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Brewtroller Build:- Plumbing Connections
First off I must say I'm surprised by the total cost of plumbing this system, it's much more than I would have guessed - but it has to be done.
Side note: I work as a sound engineer now, but actually I did my trade as a plumber so the plumbing side of things is going to be a piece of cake for me - the electronics side is going to be a little more difficult - but we'll get to that.
I would love to have all the valves automated but I do actually want to be involved in brew day, instead of watching a machine, so for the short term I opted for regular ball valves, but I may put in motorised valves later, so I want to design the system with the future in mind. And I must say the idea of pressing a button and having beer brewed for me is pretty tempting.
I want as many of the parts as possible to be stainless steel - to last me in the long run. I have a habit of buying the cheap "bargain" which costs you more in the long run, so this time stainless it is.
I bought most of the fittings from Blackwoods Paykels. There website is pretty easy to browse and get prices from. For stainless fittings browse to:
Fittings - Pipe and Tube/Fittings/Screwed Pipe - Stainless Steel (There website doesn't seem to link straight to the section).
I did find that their prices vary from branch to branch and after wrangling a bit of a deal with the guys out at East Tamaki, I ended up getting the 15mm stainless steel ball valves for about $10 each! I bought five in total, one for each pot and one for each of my two pumps.
To make it really easy on myself when it cam to cleaning or moving the pots around, I wanted all of the connections to be quick-disconnects. I opted for plastic ones where I would need to move them by hand while it was hot. I figured that steel would obviously be harder to handle. the plastic is rated to 130ºC and food grade. For the pump inputs/outputs and all the other connections I bought some quick disconnects from HCD Flowtech. These were actually quite expensive at about $25 a set but I think it will definitely be worth it.
I had messed around with some flexible pipe from HCD, but I really wanted silicone tubing because it is clear, flexible and has very good temperature tolerance. However, this is a major hassle to buy in NZ - in fact I would go ahead and say you simply can't at a decent size (15mm or 1/2"). I tried medical suppliers and every hose supplier I could find. In the end I found a really good website from the states that had a fantastic price. I ended up buying 6m (20ft) for US$55 including shipping, which I think came to about NZ$75. I had previously paid HCD $22 a metre for their pipe, and for my purpose it is nowhere near as good as silicone. The website was www.Brewershardware.com.
Sealing the Valves and Drilling Holes:
A drilled all the holes with a step drill I bought of trademe for another project. The size was 5-39mm which was perfect for most things but actually wasn't quite big enough for the elements, but I'll get to that.
It is actually quite hard work drilling the bigger holes, I really would have liked a chassis punch but I didn't have the right size, and I wasn't sure about forking out for a new set - they can be quite expensive. Since I already had the step drill I just soldiered on. I found lubrication helps.
Not beer of course - that's silly! :p That's just my lubrication, a nice american IPA. Mmm actually that's making me thirsty as I type this. In all seriousness I found CRC to be the best, I did try making some cutting solution but it definitely seemed to take longer. I also had a spray bottle of water that I used to cool things down if it got hot.
To seal the holes, I got my inspiration from www.theelectricbrewery.com (in fact most of my inspiration for the whole build came from this website.) I didn't have access to all the same parts as they did so mine was a little different, here's how I did it:
This image is of the Mash Tun outlet which also required a temperature probe, hence the brass reducer and S/S tee you can see. Basically you want the internal diameter of the outside washer to be about 3-4mm larger than the o-ring. This washer stops the o-ring from spreading out.
Here is the BK outlet all sealed and working, note that the O-Ring is on the outside of the pot.
Brass Quick Disconnects:
Plastic Quick Disconnects:
From these guys I also got some potable silicone based lubricant that I used on the O-Rings.
Washers and Backnuts:
Valves and Nipples:
Links to all posts in this series: