You got a big stock pot to get more serious about your brewing and during the first batch, you realize that picking up a 10 gallon pot to pour wort into the fermenter isn't as easy anymore. These guidelines and recommendations are for adding accessories to a commercially available stock pot to make your brewing day easier. It is heavily based off the keg conversion article with key differences noted.
If you you don't have the attention span to read all this, we linked to a three part video that shows modification of a pot for a hot liquor tank or boil kettle... It's at the bottom of thise page.
SELECT YOUR ACCESSORIES
For the most part, our philosophy on what accessories are beneficial on brewing vessel is similar whether we're talking about a hot liquor tank, boil kettle or mashtun with a couple of little changes here and there.
The basic items are:
1. Bulkhead for draining the liquid out - components include Ball Valve, Hose Connection Fittings, and some kind of device on the interior of the bulkhead to drain liquid that sits below the bulkhead location.
3. Sight Glass/Level Indicator
You should note that all of the above items can be accomodated on bulkheads that you have welded in (or already may be welded in on the keg you bought) but are also availabe in weldless options that simply require the correct size hole to be drilled. Rather than recommend which you should choose, we put together a more comprehensive article that discusses the decision making process and how it may vary for your local situation. Please read that if you're not sure which way to go already.
1. Bulkhead Drain Port Parts List
1/2" NPT full coupling is welded into the sidewall of the keg as low as the welder can get it, parallel to the floor.
1/2" NPT close nipple is threaded into the outside port of the coupling.
1/2" NPT ball valve is thread onto the nipple. You have a choice of 2 or 3 piece construction, please read the detailed descriptions to help with the choice. They both serve the purpose of stopping the liquid from pouring out when you don't want it to.
WLBulk Option 3. For flat bottom pots, we highly recommend bulkhead option 3 which puts a stainless elbow on the interior of the bulkhead instead of a straight coupling. The elbow is intended to curve downward towards the bottom of the pot to act as a dip tube. This is an extremely cost effective way to drain more of the pot without having to excessively tilt the pot towards the end of the draining. The opening of the elbow should sit about 1/4" above the bottom so take that into consideration when determining the drilling location.
1/2" NPT ball valve is thread onto the nipple that is part of the bulkhead. You have a choice of 2 or 3 piece construction but we HIGHLY recommend a 3piece valve if you use the weldless bulkhead option 3.
External Hose Connection Options -
First, it's very important to connect a length of tubing (aka hose) to the output of the ball valve in order for a pot to fully drain well. Why? Google.
Hose Barb - A stainless hose barb has 1/2" NPT male threads that mate with the output of any ball valve and a piece of tubing can be pushed on. You can use a hose clamp or just rely on friction fit for this low pressure applicaton
Camlock Disconnect system - Looking ahead to future system expansion, you may want to start with matched pairs of camlocks even if you're only starting with a single vessel right now. It's a higher intial expense, but there's a really good chance you'll end up there eventually.
Tubing - We only offer 1/2" ID thickwall silicone tubing because that's what we recommend of any hot side liquid movement. If you're using an immersion chiller, feel free to grab some 1/2" ID clear PVC tubing. If you choose the latter, you probably just want a simple hose barb as mentioned above.
2. Thermometer Options
There are varying opinions about which vessels, if any, benefit from permanent bimetal dial thermometers. ALL bimetal style dial thermometers suffer a couple of dissadvantages to their digital counterparts, most namely their temperature reading is slow and the accuracy is +/- about 2 degrees F. However, they are quite robust in build quality and can take the heat at the exterior of a boil kettle (within reason). For all practical purposes, they are a quick visual indicator of where you are in a heating or cooling cycle and you can use a faster, more accurate, handheld digital to spot check and verify prior to making any decisions. When selecting an install location, keep in mind the smallest batch size you would ever want to accomodate and install it just below that level.
You can weld in either a full coupling, half coupling, or welding spud. This bulkhead only requires the threads on the exterior of the keg so any of those three options will work fine for a thermometer. Keep in mind that our thermometer selections support either a 1/4" NPT or 1/2" NPT back threaded connection so choose your bulkhead size appropriately. In most cases, the 2.5 or 4" probe lengths are appropriate for any vessel type. The 2.5" probe version works particularly well with the 1/2" welding spud as the bulkhead. The 6" long probes have the advantage of reaching further into the mash when installed in a mash tun but the down side is that you have to be very careful not to bang the probe too hard during stirring. Again, since we view these installed thermometers as a general temperature guideline, the more compact but slightly less accurate 2.5" probe length is our recommendation.
This is simple. All of our thermometers have an option for a weldless install. It adds the appropriate washers, gaskets, and locknuts to install into a drilled hole in your vessel.
If the downsides of bimetal thermometers are a big turn off, the last thing we want to mention is that you CAN install the more accurate digital handheld thermometers like the CDN proaccurate that we sell in a more permant manner. You can couple the digital probe to our probe compression fitting and then either install it per the options above, either as threaded into a welded bulkhead or weldless via the optional "make weldless" kit. The combination price of the digital and compression fitting is a little more than the bimetal, but it does have its advantages. You must also protect the digital from heat, moreso than the dial version. Our small heat sheild would work well.
Bottom line recommendation: We like the T325 installed into a 1/2" welded spud, the weldless version of the same as our second choice if welding or silver soldering isn't practical.
3. Sight Glass Options
Just like the thermometers, there are a lot of opinions on which vessels should have a sight glass/level indicator and which ones don't need it. We personally think that boil kettles and hot liquor tanks absolutely benefit from them while a mashtun would only benefit if you are doing one of two things. First, if you direct fire your mash tun to heat the strike water, a sight glass allows you to fill that tank directly to a measured volume right out of your tap filter. Second, some folks use a sight glass as a manometer or suction gauge during reciruculation and sparge. These are rather advanced uses so if you don't know what we're talking about, the advice to leave the sight glass off of your mash tun is sound.
Keep in mind that many of our kits combine the sight glass function with a thermometer. Obviously if you choose one of these, you don't need a separate thermometer. We are often asked what the benefit of the combo kit is. There are two ways to look at it. If you're installing it yourself via the weldless option, it only requires a single hole to be drilled. If you are having bulkheads welded in, it's one less weld to pay for. With that said, the downside is that it forces the thermometer to be mounted lower than ideal (harder to read and a ltitle closer to the flames). We don't think neither the pros or cons are particularly deal breaking and it really does come down to preference. Since we're supposed to be guiding you, we'll give you our preference in order.
Assuming you install the thermometer into its own port or hole as reccomended above:
A. Sight-Only Weld-in Option:
Model SL sight kit with the 1/4" NPT half coupling option. Weld the half coupling into the bottom of the pot sidewall, about 1 inch above the curved area where the side meets bottom. It can stick out of the pot for the most part, but should be installed parallel to the floor so that the 90 degree elbow puts the sight tube perfectly vertical (if your welder screws up, there are fixes...contact us). The street elbow in the SL kit threads directly into the half coupling after it is welded in and provides a very compact install.
B. Sight-Only Weldless Option:
Model LP sight kit (with vessel type option = pot). This kit is extremely easy to install. It simply requires a 9/16" hole to be drilled and the end result is nearly as robust as the weld-in option. Similar to the SL kit, the hole should be drilled about 1 inch above the curved area where the side meets bottom.
If you would rather use combo kits, to limit the number of bulkheads required (ignore thermometer selection item #2 above):
NOTE:The major consideration when outfitting a flat bottom pot with a combo unit is how high off the bottom to drill the bulkhead hole. In a keg conversion situation, the bottom skirt keeps the accessories (especially thermometer face) away from the surface you may rest the keg on. In the case of a flat bottom pot, if you install too low, the thermometer dial face MAY extend below the bottom of the pot requiring you to hang it off the end of a table and it may affect your "brewstand" or burner configuration. At the very least this requires you to take care during the install process but it also suggests that using a separate port for each device is the better idea. It keeps the thermometer out of harms way while still maintaining maximum resolution on the sight glass.
A. Combo Weld-in Option:
Purchase and weld in a 1/2" Welding Spud or 1/2" NPT full or half coupling as low as you can, yet heading the above warning.
Purchase and thread in the Model LTS sight kit. This kit uses 1/2" NPT parts and the larger 3" dial face thermometer. The downside to this combination is that it sticks out from the keg more than any other option due to the bulkead, close nipple, tee, and thermometer. Note, the model LTS listed here is the only combo kit that works with a weld-in bulkhead.
B. Weldless Option (two different size options):
Model TP sight kit (with vessel type option = pot). It simply requires a 9/16" hole to be drilled and the end result is nearly as robust as the weld-in option. See instructions page for more info. As far as combo kits are concerned, this is the most popular item we sell and what made BrewHardware an actual business....but I digress. The only downside to this version as opposed to the next item is that the thermometer dial face is smaller at only 2". On the flip side, it's more compact. Per the warning above, the hole should be drilled at least 2" off the pot bottom level to keep the face from hitting something.
Model LTSP. This option is essentially identical to the weld-in option mentioned above. It uses all 1/2" NPT parts and the larger 3" dial face thermometer. It doesn't quite stick out as far because the weld-in bulkhead is eliminated and the tee sits flush against the keg, only separated by a silicone gasket. However, due to the size of the thermometer face and the bulkiness of the 1/2" fittings, keep in mind that you will be installing this into a hole at least 2" above the pot bottom and the liquid level will start registering on the sight tube another inch above that. If the pot is wider than it is tall, this may be undesirable in which case the LP and thermometer separates would make more sense.
...The first recommendation we make without knowing anything else is to go with the larger 3" thermometer face, i.e. the T325 thermometer by itself with the SL or LP standalone sight glass.
...If THAT is undesireable because you'd rather go with one hole the compact TP kit is our second choice.
...If the smaller 2" face of the thermometer in the TP is a deal breaker for you, the LTS or LTSP will fill fix that at the slight cost of a more bulky install and the literal higher cost of the kit.