Here we go again. Today, I’ll detail the Keg to Kettle conversion for our Keggle. The great things about full-size beer kegs are:
1. Capacity. 15.5 Gallons
2. Material. These are Stainless Steel! Perfect for any brewery.
The walls on these things are pretty thick, too. They can take quite the punishment. This turned out to be a good thing for us. When I decided to use a keg for this application, I put some feelers out and found one that had a couple holes drilled on the top. Because of this, they let it go for $40. Suits me just fine, I’m planning to take most of the top off anyway!
A couple You Tube videos later, I was ready to cut. I took the valve out of the keg (really simple process, especially since the top was already compromised and it held no pressure). This was done by using a flat head screwdriver to pry the retaining ring from the inside of the valve opening. Then I turned the valve so the two knurls lined up with the notches and pulled straight up. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of this. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing this process.
Then I filled the keg to the top with water from my garden hose. After drying the exterior, I let the keg sit for an hour to check for any leaks. After the hour was up, the driveway was still dry, so we were in business!
I ordered some cutting discs for my angle grinder from, yes, Amazon, found here:
4 1/2″ Cutting Discs – 5 pack – 7/8″ Arbor – $13.24
Once the cutting discs arrived, I put one on my grinder and found an issue. The discs are so thin, they will not allow the arbor nut to hold them tight. I hit Lowe’s on the way home from work the next day and picked up a washer to put between the disc and the nut. This gave enough material for the nut to lock the disc in place.
Now that I had a functional grinder with cutting disc, I cut. Now most of the videos show how to use the outside of the valve on top of the keg as a guide for the cut. Since mine is not a straight side keg, I had to do something different.
This is a barrel keg and the diameter of the top is smaller than that on the straight side keg. The workaround I cam up with was to put the hand guard of the grinder handle into the valve opening and use that as a guide.
If you notice, there are the two notches I mentioned earlier. Stop the grinder before you get to it with the handle. You’ll have to free-hand cut this area.
I then switched to a grinding wheel to clean up the edges a bit.
Before I could cut, however, I had to work on the bottom skirt of the keg. There were two ares the were bent inward, one so far as to be touching the underside of the keg.
While prying so that the keg would sit level and not rock, I pushed a dent into the bottom of the keg. Oh well. It’s not totally round, but it doesn’t rock anymore:
As a side note, notice that there are tiny holes in the rolled bottom of the skirt. If you keg doesn’t have them, add some. There have been tales of water being trapped in here and being heated during a boil. Once the pressure grew the bottom blew out of the keg. I don’t know if it’s true, but a couple minutes with a drill never hurt, either.
OK, keg sits flat, top is cut off. Now to test the fit of the Immersion Cooler. Which, in this case, means to open up the hole a bit more to allow the Immersion Cooler to fit inside.
With that done, we can move on to the next step: drill the holes for the fittings. I used a step bit from Amazon and the fittings/thermometer from bargainfittings
Step Bit – $12.31
Kettle kit with standard bulkhead/3 piece valve/3/8″ hose barb – $25.45
3″ thermometer with 2.5″ stem – $24.00
Weldless thermometer install kit – $5.75
I don’t know if it was what I was doing or the step bit that gave me issues, but it overheated (even though I was using cutting oil) and the first two steps rounded pretty quickly. I had to take a serious angle on the second hole for the bit to catch and cut more than a 1/4″ inch hole. If I were to do it again, I would likely just get the step bit from bargain fittings, too.
Once the holes were drilled close to the size needed, I would test fit the nipple fittings after every few seconds of drilling to ensure the best possible fit. Once satisfied, I pulled out the grinder again, this time with a 120 grit flap disc I got from Northern Tools
I used this to clean up the sharp edges on the top opening and the exterior of the holes that were just drilled. I then started to sand down the entire exterior of the keg, since it needed some TLC.
We then installed the drain valve and thermometer and checked for leaks. They both leaked. We tightened up the thermometer and stopped that leak. We couldn’t stop the valve from leaking, no matter how tight we made the connection. It was getting late, so we decided to call it a day and work on it later.
A couple days later, I gave it another shot. I started by removing the valve completely and this is what I found:
We completely destroyed the O-ring. Luckily, they send a spare with these kits. I wrapped the nipple fitting with 5 turns of nylon tape and hand tighten the valve assembly together. Water test: no leaks. I guess we didn’t need to use the 500 pound gorilla on this. Lesson learned.
Now I wanted to test the clearance between the thermometer stem and the Immersion Chiller. Quite pleased with the results!
This project including tools cost $134.98, since the tools are reusable and hoping we can get another keg for $40, another keggle will cost $95.20