How to add permanent volume markings to a kettle (illustrated)

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sweetcell

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That's what I did, but note that if you really want to be precise, don't use the "measuring" technique until you've already filled the kettle above any attachments at the bottom that could affect the volume, such as a whirlpool arm or pickup tube. I know they don't take up much volume, but if you're off by 1/32 of an inch, and you're marking off a 15 gallon kettle, that error compounds the higher up the kettle wall you go. By the time you get to the top, you could be off by as much as a half an inch, which could be a couple quarts of liquid, depending on your kettle geometry.
another (obvious) thing to keep in mind is that the bottom of the kettle is curved, so the first gallon or two are likely to be of a different height then the rest which have straight side.

the suggestion to only use measurement once above all attachments, ports, etc. is a very good one.
 

Supra97gte

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Any update on how the markings are holding out after a few brews? Still legible after boiling and scrubbing/cleaning, no corrosion in the area? Just researching about passivation and pickling. Wanna make sure there are no problems before doing it myself. Thanks.
 

brewkinger

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Any update on how the markings are holding out after a few brews? Still legible after boiling and scrubbing/cleaning, no corrosion in the area? Just researching about passivation and pickling. Wanna make sure there are no problems before doing it myself. Thanks.

I've brewed 5 batches since I did this and IMO, the markings got better.
They darkened up slightly.
I never "scrub" the inside of my kettle, especially with anything abrasive.
 

TravelingLight

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Any update on how the markings are holding out after a few brews? Still legible after boiling and scrubbing/cleaning, no corrosion in the area? Just researching about passivation and pickling. Wanna make sure there are no problems before doing it myself. Thanks.
Mine are still good to go. Granted, they're harder to see now because my dumb arse left oxiclean soaking in the kettle overnight a while back and it oxidized the eff out of my pot. I'll eventually redo mine.
 

Brew18

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This sounds really dumb but how did you temporarily mark the kettle (pre-etching) once you dumped the water in.
 

orionol73

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This sounds really dumb but how did you temporarily mark the kettle (pre-etching) once you dumped the water in.

Heavy magnets so that they did not move as more water was added. I have probably done 8-10 brews since etching my kettle and I have to agree, it does seem to be better now than when I first did it.
 

Brew18

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Ok...that makes sense. Is there a good hack to getting the volume markers the same size and level?
 

TravelingLight

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This sounds really dumb but how did you temporarily mark the kettle (pre-etching) once you dumped the water in.

I put down black electrical tape first running up the side of the kettle. Then as I added in half gallon increments, I marked on the tape with a razor blade/xacto knife. Worked well because I was using tape anyway to mark it off and etch.
 

Supra97gte

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Just did my two 30g kettles yesterday. Turned out pretty good. If I had to do it again I would prob just buy a sight glass. It was cool to do it and I'm happy with what I got but I only had an old cable box 110v plug with an output of 12v 1a, so it took me a bit to etch. Might have been willing to do it again with a higher output Mabey 12v 6a to get a little move violent of a sizzle. The sizzling wasn't to violent and was okay for the first few lines but after that I just found myself miserable holding it there waiting for it to be done. I do want to note however that there were some times which I laid the probe I was using on the inside of the kettle while leaving the kettle on its side. Doing this so I can so other stuff while etching, that's how long it was taking for me with that specific output. With that being said, some numbers or lines had the probe sizzling on them way longer than others and ultimately all numbers and lines turned out uniform and to the same depth. I feel like everything iv read scared me into not holding the probe on there to long in fear of taking off to much of a layer of stainless. Not the case with my specific output and mixture. I used about a half a cup of white distilled vinegar and 3 tsp of table salt. Instead of the q-tip route I used a cotton makeup removal pad held onto a piece of 1/2 inch copper pipe with one end flattened with a hammer. Wrapped the wire around the flat end of the copper pipe and secured the cotton pad over the flat part and wire with a rubber band. Changed the pads as needed.

image.jpg
 

NatureOfTheYeast

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Any update on how the markings are holding out after a few brews? Still legible after boiling and scrubbing/cleaning, no corrosion in the area? Just researching about passivation and pickling. Wanna make sure there are no problems before doing it myself. Thanks.

This is one year and 31 batches later. The top picture is just minutes after I cleaned the kettle after etching and peeling the tape. Bottom was from like 15 minutes ago. I can't see any fading, and there's never been a problem with corrosion, but I do clean it after every single brew, on brew day. Hot oxiclean followed by a quick light scrubbing with barkeeper's friend. Kind of an alkaline then acid cleaning regimen that should clear organic and inorganic residue to allow successful passivation. Don't mind the scratches, I was misinformed that I should use a green scrubby to clean it every time. I've since switched to a blue scrubby and using light pressure.

I just want to say again, thanks itsgus! This has been the most helpful and useful equipment improvement I've done.

1 YEAR AGO:
vrkl1jm.jpg


TODAY:
XXN5Lfi.jpg
 

vance

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This is one year and 31 batches later. The top picture is just minutes after I cleaned the kettle after etching and peeling the tape. Bottom was from like 15 minutes ago. I can't see any fading, and there's never been a problem with corrosion, but I do clean it after every single brew, on brew day. Hot oxiclean followed by a quick light scrubbing with barkeeper's friend. Kind of an alkaline then acid cleaning regimen that should clear organic and inorganic residue to allow successful passivation. Don't mind the scratches, I was misinformed that I should use a green scrubby to clean it every time. I've since switched to a blue scrubby and using light pressure.

I just want to say again, thanks itsgus! This has been the most helpful and useful equipment improvement I've done.

1 YEAR AGO:
vrkl1jm.jpg


TODAY:
XXN5Lfi.jpg

How did you get those to look so clear? I've been trying to do my kettle but my marks aren't very clear and good looking.
 

NatureOfTheYeast

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How did you get those to look so clear? I've been trying to do my kettle but my marks aren't very clear and good looking.

I think the most important thing is that you start with a totally clean kettle free from any kind of oils, including skin oils. If you used your bare fingers to put down any masking, use rubbing alcohol to clean your masked off areas. I used nitrile gloves, but I still wiped the kettle with alcohol in case there was any glue residue. Fingerprints and smudges will lead to blotchy etching.

My setup:

-My power source was a 9v 100mA "wall wart" from an unknown source, likely a broken guitar pedal (I have a few of those). Clipped the connector off and exposed about a half inch of bare wire from both wires. Some people use 9v batteries but I couldn't get it to work on my test pieces even with a fresh battery. I think you can buy these "wall warts" at walmart or radio shack or places like that. 9v seems to be the magic voltage number for the best result.

-I always kept the ground taped to the kettle within 4 inches of where I was working, most of the time it was less than an inch away from my current etching spot. I used blue painter's tape, just because it's what I was already using to mask off the hash marks. [I'd advise against using electrical tape as it tends to leave this demonic residue behind that resists even the most powerful solvents. I always end up having to use brake cleaner to get that nasty residue off, and I'd be hesitant to use that in my kettle. That might just be the crappy el tape I have on hand though.]

-I wrapped the other wire around the head of a q-tip tightly and fully saturated the q-tip with the vinegar/salt solution. As for the solution I used you'll have to forgive me since it's been over a year and I don't remember exactly. I do seem to recall using a lot of salt in the solution. Like, there were still granules sitting on the bottom of the Dixie cup I used to mix it in. I think having a supersaturated "brine" solution is the key to this whole operation. What we're doing here is basic electroplating. You're depositing metal from the wall of the kettle onto the wire that you have wrapped around the q-tip, leaving a rough surface behind on the stainless. Lots of electrolyte - in our case sodium chloride, salt - is necessary.

-Go over the etch a lot. I went back and forth over the same hash mark many times, and I moved the q-tip slowly. I had a dry paper towel in the other hand to wipe away the etching solution frequently to check the color/intensity. I dipped into the solution often, you want that q-tip to be really wet with the solution. When it's bubbling near the end of the q-tip and the wire wrapped around the q-tip starts getting dull brown/black, you know it's working.


Hope that helps! Good luck and report back if it worked or if you need more help and I'll do what I can to assist. :mug:
 

vance

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I think the most important thing is that you start with a totally clean kettle free from any kind of oils, including skin oils. If you used your bare fingers to put down any masking, use rubbing alcohol to clean your masked off areas. I used nitrile gloves, but I still wiped the kettle with alcohol in case there was any glue residue. Fingerprints and smudges will lead to blotchy etching.

My setup:

-My power source was a 9v 100mA "wall wart" from an unknown source, likely a broken guitar pedal (I have a few of those). Clipped the connector off and exposed about a half inch of bare wire from both wires. Some people use 9v batteries but I couldn't get it to work on my test pieces even with a fresh battery. I think you can buy these "wall warts" at walmart or radio shack or places like that. 9v seems to be the magic voltage number for the best result.

-I always kept the ground taped to the kettle within 4 inches of where I was working, most of the time it was less than an inch away from my current etching spot. I used blue painter's tape, just because it's what I was already using to mask off the hash marks. [I'd advise against using electrical tape as it tends to leave this demonic residue behind that resists even the most powerful solvents. I always end up having to use brake cleaner to get that nasty residue off, and I'd be hesitant to use that in my kettle. That might just be the crappy el tape I have on hand though.]

-I wrapped the other wire around the head of a q-tip tightly and fully saturated the q-tip with the vinegar/salt solution. As for the solution I used you'll have to forgive me since it's been over a year and I don't remember exactly. I do seem to recall using a lot of salt in the solution. Like, there were still granules sitting on the bottom of the Dixie cup I used to mix it in. I think having a supersaturated "brine" solution is the key to this whole operation. What we're doing here is basic electroplating. You're depositing metal from the wall of the kettle onto the wire that you have wrapped around the q-tip, leaving a rough surface behind on the stainless. Lots of electrolyte - in our case sodium chloride, salt - is necessary.

-Go over the etch a lot. I went back and forth over the same hash mark many times, and I moved the q-tip slowly. I had a dry paper towel in the other hand to wipe away the etching solution frequently to check the color/intensity. I dipped into the solution often, you want that q-tip to be really wet with the solution. When it's bubbling near the end of the q-tip and the wire wrapped around the q-tip starts getting dull brown/black, you know it's working.


Hope that helps! Good luck and report back if it worked or if you need more help and I'll do what I can to assist. :mug:

I think the 9V battery is my issue, everyone who's successfully done this seems to have used something else.
 

TravelingLight

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I think the 9V battery is my issue, everyone who's successfully done this seems to have used something else.
Absolutely agree. I tried at first with a 9V battery and couldn't get much going. Switched to a wall supply and really upped the amount of salt and it worked much better.
 

STMF

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I think the 9V battery is my issue, everyone who's successfully done this seems to have used something else.

Just wanted to chip in that I used a 9v battery and it worked great.
 

BeardedBrews

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Hook up the POSITIVE lead directly to your kettle.
Attach the NEGATIVE lead directly to a Q-tip, making sure the wires will be touching the vinegar solution.

MAKE SURE YOU HOOK THEM UP IN THE RIGHT ORDER. The other way around would try to ADD metal to the kettle.

someone had mentioned using an automatic 12 v battery charger: http://www.harborfreight.com/automa...ebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=463099&page=30

would i just clip one end to the top of the pot and the other end to a q-tip? charger plugged into the wall? i'm an idiot, so any help would be great.

cheers!

Yep.

Laptop chargers are also great for this, or you could use an old PC power supply. I would avoid buying something just for this project, almost every house has some sort of DC power supply that will do the job.

*please use caution as we are talking about using an electrical device well outside of its designed purpose*
 

vallonswayla

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Yep.

Laptop chargers are also great for this, or you could use an old PC power supply. I would avoid buying something just for this project, almost every house has some sort of DC power supply that will do the job.

*please use caution as we are talking about using an electrical device well outside of its designed purpose*
I don't mind buying something that's ready to use for $10. I just wanted to make sure it was as simple as plugging the charger into the wall, and then connecting one clip to the pot and one to the q-tip. The idea of dunking a charged clip into a bowl of water does make me a bit nervous...

Plus not a total waste of money if I'm not tearing it apart, as it sounds like it can be used to maintain good charges in car batteries.
 

JDXX1971

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I etched my kettle, used a Power Wheels charger from a thrift store for a buck. The etching came out pretty good (not perfect:smack:) but ok.

Problem I am having is getting the pencil lines I used for layout off. I scrubbed them with soap and water, baking soda paste and even an eraser:D. Nothing works.

Am I doomed to be stuck with these lines in my kettle??? Will we all die from drinking beer made in it? I could etch over them I suppose but I don't want to.
 

mjatk

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Awesome post, and very easy to do. I cut an old pc power cable, bought a 9v, and used a Q-Tip with salt. Followed OP's lead and bought some crafting vinyl stencils at a craft store. Turned out great!

IMG_0047.jpg


IMG_0048.jpg


IMG_0049.jpg
 

Sadu

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I just etched my 7 litre mash tun with 1 litre markings. Super stoked with how it came out. Wanted to shout out a big thank you to the OP for the clear instructions and decent pics.

Hardest part was keeping the tape straight - I have big hands and this is a fairly small kettle. But overall this was a simple project that will save me a few minutes every brewday. Will have a go at the bigger boil kettles another time :)

IMG_20170119_195254_1[1].jpg


IMG_20170119_195247_1[1].jpg


IMG_20170119_191914_1[1].jpg
 

bluebarnaclebrewing

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Tested this out on a smaller stove top kettle. Works really well. It was kind of hard to tell how much it was working but in the end it does the trick.

Going to do it on my keggle later and I'll post the results. Not looking forward to trying to get my hands and arms into the keg but I'll do it for beers sake! :mug:

IMG_20170211_083356706_HDR.jpg


IMG_20170211_084020211_HDR.jpg
 

Mothman

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I went and read through this entire thread, but may have missed the answer to my question...

I tested this on the outside of a small cooking pot and it worked well.

I did two tests, the first was clearly deeper the it needed to be, so I etched for less time on the second one. That second one was shallower but still definitely an indent into the pot, such that a fingernail running across it catches on the ridge.

What I'm wondering is, is the intent to remove enough metal to cause a noticeable indent, or is the intent to just sort of rough up the texture of the metal?
 

brew_darrymore

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I went and read through this entire thread, but may have missed the answer to my question...

I tested this on the outside of a small cooking pot and it worked well.

I did two tests, the first was clearly deeper the it needed to be, so I etched for less time on the second one. That second one was shallower but still definitely an indent into the pot, such that a fingernail running across it catches on the ridge.

What I'm wondering is, is the intent to remove enough metal to cause a noticeable indent, or is the intent to just sort of rough up the texture of the metal?

Just rough it up. I just ran my fingernail as a test and it didn't catch. Really, it doesn't take a long time for the chemical process to take place. If I could describe it, I'd say imagine you're applying nail polish.
 

JDXX1971

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Just rough it up. I just ran my fingernail as a test and it didn't catch. Really, it doesn't take a long time for the chemical process to take place. If I could describe it, I'd say imagine you're applying nail polish.

I would assume @brew_darrymore would know......How to apply nail polish!!:D
 

indymedic

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I did this to my kettle. It was very easy and the markings are great. It's hard to get accurate measurement when your looking down on into the kettle so I can't say it is perfectly accurate but they are a great reference.
 

Mothman

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Just rough it up. I just ran my fingernail as a test and it didn't catch. Really, it doesn't take a long time for the chemical process to take place. If I could describe it, I'd say imagine you're applying nail polish.

OK great thanks. I was definitely going too long then. lol Even on the quicker test I spent a good 30 seconds on the same mark.
 

shamann

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This is very interesting and I can't wait to try it.

To me it seems these etchings would be most useful when measuring volume 'into the boiler', as a measurement of how much volume I got from my mash and sparge. Wouldn't it be better to etch according to water volumes temperatures at mash or sparge? I imagine measurements could be off 1% to 2% using cold tap water. I don't find markings being as important during the boil or even 'into the fermentor' since environmental factors can contribute to boil off and the fact that I can always top up if needed.

Also, has anyone tried etching on the top portion inside a corny for recording final volume? The opening is narrow and I wonder if anyone has had much difficulty or would have tips.
 

Yesfan

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It's been 5 days now, how did it work?.......:D

Would that be an even conceivable idea with all the foam from Star-san and such possibly blocking the markings?


An idea I had was to fill a corny keg with water to the max amount, then dump that into a carboy and mark that volume. Then you would know how much to fill your carboy after the boil.

EDIT: Quote @ shamann, not Stealthcrusier (sorry)
 

shamann

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Would that be an even conceivable idea with all the foam from Star-san and such possibly blocking the markings?


An idea I had was to fill a corny keg with water to the max amount, then dump that into a carboy and mark that volume. Then you would know how much to fill your carboy after the boil.

EDIT: Quote @ shamann, not Stealthcrusier (sorry)

Good point on the foam. But doing multiple transfers (carboy, keg, carboy, keg) seems like risking too much exposure and added losses.
 
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