Adding a pump or pumps to your growing brew rig can be a daunting and expensive proposition, but we're here to help make it as painless as possible. We have a detailed video available at the bottom of this article if you prefer watching to reading. In truth, the pump itself is the easy part. We sell Chugger pumps because they are the best value in the homebrew and nano-brewery marketplace. The tricky part is in the plumbing of the brewery. When in doubt, opt for the highest flow components that are practical. Restrictive diptubes, barbs, disconnects and tubing/hose will cause pump issues.
TUBING: We've done all the research and tried all the tubing available out there. We selected silicone tubing as the best option for its high temp tolerance and flexibility. We guarantee that no other vendor offers tubing at this quality level and when they do, it's 20% higher $$ or more. The most common size is 1/2" ID. Read more about it here.
Drain Bulkheads: In order to allow liquid out of your vessels to feed into the pump, you'll need penetrations or bulkhead drains on them. They can be welded or soldered-in fittings or weldless. No matter which you choose, we designed them all from the ground up to be the best in the industry. We have another guide dedicated to the decision between welded and weldless here.
Valves: Once you have the bulkhead installed, you'll need a VALVE on the outside to stop liquid from pouring out when the plumbing is disconnected.
Hose Barbs: To connect the silicone hose to your ball valves, you'll need a fitting to convert the valves threads to something that will seal to the hose. A hose barb is the cheapest and most basic way of doing this but you will have to wrestle the hose off the barb to disconnect them.
Quick Disconnects: We can say from experience that if you're designing a system where the pump will draw from several sources and/or pump to several other locations, you will quickly tire of pulling hoses off of barbs to move them around. Quick disconnects are exactly what they sound like and there are several options available:
TC, Triclover, Triclamp
- This is a system that features a gasket that sits between two identical flanges and a separate clamp that squeezes the flanges together to make the seal. These are generally considered the most sanitary* and easily cleanable option, but their high cost, bulk, and cumbersome operation make them impractical for all ports on a homebrew scale system.Camlock
- Camlocks or Cam and Groove fittings have been used around the world in industrial applications for decades, usually in much larger sizes than what we use them for. There are a lot of reasons we really like these. For one thing, their dimensions are dictated by Milspec so they should be interchangeable across all vendors. They have very few moving parts so they don't get fouled with sticky wort. They are made of only two food grade components, stainless steel and high temperature silicone. The price is also very favorable. The only downside is that it takes two hands to make and break connections.
Ball Lock QDs
- If you've been around air compressors or ball lock style corny kegs, you already have an idea of how these work. Like camlocks, the male part has a groove that is engaged by the female coupling but instead of a cam arm, it's locked with a series of ball bearings. They are also built with stainless steel and silicone. The major advantage to these is the ease of operation, only requiring one hand. There are a couple downsides including cost and lack of cross-vendor compatibility. On the bright side, we are the first and only vendor to sell these in a high flow "plus" sized hose barbs.Plastic or Brass
- Not recommended. Most of these feature a very constricting interior bore and those which built-in shutoff valves cause flow turbulence that doesn't play nice with pumps.
Return Bulkheads: On the output side of the pump, you will be pumping INTO your vessels. In some cases you can fill through the drain port if it's not already being used. The cheapest way to do it is to just drop the output hose up and over the top of the vessel but then the connectors and hose gets sticky. A much more controlled way to do it is to install a re-circulation or whirlpool port.
Going into the mash tun, you can use something like the Blichmann Autosparge (if you are fly sparging) or our favorite "loc line" system for both recirculation and sparging.
If you recirculate your HLT for a HERMS system or whirlpool in the boil kettle, the practical way to get the liquid back in is through a whirlpool return. We have them for welded bulkhead applications and a really slick custom made one for weldless.
* Note that efforts to build a "sanitary" system using TC fittings are completely foiled by using TC to threaded adapters all over the place. The reason TC is more sanitary is due to the lack of nook and crannies that are found in threaded fittings. If you use any threaded fittings in your design, you might well save some money and stick to the Camlock system.