This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert. Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer. Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.
Proflow Dynamics Camlock Fittings
If I were to count all the “things” I have the most of in my homebrew collection, it would be a close race between tubing and fittings. Like the freeway system of the brewing world, we all have to get the wort/beer from one vessel to the next as we move through the brewing process. When dealing with hot liquids, that typically means silicone tubing. And when connecting tubing to your vessel or pump, there are 3 most common ways to do this: 1) Barbed fitting, 2) Quick Disconnect fitting, and 3) Camlock fitting.
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Proflow Dynamics has been around since 2007. They specialize in camlock fittings, but also make a variety of other fittings and ball valves. They service a mix of different industries- including the brewing industry, of course. Barbed fittings are the simplest, but are typically designed to be a very tight fit (require a lot of effort to mate), or a looser fit (require a hose clamp). Either of these situations does not lend itself well to a joint you need to connect/disconnect frequently. Quick disconnects have a slick one-handed operation, which is their main appeal. The downside is their more complicated design makes them more expensive. And more complicated designs usually mean more ways to potentially fail.
Camlocks are a fairly simple design, and use a cam lobe feature on two locking levers of the female connector to interact with a curved shape on the male connector to lock. As the locking levers are folded down, they pull the male end in to compress a thick silicone circular ring sitting inside the female end. The cam action provides simple mechanical pressure to force the joint closed, as well as a robust locking feature to prevent accidental unlock. With the levers on opposite sides of each other, it is designed as a two-handed connection/disconnection, but with some finesse, can be done one-handed.
Proflow Dynamics has multiple combinations of camlocks. Male camlocks mated with hose barbs for 1/2” ID hose, or 1/2″ male or female pipe thread, or Female camlocks with those same options. The threaded ones can be mated to the myriad of options Pro Flow offers in threaded fittings (90-degree elbows, 45-degree elbows, Tees, etc.). The hose barb ends come in two varieties. In addition to the standard 1/2″ OD barb (with a 3/8” ID), there is a high-flow barb that has a 5/8” OD (tight fit on a 1/2″ ID silicone hose, but can be done), and a 1/2″ ID. This maintains a constant diameter of 1/2″ through the hose as well as the coupling, for the least flow restriction. And of course all of these connectors are made of stainless steel.
Hands on Review
Multiple Camlock Fittings on Different Parts – Related: Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Riptide Homebrew Pump
For my two-vessel electric brew system, I have a mash tun connected to a pump and RIMS. After mash, I pump the wort into a separate electric brew kettle. And post-boil, pump it through my counterflow chiller before transferring into fermentor. With this arrangement, I have different lengths of tubing, appropriately sized to minimize lengths. With this setup, camlocks proved very useful. Being able to connect and disconnect fittings with a simple, reliable mechanism multiple times is essential. Of course the most important function of any fitting is to be leak-free. And with the thick silicone ring in the camlock fittings, it provided clear feedback that a secure connection was made. I have had no leaks from camlocks.
Camlocks on Kettles is Convenient for Cleaning Disassembly – Related: Hands on Review: Spike Brewing Equipment Spike+ Kettle
I brewed a half-dozen times with this latest set of Proflow Dynamics camlocks. However, to do this review, I had to swap out Proflow Dynamics camlocks that I had used for just over 3 years. So I know first-hand the robustness of the design concept and the quality of the PFD parts. I have had no leaks during these 3 years of use. And although they sell silicone gasket replacement parts, I have not seen any degradation or loss of compliance in the silicone rings.
The tubing sold by Proflow Dynamics is a slightly different type of silicone tubing than what I’ve typically had. Their description explains that it is a mostly-clear food-grade silicone tubing. Whether it’s in the details of the exact silicone makeup, or in the platinum curing process, the tubing is slightly stiffer than the typical silicone tube. As such, it is more resistant to accidental cuts or nicks, and is able to make bends without kinking or having the walls fold over and restrict flow.
The straight camlocks I used were Type C with the female camlock on one end and a standard 1/2″ hose shank on the other. I was able to simply slide the Proflow Dynamics silicone tubing over the shank and it held in place without any clamps. The only place I got a bit nervous was at the fitting on the output of my pump when circulating hot wort at the end of boil through the chiller. It never came loose or had leaked but it did move about 1/8”. I’m sure being at the highest pressure (at the pump output) combined with the 200F temperatures led to this condition. So I ended up switching to a 90-degree elbow piece that had a 5/8” barb on it and it was a much tighter fit.
Overall, I’ve found camlocks to be extremely reliable and leak-free. I have enough excitement during brewing that I value these being something I don’t even have to think about. Perhaps the quick connect couplings that can be done one-handed would be cooler somehow, but I wouldn’t want to give up the robustness of the joint. And the locking & unlocking is a very quick and easy operation. I would recommend the high-flow version of the Type C couplings for the tighter fit to the hose, for that extra level of “worry free”. I suspect you would also see benefits in flow capability from the larger diameter. You can piece together whatever combinations you need for your particular setup.
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PFD Silicone TubingHalf-Inch Hose over Hose ShankSystem with Mash Tun, Pump, and Counterflow Chiller – Related: Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Riptide Homebrew PumpTight Bend on Tubing Without Kinking – Related: Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering RIMS RocketSystem with Mash Tun, Pump, and RIMS – Related: Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Riptide Homebrew Pump – Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering RIMS Rocket
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Special Thanks to ProFlow Dynamics for providing the units used for evaluation in this review.
By Brad Probert. Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com