Adding weldless fittings to a brew pot be it a boil kettle, hot liquor tank or a mash tun can make brew day much easier.  After I noticed how much the typical homebrew shop charged for a hole in a pot, I took particular interest in doing it on my own.   Here is a basic guide to drilling a hole in a brew pot.

Gather Necessary Equipment

1. Nail Punch Set
2. Drill (corded perferred)
3.  Small sized metal drill bit (3/16 inch)
4.  Step bits (harbor freight has the best deal on them)
5. Metal file

hole punch and step bit

Measure and Punch

First measure out where you want to put the hole, you can use the pot handles for reference if need be.  Once you find the location use a hole punch and a hammer to dent the pot to keep the drill bit from slipping.

line up hole punch and hit with hammer

hole punched and ready for drilling

Drilling the Pilot hole

Drill the pilot hole with a small sized metal drill bit.  This is used as a guide for the larger step bit, without it things could get dangerous.

drill pilot hole


Drilling the Hole

Using the step bit, drill the  hole to the appropriate size to fit the weldless fittings.  Drill slowly step by step and do not apply excessive force.

drill hole in pot for weldless fitting

Smoothing Things Out and Assemble

Use a metal file to smooth down the inside of the hole and remove any hanging burrs.

file off metal burrs

Assemble the weldless fitting and test for leaks.

attach fittings

 

Using a stir plate can help a yeast starter grow faster and healthier quicker.  Brewing 10 gallons batches can get expensive so I have looked at all kinds of different ways to cut down on ingredients cost.  Using a stir plate along with a yeast starter allows you to purchase one packet of yeast for a standard 10 gallon ale recipes or high gravity brews or even lagers.

Everything in this do it yourself can be purchased at RadioShack or taken from old electronics around the house.  This is a great project to show your wife that the old PC in your closet, shes been trying to throw away for years, was there for a reason.  The stir plate I built was taken from a bunch of different source online so I am not really sure who to credit, regardless here is a stir plate that can be used for brewing that is very cheap, easy to build, quiet and will save you money.

Gather Necessary Equipment

1. Project enclosure box($7 at RS)
2.  4 inch 12 volt DC PC fan (pull out of old PC or buy one online)
3. Rare Earth Magnets (pull off of old hard drive from old PC or buy at RS)
4. Power Supply 12V to 6V DC (old cell phone charger/keyboard/Nintendo or buy one at RS)
5.  Power Switch ($3 at RS)
6. Rheostat/potentiometer 25 Ohm, 3 Watt ($3 at RS)
7. Washer/Screws/Bolts ($2 at Lowes)
8. Strong Glue or Epoxy
9.  Rubber Feet (pull off of old PC or buy at RS)
10. Stir bar, 1-2 inch (order online $6-$8)

Listed below is the equipment I used to build the stir plate.

Project Enclosure Box for Stir Plate

project enclosure box for stir plate

PC Fan for Stir Plate

pc ban used to build stir plate

Hard drive magnets for Stir Plate

hard drive magnets for stir plate

power adapter used for stir plate

power adapter used for stir plate

power switch for stir plate

power switch for stir plate

potentiometer for stir plate


nuts and bolts for stir plate

nuts and bolts for stir plate

Attaching the Magnets

Use a large washer when attaching the magnets to the fan.  This gives the magnets something to hold on it and prevents too much interference on the fan motor.  I used both rare earth magnets out of one hard drive, one magnet was not enough.  If using two magnets stack them on top of each other, I could not get it to work with them separated.  To remove the magnets from the hard drive mount plate, simply wedge a flat head between them and tap it with a hammer.  Center the washer on the fan and use gorilla glue or epoxy to attach it.  I did not glue my magnets down, but it wouldn’t hurt to do so.

mount magnet on fan with washer

mount magnet on fan with washer

Testing the Fan with Magnets

Rather then just jumping in and soldering, I figured it would be a good idea to simply cable it all up and test it out.  To do this I used temporary wires with alligator clips to connect the power supply, power switch, potentiometer and fan.  Make sure the power supply is ALWAYS disconnected while working on the circuit, electronics can be very dangerous so be careful.    Remove the connector on the end of the fan and power supply then strip the wires.  The positive line out of the power supply should go directly to the supply contact on the switch, different switches have different contact layout.  The ground wire form the power supply should go to the fans ground wire, which is usually black.  Next connect the load contact on the  power switch to the center pin of the potentiometer.  Lastly connect the positive line out of the fan to the right most pin on the potentiometer.  Here is a wire diagram of how the circuit should be connected.

initial testing of stir plate

initial testing of stir plate

While testing make sure that the fan is supported by a clamp or something.  Do not hold the container with the stir bar above the fan, this will not work.  The container will need to sit on on the clamp, approximately 1/2 inch from the magnet.  Also make sure you are using a jar/flask/container with a flat bottom, if it is concave/convex it will not work.

Mounting the Fan with Magnets

Alright so the fan/magnets work and the stir bar spins, now lets package everything up so that it looks nice.  First you need to mount the fan to the top of the enclosure box.  To do this clamp the fan to the top of the enclosure and marked the holes to the exact location and drill bit size.

drilling holes to mount fan

drilling holes to mount fan

Mount the fan using 10-32 x 2 screws and bolts.

mount fan assembly on enclosure top

mount fan assembly on enclosure top

Wiring up the Switches

Drill a small hold in the back of the enclosure box and run the power supply cable through it.  Pull it with enough slack to work with then tie it off, so that it cannot be pulled out.  Drill holes in the front of the enclosure to seat the power switch and potentiometer.  Soldered the positive line from the power supply to the power switch.

solder power for a stirplate

solder power for a stir plate

 Next solder the middle pin of the potentiometer to the load contact on the power switch, I used the white wire here.

solder power and potentiometer for stirplate

solder power and potentiometer for stir plate

Wiring up the Fan

The fan has two wires, positive(usually red) and ground(usually black).   Solder the positive line out from the fan to the right most pin on the potentiometer.  Then attach the ground wire out of the fan to the ground wire from the power supply using a standard wire connector.


complete stirplate wiring

complete stir plate wiring

Mount Feet

Attach the new enclosure top with the fan to the enclosure box using the provided screws.  Flip the enclosure over and attach rubber feet, they will really help with vibration.

stirplate with added rubber feet

stir plate with added rubber feet

Flip the enclosure back over, plug it in and place the flask with the stir bar in the center, the magnets should line up.  Place the potentiometer on the lowest setting and power it on.  Gradually increase the speed to create more stir.

final testing of the stirplate

final testing of the stir plate

Here is a video of it in action.

That’s it, go brew more beer!  If you have any comments or questions please post them below.

building a brewing tower

Having a brew tower or brewing structure is really helpful in keeping your brew day consistent, organized and safe.  Unlike the usual step by step instructions on other projects on BrewMoreBeer, I will just explain what went into Black Betty and hopefully that will be enough to inspire you to build something similar.  Like Brutus, Wallace and others before her, a named brew tower is a great way to define a structure for easy reference, so we deemed our structure Black Betty.

black betty brewing tower

Black Betty the Brewing Tower

The brew tower project as a whole cost about $140 in materials and a few nights to put together.  Which is not too bad for a full blown gravity fed all grain brewing tower.   To put things in perspective just a pump alone usually cost around $140.   Black Betty’s components are positioned so that no pumps are necessary, the tower uses gravity to move the beer from one stage to the next.

Materials List with Cost

Steel/Wood Shelving Unit (black friday special at lowes)  $40
Nuts/Bolts/Screws  $25
2x4x8 x 12 of them  $25
Black Grill Paint  $15
Casters (wheels)  $25
PVC (water filter holder)  $2
Stainless Steel  $8

The Components

The left most component in the upper tier is a hot liquor tank burner which is mounted and framed with 2×4 for support and stability.

brew tower top tier

brew tower top tier

To the right of the burner is a heat shroud that was built to protect the mash tun (plastic cooler) from becoming too hot or even melting.  The left side of the heat shroud has a piece of sheet metal to deflect the heat coming off the burner, the right side (facing cooler) has a piece of particle board to act as an insulator.

brew tower heat shroud

brew tower heat shroud


To the far right on the upper tier sits the cooler mash tun.

brew tower mash tun to boil kettle

brew tower mash tun to boil kettle

The lower tier can be thought of in two pieces, the boil area and cool down area.  The left side, boil area, is a burner with stand that has been mounted and framed with 2×4 for support and stability.

brew tower lower tier boil area

brew tower lower tier boil area

The right side, cool down area, is where the carboys sit and wait to be filled with wort.  There is a plate chiller positioned in the middle of the lower tier.  This design allows the wort to flow out of the boil pot through the chiller and down to the carboys.

beer tower lower tier

beer tower lower tier

Other Features

A water filter mount was created to hold our water filter for brewing.  This helps to stablize the filter from falling over and keeps it mounted so that it can fill the hot liquor tank easily.

beer tower water filter mount

beer tower water filter mount

The entire tower is coated in a black grill paint which should have a heat tolerance up to 1200 degrees F.

The tower has wheels that lock on both the upper and lower tiers which allow for mobility and easy storage.

beer tower wheels

beer tower wheels

The upper tier has a shelf for propane tanks, this allows for easy access to the them.

Black Betty the brew tower

gravity fed all grain brewing tower

black betty on brew day

black betty on brew day

Thats about it, if you have any questions or comments about Black Betty or beer towers in general just comment below.

Building a water filter for brewing is fun, useful and can be done in 4 easy steps.  Everything can be purchased at your local hardware store for a little under $40.

1. Purchase the Equipment
2. Connect the Fittings for the Water Hose
3. Connect the Barb and Exit Hose
4. Usage and Cleaning

brewing water filter

brewing water filter

Brewing requires the use of filtered water.  When I say filtered, I mean water that has been removed of bad odors along with most of its chlorine and chloramine.  Water is very important to the beer, think about it, beer is mostly water.  Many styles of beer, taste the way they do because of the water used to brew them. 

Pilsen, Czech Republic — Soft Water, mostly free of any bicarbonates

Burton, England — Hard Water, very high levels of bicarbonates

Rocky Mountains, USA — Spring Water

For the most part in America, your tap water will probably do just fine, after it has been ran through a charcoal filter of course. 

Purchase Equipment (30 minutes)

1. Whirlpool Whole House Filtration Package (WHKF-DWH)
2. Whole House Carbon Wrapped Filters (fit inside filtration system)
3. 1/2″ barb to 1/2″ MPT Adapter (brass)
4. 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 1/2″ Adapter (brass)
5. Poly Shut-Off Valve (outdoor water hose section)
6. 4 ft of Plastic Hose (1/2 inch) (Food Grade Quality)

whole house water filter package

whole house water filter package

Connect the Fittings for the Water Hose (5 minutes)

Connect the brass 3/4″ to 1/2″ adapter to the water filter using Teflon tape.  Then screw into it the poly shut-off valve(simply an adapter for water hoses and adds a shut feature). The poly shut-off valve will allow you to control the flow of the water before it reaches the filter.

valve and adapter for connecting water hose

valve and adapter for connecting water hose

Connect the Barb and Exit Hose (5 minutes)

Connect the brass barb to the water filter using Teflon tape. Then with a hose clamp attach the plastic hose and tighten it down. This hose will be the exit hose for the filtered water.

attach barb for filtered water hose

attach barb for filtered water hose

Usage and Cleaning

Note that this water filter system is best used outside. To use the water filter attach the water hose to the shut off valve. Slowly turn on the water while pressing down on the RED tab at the top of the filter. Once the water begins to flow, take your finger off the tab and began using the water. Cleaning is easy, simply unscrew the top to the filter tube and remove the filter, let the filter sit and dry before putting back inside filter tube for storage. Removing the filter after each brew session should help against mold buildup inside the tube.  Its also helpful to have a mount for the filter, check out the mount that was built onto Black Betty the brew tower.

brewing water filter in action

brewing water filter in action

Feel free to add comments below if you have any questions.  For another cool beer brewing building project check out our Building a Cooler Mash Tun article.

building a cooler mash tun

 This article will break down the six basic steps to building your own cooler mash tun.  Everything can be purchased at your local hardware store.

1. Purchase the Equipment
2. Remove the Stainless Steel Braiding
3. Connect the Fittings to the Braiding
4. Connect the Valve and Hose
5. Assembling the Mash Tun
6. Cleaning After Use

All-grain brewing requires the use of a mash tun.  The mash tun is used to steep the various grains selected for brewing beer.  The grains are mixed with water and sit for about an hour, then the mixture is filtered and drained off to the boil pot.  More water is added to rinse the residual sugars from the grains.  To find out more on these specific sugars check out our brewing sugars article.  In the home brew setting you can either have a cooler or pot as a mash tun.  The cheaper option by far is the cooler version which will total somewhere around $70.  Check out our gravity fed all grain brew tower that uses this cooler mash tun.  As a comparison the pot version could cost anywhere from $180 -$400.  The cooler version usually uses a braided stainless steel hose as its filter, where a pot version would use a custom false bottom.  I have tried using a 5 gallon round cooler with a false bottom but I did not get the results that I wanted out of it.  I then moved on to build this and so far it has been working great for me.

Purchase Equipment (30 minutes)

1. 52 qrt well insulated Cooler (Coleman Xtreme is what I used.)

Brass Option (Cheaper)
2. 4 ft of Plastic Hose (Food Grade Quality)
3. 1/2″ MIP to 1/2″ barb (brass) (Watts A-385)
4. 1/2″ Ball Valve (brass)
5. 2 Food Grade Rubber O-Ring (No. 15, 1/8 thick)
6. 1 1/2″ Pipe Nipple (MIP) (brass) (Watts A-836)
– or –
Complete Stainless Steel Cooler Kit

7. 1/2″ FIP to 1/2″ Barb (brass) (Watts A-390)
8.  2-4ft of SS Washing Machine Connector (Eastman 98503)
9. 1/2″ Barb to 1/2″ MIP (brass) (Watts A-385)
10. 1/2″ FIP Pipe Cap (Watts A-819)
11. 3 1/4″ to 5/8″ SS Hose Clamps
12. Pipe Thread Tape (white)

Gather all of the equipment mentioned in the list above.  These parts are the easiest to come by and work with.  Everything above can be purchased at your local hardware store, I have included the specific part numbers for exact matches in Lowes/Home Depot.  I have also included a kit that is offered by Midwest Brewing Supplies, its has stainless steel components. As far as the cooler goes, I think the best deal going right now is at K-mart, I picked up this 52 quart well insulated Coleman cooler for about $35.

Remove the Stainless Steel Braiding (15 minutes)

In this step you will be removing the end connectors of the SS braiding that you purchased and removing the internal hose.  You will saw off the end connectors with a fine blade hacksaw.  To do this first tape up the edges near the connectors, this prevents the braiding from coming unraveled.  Then take a fine bladed hacksaw and saw through the stainless steel braiding and the rubber hose completely.  Repeat for the other side of the hose.

removing original fittings on SS braiding

removing original fittings on SS braiding

Next remove the internal rubber hose from the braiding.  This is easily accomplished with the help of someone else, its a constant pull and push activity.  Remember not to pull too hard, you may break the braiding. It works like a Chinese finger trap you will need to inch it slowly by pushing it then pulling it.

removing rubber hose inside SS braiding

removing rubber hose inside SS braiding

Connect the Fittings to the Braiding (5 minutes)

In this step you will be connecting the new fittings on the SS braiding.  Gather the new SS braiding along with parts 7,9,10 and two hose clamps.

equipment for connecting fittings to braiding

equipment for connecting fittings to braiding

You will need to attach the barbs on each end of the SS braiding.  To do this you will need to slide the hose clamp onto the braiding then push the barb into place.  Next slide the hose clamp into position and tighten.  Do the same for each end.

both ends attached to SS hose

both ends attached to SS hose

Connect the Valve and Hose (5 minutes)

In this step you will be assembling the ball valve to the plastic hose.  Gather part numbers 2,3,4,5 and one hose clamp. Screw together the 1/2″ MIP to 1/2″ barb to the ball valve and remember to use the pipe thread tape. Next you will need to slide the hose clamp down the plastic hose then push the barb into place.  Then slide the hose clamp into position and tighten. The picture below should be able to help you out.

ball valve and hose connection

ball valve and hose connection

Assembling the Mash Tun (5 minutes)

The next step will be assembling the mash tun.  Before this can be performed you will need to remove the existing valve on the cooler or create a 1/2″ hole for the new fixtures to fit into.  If using the coleman extreme cooler as picture below make sure to just remove the plastic spigot and not the plastic that surrounds it.  To assemble the mash tun push the 1.5 inch pipe nipple though the hole in the cooler and place O-rings on each side of the cooler.

pipe nipple pushed through cooler with O-ring

pipe nipple pushed through cooler with O-ring

Next screw on the connector attached to the SS braiding, then from the other side screw on the ball valve/hose portion.   Watch out for over tightening of the screws as it may prevent the O-ring from functioning correctly which can led to leakage.

SS braiding with fitting connected to pipe nipple

SS braiding with fitting connected to pipe nipple

I would recommend testing the mash tun by filling it with water and draining it a few times before actual use, if it appears to be leaking make sure your O-rings are not over compressed.  If it still seems to leak, look into purchasing some rubber washers, if the leak is a drop a minute then its nothing to worry about.

everything hooked up in a big cooler

everything hooked up in a big cooler

everything hooked up in a round cooler

everything hooked up in a round cooler

Cleaning After Use (10 minutes)

Make sure to clean the mash tun after each use, almost immediately afterwards is easiest.  Clean the mash tun with a small amount of mild soap and rinse thoroughly with water.  Disconnect the internal braiding and clean it from any grains that may be stuck in it.  Also wash off the ball valve and rubber hose, remember to hang this in a dry place for at least a day to dry(be careful of leaving in mold prone places).  That should do it, remember the next time you want to use the mash tun just rinse it out really good with warm water.

If anyone has any questions about the process described above, write a comment below and I will respond to it.  Enjoy and go brew more beer!