.  When I worked from home we had a zillion loaves on hand and gave them to everyone--the mailman, etc.  Now I can bake a month's worth of bread in one session (got a "real" job, sorry to say).


The experience alone is worth it--it's so fun.  But the quality of what you will turn out (after a learning curve, but flour, water, and salt are cheap) is so good it will change your whole attitude toward baking.  The pizza in particular is completely beyond belief.  And the parties will be the best parties you've ever hosted.


Gas and electric ovens are for suckers!

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Mako,


I just posted a pic of our oven at Mary G's Artisan Breads.  It's an Alan Scott design, high mass barrel vault, with a 4' x 3' deck.  I built the oven myself, brick by brick, with help from the late Alan Scott's plans (www.ovencrafters.net).  Nothing against AS, he was a very influential pioneer in WFO land, but the plans need work.  They're quite sketchy in places. The Bread Builders book won't be much help if you go larger than the one in it.


I didn't work on it full time, besides there's a lot of curing time involved, but I started it in March and put the roof on in November.  It's a time consuming thing to do; hard work, exhausting but satisfying as well.


I figure I've got about 10K into materials, but I did go a bit overboard with the decorative bits.  My labor wasn't worth anything on this job, so I didn't keep track of the time.


I've installed lots of modular ovens in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia.  In my opinion, modular (either completely in pieces or factory assembled) is the way to go for most people, unless you're very handy, have deep pockets and muscles.  Still, the Pompeii oven plans, free from Forno Bravo, have been used successfully by many, many people worldwide, some of whom had no previous experience.  Sourcing materials can be difficult, however, depending on your location.  The plans were a collaborative effort by FB forum members, me included.  I also wrote a very basic bread baking, small e-book for them, free as well.  It's the basis for the much larger work I announced on this forum a few weeks ago.


It's worth saying that I have no time at all for people who insist one oven design is better than another: barrel vault versus round Italian, eg.  A barrel vault is built mainly for bread, a pizza oven mainly for pizza.  That does not mean you can't bake pizza in a bread oven or bread in a pizza oven.  You can, quite well too.  I've pulled a lot of pizza out of my oven, but more bread.  That's what it was built for.


To the list of modular suppliers, it's only fair to add Mugnaini to the list already posted: www.mugnaini.com .  They offer just about the best support in the market.


Over the years, I've corresponded with a lot of beginner oven builders, and I think your idea is a good one.  I'm in; let's do it.


CJ