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Old 09-13-2011, 09:21 PM   #1
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Default Starting Keg Conversions for a 3 Vessel E-Herms System

I have had three 15.5 gallon kegs sitting in my basement for the past 10 months, so it's about time to start converting these things. A patient of mine found these kegs for me, as his nephew works for a local distribution company and was able to get his hands on a few "retired kegs". Got all 3 for $90, which I thought was reasonable. They are Labatt Blue kegs and are a in great shape, no dents or deep scratches. As you can see, I started stripping the paint and polishing one of them when I got them, but I put it on hold to devote spare time to my basment finishing project and my keezer build. I'm adding a 4th tap to my keezer this coming weekend and that project is done! I'm also near completion on my basement, so just need to finish up odds and ends, then have carpeting put down.

I plan on devoting some time this fall/winter on getting my basement brewery going on the unfinished side of my basement. I live in Michigan, so brewing outside sucks in the winter. I have decided to go all electric and am leaning towards a 3 vessel electric HERMS system, based on the electricbrewery. I will start seperate threads for the e-system build and my basement brewery build in the future, but this thread will be devoted to the keggle conversions. Here are a few pics of the kegs and the jig that I made to cut the tops off with my angle grinder. A big thanks to Passedpawn for the jig idea....it worked like a charm!











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Old 09-13-2011, 09:34 PM   #2
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Here are a few pics of the jig in place and the tops after being cut out. The first thing I did was use a screw driver to depress the ball valve and release the pressure. I then used the screw driver and a hammer to tap the steel o-ring that secures the dip tubes in place to it's unlocked position. Pretty easy process. The stale remaining beer inside was horrible smelling, so I took them out to my driveway and used my pressure washer to clean them up before cutting.

The jig just drops down into the ball valve opening and when all was said and done, it cut a near perfect opening that is 12" in diameter on all three. It took 1 steel cutting disk for each keg, but it only took about 5 min. for each top. Just make sure that you don't force the blade and just keep working the grinder around in a circle until it gradually cuts through. I forgot to add water during the first cut, so it left some slag in the bottom that needs to be scrubbed out. I put about 1 gallon of water in the other two and there was no issues, they stayed clean as can be.

I then used an 80 grit flap disk on the grinder and cleaned the edges of the opening and the cut out lids to knock off all of the sharp burrs and smooth the edges. I then used some 150 grit sandpaper and continued to soften the edges, so there is absolutely no risk of cut arms. I am considering making homemade false bottoms out of the top, but I don't have a drill press, so drilling all of the holes would be a PITA! Here are a few more pics after the first 2.....the 3rd one turned out equally as well..... More to come.....now onto polishing and fittings.











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Old 09-14-2011, 02:10 AM   #3
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very cool. what heating elements you going with?

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Old 09-14-2011, 01:14 PM   #4
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I'm going with two 5500w 240 VAC elements similar to the ones used on the electricbrewery.com, one for the HLT and one for the BK. I'll search around to see if I can get them at a more reasonable price than listed on their site. Thankfully, I have a father in law and a neighbor that are electricians, another neighbor that is an electrical engineer specializing in systems operation, another neighbor that is an IT guy, and another neighbor that is a mechanical engineer. This means that I give the neighbors free beer at all of our gatherings and they in exchange have agreed to help me with my brewing projects. It's nice, because I can purchase items such as the systems panel, heating elements, etc. unassembled for much cheaper and these guys can help me put it all together. I didn't need help with my keezer build, because it was pretty straight forward, but with this electronic brewing system....I'm in way over my head, so it's nice to have the support.

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Old 09-14-2011, 08:30 PM   #5
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Welcome to the Electric crew. I love my electric 3 keg beer machine. I ended up using a 2500W in my HLT and a 4500W RIPP element in the BK. If there's anything I can share with you please don't hesitate to ask.

Here's a pic of the rig with the DIY ventilation set up

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Old 09-14-2011, 10:53 PM   #6
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I'm sure I will have tons of questions, so thanks for the offer! Here's a couple to start with:

How long does it take for the 2500w element to get the strike water up to temp?

How long does it take the 4500w element to get the wort to a rolling boil?

I'm just getting started with this project and will start ordering the fittings this week for the keggles. I'm adding a 4th tap to my keezer this weekend, as my order from kegconnection was slightly delayed until Friday. I am also trying to knock out the rest of the drop ceiling in my basement this weekend as well. Those are my last two projects to complete, then it's on to this project and a couple more brewing related builds for the winter.

PS....very nice build you have there!

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Old 09-15-2011, 12:58 AM   #7
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I was incorrect in my hlt element. It's less than 4500 but greater than 2500 on 240. My HLT is also my sparge water so I heat about 13 gallons to strike temp. It takes about an hour or so. I use a timer to turn in the rig. The 240v passes through a contactor that is on 110. The 110 feeds the contactor, pumps, and PID's. Therefore until the tmer comes on, the rig is powerless.

Boil takes about 20 minutes from sparge completion and the temp ramp is from 170-207 to boil.

I definitely suggest having your couplers and nuts welded to your keggles and forego weld less. If you are brewing in a basement definitely think about ventilation. I boil off about 3 gallons.

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Old 09-15-2011, 01:23 AM   #8
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Thanks for the info. I was planning on going with all weldless fittings like those used in the Blichmann kettels, but also have someone that could weld in fittings if needed. I'm still weighing the pro's and con's of each.

I have several hundred square feet on the unfinished side of my basement that I plan on turning into my brewing quarters. I plan on finding an oversized stainless hood vent and the proper exhaust fan and venting out of the back of the house. I also plan on installing a commericial deep well, 2 or 3 bay stainless steel sink with drip pans and having a stainless work table as an island in the middle of the room. Along with the electric brewing system, I plan on building a fermentation chamber and a motorized grain mill built into a cabinet. I already have a cold storage wine cellar/beer storage cellar that is in the corner of the same room. As soon as I can move all of the furniture out of the storage side of my basement once carpeting is installed, it wil free up that space and I can start laying it out. In the meantime, I wanted to get a jump on my keggle conversions asap. Thanks again for the info!

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Old 09-15-2011, 02:15 PM   #9
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I used a 6" vent blower fan used to vent furnaces or dryers and then used an HVAC 12' reducer as the hood. It works like a charm and it was cheap.

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Old 09-15-2011, 08:31 PM   #10
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Great idea....and should save a ton of $$$ for venting!

I did some cleaning up of the kegs for an hour or so today to get the majority of the factory paint off of the kegs, all of the adhesive from the stickers, and a rough start to the polishing process. Does anyone know what I could use to get the paint out of the middle seam of the kegs where Labatts paints their blue stripes on. I got most of it off, but there is a fine seam that I can't get it out of. Any suggestions would be great! Here are a few pics. If you look close you can see the blue seams on them.









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