Posts tagged ‘mash tun’

How To Convert a Retired Sanke (1/2 bbl) 15 Gallon Keg Into A Boil Kettle

So my buddy Mike wanted a boil kettle, and since New Belgium practically gives away old kegs, I hooked him up. I also converted it for him, since I had the experience of a couple I converted for myself. Without further ado, here is the process:

Mike’s Brew Kettle

First off, materials:

  • $10-$100….1 old keg
  • $24-37……..1 weldless brass or stainless steel spigot (depending on how you roll, honestly it doesn’t make much of a practical difference, but some would argue)
  • $6…………….a short section of 1/2″ copper tubing
  • $1…………….a female threaded copper coupling (1/2″ Copper to 1/2″ MIP – to match the threads on the spigot)
  • $1…………….a 90 degree elbow (1/2″ copper)

And tools:

  • a 7/8″ hole saw (better yet would be a step bit)
  • a propane torch along with flux and lead-free solder for welding the copper
  • an angle grinder and appropriate metal-cutting blades (plan on using at least two per keg)
  • a drill

If your keg is still sealed (you cannot see into the keg from the top looking down), there’s a great youtube video by Bobby M with instructions on popping out the stem at the end or by clicking here.

After the stem is removed, it’s time to cut the top off of the keg. First, I gave a good rinse to get any sloshing beer out and then just filled it up a bit with water (just to cover the bottom) to hopefully cool down any flying shards of metal that land inside and keep them from sticking to the bottom. I found the best way to do the actual cutting is to butt your angle grinder right up to the side of the keg and use that as your guide. Last time I drew a circle and tried to follow it, but I ended up with a bunch of straight limes (think hexagon) insted of a circle. Here’s a visual:

If you watch the video at the end (Brewing with Bobby M), he makes a fancy jig just for this function, and I would recommend that if you are a real neat freak, but I got a pretty solid circle just by tracing the outside.

After the top is off, you need to sand the edges until you get all of the sharp points nice and rounded so you don’t lose a finger in your beer. I started with just emery cloth but ended up getting a grinding stone attachment for my drill, that sped things up quite a bit. You could also just use the grinder to smooth it out, but I found I didn’t have the degree of accuracy I wanted doing it this way.  Sand until you are confident it is child safe – not a dumb test.

So the top is beautiful and you aren’t going to die when you touch it. Now you need the hole for the spigot on the inside. I measured up 4 1/4″ from the bottom, just to match the last one I did. I have yet to find a standard measurement.

SIDENOTE: I want you to stop at this point and think hard about exactly where you want the spigot. I centered it between the two handles on the top, which I think was a good call.  The other part of this is if you are going to install a temperature gauge on the keg as well, think about your setup and where you want it to be. Most people just install the temperature dial directly above the spigot, but I installed mine to the side just because I wanted it to be low enough to pick up a temperature on relatively small batches. I wish that I would have installed the dial on my sparge tank 90º from the spigot. That way, I would have the spigot to the side (aimed directly at the mash tun) and the dial straight ahead so I wouldn’t have to lean over the mash tun to see the temperature.

Here’s where I’m going to drill the hole:

Hole Drilled

EXPLODING KEGS: You’ll notice above that on the bottom collar there is a hole there for drainage. If your keg does not have those, make sure to drill some on the bottom, otherwise you risk gas buildup and the eventual exploding keg.

After drilling the hole, again you need to sand it down so that it is not sharp. This is important because you will be putting an o-ring against this hole, and you don’t want it getting torn up.

That’s about it for the hard parts. The only other thing to do is to make the copper ‘L’ piece to go inside that goes from the inside of the spigot to the bottom of the keg to drain all the way to the bottom. This is just simple copper soldering. Cut your tubing the length you want it and then sand the edges to clean them (inside and out). Then put some flux all around the outside of the tubing and stick it in the fitting. Finally, heat up the fitting until the solder melts on contact to the copper (not directly in the flame). Make sure the solder fills all the way around the tube.

That’s basically all there is to it, it only took about 1 1/2 or 2 hours start to finish. It’s really easy and the best way to get into a 5 gallon or even 10 gallon boil with the addition of a propane burner.

APPENDIX – Using Your Brewpot:

Supplies:

  • a copper dish scrubber (find it at the grocery store)
  • teflon tape (in the plumbing section of the hardware store for a buck)
  • a stainless steel spoon, around 2 feet. Find a cheap one here.

After making the brewpot, you want to prep all the threads by putting teflon tape on all male threads ($0.99 at hardware stores). This will keep the threads from leaking: then put it all together in this order:

The spigot goes handle-side outside the brewpot, the threaded end through the hole in the keg (if you can’t figure that much out, you’re in trouble). On the inside, you’ll put on the O-ring, then the stainless steel washer, and finally the female threaded coupler. Coming out from that you will want the copper fitting you have soldered together screwed on, ending up facing down toward the bottom of the keg. It will look like this:

Inside:
weldless spigot Inside of brewpot

Outside:
Weldless Spigot on outside of Keg

Next time you’re at the store, pick up a copper dish scrubber. This will act as a screen for all the hops and trub (sidenote: it is pronounced ‘troob’) at the end of the boil. put this around the bottom of the copper ‘L’ fitting. When you get the scrubber, it has a hole right in the middle that is not very conducive to this project. Simply unroll the mesh and you will get something that looks like this and can be folded up and used as an effective screen:

Copper Mesh Filter

I recommend using a hop bag as well, to make sure you don’t get any clogs. There’s a great video for that:

You may think it’s overkill having two filters, but let me tell you – there is NOTHING worse than brewing all day, drinking a few homebrews on the way, getting tired, finishing the boil and opening your spigot to…nothing. I have had a couple clogged screens and that was enough.

Next you’ll want to test the setup for leaks, and while doing it, mark gallons as follows. Add water 1 gallon at a time (or 1/2 gallon at a time if you want to be more precise). At each point, mark on your metal spoon (and on the brew pot if you like) at the water level. This allows you to measure how much liquid you have left, allowing you to know when you get to your 5.5 gallon mark or whatever you are aiming for.

Now you’re ready to boil the beer! After the beer has boiled it’s course (60-180 minutes), you need to drain it out and cool it down before you pitch the yeast. The easiest way to accomplish this is to put your immersion chiller in the wort for the last 15-20 minutes of the boil to sanitize it, then chill it right in the brewpot. But, if you can’t get a water source to your propane setup like me, you’ll have to drain it into a bucket, take the bucket to where you have water access and then cool it there. If you are going to cool it in the brewpot, do that. If not, just keep reading.

Now before you drain the beer, it is best to create a whirlpool to get all of the hops and trub to the middle of the brewpot. Simply stir the wort in a circular motion getting it going as fast as you can, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. After that, drain it through your already installed copper screen, and you will minimize the sediment that gets to the primary. This is why you put the copper ‘L’ drain on the side, and not into the middle. You won’t need to siphon because all that’ll be left is sediment. You’ll lose a little liquid, but not enough to make a fuss over. Just make sure to boil a little extra to make up for it. After you drain it, if you have not done so, cool it to yeast temperatures and pitch your yeast. If you are draining the beer while it is still hot (without cooling to yeast temperatures), you will need to use special heat resistant tubing, not just the nylon stuff you use for syphoning. You’re local homebrew store should have it.

It’s even easier once you get a pump and a counterflow or plate chiller. Then you just attach a hose from the spigot to the pump to the chiller to the fermenter, turn on the water and watch the magic work!

There you are! Enjoy using your brew pot (or as the cool people say, your keggle).

Other Good Links:

March 10, 2008 at 11:11 am 16 comments

How To: Hot Liquor Tank Fly Sparge

A note on the following: I don’t actually endorse this anymore. I’ve quit using this setup because it didn’t work all that well. The reasons are as follows:

1) Under the assumption that we are attempting to fly sparge,  sparge water will be coming out extremely slowly, and therefore the 3/4 inch pipe is both humongous and unnecessary.

2) I no longer believe in a strict fly sparge. What I do now is still kind of like a fly sparge, but is a bit if a batch sparge as well. Basically I’ll turn on the sparge water until it rises an inch or three above the grain bed. Then I’ll flip it off and let it drain until it is pretty close to grain bed level again, and then I will flip on the sparge water again and fill it more.

3) I have never had any issues with channeling or a stuck sparge. Ever. So I just let the water drip on in, not worrying terribly much about disturbing the grain bed. I use a stationary sparge arm assembly just to make myself feel better about getting the water gingerly on top of the grain. I’ve also seen it done by just piping a hose into a small tupperware that is sitting in the grain bed so as not to disturb things, and that works great too, and is free, as long as you have a small plastic container.

BUT, IF YOU MUST: here is the original post…

I keep saying that my all-grain setup is complete, but really it is an unending process of moving from ‘usable’ to ‘awesome’. So the improvement today before I do my first all-grain batch tomorrow (Clementine’s Molasses Porter), is a fly sparge system.

Fly sparging (as opposed to batch sparging) is where you have a constant stream of sparge water going in to the mash tun and match that rate out of the mash tun into your boil kettle.

Batch sparging on the other hand is adding a measured amount of liquid and then draining it, then adding more as necessary, and draining that.

Here’s what it looks like:

Fly Sparger

Here’s How I did it:

First I collected the parts:

  • A big pot (mine is 6 gallons)
  • Pipemaster 3/4″ ball valve*
  • 2 Pipemaster 3/4″ connectors – one for CPVC and one for galvanized pipe
  • about 5′ of 3/4″ CPVC
  • CPVC cleaner, glue
  • a 7/8″ I.D.(inside diameter) o-ring (the fatter, the better)
  • a 3/4″ galvanized stainless steel elbow or straight piece with a female thread on one side – I change this because galvanized steel is not good to use, it rusts. You can still use the pipemaster steel connector on it though.
  • 3/4″ CPVC connectors
    • 5 elbows
    • 1 ‘T’

*the pipemaster is the coolest valve I have seen for this type of project. It has a bunch of different ends (one for copper, PVC, CPVC, steel, etc) you put on either side so that you can have CPVC out on one end and galvanized pipe on the other. Ingenious! I got it at Lowes.

**A note on materials: I used the aluminum stock pot because I have it. Aluminum is not as terrible as people think and I have no problem using it for my sparge water. CPVC is good up to 200° and so it is fine for everything up to boiling, and sparge water doesn’t go hotter than 180°. Stainless steel and copper are both good, galvanized is not, it rusts (although it is used for water lines, so I’m not sure how that works).

The first thing I did was construct the CPVC aparatus. To do this, I placed the mash tun where it would sit (on the counter) and the hot water tank where it would sit (on the fridge). Then I measured out the horizontal distance to the edge of the mash tun and the verticle distance to just inside the mash tun. Here is where the two tanks sit ands where the sparge pipe needs to connect (from the metal top pot to the cooler):
fridge and countertop

These measurements were used to cut pieces of CPVC. remember to subtract the extra 1/2″ or so on each end that has an elbow or ‘T’ as these add length to the total end dimensions.

I then measured the inside of the mash tun to see how big to make the square part that actually releases the sparge water (for a 5 gallon cooler it ends up being a 6″ square). I cut out all the lengths together and dry fit them together to make sure I did it all right.Here is the dry fit all put together:

dry fit sparger

Now that everything looks good, I got ready to make it permanent. First, spread a little of the cleaner on both sides that will be glued, then put some CPVC glue on one side all the way around and shove the other end in until it won’t go any further. Do this for all of the joints. On the end that goes into the hot water pot, you glue on the special pipemaster CPVC connector. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE NUT ON THE CPVC SIDE OF THE FITTING. I forgot, and it cost me a second trip to Lowes to pick up a $0.25 coupling so I could cut the CPVC and put the nut on. Here’s what not to do:

damn

The next thing to do is cut the hole in your hot water pot. because I got the stainless steel elbow, I had to measure up to se where to drill the hole:

Inside the hot liquor tank

I marked the top of the elbow and added 1/4″ to have a bit of clearance on the bottom. Then drill a hole big enough to fit the steel pipemaster adapter through. After drilling, you will need to sand or file the hole to get it smooth so it wont chop off your finger. Then all you need to do is stick the pipemaster through the hole and put on the o-ring, then screw on the elbow:

hot water pot hole

inside outside view

The last step is to drill holes into the bottom square portion of the CPVC. I drilled holes straigth down and at 90 degrees both inward and ouward:

sparger holes

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy! You could build an apparatus that went over the top of your pot and down to the mash tun (think siphon), but that wouldn’t be nearly as cool. It’d keep your pot in one piece though.

March 2, 2008 at 8:09 am 5 comments

Why Not?

Igloo Drink CoolerI got a little ambitious at Hops and Berries the other day when I went to get keg conversion materials. I got about 4 lbs. of grain for my IPA because I was so excited to have a brew kettle. However, the brew kettle won’t work until I find some money for a burner. I now have an emergency, I need to make myself a mash tun. As it happens, I was at my local Habitat for Humanity Thrift Shop yesterday and found a lovely little cooler that looked quite lonely sitting there, so I went ahead and bought it. I mean, for a measly $5, you would too, right? It was in descent shape, so I cleaned it out and soaked it with PBW overnight.

Now I just needed some sort of false bottom. I went down to Lowes and picked up all the fittings including the drain cock, a length of 1/2″ pipe, and some elbows and threaded ends. I decided to go with CPVC instead of copper because it was much cheaper and did not require me to solder. It is good up to 180°, and so I saw no downside, as that is hotter than I would ever be mashing.

I got home and immediately realized that I had gotten all the wrong size. MEASURE TWICE, buy once. So, it was back in the car and down to Lowes again, returned everything I had bought and got it all in 3/4″ CPVC that fit perfectly in the spigot hole already in the cooler. I had also picked up a metal pie plate at the thrift store for the purpose of making it into a false bottom, but after a lot of tinkering, I couldn’t get it to work (insert 3 wasted man-hours here). The pie plate was too high and interfered with the hose input, so I could not connect a hose under the plate. After bashing at it wih a hammer in n attempt to make it all fit, I realized that resistance was futile and it was back to Lowes (for the third time today).

Drainage ManifoldSo it was on to plan B. This time, I bought (4) 3/4″ elbow pieces and a ‘T’ piece to make a drainage manifold. I had lots of left over pipe at home to put it all together. It was fairly simple to do once I got all the pieces. I just glued all the elbows to make a square with the ‘T’ on one side. The ‘T’ in turn connects to the spigot via a clear food-grade plastic tube. I chose the flexible tube because it allowed the manifold to sit on the bottom of the cooler nicely and allowed an easy disconnect point. I then drilled a million little holes on the bottom side of the manifold to make it drain the sweet elixir of grains to my brewpot.

All that was left was to put it all together. Now I just need to sit down with Papazian (The Complete Joy of Homebrewing) and figure out how to use it, and then try it out and see if it all works! Oh, by the way, I still have to make one more trip to Lowes to get some gaskets…

For only ~$35, I’ve got a sweet mash tun!

Mash Tun

January 26, 2008 at 8:11 am 2 comments


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