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You have weighed the options, done the math, and made the decision that it is cheaper to modify your own brew kettle than to buy one with the ball valve already installed. Now the prospect of taking a drill to your pristine stainless steel kettle is a bit daunting. Hopefully I will be able to shed a bit of light to the process because it is not that difficult, but to be honest still a little scary because you don't want to mess up a new kettle.
A new brew kettle with a ball valve can start at about $150 and go up from there based on the brand, other features, or size, and can be several hundred dollars for the Tri-Ply bottom kettles. For many home brewers, saving a few dollars to spend on other equipment or ingredients is an enticing prospect. For less than $50 you can find a 10-gallon stainless steel pot that will work just fine to brew your “liquid gold”, if it only had a stainless-steel ball valve to drain your wort.
Thankfully free markets have supplied us with ample opportunities to find everything we need to accomplish our goals.

Installing A Ball Valve On A Kettle


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Once you have your kettle and your valve, your first step is to decide the placement of the valve. The valve should be high enough to not drain the “trub” but not so high that you lose too much of your precious wort. Some people will use a piece of dip tube and a trub trapper or screen for maximum wort collection.
A few other considerations would be to decide if you will add a sight glass to monitor your wort color and level, a temperature probe, another ball valve for BIAB mash re-circulation, or even a heating element if you plan on an electric brew house, as they will need to be considered in the valve placement as well. They also will follow the same basic steps as the ball valve installation, so the sky is the limit. For our purposes, we will just be covering the valve installation, but it is the same basic principle to add them as well.

Punch a Hole In Your Kettle


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Here's the scary part. Drilling a hole in your new kettle.
The cleanest and easiest way I found to prepare the kettle for our new valve is to use a punch to cleanly cut the hole. The most common valve used in home brewing is the ½” weldless stainless steel ball valve. The punch set I used for this process uses a ½” drive bolt so a ½” pilot hole was drilled to allow the drive bolt to be inserted. The ½” punch and die were then used to cut the side wall of the kettle.
You are now left with a nice, clean hole in the side wall prepared for the new valve.

Installing the Ball Valve


With the hard part completed all we have left to do is install the valve. Disassemble the valve components and apply Teflon tape to the nipple. Install the lock nut followed by an O-ring. Insert the nipple through the hole in the side wall and install another O-ring on the inside of the kettle and now install the other lock nut on the inside of the lock nut.
Lastly install the ball valve body on the outside of the kettle. Finger tight is all that is needed for these connections. The most important step before we brew our next fermented masterpiece is to test the kettle with water. It is much better to leak water all over your garage than your sweet nectar of the gods.
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Now that you have your valve installed and you brewed the perfect combination of water, malt, hops and yeast that AB-INBEV is taking notice, you need to ensure continuity of brews. To do so you need to certify the cleanliness of your system.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance


There are several schools of thought on cleaning your ball valve. The first being that since it is on your boil kettle that any little communist bacteria looking to steal your fermented freedom will surely die in the heat of liberty, I mean the boil. The other belief is that cleanliness is next to godliness and you can never be to clean. Those who subscribe to this line of thinking will break down the ball valve either after every brew day or at least at regular intervals and clean all the components. The decision ideally comes down to one question, “What are you willing to risk when it comes to the fruits of your labors?”
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ScrewyBrewer

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I used a high speed steel step bit and some PAM vegetable spray as a lubricant when adding a whirlpool port to my kettle. The hardest part was starting the 1/8 inch pilot hole, but the PAM worked perfectly and smelled really good too. I contacted Danco regarding using their faucet washers with high temperatures this was their reply. "Our o-rings are made of Nitrile (Buna-N), the temperature rating of the o-rings is -86F to 248F (-30C to 120C)"
Milwaukee 3/16" to 7/8" Step Drill Bit #4
Stainless Steel Weldless Bulkhead 1/2" NPT
Anvil 1/2" NPT Swivel Dip Tube
Danco #12 Rubber O-Rings
 

perreti

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Great!
I pass through this experience time ago. Really it is a little scary. I uploaded a video in Youtube (in spanish, of course, my mother language). Here is the link: >Instalar válvula en olla.
PS: If you find inappropriate my comment don't hesitate in removing it. I didn't want to disturb or brake any rules.
 

trojan

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Great point in using the step bit. I looked at using a step bit as well but I found the punch set on the cheap.
 

trojan

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I know what you mean. I watched several videos and read as much as I could before I touched my boil kettle with a drill.
 

DBC

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Hi all. This is a great post and is helping to relieve my anxiety about adding a ball valve and thermometer to my kettle. That said, the thought of drilling into my relatively new 15 gal. MegaPot still puts a knot in my stomach. I've found some videos about drilling into lightweight stainless and aluminum pots, but none about drilling a heavier pot, which leaves me with a few questions. 1. Is there a difference between drilling into the lightweight pots and one like mine? 2. Do you simply file down any rough edges etc.... that may be left by drilling or is there something unique to drilling into a brew kettle? 3. How high up the pot do you ordinarily put the ball valve and thermometer? Please feel free to tell me that if I have to ask these types of questions I should put my drill down and walk away! Thanks.
 
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