Drilling an unported Better Bottle

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jrfuda

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I have an unported 6 gallon better bottle and want to use their racking adapter & spigot with it. Has anyone here successfully drilled an unported better bottle or similair PET bottle or object? I know Better Bottle advises against doing it yourself.

Do not attempt to drill ports in unported Better-Bottle carboys, because the special PET from which the carboys are made is very tough and specialized tools are required to make sufficiently smooth holes.
Most of the advice I've found via Google for drilling plexi/lexan and other brittle plastics (nothing specifically for PET bottles) advised using masking tape to cover the area to be drilled, a sharp bit or hole saw and a lot of patience.

I've cut plexi with a dremel before and even cut a 3" hole in plexi with a hole saw. Both turned out acceptable, but I would not have wanted to depend on the 3" hole to be liquid-tight as the port for the racking adapter will have to be. I think a 3/4" bit or hole saw will be much more graceful than the 3" one was and yield a better product.

I supose I can practice on some plastic soda bottle too.

Any suggestions (Including, "don't do it" and "you're crazy").
 

samc

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don't do it...

from BB website,
. . . Port my plain Better-Bottle Carboys? – BetterBottle PET is tough and tightly stretched, which is all part of what makes our carboys such excellent fermenters. However, it also makes them difficult to port. In order to function properly with a BetterBottle Carboy Adapter, the hole must be round and the edges clean. BetterBottle has tried to develop practical hand tools for porting, but all the tools tested so far have been too costly and/or require too much training. Offering a porting service is also not practical, because the cost of round-trip freight and handling exceeds the cost of a new, factory-ported carboy in the great majority of cases. At the present time, the best option is to purchase a ported carboy and use your plain carboy for some other aspect of your fermentation operations, such as storing washing and sanitizing solutions or for propagating yeasts.
 

Bobby_M

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The safest way to drill thin plastic is the sandwich it between two pieces of MDF and drill through it. However, you can see how this is impossible in a bottle.
 

conpewter

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Eh I'd give it a try, just use a step bit, clean up the edges when you are done.

* I'm not responsible for screwed up carboys.

Edit: You may be able to use heat as well, not sure.
 

OMJ

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I would give whatever method you are going to try on a culligan water bottle from home depot or lowes first. They are more similar to better bottles than soda bottles and are only like $6 or $7.

I a step bit or hole saw that has been heated might be able to do the trick but personally I would just rack from it.
 
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jrfuda

jrfuda

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I went ahead and did it, and it was successful. I filled it up completely with water and there is not a single drip 12 hours later, and this is with me twisting, thumping and pulling on the racking adapter in every way possible trying to make it leak.

I used a step drill bit I already had that went up to 7/8" (stopping at 3/4", of course). I practiced on various plastic items around the house first, and each time the hole was remarkable round and burr free.

Just as Better Bottle said, the bottle was a lot tougher than everything else I tried. I was very patient and ensured I went slow enough that a little was shaved at a time and that I was in fact cutting the plastic and not melting it.

The hole turned out nearly perfect, with only a few burrs on the far side (the stepped bit clears burrs on the near side for me). Inserting my pinkie through the whole and releasing the burrs solved the problem.

Now, even though I was successful, I still think Better Bottle is correct in their policy.

If I did not already have the drill bit, it would have set me back at least $20 for an no-name model from Amazon. I think the one I have cost me about $35 at Lowes last year. This meets the "cost prohibitive hand tools" part of Better Bottle's disclaimer/advice not to drill it yourself.

The "training" part of their disclaimer is less valid, though not completely invalid. I think the typical home brewer who was going to do this would have the skills to do it right. Man, I've seen some of the contraptions y'all have put together and am blown away. I'm an avid DIY'r and home automater, building lots of stuff from scratch and I'm still impressed. With all that in mind, I could easily see myself messing up 1 or 2 bottles if I were to drill ports into 10. Heck, I bet Better Bottle have some that don't pass QC after they drill them themselves.

Bottom line, porting an unported Better Bottle is doable, but cost prohibitive if you don't already have the tools and - my guess - you have at least a 10% chance of messing up
 

philrose

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Bottom line, porting an unported Better Bottle is doable, but cost prohibitive if you don't already have the tools and - my guess - you have at least a 10% chance of messing up
Wow, great post. I bet thats some good info for the better bottle wiki!
 

togabear

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As jrfuda says, don't try drilling without practicing or using a step bit. I used a regular metal 3/4" bit and it ruined the bottle.

I didn't think it would be that hard, and didn't read this thread first.

Tried cleaning up the edges with a fine file and using a small amount of heat to clean it up, but no go. Oh well, it was 1.5 years old any way.
 

Sanspareil

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Just keep an eye open for the start of cracks around the port. I ported 5 gal water bottles, they all developed cracks after about 3 uses. Hopefully BB's are heavier gauge and wont do that.
 

mpcluever

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Once drilled and water-tight, I'd be surprised if it degraded over time when the factory ported ones don't.
 

bd2xu

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Resurrection! on this topic, I would love to port my BB's, but I frequently use a swamp cooler to ferment, either with a heater in the cold months (or for a saison in the summer), or drop in frozen water bottles to cool, but even if neither, i think having the fermenter in a big water bath really helps tame temp swings. Heat being given off by fermentation I think dissipates into the water better that just air...

This said, am I crazy to think it would be ok to submerge the BB with a spigot in the swamp cooler (assume the water is NOT sanitary) and then just spray it off with starsan when I'm ready to transfer?
 

The_Bishop

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I would think you'd increase your chances of an infection; the water in a swamp cooler picks up all sorts of dust/dirt/wild yeast/bacteria.

If you're using a swamp cooler, I'd stick with an autosiphon.
 

Renoun

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Since this post got bumped the I'll chime in and state that the Better Bottles I ported myself with a step bit at a moderate speed are fine. They are almost a year old and no sign of stress cracks around the racking adapter. I am careful to use water that isn't too hot and avoid concentrated cleaners in them though.
 
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Resurrection! on this topic, I would love to port my BB's, but I frequently use a swamp cooler to ferment, either with a heater in the cold months (or for a saison in the summer), or drop in frozen water bottles to cool, but even if neither, i think having the fermenter in a big water bath really helps tame temp swings. Heat being given off by fermentation I think dissipates into the water better that just air...

This said, am I crazy to think it would be ok to submerge the BB with a spigot in the swamp cooler (assume the water is NOT sanitary) and then just spray it off with starsan when I'm ready to transfer?

I think you'd be just fine. In hotter months, I regularly do a swamp cooler setup in the bathtub for my Speidel fermenter (which is ported). I always put sanitizer directly into the bath water, though.
 
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