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Picture of Brew Kettle Keg (Keggle)
If you want to start home brewing, or step up from that 20 quart pot you have been using, this is the Instructable for you.  A keggle is great vessel for heating your brew and can be obtained for a relatively low price.  The 15 gallon capacity of most kegs makes it possible to boil whole five gallon batches.

If your missing any of the tools that I use in the instructable, stop by Techshop and use our tools instead.
 
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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Your going to need a few things for this project.
  • Step-Drill bit - Should be able to drill up to a 3/4" hole.  You could use another drill bit, but a step-drill bit will make the process much easier.
  • Hammer and Chisel - You can use a flathead screw driver instead of a chisel if need be.
  • Small Flathead Screwdriver - Just need a small wedge to pry off the retaining ring.
  • Pliers/ Vice Grips -  Need to be big enough to grab the interior part of the weldless fitting.
  • Wrench -  must be proper size for the exterior of the weldless fitting.
  • Drill Bit - For creating a hole for plasma cutter to slide into. 1" worked for me.
  • Hand Held Drill
  • Drill Press - optional, could use the hand drill instead, but will be a little easier with a press.
  • Angle Grinder and Flap disc
  • Plasma Cutter
  • Mig Welder - If you don't have one, something like J-B Weld should work. 
  • Keg - Craigslist is a good place to find these.
  • Weldless Ball Valve Assembly -  These are pretty easy to find at online brew stores.  Here is a similar one to mine.
  • Scrap Metal - For making the jig
  • Safety Gear - welding gloves, safety glasses, welding helmet.

As a note, I did not take pictures of the first 4 steps (up to cutting out the top) as I was actually doing them.  So the pictures seen are re-enactments,  you may notice the blue masking tape holding the lid in place.

Step 2: Removing The Valve

Picture of Removing The Valve
IanKeggle.jpg
First, you need to remove the valve to make room for the jig to fit in.  It's best to depressurize the keg as much as possible with a tap. If you don't have a tap, you can also push on the valve with a screwdriver to release the pressure.  Warning: You may be covered in old beer if you try this as it will be shooting out the top.

There will be a retaining ring ( not pictured)  just under the upper lip of the opening.  You can pry this out with a small screwdriver or something similar. Grab it with a pair of pliers and get it out of that lip. 

Now it just needs to be twisted counter clockwise a few degrees to come right out.  Put your screwdriver on the tooth pictured and tap it with a hammer.  This should twist it slightly, allowing you to lift the valve right out.

Step 3: Making The Jig

Picture of Making The Jig
Welding.jpg
IanKeggle2.jpg
The more precise you make the jig , the cleaner the hole will be for the lid.  In my case, I wasn't worried about getting it perfect, so I just welded together a quick jig out of scrap metal to get a relatively good circle. 

All that you need is a piece of square or round stock about the same size as the hole the valve was sitting in as well as flat scrap that is a little longer then the diameter of the opening you want in the top of the keg.  I made the opening in the top of my keg 11 inches across.

Use that 1" Drill bit to drill a hole near the edge of your flat stock.  This is where the plasma cutter will fit into while it is cutting top of the keg off.

Weld these two pieces together at an angle about equal to what you see in the last picture. You want the tip of the plasma cutter to be close enough to the metal to cut while the round or square stock is in the valve hole.

Step 4: Cutting The Top

Picture of Cutting The Top
IanKeggle1.jpg
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Now just set the jig up in your center hole on your keg.  Put the tip of your plasma cutter into the hole that you drilled out on the jig, and start cutting. 

In order to get the best circle possible, try to keep the motion smooth and slow while you are cutting. My jig didn't fit perfectly, so I just held it up to the edge of the valve hole closest to where I was cutting. I ended up with some pretty good results.

I quickly went over the edge with the flap disc to clean it up a little.

Step 5: Drilling The Hole For The Ball Valve

Picture of Drilling The Hole For The Ball Valve
I want to eventually add a pickup tube to this set up, so there needs to be some clearance to allow for this. I drilled my hole at 3.75" from the very bottom of the keg.  This is a pretty common placement for most kegs.  On my keg, this is about 1.25 " from where the skirt is welded onto the keg itself. 

Another thing to keep in mind when determining where to place your valve is the location of the keg vents. If you place it too close to one of the vents pictured, the flames could come through and heat the ball valve itself a little too much.  There should be 4 vents on your keg. I put my ball valve centered in between two of them.

While drilling the hole with the step drill it will get very hot. If you want your tools to last, make sure to use plenty of cutting fluid.  Just keep drilling with the step drill until you reach the 3/4" mark. Your weldless ball valve setup should fit right in.

Step 6: Installing The Ball Valve

Picture of Installing The Ball Valve
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To avoid leaks, we need to put teflon tape on all of the threads. My kit came pre-assembled with the tape and all.

My kit only came with one gasket,  which I have heard is sometimes not enough. For me it has worked fine so far.  The way that it should be assembled is in this order: ball valve, keg wall, gasket, washer, coupler.

Hand tighten this set-up onto your keg, then bring out the hand tools.  I used vice grips to hold the coupler on the inside while I used a crescent wrench on the ball valve on the outside.  When tightening, there is a magic spot that is not too tight nor too loose. If you tighten too much the gasket starts to get squeezed past the washer, not creating a good seal.  If you don't tighten enough, then there is not enough pressure to keep it water tight.  You can test this by filling your keg with water. 

Step 7: Start Brewing

Picture of Start Brewing
Now you are ready to start brewing.  This is the bare minimum , in my opinion, in order to have a brewing keg.  You can get plenty of more add-ons like a thermometer or a pickup tube. 

So get to brewing!!! What are you waiting for?
StickyC3 months ago

To avoid (or at least minimize) getting sprayed, gently lay the keg on it's side when depressurizing.

streetrod52 years ago
Great job - I like how you made a jig to cut a nice circle with the plasma cutter. I've always messed up my freehand cuts, so that is a perfect solution. I believe the jig could be modified to accommodate an angle grinder (maybe using one of the grinder's threaded handle mounting holes).

I saw one video where they tied a rag over the valve and then released the pressure with a long screwdriver.

Prost!
Nice instructable, I think you covered the basics here pretty well.

I made a very similar with less sophisticated tools last year. I used a loop of string and a sharpie to mark a circle around the keg's valve. Then I used an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel and some patience to cut out the top. If you have a steady hand this actually works pretty well. I mention it because many of us don't have access to a plasma cutter, so we need to find an alternative solution.

Also for others who might want to try this: I wasn't able to remove the valve on mine despite some hours of fiddling, so I left it in when I cut the top out. As long as you make sure the pressure is drained before cutting, this works out OK.

One other thing I did which was very helpful is I made sure that the opening I cut matched the glass lid for my pasta pot (standard 10 inch lid I think). It's nice to be able to put a lid on the keggle while you are chilling/draining the wort.

Lastly I'd reccommend getting a ball valve assembly with a pickup tube. This will help you siphon all the wort out down to about 1/2cm left at the bottom of the keg. Otherwise you will 'lose' some liquid below the level of your valve.

Cheers