I use my March Pump to recirculate/vorlauf, transfer wort to my brew kettle, chill with a recirculating immersion chiller and transfer to my fermenter. It works great, helps me chill down very quickly and overall, it shaves a significant amount of time off my brew day.
Losing Prime, Cavitation and Clogs
When I first started using this pump, I struggled with it. It continually lost prime and, less often, clogged with grain material. Disassembling the pump head is not what I consider a real time saver. That’s no good!
Even after initially getting it primed, the pump was losing prime due to pump cavitation. Cavitation occurs when gas comes out of liquid and results in losing prime. Beyond that I had the occasional clog due to grain husks from the mash. Most brew days, I struggled with the pump, to some degree.
My first problem was… pump orientation. Originally, I had the inlet on the top and the outlet on the bottom. In that orientation, liquid hits the pump and has a tendency to stop. Having the inlet on the bottom and the outlet on the top works much better. The pump is nearly self priming in that orientation, but there were still issues with cavitation and clogging.
After continuing to struggle, I decided to add a priming/purge port.
Note: Although this post features a March pump, this assembly could be easily adapted to other manufacturers and models. You may need different fittings for your Chugger, Mk4, etc, but the concepts still apply. See our lineup of pump reviews to compare pumps
Install a Priming and Purging Port for Easy Homebrew Pump Operation
The port consists of several fittings on the “IN” (bottom) side of the pump. Those fittings have a QD that accepts incoming liquid (from mash tun or kettle) along with a tee and ball valve for priming/purging. To prime/purge I open the port and drain directly into a 1 gallon pitcher [Review]. That sets the grain bed, clears husk material and gets any vapor out of the tubing. After closing the prime/purge valve, the prime easily finishes when the ball valve on the “OUT” side of the pump is opened. As a reminder… always exercise caution when dealing with hot items and hot liquids.
This simple addition to my setup allows me to easily and quickly prime the pump and stave off potential clogs by clearing out husks before starting up the pump.
On port placement… I have used this configuration since 2012 and it has worked great for me. I’ve received mostly positive feedback but, for some reason, this is a hot button topic. The biggest point of contention seems to be port placement. I’ve placed the priming/purge port on the “IN” side of the pump to easily clear husk material and avoid clogs. That means I don’t need to manually vorlauf before hooking up tubing. It could be placed on the “OUT” side without the benefit of clearing husk material.
I call my setup a priming/purge port, because it does both of those things. It’s installed on the “IN” side of the pump. If you have yours installed on the “OUT” side… we can still be friends :).
I reached out to March Pump to ask them to verify my setup. Here’s the response I received from Otto at March Pump on 7/26/16… “Our engineers reviewed it, looks good.”
My setup consists of (top to bottom)…
Male Camlock QD – Camlocks at ProFlow
Stainless 1/2″ Full Port Ball Valve [for controlling flow] |
“OUT” side of pump
March High Flow Homebrew Pump
“IN” side of pump
1/2″ Street Elbow – OR Search Amazon for “1/2 stainless street elbow”
1/2″ Tee – 1/2″ Nipple – Ball Valve – Male Camlock QD [for priming/purging] |
A note on the elbow: If the position of your pump affords you space to skip the elbow, I would skip it to help increase flow rate. It’s a bit of a trade off, but I included it because I wanted to keep the pump as low as possible to, in turn, keep my other tiers as low as possible.
Adding this port has saved me a lot of time and frustration and it’s made the pump a joy to use and a real time saver.
Some quick pointers – I believe the pump should be oriented with the inlet facing down. This allows gravity to work with the pump to help priming. You want to add a ball valve to your setup to help control flow speed. That ball valve should be placed on the “OUT” side of the pump.
- Brewing Pumps at MoreBeer
- Search Amazon for “1/2 stainless street elbow”
- Search Amazon for “1/2 stainless tee”
- Search Amazon for “1/2 stainless nipple”
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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application. Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application. Always read and follow manufacturer directions.
Always use caution when using your pump with hot liquids. Likewise use caution when using electricity around liquids. Hot liquids and electricity can be dangerous.
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