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Old 01-13-2006, 06:37 AM   #1
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Default How to identify SS vs Aluminum Kegs?

Okay... I'm working on a wild hair here and need some advice. I want to build my own three-tier AG system and I'm riding the fence between half-barrel kegs and converted coolers. I'd really like to go the keg route, but I have to be able to get it done under a budget. Specifically, the kegs have to run about $50 each or less.

First and foremost, does anyone have any good suggestions where to track down used 15.5 gallon SS kegs? Sabco has 'em, but I don't like bending over that far. I don't know of any brew clubs near where I live, so that's out. There's eBay, but I think 95% of those auctioned are kegs that someone paid the deposit for and "forgot" to return. If I could find some locally, I'd sure like to avoid shipping a 35 pound hunk of steel. Of course, I live in a corner of the country known for micro breweries. I guess I could start calling them.

Secondly, is there any sure-fire way to determine if a keg is aluminum or SS? The magnet trick doesn't work too well, considering SS has such a small amount of iron in it.

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Old 01-13-2006, 06:53 AM   #2
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Stainless steel is still magnetic.

The weight difference shoud be dramatic.

Try a steel salvage yard. I was told they often have SS kegs.

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Old 01-13-2006, 01:22 PM   #3
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You can't go wrong checking out the local micro's and distributors. Also, talk to your favorite pub/bar owner he might be able to send you in the right direction. I to am in the process of putting together a 3 tier. Check out my gallery.

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Old 01-13-2006, 01:22 PM   #4
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I would opt for a picnic cooler for your mash tun. This will save you some green. Get a retangular one, the shape is very well suited for mashing and installation of a slotted manifold. Since you will need a burner (or two), get a turkey fryer set up and use the pot that comes with it for your HLT. Now that you have extra money, get the Sabco universal kettle for boiling. This is a bargain in my book. $100 for an already converted keg in the (in my opinion) ideal configuration is money well spent.

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Old 01-13-2006, 02:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denny's Brew
Stainless steel is still magnetic.

The weight difference shoud be dramatic.

Try a steel salvage yard. I was told they often have SS kegs.
True, but barely. I held a magnet up to my SS brew pot and it fell right off. I could only feel a very slight attraction as I got the magnet right next to the metal.

Oddly enough, I think the aluminum ones are heavier. I've seen a couple on eBay listed as aluminum with weights around 45 pounds. The SS ones are usually listed at 35 pounds.

Yeah, someone mentioned that to me. We have a couple steel yards not to far away. I'll give them a ring. Thanks.
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Old 01-13-2006, 03:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrewsBrews
True, but barely. I held a magnet up to my SS brew pot and it fell right off. I could only feel a very slight attraction as I got the magnet right next to the metal.

Oddly enough, I think the aluminum ones are heavier. I've seen a couple on eBay listed as aluminum with weights around 45 pounds. The SS ones are usually listed at 35 pounds.

Yeah, someone mentioned that to me. We have a couple steel yards not to far away. I'll give them a ring. Thanks.
Dudes I don't think kegs are made out of aluminum. I could be wrong....but....

TNlandsailors advice is best. You can go that route and save some cash, because there is no true way to do it cheaply if you want 3 kegs for your system. If you are lucky, you might find 1 useable keg at a salvage yard.
I'd still get a sabco for the boil kettle. Then talk to TNlandsailor again about a sightglass and hop stopper.
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Old 01-13-2006, 04:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ORRELSE
I'd still get a sabco for the boil kettle. Then talk to TNlandsailor again about a sightglass and hop stopper.
I have to agree with tnlandsailor and orrelse here...the sabco deal is really not as expensive as it looks, once you consider all the time you're going to spend tracking down something locally, then getting everything cut.
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Old 01-13-2006, 04:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tnlandsailor
I would opt for a picnic cooler for your mash tun. This will save you some green. Get a retangular one, the shape is very well suited for mashing and installation of a slotted manifold. Since you will need a burner (or two), get a turkey fryer set up and use the pot that comes with it for your HLT. Now that you have extra money, get the Sabco universal kettle for boiling. This is a bargain in my book. $100 for an already converted keg in the (in my opinion) ideal configuration is money well spent.

Prosit!
I'm still considering the cooler idea. The problem is that I'm a long-term type of thinker. Coolers warp and crack (so I've read) over time, which means I'll have to buy another one to replace it. And you can't apply direct heat to them if you want to do different types of mashing. I'd prefer to build a system that, short of a few minor tweaks, lasts until I'm too old to brew (which is gonna be quite a while). That also means it has to be able to handle the occasional 10 gallon batch. I've already got a monster outdoor cooker set-up (185k btu) that I'll be using for the bottom level. I can get another burner (or two) from the manufacturer for $15 plus shipping. I suppose I could just get a big aluminum pot for the HLT, but then there's the stories about cooking with aluminum...

It's not the $100 for the Sabco converted keg that hurts, it's the additional $35 to ship the blasted thing. If I could get it to my door for $100 I'd be much happier. I have a friend who will weld the fittings in for free (he's an excellent welder... he's built frames for three race cars). Between the stainless wire, the fittings, a $50-60 used keg, and 30 minutes worth of Sawzall cutting and deburring with my Dremel, I can have the same thing as the Sabco keg for around $75-80. Now multiply that $55 savings times two or three and you can see why I'd prefer to go that route.
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Originally Posted by ORRELSE
Dudes I don't think kegs are made out of aluminum. I could be wrong....but....
Yup... they did at one point. I was told by a local beer distributor they stopped using them around 20 years ago, but they are still floating around. Everybody uses SS now.
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Old 01-13-2006, 04:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrewsBrews
I'm still considering the cooler idea. The problem is that I'm a long-term type of thinker. Coolers warp and crack (so I've read) over time, which means I'll have to buy another one to replace it. And you can't apply direct heat to them if you want to do different types of mashing. I'd prefer to build a system that, short of a few minor tweaks, lasts until I'm too old to brew (which is gonna be quite a while). That also means it has to be able to handle the occasional 10 gallon batch. I've already got a monster outdoor cooker set-up (185k btu) that I'll be using for the bottom level. I can get another burner (or two) from the manufacturer for $15 plus shipping. I suppose I could just get a big aluminum pot for the HLT, but then there's the stories about cooking with aluminum...
Not to keep raining on your parade--but you could get a very large cooler mashtun (definitely big enough for 10 gallon batches and BIG beers at that) for 15-20 bucks. It will last many batches. With all the money you saved going that route, it will buy you some time to save some money up and then do what you really want.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrewsBrews
Yup... they did at one point. I was told by a local beer distributor they stopped using them around 20 years ago, but they are still floating around. Everybody uses SS now.
My bad.
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Old 01-13-2006, 04:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flhrpi
You can't go wrong checking out the local micro's and distributors. Also, talk to your favorite pub/bar owner he might be able to send you in the right direction. I to am in the process of putting together a 3 tier. Check out my gallery.
I talked to my local brewpub owner and he told me "Sabco".
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