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Old 10-22-2010, 02:48 AM   #1
brewinginct
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Default Problem removing surface lead from brass fittings for MLT

I'm going to attempt my first AG batch on Saturday and just went to the Home Depot to buy all of the brass fittings to convert a 10 gallon cooler to an MLT.

I've read that you're supposed to soak your brass fittings in a 2:1 vinegar/hydrogen peroxide solution to get all of the surface lead off. If the water turns blue then that means that more lead has been exposed, and then you have to prepare a new solution and start over.

I've tried doing this 4 times so far and every time I do it the solution turns blue within 2 minutes. From what I read most people soak their stuff at least 5 minutes so I'm really confused about what's going on here.

I'm mixing proportions correctly, I'm using the right ingredients. What am I doing wrong here? Can I effectively remove the lead from the surface of the fittings if they only soak for a minute in the solution? Is there another alternative to this method?

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Old 10-22-2010, 03:09 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Palmer
Brass is a group of alloys made from copper and zinc with some lead thrown in for machinability. The lead percentage varies, but for alloys used in plumbing fittings it is 3% or less. Lead does not alloy or mix with the copper and zinc in brass, but instead exists as tiny globules (like bananas in Jell-O). These globules act as a lubricant during machining and result in a microthin film of lead being smeared over the machined surface. It is this lead that can be dissolved off by the wort. While this teeny, tiny amount of lead is not a health concern, most people would be happier if it wasn't there at all.
Fortunately, this surface lead is very easy to remove by soaking the parts in a solution of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. You can get these at the grocery store or drugstore. You can use white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar; just check the label to be sure it is 5% acid by volume. The hydrogen peroxide should be 3% by volume. To make the solution, mix them at a 2-1 volume ratio of vinegar to peroxide. Simply immerse the parts in the solution and watch for the color of the parts to change. The process should take less than 5 minutes to clean and brighten the surface. The color of the brass will change to a buttery yellow-gold when the lead is removed. If the solution starts to turn blue or green, and/or the parts start darkening, it means that the parts have been soaking too long, the peroxide is used up, and the copper is disolving, which will expose more lead. Make up a fresh solution and soak the parts again. This treatment only needs to be done once before the first use of the parts.
While zinc is an important nutrient for yeast, it can be to much of a good thing. Corrosion of brass can cause soapy or goaty flavors plus increased acetaldehyde and fusel alcohol production when zinc concentrations exceed 5 ppm. But like copper, brass is usually stable in wort and will turn dull with regular use as it builds up a passive oxide layer. Brass should be treated like copper for normal cleaning.
Hope this is helpful. I had to type it out as this is not part of the online version of John Palmers "How To Brew".
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Old 10-22-2010, 03:25 AM   #3
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Gregscsu- Thanks for typing that up, that definitely helps.

So it could take less than a minute to clean the brass, as long as it doesn't look too dark/tarnished? I shouldn't expect these to be really shiny, just a dull yellow?

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Old 10-22-2010, 03:34 AM   #4
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Apparnetly, I have never done it. I installed my stainless ball valve and brewed on.

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Old 10-22-2010, 04:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Gregscsu View Post
Apparnetly, I have never done it. I installed my stainless ball valve and brewed on.
What does this answer have to do with the OP question? Apparently or apparnetly nothing.... just saying
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Old 10-22-2010, 11:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by iaefebs View Post
What does this answer have to do with the OP question? Apparently or apparnetly nothing.... just saying
Did you happen to notice that Gregscsu is the only person to respond to the question and the two guys were having a conversation?

To the OP: I know you are planning to brew tomorrow and this does not help with the brass, but bargain fittings is pretty quick (you could brew next week). He has stainless parts and you can get a complete stainless bulkhead, valve and nipple for $27. A lot of other HB shops sell them as well. I also had brass on my MT for one brew and I just could not get the thought of potential lead poisoning out of my mind.
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Old 10-22-2010, 12:37 PM   #7
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I have brass fittings and actually have done this procedure to remove surface lead. It doesn't take much time at all, especially if your hydrogen peroxide is fairly new/fresh. Stop it before the solution turns color and you'll be ready to install the fitting and brew.

Even if you didn't do this procedure, there really isn't enough surface lead to pose a health concern (as John Palmer mentioned).

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Old 10-22-2010, 12:40 PM   #8
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In all reality, there isn't enough lead in the surface of your brass fittings to do you any harm. And after your first brew, all that lead is gone because of the acidity in the wort. RDWHAHB & BREW ON!

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Old 10-22-2010, 01:38 PM   #9
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In all reality, there isn't enough lead in the surface of your brass fittings to do you any harm. And after your first brew, all that lead is gone because of the acidity in the wort. RDWHAHB & BREW ON!
+1 The beer itself is probably more hazardous than any of the materials we use in the brewing process.
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Old 10-22-2010, 03:59 PM   #10
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Alright so based off of what everyone has replied it sounds like I'm just over thinking this too much. If my LHBS has stainless fittings then I'll grab those, if not I'll just do the soak for one minute for each piece.

To those who have successfully done this, what did your brass fitting look like afterwards? Did they really shine or were they more a dull yellow without any dark/tarnished spots? Pretty much, do your pieces look brand new when they're finished, or do they look yellow and used?

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