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Brewtroller Build Part Two - Plumbing Fittings

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.


Quick Disconnects:

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.


Finally here's my HLT in the progress with a few of the other necessery fittings installed- I haven't got to the bottom fitting of the heat exchanger. Oh and now it was time for a Porter :)



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:






Views: 1692

Comment by JoKing on April 13, 2011 at 9:00am
Whenever I fabricate systems for people, the parts list makes up for about 66% of the entire cost. You can pick up a 47L pot for around $99 - $109, and the fittings (especially for mash tuns) can come to over $250 - especially when it's stainless... and thats WITH a trade account.
Comment by Druid on April 28, 2011 at 8:44am

Had a good read of theelectricbrewery website - some good ideas there.  Quite interested in the idea of a simple HERMES system like that described - where just the HLT is temp controlled.

That would also eliminate having to heat the hot liquor to strike temp with gas as well as allowing it to be set on a timer the night before.


A couple of questions:


Where did you get the stainless HERMES coil from?  Tempting to just put copper in depending on cost.


Where do you get PIDs in NZ.


Does the HERMES mash recirc rely on a false bottom - or would a braided loop work too?  My mash tun has a big 1 1/4" diameter braid so it has a big surface draining area and flows quite freely - but not sure how recirc would work with that before liquefaction has taken place in the mash.

Comment by Reuben Rowntree on April 28, 2011 at 9:28am

Hi, yeah I'm using a copper coil too, simply because I already have one - it used to be my immersion chiller. Stainless is obviously nicer to avoid corrosion but copper has excellent heat transfer. I'll post some pictures of my HLT soon. Like you said, I use the HLT to heat strike water and then keep the temperature constant during the Mash, and yeah the timer option is great - you could just get up and start mashing when you feel like it, all the strike water is prepared.

I'm using the BrewTroller system for my PID control (it has 4 on board). You can buy them off ebay for about $40 US I think - quite cheap anyway. The brewtroller has the advantage that it can control so many other aspects of the brewing such as volume measurement, timers and calculating water needed etc. Of course a little bit of electronic work is needed to get it up and running, but the same goes for a PID controller anyway really.

I would guess your mash tun would be fine, you don't really want the recirculation too fast anyway, at least not so fast that the wort coming back in is going to move the grain around and create ruts etc. And as long as there is nothing that could get clogged in the line, it should be fine.

I don't have a input sparge arm or anything for my mash tun, I simply have a silicone hose lying on the surface and keep about 2cm of water above the mash at all times. Check one of the links above to see my mash tun or here: Brewtroller Build: Mash Tun.

I went with the complete false bottom to avoid channeling as much as possible. I would have to say that so far I have been seriously impressed by constantly recirculating my mash. The wort coming out at the end is so clear and the efficiency is great. Also I'm finally getting a higher F.G. when I mash at say 68ºC, whereas before I would always get quite a low F.G no matter what temperature - I was using a chilly bin system.




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