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Now that you’ve removed the tops of your kegs and drilled holes into the side walls, it is time to assemble and install ball valves. These valves will allow the water and wort to pass between the vessels and into the fermenter. You have a couple options at this stage.
Option 1: Weldless Ball Valve AssemblyThis is definitely the simplest option. These valve/bulkhead assemblies are great for preventing leaks without having to use any welding equipment. You will need one assembly for each brewing vessel. Make sure you de-burr the holes you drilled into the keg VERY well before adding the valve. Any metal burrs can damage the gasket and lead to leaks. Your step bit should de-burr the hole well, but I like to go behind with the sanding disk for the angle grinder. I hit the inside and outside walls around the hole to be safe. Install the valve by inserting the pipe nipple into the keg hole with an o-ring on each side. Tighten firmly, but do not over-tighten, as this can also lead to leaks.You will also need to add a pick-up tube to your Hot Liquor Tun (HLT) and your Brew Kettle, so you can get all of the liquid from the bottom of the keg. **Not needed for your Mash Tun (see step 5 for details). If you don’t add a pick-up tube, you will leave 1-2 gallons of water or wort in the bottom of your vessel! Ain’t nobody got time for that!! Add a bit of teflon tape to the threads on the pick-up tube assembly. Screw the assembly into the coupling on the inside of the bulkhead and tighten securely. Cut the pick-up tube to size if necessary. The tube should reach about 1/4-inch from the bottom of the keg.
For my first keggle builds, I went to Home Depot to gather all of the materials for the ball valve and dip tube assemblies. At that point, prices were higher for the pre-made assemblies were higher (around $35 for the ball valve assembly only). You may be able to save just a couple dollars buying individual pieces, but you will save time and headache by purchasing the pre-made assemblies. They are also guaranteed to provide a leak-proof seal when installed correctly.
Option 2: Welding
This is perhaps the ideal way to install the valve… if you have the equipment/skills. If you have the ability to weld, simply take the stainless steel pipe nipple (from Step 3) and weld it into the hole. Make sure you leave sufficient threading on the to attach a ball valve and barb on the outside and a dip tube assembly on the inside. To attach the dip tube assembly, you will need a 1/2-inch coupling. Be sure to use teflon tape as well.
Once these valves are installed, you have successfully built your own HLT and Brew Kettle!! Awesome! Go have a brew and think of all the cash you saved by building these yourself. Come back for step 5 (and 5a) where we complete the build for the Mash Tun.
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