Homebrewing in Houston, Texas

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Monday, September 15 2014 @ 12:03 AM EDT

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Pump Purge Valve

One of the more frustrating procedures when using our system deals with keeping our pump properly primed and running efficiently. You know you've air in your pump by the "popcorn" or frying bacon sound a pump full of air makes. Keeping air from the pump ensures liquid moves around the system efficiently. The answer lay in many breweries found on the web: a pump purge valve.

Essentially the purge assembly is two valves that allow the flooding of the input side of the pump with liquid. Flooding the input side of the pump ensures no air reaches in the impeller.

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Sparge Float Switch

The sparging technique we most often use is continuous, or fly, sparging. The grain water from the mash drains slowly into the boil kettle. At the same time, an equal amount of water added to the top of the grains replaces the runoff. The idea is to keep about an inch of water above the surface of the grain while slowly draining the sweet liquor from the mash tun. Getting the flow correct can be problematic. If you introduce your sparge water too slowly, you expose the upper layer of the grains. If you add water too fast, you overflow your mash tun. This process screams for automated control and the sparge float switch fits the bill.
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Building A Counterflow Chiller

This article contributed by MopWater
A practical guide to show non-welders / non-solderers / non-plumbers (people like me) how easy it can be to build a counterflow chiller (CFC) and experience all of the efficient and time-saving benefits that CFC can provide.

    What you need:

1 - 50' of garden hose (low-duty cheap stuff is fine)
1 - At least 25' of 3/8" copper tubing
6 - 2" to 3" pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe
2 - 1/2" PVC T-fittings
2 - 1/2" PVC end caps
4 - 5/8" minimum size clamps
1 - PVC glue
1 - Waterproof epoxy (I used a marine epoxy rated to 250f)

    Tools you will need:

Drill with 3/8" bit
Regular head skrew driver
Base for curling copper (brewpot will suffice)
Hacksaw
Knife
Tape measure
Sandpaper / wire brush

Click "read more" for step-by-step directions.
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Liquid Level Guages

Building a sight gauge is an inexpensive and easy project that will help in determining the liquid levels during your brewing session. If you are handy and have a few tools, you can easily build this sight gauge in about and hour. The dimensions of the gauge can be tailored to that of your kettle.

Our gauges are made with hardware store supplies. We opted for soft vinyl tubing surrounded by a copper tube. The vinyl will tend to get soft during a brew session and eventually the boiling liquid it helps measure will cloud the tube; however, it is inexpensive and easy to replace.

The gauge costs about $10 to make. It may not look as nice as commercial gauges you can get from homebrew supply shops; however, it is another homebrewed home brewing toy we built ourselves.

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Gott Bulkhead Fitting

We've been asked a couple of times how we put ball valves on our Gott cooler. We did not use much and the whole thing fits pretty well without leaks.

Read more for the details.

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Converting a Keg

An old keg makes a great kettle, hot liquor tank, or mash tun. Kegs are cheap compared to pots of the same size and are extremely hardyOnce you have your keg, a few hours and a bit of work will turn it into an invaluable part of the brewery.

Though there are many ways of converting a keg, to convert yours as we have, you'll need some string, a Sharpe, Dremel tool, heavy-duty cutoff wheels, a 7/8" hole saw, electric drill and various types of sandpaper.

The entire process takes about 4 hours -- from start to polished finish.

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Brewery Quick Connects

I'll admit to not being sure if the proper way to describe these are "quick connects", which seems correct, or "quick disconnects" which seems more common but a bit counter intuitive. What I am sure of is they make the whole brewing process easier and, by extension, more pleasant.

There are two basic types of quick disconnect systems: cheap and expensive. I went cheap. As a result of my frugality, I assumed a bit of a maintenance responsibility. Both construction details and my required maintenance are described in more detail below.

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Bulkhead Fittings

Here's a list of items you can order from McMaster-Carr to create your own bulkhead fittings:

  • Ball valve: 47865K23
  • Close nipple: 9151K79
  • Lock nut: 50785K144
  • O-ring: 9559K64
  • Hole saw: 4008A16

I wish I knew who originally posted this but, thanks!

Description Item Number Price as of posting Image
Ball Valve

Brass Ball Valve 1/2" NPT Female Connections

47865K23 $4.71
Close Nipple

Nickel-Plated Brass Threaded Pipe Fitting 1/2" Pipe, Fully Threaded Nipple, 1-1/8" Length

9151K79 $2.54
Lock Nut

Extruded Brass Threaded Pipe Fitting 1/2" Pipe Size, Locknut

50785K144 $1.36
O-ring

TeflonŽ O-Ring As568A Dash No. 117

9559K64 $6.56 (10) Looks like an O-ring.
Hole Saw

Built-In Arbor Hss Bimetal Hole Saw 7/8" Dia, 1-7/8" Cutting Depth, 3/8" Arbor Shaft Sz

4008A16 $6.58

Determine where you wish your fitting in your vessel and cut a hole with the hole saw. Remember you want to use high pressure and low speeds when cutting stainless steel. You should also apply a light oil to the area to prevent the saw and metal from overheating.

Use an 80-grit sandpaper to knock off any rough edges.

Put the close nipple through the hole. An o-ring on each side of the nipple will hold it in place.

Thread the lock nut on the inside of the kettle and the ball valve on the outside. Do not over-tighten against the keg wall or the O-ring will squish out of place and may allow leaks.

If you have any questions, comments, or other means of making bulkhead fittings, please add a comment!