Eldon James Tubing Review

>> Monday, August 12, 2013

So today I'm doing a quick little write-up about tubing/hoses.  I was recently contacted by a representative at Eldon James Corporation (EJ) and was asked if I'd like to try out some of their high temp tubing.  This tubing has been used for years in the medical field and they recently realized it has homebrew applications as well.  I am a bit of a gadget and equipment geek, so I jumped at the chance to try it out during my most recent brew session.

First up, a little bit about my experience with different tubing.  When I first started brewing, I used basic high temp PVC tubing available at my local brew shop.  If I remember correctly, I believe it was rated for liquids up to 220F.  It worked ok but it would get cloudy after repeated use and had a tendency to deform over time.  It seemed like I'd end up replacing it a couple times a year.  A few years ago I switched to silicone tubing and I love it.  Silicone is a bit more expensive than vinyl tubing, but it's food-safe, doesn't impart any off-flavors and it lasts a long time as long as you don't abuse it. 

I use 1/2" thick-walled (1/8") silicone tubing to connect the various vessels on my HERMS system, and 3/8" thick-walled for racking from fermenter to keg, fermenter to bottling bucket, etc.  I like that it is capable of handling 400+F temperatures because it allows me to boil the hose to ensure it's as sanitary as possible.  With this method, I've even used the same silicone tube to transfer both sour and non-sour beers without any cross-contamination/infection issues.  My only complaint with silicone is it is somewhat soft and very pliable...this can be a pro as well as a con.  On the upside, it easily slips over hose barbs and bottling wands.  On the downside if you don't have your hoses routed well, silicone tubing can have a tendency to kink.

Depending on where I'm at in the brewing process, I use three or four hoses on my system.  I went ahead and swapped out one of the silicone hoses for the five foot sample of EJ's 1/2" Flexelene 135C tubing.  It's rated for temps up to 275F, so it's more than adequate for brewing.  It's also PVC-free, so it shouldn't impart any off-flavors.  

The first thing I noticed is EJ's tubing feels very similar to silicone; texture-wise, it definitely feels closer to silicone than the more plastic-like PVC tubing I used to use way back when.  Like silicone, it has a 1/8" wall thickness.  The most noticeable difference between the two is the EJ tubing seems much more rigid than silicone.  Rigid might not even be the right term because it's still flexible, but it seems more structurally sound in its flexibility and  seems that it would be much less likely to kink under the same conditions.  Like silicone, the EJ tubing slipped right over the 1/2" barbs on my Type C cam lock fittings.  Like with the silicone tubing, I used a simple zip tie to secure the cam lock fitting on the hose.  I was worried the EJ tubing might leak since it is not quite as soft, but even when running my March 809 pump with the output valve at full blast there were no signs of leaks. 

Appearance-wise the EJ tubing looks very similar to silicone.  It could be that my silicone tubing is a few years old (and has some staining from Iodophor) but the EJ tubing is noticeably clearer and more translucent.  It's never been much of a concern for me, but sometimes it can be harder to see lighter colored beers through the wall of the silicone tubing.  The EJ tubing is very clear in comparison, so even light American lagers can be seen through the wall of the tubing.

Deflection comparison between silicone (front) and EJ (back)
Performance-wise the EJ tubing worked great with no notable differences compared to silicone.  It basically performed as you'd expect a hose to perform.  When connecting/disconnecting hoses, you can feel the difference in the EJ tubing.  Visually you can see that it has a tendency to fall in a more gentle arc compared to silicone tubing.  It's still flexible enough that it can be easily routed around various brewing equipment and anything else that might be in the way on your brew stand.

Overall I'd say I was impressed with EJ's tubing.  Judging by the appearance and texture, I would have guessed that it was slightly more rigid, slightly more translucent form of silicone tubing.  If you currently use silicone and haven't had kinking issues, I don't see any reason to switch to the EJ tubing.  However, if you have a setup that is prone to kinking, I think it's definitely worth giving it a try.  I am interested to see how the EJ tubing performs long-term compared to silicone, so I plan to continue to use it on my setup.  I'll report back with any issues/differences I come across.  In the meantime, below are a few more pics.

Nice gentle arc off the mash tun

Installed on cam locks

EJ tubing (top) and silicone (bottom)
Update 11/29/2013
I've had a chance to use this tubing on quite a few batches now. The only complaint I have is it has a tendency to leak after a few batches. It's not horrible, but it would benefit from something more secure than zip ties. On the upside, it's maintaining its rigidity.