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Building a Keggle: A Keg Conversion Project

Manufactured semi-pro brewing kettles usually cost a pretty penny, but for those pennies you get a brewing kettle that is usually equipped with a variety of monitoring tools and connections that make your brewing process cleaner and faster. These prefab brew kettles are great for the home brewer ready to take his/her's brewing to the next level, but what about those who just want to make larger batches of beer without breaking the bank?

BUILDING A KEGGLE: Keg Conversion Project

The middle vessel in the brewing system below is the converted keg (keggle) and in this setup is being used as a Mash Lauter Tun. The keggle is part of a 3 vessel system called a RIMS (Recirculating Mash System).

Building a Keggle: A Keg Conversion ProjectSource: HomeBrewing.com

If you are not quite ready to invest upwards of one thousand dollars to purchase these heavy duty brewing kettles then building a keggle out of an old beer keg may be your answer. Building a keggle, often confused with kegle, takes a few steps but can save the home brewer a lot of money in the end. In this project we will be covering a full keg conversion into a fully functional (keggle) brew kettle/ mashing vessel.

Tools

• Dremel
• Metal Cutting Blades
• Grinding Stone Attachment
• Nail
• Flathead Screwdriver
• Tape Measure
• Black Marker or Pencil
• Earplugs
• Protective Gloves
• Protective Eye Gear
• 120 Grit Sandpaper
• Power Drill
• 7/8" Step Bit
• Crescent Wrench
• Vice Grip Pliers
• Hammer
• Twine

Parts

• 15.5 Gallon Stainless Steel Keg
• Weldless Mash Conversion Kit
• 15" Folding False Bottom (Optional)
• Weldless Sight Glass Kit
• 6" Stem Thermometer
• Stainless Steel or Glass Lid

Execution

Now that you have gathered all the necessary parts and tools it's time to start building your keggle. There are many different methods of building a keggle using plasma cutters or expensive weld jobs, but the following method was created with economics in mind. We have included as many pictures as possible during the keggle build to help you along the way, as well as some links at the bottom of this article to online retailers that provide some of the parts needed in this project. We will be using a "D" style sanke keg for this example.

Here are the details on how to build a keggle.

Depressurize the Keg

Using a keg coupler or pump de-gas the keg and let out all the pressurized air that may be inside the keg. Brewer's Note: Using a screwdriver to push down the steel ball valve to depressurize the keg can result in a face full of old beer and is not recommended.

Remove the Ring Clip

Place the tip of a small nail into the groove on the outside of the ring clip (retainer ring) and press down until the clip pops out. Grab the ring with a pair of pliers, so you don't cut your fingers on any sharp edges of the clip.

Tap the Keg Spear

Using a flathead screwdriver, gently tap the barbs counterclockwise with a hammer. The sanke spear should twist as you tap.

Remove the Keg Spear

Grab the spear and lift it out of the keg. Save the spear. You may be able to incorporate the stainless steel tube into your brewery either as a siphon or as another piece of plumbing.

Measure the Lid

We used a 12" inch glass lid with a silicone rubber handle, but you could use any stock pot lid also.

Trace a Ring on the Keg

Wrap a piece of twine around the top opening and tie it off at the correct length to fit your lid size. Using a black colored pencil, trace a circle around the keg lid.

Setup Dremel and Metal Blades

Now is the time to get all of your protective gear on and setup your dremel with the metal cutting blades.

Cut the Keg

Start cutting at high speed and move slowly and carefully around the traced line. We used 6-7 blades to complete the cutout.

Remove the Keg Top

Pull out the top of the keg and be careful of jagged edges.

Grind the Edges

Use a grinding stone attachment to grind away any rough shards of metal along the edges of your cut.

Sand the Edges

Use sanding paper to finish the edges and make them smooth to the touch.

Test the Lid

Put your lid on and check to make sure the fit is correct.

Mark Your Drill Spot

Between the vent holes, measure 3 and 3/4 inches from the bottom of the keg and mark it.

Ready the Step Bit

Insert your step bit (unibit) (bi-metal bit)

Drill

Place the bit on the mark you made and start up the drill applying pressure to the back of the drill.

Keep Drilling

Once you penetrate the steel keep drilling down through each width until you have created a 7/8" hole.

Grind and Sand

Sand and grind the hole just as you did for the top hole.

Weldless Mash Conversion Kit

This is a kit purchased from MoreBeer and includes your bulkhead fittings, false bottom and stainless steel siphon tube.

Install the Conversion Kit

All the parts came pre-wrapped with plumber's tape, so all you have to do is tighten the bulkhead down after inserting the false bottom.

Check the False Bottom

You will notice that this specific keg has a molded star shape on the bottom of the keg. The conversion kit we purchased was for a keg that has a smooth rounded bottom, so the false bottom will not work. Grains would be able to slip past the screen and underneath resulting in a stuck sparge.
Brewer's Note: We went ahead and documented the issue to help those that are converting similar star shaped kegs in the future. Double check your keg before purchasing this kit, so you do not waste any money.

Alternate False Bottom

We purchased a 15" folding false bottom from the California Brewing Company after talking with Jaybird on HomeBrewTalk.com. Cost was $95.00 shipped and it works great in our keggle with the star shaped bottom. Thanks Jay!

Install the Weldless Sight Glass

This Weldless Sight Glass Tee Connection with 6" Stem Thermometer was purchased from WeldlessFittings.com. Drill a 7/8" hole just as you did before when installing the weldless sight glass.

Keggle is Completed

Fill your new keggle up with water to check all the seals and gaskets. Tighten accordingly if small leaks occur. Enjoy your keggle and the delicious brew it will make for you.

Double Check Drilled Drain Holes

Make sure there are holes drilled in the bottom of the metal that the keg stands on. If you do not see any drill holes then you need to drill a few small holes so pressure does not build when you fire the keggle up on a burner. There are known instances of this happening, so be careful and make sure you double check this.

Reference Links

CaliforniaBrewingCompany.com - 15" Folding False Bottom
MoreBeer.com - Weldless Mash Conversion Kit
WeldlessFittings.com - Weldless Sight Glass Kit with 6 inch Stem Thermometer

Published: February 24, 2010

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