Friday, April 12, 2013

New Weldless Ball Valve, Pick Up, and Hop Filter

When I first got my keggle, it came pre fit with a 1/2" OD nipple welded to the outside that the ball valve was threaded onto.  The weld on the inside is very rough, and getting 3/8" fittings to thread into it has always proved to be a pain.  With the addition of the larger chiller I got for Christmas, I had to change the pick up configuration from straight out into the middle to an angle to the side (the chiller would sit directly on top of the old pick up and push it down as well as tilt the chiller back).  When I pulled the old straight fitting and tried to put the 45 degree fitting in its place, it wouldn't hold, which caused me to lose suction at that joint (leaving nearly 3 quarts in the bottom).  It also makes for a difficult clean up since I have nearly 5 brass and copper parts in place to make the angles as well as to have the option of removal.

Compound this with all the failed attempts to filter out the hops and trub from my beers (a small hop taco and a large hop taco both clogged on 10 gallon hoppy batches), and I have been set for a change.  I was thinking about having a 90 SS street elbow welded to the inside to flow into the nipple and ball valve, but then I thought there might be a better option, especially with some of the infection issues I have had. 

I opted for a weldless ball valve so I can take it all apart and give each individual piece a good cleaning if need be.  For this I had my buddy cut off the threaded nipple that was welded in place and drill the hole using a step bit to a full 7/8".

From here I took a 1" long 1/2" SS nipple and wrapped one end with Teflon tape.  I took a 1/2" SS 90 degree street elbow and threaded it onto the nipple over the Teflon.  From the other end of the nipple, I slid a 1/2" Silicone Washer over the threads until it was flush against the elbow.  It actually didn't work to get a good seal, so I cut off about a 3/8" section of 1/2" OD silicone tubing and forced it onto the nipple which worked great to seal it up.  Next, I attached the filter for the trub and hops.  I had done 2 failed hop tacos so far, and grew tired of cleaning the nylon bags.  I contacted my local fitting store who builds supply lines for contractors with SS braids and was able to score a piece of their scrap braid (about 8" worth) for free, and just paid them to crimp a plug end on it to keep anything from getting in and to cover all the burrs.  I then slipped the other end over the threads on the elbow, tightening down with a SS hose clamp (ensure that the entire clamp is SS, not just the ring), covering all the burrs on the end so my hands won't get stabbed during cleaning, and hops shouldn't get stuck on it either.

At this point I wrapped the other end of the nipple with Teflon tape and then put it through the hole in the keg so that the threads fed to the outside, and the silicone washer was pressed tight against the inside wall.

I moved the elbow until it was at the angle I wanted for my pickup (45 in between straight down and straight sideways) to keep the filter out of the middle of the bottom (where it would be crushed under the chiller), high enough to avoid most of the trub, but low enough to grab all the wort possible.

Next I threaded a lock nut onto the nipple to tighten the entire thing into place on the inside and force a good seal.  I couldn't find a SS one, but since it is on the outside and not in contact with liquid, there isn't a risk of the metals reacting, but to keep it pretty, I spray painted it with chrome paint to match.  Then I threaded the ball valve onto the exposed nipple outside the keg over the Teflon tape until it was tight to the lock nut and at the correct level.

After everything was set, I filled it up from a calibrated Better Bottle to check for leaks, and then ran off back into the Better Bottle to see how much volume was left in the bottom with my new set up so I can factor it into my brewing software (2.5 quarts).  This won't account for hop absorption (a factor I already have in my parameters), but it will let me know how much trub will be left behind. 

TESTED 04/06/2013:  Brewed my first batch on it, a big, hoppy Imperial West Coast Red, with copious amounts of Chinook (whole cone), Simcoe and CTZ (pellets).  Clogged shut again.  I was able to grab the ballvalve while opened and turn it which moved the 90 SS Elbow around inside and caused the wort to flow, but would quickly clog again, even with out the whole cone hops in there (scooped out with SS slotted spoon).  After I finally got it drained, the hop stopper was coated thick in pellet debris.  I think this is actually caused by my Whirlpool and Immersion Chiller.  The chiller sits on the bottom and fits snug beside my filter and the whirlpool is aimed right on top of the filter.  I am assuming that this is causing all the cold break and hop debris to fall right onto the filter and clog it instead of being able to pool into the center and make pick up easier.  If I add little feet to the chiller so that it raises up off the bottom a couple inches this should be rectified.

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