First and foremost, this is my first thread and it so happens to be a DIY for a Copper Manifold. This guide should hopefully walk you through the necessary steps to construct a perfectly fitted manifold into the 62-qt Igloo Cooler.
I wanted to start all-grain brewing but didn't have the cash for a stainless steel MLT and thought that a cooler mash tun would work perfectly. I was able to find the cooler at Costco for $42.99 (it's the model that has MaxCold 6 day technology and most importantly, a dip in the bottom for the spigot!). I purchased this model because I wanted to maximize the amount of wort that would drain into my kettle instead of being stuck with an inch or two left in the MLT. I also found out that this cooler holds the temperture very well. After an hour at 155° it lost only 0.5°.
I used 3/4" copper pipe inside of the cooler in order to fill a decent amount of space at the bottom. However, the bulk head and ball valve assembly are 1/2" so I needed to reduce the diamater down to that size (with a reducer tee) in order to make it work. I find that it fits together very nicely and makes for a great manifold.
3/4" Copper Pipe:
- 6" x5
- 5" x4
- 2 1/2" x2
- 90 Elbows x4
- Tees x4
1/2" Copper Pipe:
- 3/4" x 3/4" x 1/2" Reducer Tee x1
Step 1: Cutting the Pipes
- Hack Saw
- Miter Box
- Tape Measure
- Pipe Cutter
- Battery Cleaner
Assuming you purchased your 3/4" copper pipe at your local hardware store in bulk you will need to begin cutting the necessary lengths. My tools might seem primitive and there are many electric tools out there that will do this job faster/better but I wanted to do everything by hand instead of having to purchase something I didn't have. This is a good time to put on your gloves to prevent copper slivers finding their way into your skin. Using the Pipe Cutter, measure the lengths needed and rotate it around the pipe slowly, tightening along the way. It only takes about 20 seconds to cut through all the way.
Step 2: Measuring the Slits
After all your pieces have been cut to length you will now need to measure your slits. Start off by measuring about 1" from the edge of each pipe and mark it with your sharpie. This will become your first slit. Each additional mark (slit) will be every 3/8" apart along the middle of the pipe. Do not cut slits into the 1/2" piece as it will be connecting your manifold to the the bulk head.
Step 3: Cutting the Slits
There are many ways to do this, some ways easier than others, some ways more dangerous. I chose the long but very safe and easy way. If you haven't used a Miter Box before, you will want to screw it onto a surface that will not move. Place your copper pipe into the box and align one of your sharpie marks with the straight edge and apply the stoppers to prevent the pipe from moving. With the hack saw, you will want to use a 1/32" metal cutting blade to make your slits. Start off slowly and proceed about 1/3 - 1/2 of the way into the pipe. Remember, these slits will be facing downwards in your mash tun as to prevent grains from clogging your manifold.
This process will take time. Be patient and have a 6-pack by your side along with a good friend to trade off this tedious task.
Step 4: Sanding the Pipes
Now that you are probably all worn out, you will need to sand and polish all of these copper pipes. You will notice many burrs along the inside of each pipe as well as some roughness around each slit. I started off by using a battery cleaner, which just so happened to have a fitting for 3/4" pipes. As shown in the picture below, I rotated each pipe through the center hole, which had many metal filings and it removed the outside burrs right away along with polishing everything up nicely. For the inside of the pipe, I used 3M Metal Sandpaper with the coarse one first. I tore off a piece and wrapped it around a 1/2" dowel in order to slide it through to remove any unneccesary burrs. After using the coarse sandpaper on each pipe, I did the same thing with the fine sandpaper. You might notice that the slits will hold many burrs that can be hard to get to, just slide some sandpaper into each one to break them free.
Step 5: Assemble the Manifold
You might want to assemble the manifold prior to cutting the slits to make sure everything fits properly, but it wouldn't have fit my 5 step process very well, so I saved it until the end. Assemble the manifold as described in the picture below. Everything should fit nicely together and be tight enough to prevent the pipes from just slipping in and out. I chose not to solder them together as it would be very tough to clean and/or remove from the cooler. However, given that this copper manifold is a perfect fit, the cooler dimensions with hold everything in place without falling apart during the mash.
Take that 1/2" copper pipe piece that you cut earlier and fit that into the stainless steel bulkhead. It should fit snug. This is where you will be attaching the reducer tee so that your 3/4" pipe reduces to 1/2" to flow out of the MLT.
- 62-qt Igloo Cooler $42.99
- SS Weldless Ball Valve Assembly $31.99
- Copper Tees $1.19/ea
- Copper 90's $1.54/ea
- Redicer Tee $3.19
- Copper Pipe $10.49/10ft piece
I hope my steps and pictures help anyone looking to build a copper manifold for their cooler. Enjoy!