The Converted Kegs

Things that are common among all 3 kegs are that I attatched the outlet fittings with lead-free, cadmium-free silver solder. This seems to work quite well. The other fittings (level columns, thermometers and coil) are SwageLok bulkhead fittings. The tops (tap ends) of 2 of the kegs (HLT &boil kettle) were cut out to 12" using my faithful Dremel tool and fiber reinforced cutoff disks. The first top I cut out took 6 disks and the second one took only 4. What I learned from that was you have to let the tool do all the work. DON'T FORCE IT! If you take your time, pause once in a while to let the disk cool, it will take 45 minutes to an hour to cut out the top. The other keg (mash/lauter tun) top was cut off using a metal cutting abrasive blade in my circular saw. This keg top was cut off on the side wall of the keg.


Hot Liquor Tank or HLT

One of the kegs is where I heat the water for the mash and sparge. There is a coil of 25' of 1/2" soft copper tubing inside attatched, through the keg wall, with SwageLok brand compression bulkhead fittings. More on the coil later. The pickup tube is 1/2" rigid copper piping (the kind you plumb a house with) attached to the soldered in fitting. This tank has a dial thermometer and a homemade level column on the side. Here are pictures of the hot water tank (technically it's called a Hot Liquor Tank or HLT). Inside on the left, outside on the right. intank Outside of tank
Outside of tank (closeup) Here is a closeup view of how the bulkhead fittings were attached to the keg wall using a rubber gasket and a teflon washer to seal the hole. Update: The Teflon washers have since been replaced with stainless steel washers. The rubber does the sealing and the stainless does a better job of holding it against the side of the keg.

You can also see the soldered in fitting that connects the pickup tube through the keg wall. Attached to the fitting is the plumbing that connects to the isolation valve for the hot water tank.

Here is the heat exchange coil. As I said before, it is 25' of 1/2" soft copper tubing. It was shaped by wrapping it around a pail. The coils were bound together with 12 gauge copper wire to hold its shape when it is hanging on the tank wall. You can also see the compression nuts at the ends of the coil. The copper wire that binds the coil together was the ground wire from a few feet of 12 gauge household wiring. coil


Boil Kettle

inkettle The other uninsulated keg is my boil kettle. It is very similar to the one used as the hot water tank but minus the thermometer and the coil. Here is a picture of the inside of the kettle. (The copper "scrubbie" strainer can be seen on the pickup tube)
Here is a picture of the level column on the side of the kettle. The one on the side of the HLT is similar.

The columns were "calibrated" with a 2 quart pitcher and an indelible marking pen. I would dump in 2 quarts of water and make a mark on the stainless overtube. Crude though it may be it hasn't let me down yet.

level02 The level columns and the thermometers are attached with brass bulkhead fittings. The level columns are similar to the ones Marty Tippin made for his converted keg 2-tier brewing system. It's just 3/8" O.D. plastic tubing inside 3/8" I.D. stainless tubing that has had part of a side cut out (again the Dremel tool). Here is a more detailed diagram of the level columns. After a few dozen uses the plastic tubing gets a little saggy, droopy and otherwise used up and should be replaced. By making marks on the more durable stainless over-tube it's quite easy to recalibrate marks on the plastic.


Mash/Lauter Tun

The elevated white thing in the middle of the picture on the Present System page is the mash/lauter tun. For this keg I cut off the entire top. It seemed as though I had to just to get the false bottom (the original version) into it. This keg is insulated with a plastic-coated fiberglass blanket that is sold for insulating home water heaters. The kit is sold including some tape but it is helpful to have some more wide tape for installation as a keg insulator.

Here are some pictures of the inside of the tun & thermometer. intun01 temp01
Diagram of the 
thermometer bulkhead fittings Here is a diagram of how the dial type thermometers were fit into the sides of the Mash/Lauter tun and the Hot Water Tank. Notice that these bulkhead fittings use a stainless steel washer rather than the teflon washer used for the copper coil bulkhead fittings. The only reason these are different is because if you look at the teflon washers in the above pictures, they tend to cup outward and not look pretty. The stainless washers stay nice and flat. I just haven't gotten around to making new pictures of the copper coil bulkhead fittings.
Here is a picture of the drain line on the bottom of the mash/lauter tun. A brass fitting is silver soldered in place. Threaded copper fittings are fastened to the brass fitting. The lower threaded copper fitting in the picture is the male half of a union. Note that the brass no longer looks "brassy." This is due to the solder "crawling" all over the fitting when it was soldered into place. Silver solder seems to be a bit "runnier" than some other solders. tun bottom

The Continuing Saga of My Mashtun False Bottom

The false bottom I use now is entirely different than my earlier versions. What I use now was once the top of one of my kegs. I took the circular piece that was cut out of the top and hacksawed (if that's a word) off the tap connector. I then checked out how it would fit in the bottom of the mash tun. Fortunately, the bottom of the mash/lauter tun has a more curved shape to it and the altered keg top fit in the bottom of the tun quite nicely. I then used silver solder to attach heavy brass screen to the altered keg top cut-out. The screen is suspended somewhat above the curve of the keg top cut-out and has about 1" of space under it at the center allowing some space for liquid flow under the screen. After trying this out on a batch that used 24 pounds of grain, I can say that I think this will be the final modification to my false bottoms for a while. Here are some pictures.

Unaltered keg top cut-out

Keg top cut-out with tap connector removed

1: The keg top cut-out as it was removed. 2: The keg top cut-out after having the tap connector sawed off. (NOTE: I went through about a half dozen hacksaw blades while cutting off the tap connector.)

Altered keg top cut-out with screen in place

Drawing with false bottom in place

3: The false bottom after silver soldering on the brass screen. (NOTE: Notice the discoloration on the screen near the soldering. This is not black charred deposits from the torch that was used, but rather it is the way the screen discolored, sort of coppery-brown, during soldering.) 4: A simple diagram of how the false bottom sits in the bottom of the tun. (The BLUE color is the former keg top.)


The lid I use for the mash/lauter tun started it's life as a picnic serving tray. Aren't homebrewers resourceful ;-) It just happened that the rolled edges of the tray fit the top of the tun as though that was it's intended purpose. Clerks in discount stores do tend to look at you kinda funny as you walk through the store measuring everything. Here's a picture of the tray in action with the recirc line running through the hole I drilled in the middle. tunlid