Mash tun with home depot cooler

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RyPA

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Hey guys

Around 5 years ago I started extract brewing and decided to go full grain. I went with a 10 gallon home depot cooler and a ball valve that was linked in a youtube video showing how easy it was to build a mash tun.

I am on my 3rd water leak test and I cannot get it to not leak. Mind you, it's a drop maybe once every 3 minutes or so, but it's not water tight. Has anyone recently built a mash tun out of a 5 or 10 gallon home depot cooler that can give me some pointers? I read some threads that discuss home depot making the spigot hole larger which may prevent a lot of the ball valves out there from getting a tight seal.

I'm using the rubber washer that comes with the cooler in the inside, but I think the problem is getting a seal through the middle of the rubber washer (the outlet hole). I tried loading up on teflon tape but no luck, and the rubber washers that came with the ball valve do not seem sized correct for the ball valve parts or cooler.

Here's the ball valve I bought: Amazon.com: Horiznext npt 1/2 homebrew ball valve kit stainless steel weldless bulkhead for Home Brewing Kettle : Industrial & Scientific

Thanks!
 
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3 Dawg Night

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I know leak-free is ideal, but you're only talking about ~20 drops over a 1-hour mash. Maybe just put a shop-cloth under it.

When I first built my MLT, I used the washer that came with the cooler. It leaked a bit, but I just put a cloth under it, as stated above. I eventually bought and installed a weldless bulkhead and 1/2 ball valve from Brew Hardware, and it's completely watertight now. It looks pretty similar to the assembly you linked above, so maybe try replacing the washer that came with the cooler? You can also use some flat washers to better compress the washer/o-ring and maybe make a better seal.
 
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RyPA

RyPA

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I am going to make a few more attempts to make it seal and may just call it a day. I let it sit for an hour with 9 gallons of water and I loss less than a teaspoon.

I looked up the bulkhead above but it specifically says not for coolers. Are there valve kits/bulkheads out there specifically for HD coolers? I want something that does not have threads leading out, needing only a seal where pressed against the cooler.
 

KBW PilotHouse

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I am going to make a few more attempts to make it seal and may just call it a day. I let it sit for an hour with 9 gallons of water and I loss less than a teaspoon.

I looked up the bulkhead above but it specifically says not for coolers. Are there valve kits/bulkheads out there specifically for HD coolers? I want something that does not have threads leading out, needing only a seal where pressed against the cooler.
RyPA, Brew Hardware does have kits specifically for cooler conversions - I have 2 and they’re outstanding. E-Mail Bobby or give them a call. They’ll hook you up with an excellent bulk fitting, etc.

Cheers 🍻

KBW.
 

IslandLizard

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Is the inside surface of the cooler round (concave) or flat? If concave, that could explain why you can't get a good seal.

Although there's a flat surface on my rectangular cooler, I still had small leaks (drips). The bigger issue with leaks is that the foam insulation in the walls will get soaked, reducing insulatory properties, and becomes roundout disgusting over time.

I used some food grade, aquarium silicone on the inside, and obtained a positive seal that way. Every once in awhile I need to redo the silicone job, usually after the valve assembly inadvertently has turned somewhat. It only takes a few minutes, and it will have ample time to cure until next the mash session.

You may want to get a much larger (silicone) washer, (but with the same 1/2" ID). The one in picture looks waaay too small (not enough body).
 

3 Dawg Night

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I am going to make a few more attempts to make it seal and may just call it a day. I let it sit for an hour with 9 gallons of water and I loss less than a teaspoon.

I looked up the bulkhead above but it specifically says not for coolers. Are there valve kits/bulkheads out there specifically for HD coolers? I want something that does not have threads leading out, needing only a seal where pressed against the cooler.
Sorry, I linked the wrong bulkhead. That's the one I bought for my kettle. Here's the one I bought for my MLT.
 
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RyPA

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After 5 or so attempts this afternoon (and 4 or 5 last night) I finally got it to sit for 3 hours with no leaks. I'm going to post what I did for anyone else who is dealing with the same issue. If I notice any leaks after brewing my first batch I am going to look into a new fitting.

Using Home Depot 10 gallon water cooler, this ball valve and this bazooka filter.
  1. Starting with the main fitting that came with the ball valve (threads on ends and hex in middle), put one of the metal washers on against the hex area where you'd tighten with a wrench.
  2. Next, use teflon tape and wrap the set of threads that you just added the washer to, starting at the washer and try to make the teflon cover the the gap between the center of the washer and the fitting, sort of like an L, and continue down the threads. I put the teflon tape on pretty heavy (maybe 3-4 wraps) all the way down to the end of the threads. Focus in making a seal where the washer meets the fitting.
  3. Put on one of the rubber washers that come with the ball valve and snug it up against the metal washer. Try to avoid disturbing the teflon tape that was just added.
  4. Screw on the the nut that comes with the ball valve and tighten it as much as you can but don't go crazy because you don't want to destroy the rubber washer.
  5. Screw on the fitting that came with your bazooka filter, and tighten it down good. (there should already be teflon tape on the threads)
  6. Put on the white rubber fitting that came with the cooler so the flat side is up against the washer that is up against the hex of the fitting (the white rubber fitting is pretty much sitting on the hex of the fitting). Make sure it's sitting perfectly flat against the metal washer.
  7. Wrap the untouched end of the fitting with teflon tape, in preparation for the ball valve.
  8. Slide the entire piece into the cooler hole, from the inside, with the newly wrapped/untouched side first. Make sure that the white rubber washer that came with the cooler fits in the same way that you got it, to ensure a seal (see first pic below)
  9. On the outside of the cooler, slide a metal washer onto the fitting (should already have teflon on it) and then screw on the ball valve.
  10. Tighten up the ball valve and do a leak test. To save water and time, I used 2 5-gallon buckets and re-used my test water over and over.
  11. If all is well, add on the bazooka filter and make some wort. I realized the bazooka filter is too long. I plan to either just bend it, or cut it and re-crimp the end.
Here's how it looks from the inside:
PXL_20210914_002506342.jpg

And outside:
PXL_20210914_001342620.jpg
 

KBW PilotHouse

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Looking good RyPA 👌 If you can deal with minor drips you should be GTG. Even though Teflon tape is used on threads you may need to play with it some to stop drips. The liquid follows the thread root and eventually works it‘s way through to front of cooler wall.

Cheers 🍻

KBW.
 
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RyPA

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Yeah, I'm going to see how it works on my very first all-grain brew day. If I notice any leaks, I'm going to order a new fitting. BrewHardware.com just responded with the part I can buy so its ready to go when needed.

Trying to find an IPA recipe now. Whats a good vendor? I do not know enough yet to make my own recipes.
 

Falstaff

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I built mine a few months ago and it leaks a few drops. I obsessed about trying to make it leak proof until I just gave up. I wouldn't worry about it.
 
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RyPA

RyPA

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I built mine a few months ago and it leaks a few drops. I obsessed about trying to make it leak proof until I just gave up. I wouldn't worry about it.
I got mine leak proof today for 3 hours with 8 gallons of cold water. See above for what I did, maybe it can help you out. If it leaks on brew day, I'm buying a new fitting from brewhardware.com.
 

Falstaff

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I got mine leak proof today for 3 hours with 8 gallons of cold water. See above for what I did, maybe it can help you out. If it leaks on brew day, I'm buying a new fitting from brewhardware.com.

Already am. I'd prefer it not to leak, for sure.
 

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JRHDBrew

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I am going to make a few more attempts to make it seal and may just call it a day. I let it sit for an hour with 9 gallons of water and I loss less than a teaspoon.

I looked up the bulkhead above but it specifically says not for coolers. Are there valve kits/bulkheads out there specifically for HD coolers? I want something that does not have threads leading out, needing only a seal where pressed against the cooler.

So I just went through this feat. I ended up doing a 3/4 inch threaded pipe to pass through the cooler and then reducers to hook up the ball valve and bazooka screen. The hole in the RubberMaid cooler is .8657 inches in diameter. They changed it a few years ago apparently. I have no leakage now. I also had to use Teflon tape as the threading was just to deep. There is not a specific kit for HD that I found. The problem I was having is the gasket on the inside was just a micron wider than the hole in the cooler. As soon as I put any pressure on it a bit of the washer would buckle into the hole, this not sealing 100%.
 

IslandLizard

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Was just about to say the same thing ,
I don’t know how many times while checking for leaks with tap water everything was good and leak free
until I used HOT water or HOT wort 💧
Yeah, amazing how things change when HOT water or HOT wort are involved.

I thought to be smart by simply using a piece of vinyl tubing through the cooler's porthole thus creating a simple HLT (hot sparge water storage) from one. Until you suddenly understand what happens when that water is 180F...

Don't do that!
 

Bobby_M

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I'll be brutally honest here. This:
1631745327451.png

Is NOT a bulkhead. It's actually just a collection of parts that look like a bulkhead but in practice, it's dog crap.

It's possible to get them to seal, sometimes, with a LOT of teflon tape jammed into the threads.

Someone will probably accuse me of just shilling for my own product. That's fair. I am, but because it's superior and just works.

1631745594151.png

The difference is that it's not a nipple with a lock nut. That middle hex is the same piece of metal that the front and rear threads are machined out of. The gasket has something to seat against and there is no place for liquid to go even if it spirals through the threads.
 

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RyPA

RyPA

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I'll probably end up buying one from you.

Do you have one with 1/2" threads on both sides?
 

KBW PilotHouse

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You may start to think some of us work for Brew Hardware due so many recommendations..... but I can promise you I don’t. Kinda wish I did...😁

But seriously, you just can’t go wrong with Bobby’s true bulkhead fittings. ‘nuff said 👌

Cheers 🍻

KBW.
 

JJinMD

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I have the one bobby posted from brewhardware, I went for a week vacation this year and left a full 10g igloo cooler in my living room (by accident). No leaks at all. Carpet underneath was quite cold from the icewater in there, but bone dry.
 
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RyPA

RyPA

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This is the one. How long is it? And do you have a recommendation regarding 7/8" vs 13/16" for a HD 10 gallon cooler?

I am the one who emailed you recently Bobby, with a picture I drew in MS paint for what I was looking for.

 
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