How To...Make a Stainless Steel Boiler/HLT with Sight Tube

Discussion in 'Beer Brewing "How-To" Guides' started by Vossy1, Jan 21, 2009.

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  1. Jan 21, 2009 #1

    Vossy1

    Vossy1

    Vossy1

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    How to make a 100 ltr stainless steel boiler/hlt with Sight Tube

    This is a quick 'how to' make a 100ltr stainless boiler for a very reasonable price. It's meant to be a guide, and should not be seen as the only way to make one. I have made 5 of these now, and they have served me, and others, without fault. This 'how to' can be used for any sized stock pot.

    The bits

    [​IMG]

    1 x 100ltr Stainless Steel Stock Pot (not shown in this pic)It cost 48 delivered from an E-bay retailer located in Germany
    called nordic-optical. E-mail them if none are listed, they usually have some in stock.

    1 x " stainless steel ball valve, part number 10397, 16.37
    3 x " running nipples (brass) part number 6576, 2.16
    2 x " 90 Deg elbow in 316 stainless steel, part number 14271, 3.05
    2 x " 316 stainless steel lock nuts, part number 14547, 1.65
    All from here

    2 x 22mm ID stainless steel washers from a local BSA parts shop 0.90 (M22 washers form B from here here
    2 x 2.75kw elements 22 from Baker Electrical (not those shown) 22.
    2 x element leads, old round pin type 22, from Backer.
    1 x brass female straight connector " female to 15mm compression (local plumbers) 1.00
    2 x John Guest part number PM011014E, 4.20 from here
    1 x length of polycarbonate tubing in 10mm outer diameter 7.50 (from a 2m length costing 30) from here here

    TOTAL COST 128.83

    Tools, a drill, 40mm & 20mm hole saw bits (QMAX cutters are easier to use than hole saws),
    a dremmel (steel files can be used alternatively)
    JB Weld (fibre or nylon washers can be as an alternative).
    Tool and JB weld costs were not added to the boiler costs, as I already had them.

    Marking the holes for elements/sight tube and ball valve

    Firstly I placed the stock pot on a table and made sure the pot was level, using a spirit level.
    I measured the distance between the handles and marked the central point with a pencil mark on some masking tape. I then put a piece of masking tape at the bottom of the stock pot, roughly under the pencil mark, to show where I wanted the ball valve to go. Using the spirit level vertically, I marked on the bottom piece of tape, a line to show the vertical location of the ball valve. I then offered the " lock nut to the line to make sure that it would be free to turn from the curved base of the pot, this was 35mm up from the base. I then crossed the line through the centre of the nut. I repeated this process for the rear of the stock pot to show where I wanted to mount the elements. I marked a position far enough apart (140mm) on the rear so I could place the elements as close to each other as possible, and 70mm up from the base. I also used the same process to mark the desired position of the sight tube, with the upper elbow as close to the rim of the stock pot as possible (30mm hole centre from rim), the bottom elbow being 35mm hole centre from the base. I used a 4mm titanium hss drill bit to make pilot holes at each of the points, before using the hole saw bits to make the final holes, using a constant supply of cold water to cool the stock pot and hole saw bits, whilst drilling the holes in the stainless steel. The hole saw bits left a burr on the interior of the pot which I ground down using a dremmel with a grinding disc fitted.

    Pictures from left below show, holes for ball valve and sight tube (20mm), holes for elements (40mm), elements fitted

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Simply pass the rear of the element through the hole inside the stock pot, and attach/tighten up the nut they come supplied with, from outside the stock pot.

    Pictures from left below show, ball valve and sight tube fitted.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Fitting the ball valve

    I used plenty of wraps of PTFE tape on the nipple before screwing it into the ball valve as far as it would go. I placed a washer on the nipple before passing the rest of the nipple through the hole in the stockpot.
    I smeared a small amount of JB Weld onto the entire circumference of the other washer (pot facing side) and also onto the nipple where it meets the pot on the inside. I put the washer over the nipple on the interior of the stock pot and tightened the brass female straight connector fitting onto the nipple, until it would turn no more, and cleared away any excess JB Weld that was squashed out from the washer. I have found that this is enough to create a water tight seal.
    The reason for the washers is that the metal of the stock pot is quite thin and if you don't use washers to thicken the metal, there is too much movement in the ball valve so much so.. that if you place a non soldered, standard copper manifold, on the rear of the valve, the opening and closing of the ball valve will make the manifold come apart.
    To make the build even easier why not use one of these 1/2" Stainless Steel bulk head fittings for the ball valve attachment, they're available exclusively only on this forum.

    Fitting the sight tube

    To fit the sight tube I first wrapped plenty of PTFE tape around the nipple before screwing it into the elbow as far as it would go. The John Guest fittings have an internal rubber seal that seals them to the mating surface on tightening so no PTFE tape was required. These fittings were screwed into the other end of the elbow. For the bottom elbow I smeared a small amount of JB Weld around where the nipple meets the elbow and then passed the nipple through the hole in the stock pot. I attached the "lock nut on the inside and tightened as far as possible. This forced excess JB Weld out from the sides of the elbow and the nut, which I cleaned away with cotton wool buds. I did the same for the top elbow however no JB Weld was used. Instead I used an o-ring on the inside of the stock pot. The reason for this is that, if I break the sight tube, I need to replace it, and I can't do that unless I can remove the upper elbow. As the liquid level never reaches the top elbow it doesn't need to be sealed. To cut the polycarbonate tube to length I first had to know how much of the tube goes inside the JG fitting. To do this, before I fitted the elbows I inserted the tube into one of the JG fittings. I then wrapped some masking tape around the tube, where it met the fitting. I then removed the tube and the masking tape showed me how much tube was inside the fitting. After I had fitted the bottom elbow to the stock pot, I inserted the tube into its JG fitting. I attached the upper elbow to the pot and used masking tape to show where the JG fitting met the tube on the upper elbow. I then removed the tube and added the extra length as measured earlier. I cut the tube to size, removed the top elbow from the stock pot, inserted the tube into the bottom elbow, then the top elbow, and screwed the nipple into the top elbow from within the stock pot, I then put an o-ring over the nipple and secured the elbow to the pot with a lock nut.

    Testing

    Before using the boiler on a brew day it first needs testing for leaks. Fill the boiler with water until the elements are covered, then bring the water to boiling for 10 minutes. If at any point water leaks from any joint, turn the elements off at the wall socket they are plugged into. Check and re tighten any joints as necessary.
    The washers which seal the element to the pot will relax over the first few boils, check them and re tighten if there is any play in the securing nut.

    Caring for your boiler

    The elements will require cleaning on a regular basis, should they show signs of scale build up on their surface. If this build up is not removed, it may cause the elements thermo trip to activate, and this usually happens during a boil, meaning the boiler needs to be drained down and the element cleaned before continuing. To clean your elements of light build up a plastic scouring sponge may be used. It is best used immediately after a boil when the scale is still soft and wet. To clean the elements of heavy scale build up, it may be necessary to remove them from the boiler, and put them in a citric acid solution (lemon juice). When the scale has been removed refit the elements to the boiler. The sight tube rarely needs cleaning. If it does you can remove the top elbow from the boiler, remove the elbow from the tube, then use a long pipe cleaner clean the inside of the tube. The boiler itself can be cleaned using a metal scouring pad if needed, though usually a plastic scouring sponge will suffice.

    EDIT, Comments regards JB Weld. At the time of making this item JB Weld was, and still is, my option for use as a sealant. It is classed as inert once cured, but has not been tested as food safe. The reason for me using it is that I wanted the smallest rigid seal I could get with minimal surface area exposed to the process. I could have used food grade silicone sealant, but in my experience I have yet to use a mould PROOF silicone sealant, so as the brewery is always wet, silicone sealant was not an option. Whilst plastic and rubber washers are available, I view their potential leaching properties in just the same light as JB Weld.
    It's a personal choice as to what to use, I chose JB Weld.

    Please use this as a guide only and check measurements for YOUR pot before cutting.

    Further info

    You can also secure standard kettle elements using a KM8 lock nut
    Thanks to Rob Franklins dad for that piece of advice.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2015
  2. Jan 21, 2009 #2

    BrewStew

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    nice!

    so you need two drills then :p

    its a shame those nice steel backnuts i got on mine aren't readily available for the masses :(
     
  3. Jan 21, 2009 #3

    Vossy1

    Vossy1

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    Ta...editing :thumb:
     
  4. Jan 22, 2009 #4

    EskiBrew

    EskiBrew

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    Nice one mate :clap: :cheers:
     
  5. Apr 12, 2009 #5

    EskiBrew

    EskiBrew

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    Is there a reason for putting your two elements so close to each other? - I wondered whether it would be better to have them on opposite sides of the boiler (although wiring is messy I guess). :hmm:
     
  6. Apr 12, 2009 #6

    Vossy1

    Vossy1

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    :lol:

    That's the main reason for me. Another is that the having the heat source in one place creates a much more vigorous rolling boil, the wort literally 'cycles' around the pot. The actual mechanical mixing and vigour of the boil is quite important in helping A acids form isohumulones which impart bitterness to the finished beer.
    Another benefit is when cleaning and tilting the pot your not always knocking the element/tap/sight tube housing. Having said that, having the elements closer together makes cleaning the underneath of the elements quite hard. The base can become a little busy if you have tap, 2 elements and a sight tube...all wanting to be 'knocked' when cleaning :lol: Having said that, that may not be an issue if your pots remain static.
     
  7. Apr 12, 2009 #7

    EskiBrew

    EskiBrew

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    Makes sense now I think about it :thumb:
     
  8. Aug 20, 2011 #8

    Darcey

    Darcey

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    Emailed Nordic, got paid, waiting for a price/delivery!
     
  9. Aug 23, 2011 #9

    Darcey

    Darcey

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    BES Delivered today.

    Anyone got Nordics Email. Still havnt heard from them yet.
     
  10. Aug 23, 2011 #10

    Rparkera

    Rparkera

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    To be honest - you can just buy from them, no questions needed. Look for them on ebay France. Search ebay France for 'marmite'. They are the only sellers of such items, it's the name of their large saucepans. Find the item you want in their shop, visually. Use Google translate if you need help but it's pretty easier with basic O level French (failed, in my case).

    Then - look for the ebay 12 digit item number. Then, Search for that item number on ebay UK in the search box. Buy the item, add 20 for postage and pay. Five days later - magic (or 'magique perhaps') - it arrives, from Germany, they are actually a German supplier. I did this last month and bouht a 100l marmite to build a larger boiler

    Bonne chance!
     
  11. Aug 23, 2011 #11

    Darcey

    Darcey

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    You sir/lady are a clever man! I have been looking for the nordic ones... :whistle:

    Where's that credit card.... wheres SWMBO's purse... :hmm:
     
  12. Aug 23, 2011 #12

    Darcey

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    70L ordered! W00p. ;)

    Right how do I explain this one... hope it arrives when shes out... or explain the price difference between buying new and building... also adding shop beer.... hmm... where is that ginger wine I made last year.. might need to get that one chilling first...

    Any suggestions?
     
  13. Aug 29, 2011 #13

    Darcey

    Darcey

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    Me again!

    Pot arrived from Deutschland in a record breaking 3 days! Faster I might add than all of the UK suppliers I have been using :oops: !

    I am about to order the Q-Max cutters, however the kettle elements from Bakers havnt arrived yet. Are they definatly 40mm holes? a) I dont want to buy a qmax I dont need and b) I dont want to drill a pointlessly large hole in my shiny!

    Still waiting on JGuest, elements, JB and the sight tube to arrive then its building time!
     
  14. Aug 30, 2011 #14

    Rparkera

    Rparkera

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    IIRC - and if you are using the standard SKS element - then 40mm is your man. That was what I used for my Backers - four of them.

    Great fun to use the Qcutters by the way - by far the hardest bit is starting the drilling. A popular tip on the forum is to use an old screwdriver or better still a hole punch to make the mark in the right spot (see earlier in this post). Otherwise the drill bit skds all over the steel surface. You really have to hit hard (with a mallet) so get someone to hold the Nordic for you whilst you are hitting the punch.Then use a cobalt bit - 4mm is a good start - buy that from eBay or B&Q, Bosch are best. Gradually increase the hole size - I did 4 mm and then 10 mm for the Q Cutter hole. The actual Qcutter is like a knife through butter - with a good size Allen key
     
  15. Aug 31, 2011 #15

    Darcey

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    Email from Backer

    So that sorted that!
     
  16. Sep 4, 2011 #16

    WelshPaul

    WelshPaul

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    I love this guide! My curent boiler is probably the weakest link in our production chain so it may be time to get a proper one soon. I only have two questions:

    1 - How could I fit a hop filter to the ballvalve on the inside of the pot?
    2 - Since the pot is curved and the connections are straight, would some kind of rubber washers be advised or will the JS Weld be sufficient?
     
  17. Sep 4, 2011 #17

    Vossy1

    Vossy1

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    You can use one of these to screw straight onto the nipple on the inside of the copper.
    Both will do the job. The reason I used 2 large washers around the nipple was to flatten the pot curvature at that point, when the assembly is tightened up, the pot walls are only thin, it's not hard to flatten them :thumb: It also stops the ball valve from moving about having a larger mating surface area.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  18. Sep 4, 2011 #18

    WelshPaul

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    Ah, a female thread into a compression joint. That makes sense. :thumb:
     
  19. Sep 7, 2011 #19

    Darcey

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    All has arrived!
    [​IMG]

    Apart from Polycarb tubing... and a 40mm Q-Max, Aleman said he has one to sell but I havnt heard from him since so I may just hole saw em :twisted: ! as they are at the 'back' I wont mind too much if its not a 100% tidy job.. (but i will know deep down inside.. :oops: so I am going to wait to see if Aleman responds to my previous PM for 40mm Qmax)

    **Why did I doubt Aleman? Hole cutting time! :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: **
     
  20. Sep 15, 2011 #20

    Darcey

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    I havnt been brewing for at least 2 weeks (kits dont count), so I have got round to finishing the boiler and also building a sparge contraption for the cool box, just a grain bed filter to build, and Rauchbier brew next tuesday.

    So.. anyway! Today was the water / boil test...
    [​IMG]
    and as you might beable to make out.. (the wet patch to the left) it wasnt totaly succesful. So I re JB'd and I'll recomence boil test and sight tube calibration tomorrow when set.

    I understand the shiny.... I am converted... :cool:
    [​IMG]

    Still abit wet... oh and the boiler is too... :oops:
    [​IMG]

    It has been for the most part an enjoyable build. I did cock up with the Q-max after forgetting to remove the previous cutting and jammed the thead, careful hammering sorted that one. JB weld is a joy to use (sofar) and all the parts were delivered pretty quick. I will deff be building a new HLT when I get the cash.. be i think a thermobox false bottom mash tun is next :twisted: :twisted:

    I'll start a new thread if I update anything else as I have taken up abit 2 pages of posts on this how too! If any noobs (like me) want to PM i'll be happy to help with any part of the process or advise where I can!
    Happy happy joy joy! :D :D :D :D :D :D :D
    D
     

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