Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

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Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:37 pm

Here is how I make free airlocks for my small carbouys, fermenters, jugs, or whatever you want to call the vessels I use for experimental recipes. Most of my experimental recipes are done in either 3 liter plastic soda bottles or 4 liter glass wine jugs. I have discovered that the vitamin bottles that several of my daily vitamins come in can be made into perfect little airlocks. They even have an added benefit of being able to catch small amounts of accidental foaming should a recipe get a little too aggressive during initial fermentation.

Sure, I could just let the washes ferment without the benefit of airlocks but there are several reasons why I prefer to use them. One reason I use them is because I always have, just as my father and uncles did years ago. Another reason is to keep things like fruit flies and other contaminants out of the wash. But perhaps the most important reason for using them is so I can keep track of the progress of fermentation. I make a note of how fast each wash is bubbling at the start and then monitor how quickly the bubbling progressively slows to a complete stop, indicating that it's time to either let the wash settle, or rack it into the boiler. Some washes bubble so aggressively at the start that there is no way to count the bubbles coming out, which is a good indicator of a vigorous ferment.

Anyway, on with the construction process. First, the parts list. You'll need an empty vitamin pill bottle, and old stick style pen, an an old dried up Sharpie marker or equivalent, and a hot glue gun. You can use a drill to make the hole through the cap and the bottom of the bottle, or you can use a soldering pencil to melt them like I do. I won't be providing step by step directions or pictures but I think the pictures provided will make construction relatively self-explanatory. It should go without saying that all parts should be properly sanitized both before and after assembly.

I start out by cleaning the pill bottle and removing the label, unless I'm too lazy to take the label off. It works just as well with or without the label. The nice part about this is that the lid fits the bottles and jugs perfectly. The bottles I use are the 60 – 100 count size.

Now, because I use a soldering pencil to make the hole through the cap and bottle I glue the two together first using a hot glue gun. I use a 40W soldering pencil to carefully melt a hole through the center of the assembly. As soon as the hole is big enough to allow the vent tube to fit through, all I need to do is to make sure it is properly positioned and somewhat straight. Then I just add a small amount of hot glue around the vent tube inside the cap and the airlock is done.

The nice part about this design is that I can use the original bottle cap on top of the airlock, only screwed on loosely, to keep the water from evaporating and to keep the cap from getting lost. Simplicity at its best. Better yet, it's made from parts just kicking around the house.

The raw parts used.

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The actual parts used.

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The parts laid out prior to assembly.

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The finished airlock ready for use.

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Example of what the airlock looks like in use.

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I hope someone finds this information helpful. The entire process can be adjusted to individual needs and resources onhand.

If this topic would be better served in another section, I'd appreciate it if the moderation team would move it.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Pop Larkin » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:03 pm

Cool idea Rad. I'm all about making stuff out of "free" bits I have lying around. I'm going to try & make one similar but perhaps a little bigger. I have just started my first batch of mash running tonight but I am using a jar of water with a length of tube from the fermenter into the water in the jar. It will work Ok but is cumbersome.

Thanks
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Pop Larkin » Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:08 am

I made an airlock just as rad said but went a little bigger. It works great. Much better than the ol' tube in jar airlock I was trying to use before. Real neat & tidy & I don't have to worry about knocking the jar over anymore. Highly recommended (& not just because it's cheap, although that's part of it) :D

Thanks Rad

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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:49 pm

I have a 250-600 count vitamin bottle waiting to be made into an airlock... Probably about pint sized or bigger... The neat part about the design is that you can use the lid of your fermenter, a cork, or poke the vent tube through a grommet in the lid... Whatever works best... :idea:

I can't count how many wine ferments I've done with the hose and jar technique, nor the amount of spilled water jars... Store bought airlocks weren't always practical, partly due to our creativity when it came to fermenters - like garbage bags in a garbage can tied around a hose... I'd never do that with todays garbage bags... :roll:
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Husker » Sat Feb 07, 2009 4:00 pm

Nice, but damn, a bit of an engineering overkill. Whatever happened to the hose with it's end fastened to stick under the surface of a bowl water. Simplest airlock I can think of, and works 100% of the time also ;)

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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:32 pm

Husker wrote:Nice, but damn, a bit of an engineering overkill. Whatever happened to the hose with it's end fastened to stick under the surface of a bowl water. Simplest airlock I can think of, and works 100% of the time also ;)

H.

Not overkill for my small work area... And, again, I've cleaned up far to many spills in the past... These unscrew and stand off the the side nice and stable and won't spill if tipped over if you remember tighten the cap before removal... If you fill them less than 1/3 full they are virtually immune to spillage even when lying on their side...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Ayay » Sat Feb 07, 2009 6:31 pm

Very neat! Is the Sharpie barrel just pressed onto the other tube? If so, do you drill a little hole in the side of the other tube near the top?

One thing the bought airlocks do is they work both ways because of the double chambers and they won't suck the airlock water into the fermenter. I guess that feature is only needed if the ferment goes on for months; or if the plastic fermenting container is being handled during the ferment.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:35 pm

Ayay wrote:Very neat! Is the Sharpie barrel just pressed onto the other tube? If so, do you drill a little hole in the side of the other tube near the top?

One thing the bought airlocks do is they work both ways because of the double chambers and they won't suck the airlock water into the fermenter. I guess that feature is only needed if the ferment goes on for months; or if the plastic fermenting container is being handled during the ferment.

Brew shops sell similar units as a "Three Piece Airlock"... I've always preferred them over the "Twin Bubble Airlock" design...

In my example the Sharpie barrel drops loosely over the stick pen vent tube... CO2 comes up the vent tube, fills the Sharpie barrel and forces an air bubble down through the water until it pops out below the Sharpie barrel and up through the water into the atmosphere...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby phanmo » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:52 am

I use a big cork with a hole drilled in it, a small tube running from that into an old spice bottle with a couple of cms of water in it. I usually duct tape the spice bottle to the jerry-can so I can move the whole thing easily without opening the airlock.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:53 am

@Moonshine_Mike & phanmo

I've used virtually every one of those techniques over the years... Using them is what has led me to this design... Granted, for larger fermenters a more robust method may be required... I've even used hoses from multiple (4-6) large fermenters running into one bucket of water... It's all relative to overall scale...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Dnderhead » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:58 am

If you can git around old commercial vehicles, grab the fire extinguisher bracket . works good to hold the jar
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby big worm » Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:19 pm

the wine shop here sells them for $.75 each
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:04 pm

big worm wrote:the wine shop here sells them for $.75 each

Wine shops around here dried up and blew away years ago... :(
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby pumpman » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:29 am

Yall are just smack yourself silly when you see this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVBIPerTRQc&NR=1
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:43 am

pumpman wrote:Yall are just smack yourself silly when you see this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVBIPerTRQc&NR=1

Yeah, I've seen that video... Left plenty of overhead in those 2L bottles... Barely gonna get 1oz of spirits from that amount of wash...

Used that type of airlock many years ago when making wine...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby pumpman » Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:05 pm

I agry using those bottles is a big waste of time. However the airlocks are the easiest I've seen and can be used on anything.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby eternalfrost » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:48 pm

When I was a kid we used to mke hard cider in the fall. you an air lock you just put a balloon over the top with a few needle holes poked in it(while NOT blown up :roll: ), works like a charm and you can tell when its done cuz the balloons go flat again.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby blanikdog » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:18 pm

Way back in my fruit wine making days, I found that the tube in a bottle of water was OK until the thing started to suck backwards and all the shitty water finished in the wine and there was no airlock at all.

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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:22 pm

blanikdog wrote:Way back in my fruit wine making days, I found that the tube in a bottle of water was OK until the thing started to suck backwards and all the shitty water finished in the wine and there was no airlock at all.

blanik

Been there, done that - more than once...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby blanikdog » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:25 pm

Sux - so to speak - doesn't it rad? :roll:

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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:44 pm

Sure does, especially when you have hoses from several fermenters running into that empty jar... Ended up with 4 spoiled 6 gallon concord grape ferments when a jar got sucked dry while out of town for a weekend... That was the last time I ran cubes (4 square plastic fermenters) into one jar... After that they all got their own jar in an effort to minimize losses...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby wnc_dew » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:20 pm

Thanks for the tutorial. Do you use silicone to bond the 2l bottle cap to the pill bottle? If the bonding agent was stated earlier in a post I must of missed it.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby rad14701 » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:33 pm

wnc_dew wrote:Thanks for the tutorial. Do you use silicone to bond the 2l bottle cap to the pill bottle? If the bonding agent was stated earlier in a post I must of missed it.

All done with a hot glue gun...
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Titus-a-fishus » Fri May 20, 2011 7:32 pm

Though this thread goes back a bit it is still interesting.
Thanks for your info RAD

I saw a thread regarding a silencer airlock and decided to try making one.
Here is the result

Image

Came up pretty good but with all the pipework inside it took about 3 hours to make
Added to that it was too quiet!!

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Last edited by Titus-a-fishus on Fri May 20, 2011 7:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Titus-a-fishus » Fri May 20, 2011 7:36 pm

So today I made one similar to Rad's...... but in copper of course

Image

Only an hour and a half to make.
Would have been faster if I hadn't made the flange/reducer.
Much simpler design and this way you can see it working, with the other one you can't as it is a sealed unit.

It does bubble but still much quieter than the plastic ones
Image

Cheers
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Last edited by Titus-a-fishus on Fri May 20, 2011 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby WalkingWolf » Fri May 20, 2011 7:38 pm

Looks nice T-a-F -- top-shelf
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Bushman » Sat May 21, 2011 5:36 am

Thanks Titus-a-fishus for bringing up an old post I hadn't seen before. Rad is definitely creative in coming up with designs and you have taken it to the next level.
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby Titus-a-fishus » Sat May 21, 2011 12:44 pm

Thanks Guys
Must have too much time on my hands :D

One correction I have to make....
The second airlock makes as much or as little noise as the plastic ones.
Was sitting outside this morning and listening, there was no real difference in sound.

Also found that if you put too much water into it the water will siphon out back into the fermenter :wtf:
So should you make one make sure the tube from the fermenter is higher than the reserve for the water.
That will stop it from ever being a problem.

The first one I made has veeery little sound but as I said took too long to make.
A possible improvement would be to make a simpler version that didn't use water at all, then it would be completely silent.

Cheers
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Re: Construct A Free Airlock From Spare Parts

Postby frozenthunderbolt » Sat May 21, 2011 5:35 pm

Titus-a-fishus wrote:Thanks Guys

A possible improvement would be to make a simpler version that didn't use water at all, then it would be completely silent.

Cheers
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