Category Archives: Homebrew Hacks

Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer Mod – Adding a Stainless Steel CIP Spray Ball

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I’m a big fan of the Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer.  I use mine for lots of things including… kegs, carboys, Speidel Fermenters, buckets, tubing, draft lines [See: Mark II Keg & Carboy Cleaner… As a Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump] and more.  See: Hands on Review: Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer for a comprehensive look at this great homebrewing tool.

A while back I became aware of this Stainless CIP Spray Ball (1/2″ size) via a reader tip.  Thanks to HBF Reader Sam for the original heads up on these and HBF Reader Chris for the idea to use in conjunction with the Mark II Keg and Carboy Cleaner! [8 Ways to Connect with HBF].

CIP (Clean in Place) Spray Balls are generally used for vessels that are too large to move.  Since they’re too large to move you… clean them in place.  If you have a larger setup, you could incorporate these into your system or routine to help clean your vessels more easily.

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Using the Grainfather to Clean Draft Lines

Thanks to Twitter Follower Andy for this tip!  [Connect with HBF on Twitter]

The Grainfather

The Grainfather is an electric all grain brewing system.  Mash temperature is precisely controlled with an electric heating element.  A pump recirculates throughout the mashing process ensuring even temperatures.  At the end of the mash, The Grainfather becomes your electric brew kettle.  The Grainfather includes a counterflow chiller.  8 Gallon system for indoor or outdoor brewing.

The Grainfather + 5% back via AIH’s Rewards Program via Adventures in Homebrewing

Andy has converted this for use as a draft line cleaning pump using a few fittings from Brew Hardware including…

Check out Andy’s Youtube video detailing the project

Also Consider…

Third Party Resource: This resource is part of our selection of top Third Party homebrewing resources.  Check out the entire list of resources Third Party Homebrew Resources

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

Convert Your Mark II Keg & Carboy Washer to a Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump!

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The Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer [Review] can clean a lot of your homebrewing gear.  Kegs, Carboys, Speidel Fermenters, Tubing, Small Parts & Pieces, Buckets, Keggles and more.

A small hardware purchase can convert your Keg and Carboy Washer over to an efficient ball lock draft line cleaning pump.

Cue drumroll.  And… It’s this thing…

Free shipping Stainless steel Carbonation Cap w/ 5/16" Barb, Ball Lock Type, fit soft drink PET bottles, Homebrew Kegging
Stainless steel Carbonation Cap w/ 5/16″ Barb, Ball Lock Type, fit soft drink PET bottles, Homebrew Kegging

This is a stainless steel ball lock carbonator cap that is typically intended to use with 1L and 2L PET (soda type) bottles for force carbing and transporting beer (soda, etc).  Why does it include a barb?  I have no idea, but it comes in really handy for this purpose.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I have heard that this fitting no longer works with BOTH liquid and gas ball lock QDs.  That is an important feature for this project.  I have since un-linked the original fitting.  Photos of the original fitting, are shown throughout this build.

Consider these alternatives,  Specifications Can Change: Check product descriptions for current description and specifications to make sure these are designed to work with both liquid and gas QDs.

New offerings regularly pop up.  Search Amazon for “stainless steel carbonation cap” to see what’s out there.  Again, check descriptions to make sure these work for both gas/grey and liquid/black QDs.

cln_img_9641A photo of just the carbonator capcln_img_9644A carbonator cap would typically work with a gas QD and this does.cln_img_9642However, it also works (easily) with a liquid QD.  Not sure why it’s designed like this, but it is and this is another important feature.cln_img_9646To adapt the Keg and Carboy Cleaner for Ball Lock draft lines just attach the stainless carbonator cap to a length of 1/4″ ID tubing (the shorter the better).  Attach the unused end to the smaller of the two included barbs (intended for cleaning tubing) and whammo… you’ve got a line cleaner.  I didn’t use any clamps.  Things held together fine and disassemble for easy cleaning.

cln_img_9654I use a piece of 1/2″ ID silicone tubing over my faucets to return cleaning, rinsing and sanitizing solution back to the Keg and Carboy Cleaner’s basin.  Recirculating means you can run this for a long time (according to your cleaner’s recommendations).  You may also save money by using less cleaner and sanitizer.

This has the advantage of cleaning everything in your draft system.  It cleans the faucet, the shank, the quick disconnect and the tubing.  Some line cleaning pump designs I’ve seen have you removing the beer nut and placing the hand pump apparatus directly on the shank.  That’s some work disassembling and reassembling and it also skips the line and quick disconnect.

cln_img_9657Here is a photo that should hopefully give you an idea about flow rate.  If you look at my original Draft Line Cleaning Pump Build, you’ll see that I don’t believe you need a gushing fire hose-like flow rate.  The important thing, in my book, is touching all parts and constant flow.  Along those lines, if you’re looking for your draft cleaning pump to resemble a pressure washer, I’d suggest looking for something different.  I spent no time on trying to increase flow for this build.  It’s going to depend on your line length and where you place the Keg and Carboy Washer in relation to the top of your shank.

cln_img_9660A look at the 1/2″ ID tubing over my Perlick faucetcln_img_9666The Keg and Carboy Washer can be a bit unwieldy to pick up when full.  You can drain a good bit of liquid off by redirecting the discharge tubing to a bucket.

cln_img_9649I have added this switch to my Keg and Carboy Washer setup.  It allows me to easily turn the pump on and off without plugging and unplugging it.  This switch appears to be similar although not the exact same part number… [GE 52149 Handy Switch Grounded White].  You may want to add a GFCI Adapter and for safety, always read and follow manufacturer’s warnings.

1312Alternative for Pin Lock, Sankey and Ball Lock Systems.  I know of no similar Pin Lock style carbonator cap.  You get nearly the same benefit by replacing that with a 1/4″ Male Flare to 1/4″ Barb Fitting.  Remove your MFL Pin Lock QDs and attach to this fitting.  The only thing you’re missing is including the Pin Lock QDs in the cleaning process.  This would also work for Sankey and ball lock setups, you just need to have 1/4″ MFL lines.

Prior to getting a Keg and Carboy Washer myself, I consistently heard great things about it.  I can confirm the praise.  This is a great piece of equipment that saves me time.  The additional ability to clean lines with little additional expense sweetens the deal further.  The Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer is one of our Top Finds.

Mark’s Keg & Carboy Washer can be found at…

Carbonator Cap:

Specifications Can Change: Check product descriptions for current description and specifications to make sure these are designed to work with both liquid and gas QDs.

New offerings regularly pop up.  Search Amazon for “stainless steel carbonation cap” to see what’s out there.  Again, check descriptions to make sure these work for both gas/grey and liquid/black QDs.

Related:

This is a Top Post! See: All Top Posts

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

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Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan

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Back in 2014, I had what I would call a reasonably well put together and balanced kegerator.  In spite of that, for years, I had dealt with the dreaded first foamy pint of beer.  After that pint of beer, beer would pour great.  That is until a significant delay between pours – overnight or a few hours.


Related Resources: Step by Step Balancing Your Kegerator Draft System | Kegerator Foam Problems? – Fight the First Foamy Pint! | What Does a Flow Control Faucet Do?


The cause of the problem is pretty clear.  Heat rises.  That means the top of your kegerator is going to be warmer than the bottom of your kegerator.  That warmer beer foams when it comes out.  The faucet and shank are also warmer.  That warmth adds to the problem.

How much is the temperature variance?  Of course, this will vary from setup to setup and climate to climate.  I was relatively shocked by the temperature difference in my own kegerator.

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The top reading about mid keg and the bottom reading is the top the top of my beer lines.  These are about 22″ apart.  This graph shows a point in time variance between the two of 14.9 degrees F.   My beer is about the temperature I want it, but the top of my serving line is much warmer.  That difference in temperature causes the first pint to have too much foam.  Pours that happen soon after the first are fine.  The tubing, shank and beer are relatively cool.

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Build a Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump

recirculating draft line cleaner

The directions on most line cleaners call for recirculating the cleaner for some period of time.  Most affordable cleaning setups that are out there include a hand pump.  Operating one of those for 15 to 30 minutes, for each faucet, doesn’t sound fun.

To really clean your draft lines, you need to keep solution flowing for a length of time, not just fill and wait.  Initially I tried to clean my system by pushing line cleaner out of a keg.  This was a waste of CO2.  I also found it tough to keep solution running slowly enough to get the required amount of contact time.  It’s easy to quickly push a cleaning or sanitizing solution through your system under CO2 pressure, but I found it to be a pain to try to do so slowly.  This also requires quite a bit of cleaning solution versus a recirculating pump.

I decided to put together a recirculating draft line cleaning pump setup.

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How To: Step by Step Making a Magnetic Drip Tray

Pictured: Update International DTS-419 Rectangular Stainless Steel Drip Tray, 19 by 4-Inch – via Amazon

Step by Step instructions for making a magnetic drip try for your Kegerator or Keezer

By: HBF Reader Andrew Cunje

Materials:

  • 19″ Drip Tray – via Amazon
  • 4′ of 6x.5 Poplar Wood (actual width is 5.5″)
  • 1’4″ of  6×1 Poplar Wood (actual width is 5.5″) Note: A thicker wood will suffice for this…remember the longer the wood extends down from the joint, the less likely the magnetic bond will break from the leverage applied to the edge of the drip tray.)
  • 4-5ft of Decorative Trim of your choice (Sold in lengths of 8′)
  • MUST BE 1.25-1.5 inch trim. I used 1.5 which I highly recommend.
  • 3/4″ mounting screws (for magnets) or Epoxy/Gorilla Glue
  • 1″ wood screws
  • Brad/Finishing Nails
  • 1 large old skewl hard drive magnets (Bigger with Mounting Holes than newer drives) (Alternative: rare earth neodymium magnets that are .5″ thick (Approximately 8); these can be stacked if you can only find .25″ magnets)
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Putty (Optional)
  • Wood Stain (Optional)
  • Tennis Racket Grip Tap (Or an old yellow rubber glove). Anything rubbery and tacky to increase friction against the fridge.

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Install a Priming and Purging Port for Easy Homebrew Pump Operation

I use my High Flow 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!

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Vacuum Sealing Mylar Bags Using Traditional Vacuum Sealers

Vacuum sealer bags are great at sealing out oxygen, preventing freezer burn, etc.  FoodSaver bags, vacuum sealers and the like are a great way to store hops, grains, spices and more!

Why Mylar?

Mylar bags block oxygen and are a great way to store hops and other oxygen sensitive materials.  As a testament to this, many hop distributors and sellers distribute hops in Mylar type bags.  Sometimes those are vacuum sealed and sometimes they are nitrogen flushed.

Mylar bags are not generally expensive, so that’s great!  The problem is vacuum sealers that can seal Mylar bags ARE expensive.  Sometimes very expensive.  That’s not great!

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Build a Spunding Valve! – How and Why

A Spunding Valve allows you to maintain a set pressure.  If pressure in the vessel exceeds the set point, it is expelled.  It generally consists of an adjustable PRV valve, a tee, a gauge and a way to connect to your keg.

Homebrewing Applications of a Spunding Valve

  1. Pressurized fermentation.  Ferment in a 5 or 10 gallon corny keg and use your Spunding Valve instead of an airlock.  This allows you to ferment at your desired pressure.
  2. Dry hop under pressure.  This allows you to dry hop earlier while reducing oxygenation.  Active yeast are more likely to metabolize oxygen that’s introduced during dry hopping during active fermentation.  Since CO2 is not exiting beer as vigorously under pressure, wanted compounds, flavors and aromas are more likely to stay in your beer under pressure.
  3. Naturally and accurately carbonate beer right in the keg.
  4. An airlock replacement.  Keep the valve wide open for non-pressurized fermentations.  Only do this if you have plenty of head space.  This wouldn’t make a great blow off tube.
  5. Keg to keg transfers.  Use the Spunding Valve to allow excess gas to exit the receiving keg as you transfer under pressure.  Helps you achieve a slow, controlled and pressurized transfer.
  6. Fix over-carbonated beers.
  7. Test for keg leaks.  Pressurize your keg to serving pressure.  Put the Spunding Valve on (with the pressure set well above your serving PSI) and note the reading.  The gauge should remain steady.  If pressure drops, you know you have a keg leak.  The digital build, see below, is especially helpful for this task,  The digital gauge reads with .1 PSI resolution making pressure changes easy to spot.  It’s worth noting that this checks the entire keg including gas body o-ring.  That spot is hard to check and other way as it’s only in function when the gas QD is on.  When the gas QD is on… it’s difficult to spray and check for bubbles underneath the gas QD.  Thanks to Scott Janish for this tip!
  8. As an airlock for long term aging of beers.  Airlocks can run dry over time.  A Spunding Valve will not.

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