Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

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Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:36 pm

Well, this is more just a post to anyone putting together their own rig to simply do it right the first time and avoid doing it twice. For those who are well beyond me in knowledge and experience this will be painfully obvious to you. For a noob just wanting to get started it might not be so obvious.

I initially did not know where to source Tri-Clover type sanitary fittings and accessories, so when deciding on a direction to take I removed the Sanke fitting from my keg to fit a 2" NPT fitting, since I did know where I could get plumbing supplies. The 2" NPT, though functional, was a PITA to use. This was especially true as it was the only available way to fill my rig once I started stripping multiple boiler charges. This was my initial mistake when getting started. If you don't want to mess with real fabrication, then leave the Sanke on there and just remove the valve and spear. Available sanitary fittings will work and only the gasket will need a little modification.

Fast forward to a state of more knowledge and experience. Now knowing where to get better parts from I have gotten around to the pictured upgrades. The top port is a 6" ferrule for cleaning. I bored out a 6" cap to accept a heavy walled 3" ferrule and TIG welded that into place. I did this because I could not find the exact thing I wanted. A neighbour who owns a custom stainless exhaust shop made me a 3" to 2" adapter which is TIG welded to a 3" ferrule and soldered to my existing 2" column. The rim has been cut back and a 3" ferrule attached for refilling the keg with the column attached. This arrangement is strip run heaven. I even made a funnel with a 3" ferrule and a medium sized mixing bowl. I can now go from power off to power back on in about 15 minutes.
IMG_1375.JPG
Basically I'm offering this advice to noobs that are in or about to be in the position I have been through. You will need patience and a few $ to do things right. If you have to wait a little to get started, that's OK. There's lots of reading and research you can be doing in the meantime. Better to build what you want and need at the start than go though multiple iterations unnecessarily. Of course my example may not suit someone else but it is illustrative of where I was and where I should have been.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Yummyrum » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:23 am

Thanks for posting zed . You've done a nice job there . :thumbup:

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by firewater69 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:32 am

Very nice work zed.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by fizzix » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:56 am

Good going, Zed. No greater satisfaction than "getting it right!"

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Samyguy » Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:38 am

book marking this one

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Oldvine Zin » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:24 pm

Nicely done - a fill port and a drain :thumbup:

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by freefall » Tue Feb 27, 2018 2:12 am

I think everyone has builders remorse. I bought two kegs. I got one up and running. My second will have a drain port in it. A 6 ot 8 inch opening and possibly a filll port. It's getting a bit hard to be picking that sucker up when its hot and dumping it in the sink .

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:03 am

freefall wrote:I think everyone has builders remorse. I bought two kegs. I got one up and running. My second will have a drain port in it. A 6 ot 8 inch opening and possibly a filll port. It's getting a bit hard to be picking that sucker up when its hot and dumping it in the sink .
I knew I wanted a drain right away, so I installed one during my initial build. I'd suggest doing it in 3/4" or even 1" for a faster drain, mine is 1/2" and I do wish I'd done it in a larger size at times.

A 6" port is big enough to reach inside, I can go right up to my shoulder and reach anywhere inside my keg. An 8" is added expense unless you have large arms and NEED the added access.

A fill port is sweet, highly recommended.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Expat » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:08 am

Looks great Zed :thumbup:

I've been working on the same thought and just got the fittings welded to my new keg boiler yesterday. Excited to get it finished up. I flipped my keg and used the existing Sankey as a drain port (3/4" stainless elbow soldered to a 2" bored out cap). 2" for element adapter. 2" fill port. And a 3" coupling for my column.

So far I didn't cut back the rim of the keg, mainly because I was uncertain about how best to do it.

My previous keg was a weldless setup which worked well but this will be much better. As you said, as it should have been :)
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Bushman » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:41 am

My view on helping newbies. I started with a 2" VM with a keg boiler and quickly realized that I wouldn't be using it very long as it lacked flexibility. Love my 4" CM. What I like and wish I had done. Love the 4" column as my stillin time is 3-4 times faster, love having a CM as there is no product I drink that I can't make, love my drain port, love the conversion to electricity. What I wish I had: A drain port, more modular build for extended flexibility.

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by jon1163 » Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:04 pm

Great job man. I basically did the same thing and love mine. Wow some more photos... Did you build a thumper as well?

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by OtisT » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:27 pm

Looks really nice. I've been making a few of my own and learning not only what I like located where, but also how to TIG weld. My first one looks like crap, but it sure don't leak. I refer to it as Frankenstein's Keg.

I am also happy with the 6" opening for access, though I think I would spill a bit less with an 8". I found that a 6" hole is the minimum size that allows me to weld the backs of my fittings, to make them sanitary.

I have a 1.5" ferrule for a drain and clamp a 1/2" ball valve and spigot to it. Plenty fast enough, especially working with hot liquids. I like a previous posters idea of inverting the keg and using the existing 2" port for a drain. I guess that means I will be adding legs to my next build too. I've seen kegs with nice round legs but am thinking of using angle iron instead which should be easier to attach. It should look like an R2 unit when done ;-)

The only thing I don't have now that I want is a thermo-well in the boiler. Like all other thermometers on a still it's not necessary to make a good drop, but I found the one temp I frequently do want to know is my boiler liquid temp.


FYI on your custom 6" to 3" ferrule fitting: If you don't want to cut and weld your own next time, Glacier Tanks sells these in various sizes. I have a 6" to 2" and a 6" to 3".

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by The Baker » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:32 pm

Otis, fit three legs not four.
Three will adapt to an uneven floor, four will not.

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by OtisT » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:38 pm

The Baker wrote:Otis, fit three legs not four.
Three will adapt to an uneven floor, four will not.

Geoff
Thanks. I would not have thought of that myself (the first time.) They say a wise man learns from his mistakes, and a really wise man learns from the mistakes of others. ;-)

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Expat » Tue Feb 27, 2018 5:21 pm

OtisT wrote: I have a 1.5" ferrule for a drain and clamp a 1/2" ball valve and spigot to it. Plenty fast enough, especially working with hot liquids. I like a previous posters idea of inverting the keg and using the existing 2" port for a drain. I guess that means I will be adding legs to my next build too. I've seen kegs with nice round legs but am thinking of using angle iron instead which should be easier to attach. It should look like an R2 unit when done ;-)
The idea of flipping the keg has been kicking around on HD longer than I've been here :) It definitely works nicely. The 3/4" elbow fitting protrudes below the rim about an inch, so as you say, small legs are required. I prefer a bottom drain as it means I can wash out all the solids. The 1/2" drain on my old keg isn't bad... but 3/4" will be better, and will match the input side of my brew pump :D
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by cede » Tue Feb 27, 2018 5:45 pm

I was about to flip the keg too, but I would loose the handles.
So I'll add bellow a 3/4 elbow and pipe to a ball valve in front for draining and some legs with casters.

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Tue Feb 27, 2018 7:07 pm

Some pics of my drain and stand ca be found here:

viewtopic.php?t=65873&p=7479729#p7479729
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Expat » Tue Feb 27, 2018 7:29 pm

Dam Zed, that's a nice piece of custom fab. Perfect form and function.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by SherrodBrown » Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:57 pm

I envy you. Good work there ! Unfortunately I can't affort a TIG for my project yet. Not even a second hand.
However my own boiler project is progressing very good. I have one of those 7 gallon juice maker /jam boiler in stainless steel with a tap in the bottom. Today I finally made it totally sealed. No vapour escaped for my third testrun . I only boil water to begin with. I put a few screws in the lid and sealed with aquarium silicone. One day I will destill real alcohol in it...one day :roll:

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Jimy Dee » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:38 am

Zed,
A great and educational post, well done. Just to add my 2 cents worth, once one gets to a nice rig and finding the sweet spot to run it etc, the mind wonders to doing things with efficiency and in a time saving way.
I discovered a few beneficial protocols in this regards that work for me
1. Add a thumper to your pot as soon as possible. 1.5ish distillations per run. I'd say most who added a thumper to a pot never looked back, and probably wished they added it sooner than they did. My opinion only of course.
2. Ferment and strip ON the grain - again depends on what u making. This is good for corn. In other words I have a stainless steel container that I can ferment in, once finished fermenting, I leave all fermented contents in the fermenter and put in a steam probe and steam strip the likker out of it. There is a separate section here on HD on steam so I am not delving into that. But this was another big step forward for me.
3. Make large fermentations in accordance with the weight of the grain feed bag being used. In other words I can get a 25 kg bag of agri grain feed and I use all this in one go by adding 100 liters of water. Again depends on what u are making, but it works for me and my likker.
The above save time and are efficient. Everyone to their own of course.
Final note is when stripping, strip all the ways down to under 20% ABV.
Hope this helps others. Jimy Dee

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by greggn » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:47 pm

SherrodBrown wrote:I put a few screws in the lid and sealed with aquarium silicone.

Uh, no. What is fine for water, at ambient temperatures, is not fine for high-temperature ethanol. Remove the silicone and replace it with a gasket using materials impervious to ethanol.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:46 pm

Jimy Dee wrote:Zed,
A great and educational post, well done. Just to add my 2 cents worth, once one gets to a nice rig and finding the sweet spot to run it etc, the mind wonders to doing things with efficiency and in a time saving way.
I discovered a few beneficial protocols in this regards that work for me
Yes, there are lots of good tips in lots of places. Not sure this fits with a boiler upgrade thread, but why not?
1. Add a thumper to your pot as soon as possible. 1.5ish distillations per run. I'd say most who added a thumper to a pot never looked back, and probably wished they added it sooner than they did. My opinion only of course.
Running a reflux rig, thumper need not apply. I can see times when a thumper could be a very good thing and if I take to pot stillin' or big AG mashes it will be a consideration.
2. Ferment and strip ON the grain - again depends on what u making. This is good for corn. In other words I have a stainless steel container that I can ferment in, once finished fermenting, I leave all fermented contents in the fermenter and put in a steam probe and steam strip the likker out of it. There is a separate section here on HD on steam so I am not delving into that. But this was another big step forward for me.
I ferment on everything, but have been squeezing and settling my washes as I run electric. As above, a thumper would make steam stripping a viable option.
3. Make large fermentations in accordance with the weight of the grain feed bag being used. In other words I can get a 25 kg bag of agri grain feed and I use all this in one go by adding 100 liters of water. Again depends on what u are making, but it works for me and my likker.
I typically ferment about 200l at a time and make multiple strips prior to a spirit run. Common protocol that I have advocated here myself.
The above save time and are efficient. Everyone to their own of course.
Final note is when stripping, strip all the ways down to under 20% ABV.
Hope this helps others. Jimy Dee
For a sugar head I stop at 20% ABV as going lower does not yield much that is good. For grains there's flavour down low and it can be worth it depending on the recipe.

Thanks for the comments Jimmy Dee.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:01 pm

SherrodBrown wrote:I envy you. Good work there ! Unfortunately I can't affort a TIG for my project yet. Not even a second hand.
However my own boiler project is progressing very good. I have one of those 7 gallon juice maker /jam boiler in stainless steel with a tap in the bottom. Today I finally made it totally sealed. No vapour escaped for my third testrun . I only boil water to begin with. I put a few screws in the lid and sealed with aquarium silicone. One day I will destill real alcohol in it...one day :roll:
Oh dear! Silicone anything inside is a no-no!

There is a limited list of acceptable materials here and anything synthetic excepting teflon (PTFE) is in violation of forum rules. Also, many of these 'tea urn' type devices have plastic in other places making them unsuitable for distillation. The only other materials applicable are stainless steel (304 / 316 preferred), copper, some lead free brass is OK in areas of minimal contact and glass (borosilicate is best) for things like sight glasses. Of course, if it is outside the still - like feeding cooling water - those limitations do not apply.

Please review the forum rules, the 'what not to use' forum and read up on some of the better builds done by members here.
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Jimy Dee » Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:05 pm

Zed, have u a liebig? If so what way have you the tap/water control set up? Do u regulate the water coming into it or do u regulate the water leaving it? JD

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by SherrodBrown » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:41 am

zed255 wrote:
SherrodBrown wrote:I envy you. Good work there ! Unfortunately I can't affort a TIG for my project yet. Not even a second hand.
However my own boiler project is progressing very good. I have one of those 7 gallon juice maker /jam boiler in stainless steel with a tap in the bottom. Today I finally made it totally sealed. No vapour escaped for my third testrun . I only boil water to begin with. I put a few screws in the lid and sealed with aquarium silicone. One day I will destill real alcohol in it...one day :roll:
Oh dear! Silicone anything inside is a no-no!

There is a limited list of acceptable materials here and anything synthetic excepting teflon (PTFE) is in violation of forum rules. Also, many of these 'tea urn' type devices have plastic in other places making them unsuitable for distillation. The only other materials applicable are stainless steel (304 / 316 preferred), copper, some lead free brass is OK in areas of minimal contact and glass (borosilicate is best) for things like sight glasses. Of course, if it is outside the still - like feeding cooling water - those limitations do not apply.
I will move on with my next project with safer materials. Thanks for the advise. btw the particular silicone I used is food industry safe pressure safe and heat safe to 250 f. Could there be other safety concerns?

Please review the

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:02 am

SherrodBrown wrote:
I will move on with my next project with safer materials. Thanks for the advise. btw the particular silicone I used is food industry safe pressure safe and heat safe to 250 f. Could there be other safety concerns?

Please review the
Good idea.

Just because a product is 'food safe' or even 'medical grade' does not have any bearing on the distillation process. The environment inside a still can and will break down many materials we normally consider stable and otherwise safe. High temperature ethanol (and other more aggressive compounds found primarily in the foreshots) and the often rather acidic mash / wash / beer can have significant effects on various materials.

There are too many unknowns as well regarding what compounds various products break down into and what hazards they may pose to risk using them in a still. I'm not a chemist or a materials specialist and as such I'm happy to err on the side of caution. I can think on only one other material that would likely be safe but I won't mention it specifically because it is not approved by the community here. Best to stick with well proven materials and construction practises.

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Chucker » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:13 am

I rather purposed to go from the head assembly back and ensure that it would work on a variety of moderate boiler sizes so that the only real improvement would be to the boiler as I advanced. And since I was working with available scrounged hardware for my CM column the fitting size was 3” TC. At one point the project was started on a good sized jacketed cook kettle for a friend’s small scale commercial enterprise but was scrapped when the impracticality of it was realized.
I then put it on a stainless 10 gal milk can to which I welded a ferrule through the cap. It works fine and I still use it but was on the lookout for something better. A guy that worked in brewing asked me to help him build something so I told him I needed two legally acquired 1/2 bbls. One for his and the other as my tribute. These got drain valves and double as fermenters on occasion so I put another drain fitting at racking level. I had access to a specialized 8” collar/cap assembly and bored out the center for my 3” ferrule that still accepts the same head assembly. I still have scrap parts stockpiled for one more of these but I won’t waste my time to assemble anything for someone I don’t feel has the will to pursue and advance their knowledge of the craft.
My philosophy has been to grow but hopefully not outgrow myself. So if I improve my setup I can either still use previous parts/supplies without warehousing a bunch of obsolete stuff or repurpose them. Having a lowpoint drain sure has been a boon, however. Whether to empty when finished or for heating up strikewater for the next batch you gotta love letting gravity work for you when it comes to scalding hot liquids!
I’ve been really content with the present still and boiler setup and being able to use either of these pots, usually the keg for stripping and the can for spirit runs. Most of the advances over the past couple of seasons have come from improvements to fermenting and aging methods. Still learning.

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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by Cletus_Spuckler » Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:55 am

I'm on a posting rampage, so thought I'd may as well add another, even though this thread is old!

First of all, I love you work zed!

For mine, I cut the entire apron off the top of the keg, bar the two handles. Makes it cleaner looking IMO. I'd love to put a drain and fill port on it, but there's no way I'd invest anymore time/money into this one (the column connection is a bit iffy!).
119.jpg
The other thing I would love is, three or four tabs to screw adjustable feet onto, to make leveling on uneven surfaces easier.

btw, zed, I just saw your keg boiler stand :clap:
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Re: Upgrading My Boiler - The Way It Should Have Been!

Post by zed255 » Thu Aug 29, 2019 5:17 am

Thanks Cletus! I'd like to build another much like it but with a bigger drain and tri-clamp element connections.

For the stand using three feet, two of which are adjustable, is nice. You can easily get a nice level rig almost anywhere, within reason.
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