Weekend DIY Homebrew Project: Weldless Valve on Stainless Boil Kettle
Overall, the process is pretty straightforward. I’ve linked three videos below if you are a visual person but here are the basic steps.
(1) Hole placement. I chose to install it off-center in case I later add a thermometer and sight glass (on my list to do soon). This ensures the components will fit between the two handles without knocking into each other. Also, consider how high up you place the valve. Ensure there is enough room to attach your bazooka screen, false bottom, or dip tube. This video provides a great walkthrough on how to select the hole placement and some things to consider.
(2) Punch, pilot, and drill. Once you’ve determined the optimal position use a punch so your pilot hole drill bit doesn’t skip and scratch up your shiny new kettle. Drill a 1/8″ pilot hole (you need a good metal bit, I broke my crappy old one on the first attempt). Next, use your step bit drill to steadily drill into the wall and ensure you’re constantly chewing through metal. Stop often to re-lube and check the size of the hole with your nipple wrapped in teflon tape — you can’t close the hole back up! I ended up going with a 7/8″ hole with my fitting after thinking I would need a full 1″ hole. Once the proper sized hole is drilled you will want to use a metal file or sandpaper to remove metal burrs around the hole. This video will walk you through the actual step bit drilling process.
(3) Install the valve. At this point, the hard stuff is done. You have a clean drilled hole so now it is just a matter of assembling the bulkhead and valve properly to ensure a tight seal is formed. Depending on your kettle and valve, the instructions below may require you to put this together in a slightly different order but this should work for most installations. You slot the nipple in first with half inside and outside, then on the INSIDE of the pot you will slide the O-ring and then the compression nut with the concave cut-out facing the O-ring and wall of kettle so it forms a tight seal. On the outside you will place the washer and then screw on the valve. Make sure you have a few wraps of teflon tape but too much can make it difficult to attach the coupling and valve. Note, your valve kit may come with two O-rings — you only need one for now so save the other one in case the original ever fails. Then screw your bazooka screen into the coupling. I had to bend up the end of it a little to fit the diameter of the kettle but this shouldn’t have any impact on brew day success.
(4) Water test it. Once you have everything tight and in the right position, fill up the kettle with a few gallons of water to see if there are any leaks. If it leaks, you will need to disassemble and check again. Make sure the compression nut is seated on the o-ring properly and that the teflon tape is wrapped well. Let the water sit for a while to see if there are any very slow leaks. You will also want to try boiling some water to see if there are any issues at temperature. This will also help you determine if you need a heat shield to protect your valve handle.
That’s it – crack open a beer to reward your hard work! You are ready to let gravity or a pump do the hard work on your next brew day. In an hour or less you can make a pretty significant improvement to your kettle. Here are some pictures from the installation on my rig, feel free to share yours in the comments below! CHEERS!