System Mods

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I work in the HR industry, so I'm extremely busy in the Fall configuring open enrollment systems for my company's clients. After several weeks of what feels like 'round the clock work, I was starting to feel a little burned out. To help remedy this, I set aside a couple hours here and there to work on some system mods. I won't get too detailed here because these mods are well documented all over the web. The mods include:

  1. Weldless ball valve with pickup tube on brew kettle
  2. Weldless thermometer on brew kettle
  3. Improved immersion chiller connections
  4. Immersion chiller whirlpool capability
The ball valve and thermometer both involved drilling holes in by brew kettle. To drill stainless steel, use cutting fluid or some other type of lubricant (I used 3-in-1) and take it slow. Start off with a small drill bit and work your way up to a step drill bit that will allow you to drill out a 7/8" hole. Keep the RPM's low, use plenty of cutting fluid and use firm even pressure. Give it a rest every once in a while so that the heat can dissipate and your drill motor can cool off.

The valve has two benefits. First, I'll be able to put my pump to good use and whirlpool while I'm chilling my wort to pitching temperatures. Second, when it's chilled I'll be able to transfer the cooled wort directly to my fermenter. No more lifting to pour five+ gallons of wort. The pickup tube is based on the design featured in the BYO September 2009 issue.

The weldless thermometer will be used to monitor wort temps, both during the boil and while chilling.

The immersion chiller's connections originally consisted of plastic high-temp tubing slid over the copper tubing and secured with hose clamps. The problem was this didn't result in a snug fit. A couple times I had the pressure too high and chilling water was able to seep past the hose clamps and the drips almost fell into the wort. I added a second set of hose clamps and this seemed to help, but it still wasn't very secure. I tried compression fittings but they also tended to leak. This time I flared the copper tubing and used flare fittings. To flare the tubing I used the cheapest flaring kit available from Harbor Freight Tools. I think it ran me about $8. It's not the best tool available, but it works pretty good. Even with the garden hose going at full blast there are no leaks.

Lastly I added whirlpool capability to the chiller. It's based on Jamil Z's design as seen on The basic concept is wort flows from the ball valve on the kettle to the pump then is returned back to the boil kettle across the coils of the immersion chiller resulting in a whirlpool action in the boil kettle. This should cool the wort more quickly and prevent most break material from entering the fermenter. Now I just need to find some time to brew!