There are many reasons why you should consider installing a spigot on your brew kettle:
- It lets you transfer hot wort or water without pouring.
- Combined with a diptube and screen it makes separating the wort from spent hops a breeze.
- It makes using an inline chiller and/or hopback a lot easier.
The list goes on. If I buy a new kettle, it’ll have a spigot welded on. But since I already have a nice kettle, and don’t want to ante up for a new one, I installed a weldless spigot myself at home.
I must admit, that when I set out to do this I did not fully understand what was involved. I figured I would source all the parts from from my local hardware store, and what I couldn’t find there I’d pick up at Home Depot. After spending serval hours traveling to both stores a couple times (and doing my best guess work at the parts required), I resolved to just order a kit.
Looking back, it was definitely the right call. Finding the right parts piece-meal is hard; you need lead free parts, the o-rings required need to be high-temp silcone, some parts are not in stock, etc. Ordering is easier, and not much more expensive. Plus, you can get Stainless Steel, which is an upgrade from brass.
I settled on this kit from Bargain Fittings, with the 3 piece stainless steel valve, standard coupling, and the 3/8 stainless steel hose barb. I also ordered a few extra 1/2″ silicone o-rings. The kit comes with one extra one, but at $0.25 each added a few to the order just in case. Finally, I ordered several feet of the silicone tubing. This tubing is FDA approved for high temperatures (up to 500F!) so its safe to use for transferring boiling hot liquids. That covers the bulkhead and the spigot.
For the diptube, I went with 3/8″ soft copper tubing (which was left over from my DIY hopback build). To connect it to the coupling, I needed a 1/2″ male to 3/8″ brass compression fitting.
For tools, I used my variable speed drill. Variable speed is handy when drilling through metal; it’s best to spin the bit slowly and apply a lot of pressure. The drill bit was something I needed to buy. I picked up a titanium step bit (1/4″ to 1-3/8″ w/ 1/8″ steps) on amazon for $14.
I also used my trusty brass tubing cutter for cutting the diptube to length.
Other miscellaneous things I needed were: a roll of teflon tape for wrapping the threads for all the fittings and some lubrication for drilling though the kettle wall. 3-1 oil is way cheaper than ‘milling oil’ and works just as well for this project.
So to recap my parts list:
- Weldless bulkhead kit ($11)
- Fancy 3-piece Stainless Steel spigot ($18)
- 3/8″ Stainlees Steel hose barb ($3.50)
- 3 extra 1/2″ silicone o-rings ($0.25 each)
- Silcone tubing ($2.20 per foot, I ordered 12′ to have some extra)
- 7″ soft copper tubing ($22 for 10′ coil)
- 1/2 male MPT to 3/8″ brass compression fitting ($5)
- Step drill bit ($14)
- Teflon tape ($1.25 per roll)
- 3-1 oil ($4)
I already had the copper tubing, the compression fitting, and the teflon tape. This still ended up costing me about $85 for everything else I needed ($35 for the spigot/bulkhead, $27 for the tubing, and $20 for the bit and oil), but I got high quality stuff, extra tubing, spare orings and a new tool.
Clean your kettle
Why not? You’ll have no better time to really scour it and remove any residual gunk then right now. Once the bulkhead and spigot are installed, you will have new obstacles to clean around.
Placing the hole
You want to place the hole evenly between the handles. This makes it easier to carry the pot around without bumping it into things. I decided to place the hole about 3″ from the bottom of my pot. Some pots have a weld that runs along the bottom of the kettle, if yours has one, then you’ll want to make sure your hole goes above that weld. I didn’t have one, but I went 3″ up anyway. I didn’t have a great reason for this, but I looked at some of the commercial pots, and saw that is about where they place their spigots. I used a sharpie to mark where I wanted to drill.
Tapping the hole
If you have a punch, you can use it like a nail to put a little dent in the kettle where you want to drill. This will help the bit rest in the correct spot when you start drilling
Prepare for drilling
Get to a place where it will be easy to clean up any oil drips and metal shavings. Carpet is not a good surface to work on. Also, wear safety goggles! Metal shavings can fly up at you while you are drilling
Put a little of the lubricant on the drill bit as well as around the area you want to drill.
If you have a variable speed drill, go slowly and apply pressure directly down on the kettle (don’t get sideways). Stop every 15-20 seconds to add more oil to the bit and the hole, and to check the width of your hole against the threaded nipple in your kit.
My drill is a cheap cordless Black and Decker drill. Its not powerful, but it got the job done. Since it has very little torque on a full battery (let alone a half spent battery) it was hard for me to restart drilling after I had stopped. I had to file away any burs and edges in the hole that were causing the bit to stick before I could restart the drilling.
A friendly reminder, you don’t want to over-drill your hole! I over-drilled my just a bit, but it was enough to screw me up. Luckily, I was able to install my spigot from the outside in, and barely had enough threading protruding past my locknut to screw the coupler into.
Once you have the right size hole, lightly file away any burs from the hole.
Wash the kettle
Carefully empty out any metal shavings into the trash, being careful not to give yourself any splinters. Wash away the oil with a sponge and some soapy water. Dry it thoroughly.
Install the bulkhead and spigot
Wrap all your threads with teflon tape and install the spigot. Remember, the o-ring goes on the inside of the kettle. If you are using the kit from bargain fittings, you can view their step by step instructions here. I won’t go into detail of my install, because I really had to fudge it to correct for the over-drilled hole.
Build the diptube
Take your coil of copper tubing, measure about 7″ (or whatever looks to be right length for your setup), and cut it. Follow the instructions on your compression fitting to affix the tubing to the 3/8″ side of the fitting. Remember to wrap your threads. Once you have the compression fitting tightened down, you can attach it to the coupling inside the kettle. Bend the tubing to touch the bottom of the kettle. While the soft tubing bends easily, you’ll want to bend it gradually because it will kink if you try to make too sharp of an angle.
Now that is a fine looking piece of brewing equipment! Get ready to brew with your upgraded gear.