Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Any hardware used for mashing, fermenting or aging.

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Oaty
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Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Oaty » Wed May 21, 2008 7:18 am

Since we have answered this so many times, I thought a Sticky was in order.

There are many ways to connect your ss beer keg to your column. Each has it's advantages and drawbacks. Can you solder, mig, sig, ??
Most of us lack the skill or more importantly the equiptment.

The Bowl Method

I won't go into details as this method is covered very well at the infamous moonshine-still site.http://www.moonshine-still.com/page18.htm . A word of warning: it's infamous because of it's Internal Reflux Still design. Don't build it. I did. Don't.
Keg cut open
Image
Bowl Flange
Image
Keg Adapter
Image


Basically, this entails cutting a hole in the top of the keg, bolting a common stainless kitchen bowl to the keg and bolting the column to the bowl. It has two major advantages: First the hole is large allowing easy cleaning of your Big old Pot (BOP). Second, as everything is bolted there is no welding or soldering involved. Many have used this method successfully. It looks a bit rough, but it works well.

Welding Soldering

If you have the skills and access to equiptment welding and soldering may be a good method for you to try. With this method you can connect using any of the other methods shown for the connection or simply weld/solder standard pipe fittings to the keg and column. Then, the column can be screwed into the keg. It's major advantage is the elimination of all gaskets and washers. Though, some seal may be added at the screw point , usually teflon tape. Note: plastic, even teflon is frowned upon by many when in contact with the distillate. Let's not get into that discussion.

Tri-Clamp Connection

Manly used in the Dairy industry tri-clamp connections are a very easy way to make your connection. They are available from many sources. Here are a few to get you started: Saint Patrick's of Texashttp://www.stpats.com/index.htm; Hamby Dairy Supply http://hambydairysupply.com/xcart/home.php; Mile High Distilling http://www.milehidistilling.com/SearchR ... =tri+clamp; Brewhaushttp://www.brewhaus.com/; even E-Bay.

A Keg has a Sanke Valve connection which is quite similiar to the tri-clamp ferrule , enabling easy connection . Removal of the sanke valve is quite easy. Detailed instructions are available at the St. Pat's URL listed above under there subheading barrel tools. Note: these tools are not needed to remove the valve and are very expensive. What is important to understand is that the left over beer in the keg likely is creating pressure in the keg. This must be relieved. Press down on the ball of the valve with fingers are a stiff metal object such as a sturdy screw driver. Now, that the pressure has been removed be aware that due to jostling it can build up again and may need to be relieved again. The valve itself is held in by a sanke ring. This is simply a a flat singular stainless washer appearing thing. While holding the ball valve down. Use a sharp thin object- a paring knife works well- find the end of the ring and pry it out. Then, the valve can be lifted out.
Removal Os Sanke Valve
Image
You are left with the keg which has a spout that is similiar to a Tri-Clamp ferrule.
Sanke Valve
Image


If you are welding Cut this ferrule out. And weld/Solder-high temp solder a tri-clamp ferrule onto the keg. Some prefer to cut a 4 inch hole into the keg and weld a 4 inch ferrule. This allows for easy access to the interior for cleaning. Others like to use a 2 inch ferrule. This can be welded as in the case of the 4 inch, but most simply use the tri-clamp like ferrule that is already on the keg as it entails no welding.

Now, a ferrule can also be welded to the column. Many opt to solder a female pipe fitting to the column. Then, using a male tri-clamp to female pipe adapter the column has a screwed together tri-clamp connector.
Keg with welded ferrule option
Image

Using any of the above TC methods the two TC surface can now be clamped together using a TC clamp and TC washer. These washers are available in rubber, silicon and teflon. Due temperature and high alc abv teflon is recommended over rubber or silicon. It should be noted that many object to any any did I say any... plastic in the vapour stream. Towards this end there are a couple of strongly recomended alternatives. A flour paste seal is used in many situations. Just make a flour paste the consistency of dough to make a gasket. Another alternative is the use of a cork gasket. Uncle Jessie cautions, "...use only music quality cork. the kind they use to repair woodwinds and such. the others are held together with rubber or epoxies and we know what a strong solvent such as alcohol vapor will do to those." The washers might have a stronger mechanical capability, but the natural alternatives won't leach chemicals into your alc.

Tri-Clamp
Image



TC male to FNPT Adapter
Image

Butt Weld TC Ferrules
Image

If you connected the keg using it's own TC like ferrule , note that a TC ferrule has indents running circular around it. The washer also has mirror images of this in order to fit tightly and not allow side-to-side movement. The keg ferrule does not have these indents. The washer will not seal the connection. One side of the washer must be sliced flat and sanded smooth to match the flat surface of the keg's ferrule. There is a new washer Sanke to TC available, but I've only seen it at the St. Pat's URL. It does not require this modification. You can find it under the barrel tools section.
Last edited by Oaty on Thu May 22, 2008 4:20 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by vuduchyld » Wed May 21, 2008 8:41 am

awesome post!!! Thank you!

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by absinthe » Thu May 22, 2008 9:33 pm

if you have a spare keg and you only want to use it as a BOP not as a still boiler then heres a vid i made describing where to cut and what you get:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szfW_rhz0iQ" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Husker » Sun May 25, 2008 5:18 am

Excellent addition and visual explanation, absinthe. Now, that is a BOP I will make when I get another keg in. Right now, I have a 8.5" hole in the top of mine, and use it for a BOP, and for the still boiler. However, that smaller hole, makes paddling a mash/wash hard to do. The fully opened like like shown would make stirring that while heatup MUCH easier. Glad that post was added to the sticky.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by absinthe » Sun May 25, 2008 7:28 am

there is one small addition or change i would make to the design i posted.. and thats a "third" handle in between to side handles on one side.. i would just make pouring much easier as you could grab the bottom lip on the keg and the third handle and pour out between the the other two.. and you still have the nice handles with holes to lift and move it about with
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Oaty » Sun May 25, 2008 12:23 pm

Great Idea absinthe. Great video.

absinthe wrote:there is one small addition or change i would make to the design i posted.. and thats a "third" handle in between to side handles on one side.. i would just make pouring much easier as you could grab the bottom lip on the keg and the third handle and pour out between the the other two.. and you still have the nice handles with holes to lift and move it about with

You could probably buy the third handle at any hardware store & then spot weld or rivet it on. A couple more ideas like that and I think we've got a great wiki.
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by jdonly1 » Sun May 25, 2008 3:42 pm

I just put the word out that I am after a 50 litre keg,looks like I will have 3 or 4 by the end of the week :wink:

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by absinthe » Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:12 am

when i say a third handle i mean just another section of the rolled edge left behind so you can grab the round lip
Whiskey, the most popular of the cold cures that don't work (Leonard Rossiter)

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by billy_bob_95 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:54 pm

This is how I attached my column to the boiler. There is another stainless steel flange on the underside of the mixing bowl.
Column Attachment.jpg
Column Attachment.jpg (15.82 KiB) Viewed 49870 times
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by blanikdog » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:10 pm

Great stuff, Absinthe. I'll be checking the local pubs over the next month or so. :)

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by StabbyJoe » Mon Aug 04, 2008 8:59 pm

I know nothing about welding, soldering or brazing... except 6 years ago I soldered the most simple circuit board you've ever seen... nothing big or requiring flux etc. Perfectly willing to pay someone else to do that part for me and I know someone who might be able to help me out with that...

Anyway I was thinking of ways to stick some 2" copper pipe straight to the bowl and I thought maybe a good weld would hold it... Didn't want to use an auto flange like in the tutorial... Figured the reason auto flanges were used was to give a good sturdy join without a weld... Friend told me today that he was pretty sure you couldn't weld copper to stainless...
So I suppose I need an auto flange then, anyway?

Wondering why exactly people use one as I have read the guide linked a couple of times and do not recall there being a reason.


Was originally going to use the other method which seems great and easier, but I want to make cleaning my still as little of a chose as possible (figure the restricted access will make life difficult) and I want internal heating and I think that getting the element into the keg and holding it in place while I fasten it in whatever way it needs to be fastened might not even be possible... if it is, it seems damn hard to say the least...

little help?

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Dnderhead » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:25 am

Yes you can weld copper to stainless Iv done it with tig a bunch of times and with mig on a bet and it worked good
(someone said it could not be done)

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by trthskr4 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:31 am

I brazed a 2" copper MPT fitting straight to the Sanke on my keg, won't say it was the easiest thing I've done but not the hardest either. Had a couple of leaks that I had to patch but works now.
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Xnerd » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:46 am

Im finishing up a pot still (I think) made out of a 15 gallon keg much like the one in the picture.
I wish I had it finished enough to post a picture...

I want to end up with whiskey, and I am not all too concern about achieving a high APV. It seems like most people want to make rocket fuel that attempt this at home.

The reason that I said (I think) I am creating a pot still is that I am not making a large packed column. But due to other factors mentioned around here I am a little concern what will come out of this thing. I suppose that heat control could be the beggest factor here. I guess I will find out

Basically I have a 15 gallon keg with about a 26 inch one inch copper column. I used small(ish) copper so to actually reduce the amount of reflux that this keg design inherently is supposed to promote. (I hope common sense has served me here). Attached to the top of the copper column is a one inch tee; the top of the tee (the run) is used for a thermo couple to with I have built a digital readout. (thermometer) Attached to the tee is one inch copper about 18 inches long at a right angle (common). Attached to the arm here I used a 1 inch 45, another short one inch length of copper and then a reducer to ¾ inch.
Then I built a 34/1 inch condenser about 3 feet long.

So basically I have a big pot with about 7 feet of copper after the column (three feet at the end cooled). I have a device that will chill water down to 0 C and circulate water through tubing. I don’t know how good this will work because it only holds a couple of gallons of water to chill. It might not be able to keep up with the steam heat. We will see; it chills fairly aggressively.

So would you say that I have more of a hybrid still in the works? I am thinking that this thing would function at its best with at least 10 gallons; again if common sense is my friend.


I am having a little trouble with the attaching the fitting to the stainless bowl. I have a welding setup and some history of brazing so I have brazed a 2 by 1 copper reducer to the top of a stainless bowl but not well. I have found that the stainless wants to curl downward while brazing, so a lot of brass was used to fill the gap. I don’t like this at all and I am going to cut this off of the system before I continue. I have another bowl and was thinking that perhaps I should braze this fitting in place BEFORE cutting the hole. Maybe that would prevent some of the curling.

I really do not want to use a flange because I have zero access to 2 inch copper right now. I have 30 gallons of wash that will be more then ready by the up coming weekend and it is going to be processed come hell or High water. This will be interesting to say the least

Let me know what you think.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by StabbyJoe » Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:44 pm

Don't see how that's a hybrid... sounds like a relatively standard keg pot still... People tend to design a condenser of appropriate length (if liebig) and make the rest to lengths that suit how high they want the output off the ground and how far away from the boiler they want it... Sounds like you pretty much did that. 26" in height of copper out of the top of the still seems like more than others use - usually more like 20-30cm... but yours sounds like it has no packing or a cooling system before the condenser that knocks down the output into liquid... so about as much reflux (stuff all) as any other pot still...

Could be wrong.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by absinthe » Tue Aug 26, 2008 3:35 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G7Ypf5Ojno" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Whiskey, the most popular of the cold cures that don't work (Leonard Rossiter)

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Piter » Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:59 pm

Thanks Oaty. I just picked up a half barrel and pony keg and plan to put the information to good use. I plan on using the direct connection method (c-clamp) initially. 8)
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Oaty » Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:06 am

Piter wrote:Thanks Oaty. I just picked up a half barrel and pony keg and plan to put the information to good use. I plan on using the direct connection method (c-clamp) initially. 8)
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Trails-End » Sun Aug 31, 2008 5:01 am

This helped a lot.. THANK YOU :D

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by RumBull » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:25 pm

http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... =16&t=8550 Page three of this post shows how you can make your own sankey adapter out of 2" copper. It works great!
copper sankey adapter
copper sankey adapter
P1010065_edited.JPG (12.52 KiB) Viewed 30448 times
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by pro65 » Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:30 am

billy_bob_95 wrote:This is how I attached my column to the boiler. There is another stainless steel flange on the underside of the mixing bowl.
The attachment Column Attachment.jpg is no longer available

Hey guys I am new hear but wanted to respond to this thread. This looks just like the, still I use,But i also used the collectors from automotive headers. No welding nesacery I took my 2" copper pipe with me and he put the flange over the copper pipe and swelled the end of the copper pipe into the flange and it is tight as crap and does not leak at all. When I figure out how to load a pic I will.
Attachments
top 001.jpg
top 001.jpg (11.09 KiB) Viewed 26763 times
Last edited by pro65 on Fri Jan 09, 2009 7:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Hawke » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:15 pm

Pro,
If that is automotive gasket cork (or cheap craft store for that matter), you need to get rid of it. The rubber and/or glue used to bind it will leach into the distillate.
Use flour paste for a seal instead.
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by rad14701 » Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:54 pm

pro65, I sure hope those license plates don't lead right to your door... Nice car's, by the way...

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by pro65 » Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:31 pm

rad14701 wrote:pro65, I sure hope those license plates don't lead right to your door... Nice car's, by the way...
Thanks for the comments about the cars. That is what I do for a living. That might be why I stay broke :lol: .
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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by pitch&play » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:09 am

What are the ways to tell if a keg is SS. Is there any way to tell before you drive to pickup one, or buy off of ebay, or something of the sort.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by Husker » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:29 am

If the keg is a "skirted Sankey" type (newer type, like a cylinder), then it will be SS.

If it is one of the old fat-boy (big ring bulge in the middle of the keg), then do not buy it sight unseen (i.e. off ebay). Some of these are SS and some are AL.

People that know much of anything about metals can easily tell the difference. AL will be MUCH thicker, and it is also a whiter metal than SS. If you have any trouble telling, take a pocket knife and scratch the thing (without using "too" much pressure). You will have a hell of a time scratching SS. AL will scratch with a knife very easily.

As a side note, AL kegs are not all that common, at least around where I live.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by FeralPig » Fri Feb 06, 2009 7:02 pm

This is a great site and I appreciate the advice more than words can say. But I missed the section where everyone says "DO NOT CUT THE TOP OUT OF YOUR KEG...USE A CLAMP". Yes, I know it is posted everywhere but I missed it. Dear gawd..that was a mistake. We finally got it all built but man how I wish I had used the tri-clover clamp instead of cutting the top out of a perfectly good keg. Ultimately we used the exhaust flange but silver soldering it to the 2" copper column made me invent some new 4 letter words. So we are building a second still as soon as the redneck network can get me another keg (free of course). This will be from leftover 2 inch copper but using the clamp instead of cutting.

By the way...Hawk advised I make the condenser much larger than the plans and that was a damn great idea. Just a trickle of water is all that is needed to do the job.

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51" LM and a 24" Pot still with 62" Liebig with turbulator and spiral coolant swirler thingy. Both running on an unmodified keg with Tri-clover clamp attachment.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by 2pups » Sat Feb 07, 2009 6:21 am

A friend of mine showed up at my shop with a stainlees keg , never seen the size before , its total volume is 5.16 gal. It stands 22-1/2 inches high ,and is 9-1/4 inches wide , He wanted to know if it would make a good boiler , I wasnt sure , so I thought I would turn to here for some help . Also , if it is worth using for a boiler , what would be the best design for the column , any advice would be appreciated. The keg minus top handle rim and 2-1/2 inch bottom rim would be 16 inches if thats any more help for the question at hand .

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by brewmaker1 » Sat Feb 07, 2009 8:11 am

Sounds like a 6th barrel size. If it has the skirt and ring it should be stainless and will work fine as a boiler. I'd get a 2" tri-clamp http://www.brewhaus.com/Tri_Clamp_2in_C ... 004010.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow instead of cutting the top out and make the copper fitting like shown above. Nice thing about using the tri-clamp, he can pick up a 15.5 gallon keg when he gets tired of using the little one and the column will clamp right on. Even use both. Big keg for stripping runs and little one for spirit runs.

Edited: You mentioned dimensions without the rims. I doubt you were thinking about it, but in case you are, don't cut the rims off.

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Re: Using a Keg as a Big Old Pot

Post by 2pups » Sat Feb 07, 2009 8:35 am

Thanks Brewmaker for the keg help , no he didnt want to cut the top and bottom skirts off . Now he just needs a good column design for it .

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