How to make your own Fermentation Lock (Not a balloon!)

Picture of How to make your own Fermentation Lock (Not a balloon!)
Are you thinking about making your own wine or beer? There are lots of quick and simple recipes out there for making wine but many of them suggest you use a balloon as your airlock. While this is very cheap and practical, I have found that many people claim it can leave a "rubbery" taste in your drink.

Commercial airlocks are not expensive by any means, but if you are like me and don't live close to a home brew store, you are on your own. Ebay sellers want ~$2 plus whatever gouged shipping charges they feel like putting on top of that. I have a simple solution for you, you can make your own super cheap one for less than $2 and maybe even free if you have all the stuff lying around!

I list 2 different methods, one is the bare minimum way (~36 cents plus some spare things you probably have lying around) and the other is the recommended way (a little under $2). I only have pictures for the recommended way but the diagram I use can be altered to work for either method.
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Bare Minimum way:
- Tape
- Pen
- Plastic tubing
- Jar (clear is best)
- Water
- Something to punch a hole with

Recommended way:
+ Hot glue gun
+ 1 Nylon barb and matching nut (I got this from the hardware store, ~$1.25)
+ Plastic tubing (~ 2 feet, depending on where you will be placing your jar)
+ Jar (clear is still best)
+ Water
+ Drill
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finfan75 years ago
This is interesting but my first question is immediately: did your setup not come with a free airlock?
ralegg (author)  finfan75 years ago
finfan7, My whole setup was made from scratch so unfortunately I didn't already have an airlock. The fermentation vessel shown is just a food-grade, 5 gallon bucket that I happened across, which I then made the enhancements as shown above to get my final setup.
One thing that should be noted regarding 'food-grade' buckets......don't reuse one that had previously possibly contained vinegar. You will likely end up with a batch of vinegar for your troubles. My father made his own wines & beer, and that was one thing he always cautioned's impossible to get every trace of vinegar out of any bottle, jar or bucket, and a trace CAN turn your wine into 'wine vinegar'.

Wonderful Instructable!!!!
finfan7 ralegg5 years ago
That's cool. I got mine as a gift. Brewers in my area are kind of lucky. We have a Brew-Your-Own Store right in town. The prices for hops are fairly reasonable. Do you do wine, beer, or both? I've been wanting to try my hand at wine.
ralegg (author)  finfan75 years ago
Currently I have only made wine but I am looking to try making beer next! I hope wine works out for you if you give it a try!
kotpet5 years ago
Very good instruction. I would add that one don't need a lid on the receiving can. Just my 5 cents. Good luck to all!
I believe the only purpose of the lid on the "receiving can" was to hold the tubing in place.
uberchoob2 years ago
Awesome Ible! I'm brewing up some ginger ale tonight when I realized I was out of balloons... Then I found this! Lifesaver :)

I'm brewing directly in 32oz bottles, so I took an old wine cork and drilled a 3/8 inch hole in the center and shoved some 3/8 inch tubing in it. Then drilled out the same in the lid of a perrier bottle I had, punched a couple holes in it, filled it with water and called it dandy.

Thanks again!
RainDog072 years ago
I just run the blow-off tube into a container of sanitizer located below the fermenter.
Homepwner2 years ago
The sports drink "Powerade" has a sippy lid on it that has a silicone seal with an X cut into it. I think it"s called the "powervalve" I don't brew but watched my Dad do it for years... long ago. I want to see someone fit this as a dry airlock to their carboy! I think it would make "fartlike" noises when it vented HAHAHAHAHAHA! please post a video if you try it.:) sorry, I'm still a Kid at heart!
codyg1023 years ago
Another option for quieting the bubbling might be an aquarium air-stone (from you friendly neighbourhood pet store) in the water jar (much smaller bubbles = quieter?). Haven't actually tried it; just a thought.
cider1013 years ago
I'm making apple cider for the first time soon and am trying to learn all i can. once all the ingredients are in the fermenting bucket is there suppose to be no oxygen/air at all? meaning the bucket becomes a vaccuum chamber?
Yes. No oxygen because this can cause it to get contaminated and then rot.
This is so brilliant!!! I am officially inspired! I signed up just because of this! Thanks for the help :)
i love the d**k in a box reference. and interesting instructable, gotta say
I just used this for my ginger beer, it worked perfectly! Since I don't have wheels right now, it is my best option, and much better than continually opening the brewing vessel. Thanks!
brb1129885 years ago
hey guys i just wanted to throw my 2 cents in cuz im very interested inthis and want to learn to make my own wine and beer and stuff but for aone way valve is there any way that a gasoline sifoner could be used imean if u have one end in the fermenting barrel and the other end justhangind down couldent you just let it ferment and then pump it a fewtimes a day to let the air and toxins out of the fermenting barrel?
 The only thing you are letting out of the fermentation barrel is CO2, the reason you add air locks is to stop stuff getting in like insects, bacteria, bodily fluids.

So no you should really have an airlock that allows carbon dioxide out but prevents stuff getting in.
Some what correct...However, the airlocks main reason is to keep oxygen OUT.

As brb112988 said, you must vent the bag/barrel a few times a day (like making prison brew) or things can explode. Draw back to this is that air and wild yeasts are let in each time the bag is opened. Which can ruin the taste and alcohol content.

An airlock type device is needed to keep the oxygen out and allow the co2 to escape. yeast without air produces alcohol, with air you'll just make vinegar.
genera4 years ago
i have a question how would the air lock ever be able to drain back when the system is pressurized? at no time could that happen
right, your brewing preesure should always be positive unless there is/was an airleak.
This may be needed for large brewing ops, however, most people are doing 5 gals, so a store bought airlosk is only like $2-3 and don't have any leaks or fuss. I think this is something that is just easier to buy and do it right.
timntek4 years ago
Try doing hydroponnics from the jar... Just a possible idea for cuttings
kieronrob4 years ago
I have tried with aquarium non-return valves and found that they require to much pressure, with the result that the bucket lid popped off! I used a similar setup but with just a glass filled with a mild chlorine sterilizing solution which worked a treat. The jar just makes more sense as you won't have the pipe popping out if it gets bumped. The sterilizing solution also seems to kill any odours that might be in the CO2 and prevented the women from complaining of the beer smell in the kitchen! This will be tried this weekend when my next batch goes in.
jpark14 years ago
You shouldn't use anything on the end that increases resistance to the flow into the blow-off container, and your blow-off container volume should be less than the volume of your tube if possible. most hb'ers use a 1" id hose that fits snugly into a carboy neck
Darkwerk5 years ago
I like the insctructable. It's a great way to get it done when fermenting. The only thing I noticed was you used water. I brewed beer for two years and I found that using a cheap vodka (80 proof) works much better. It doesn't allow stuff to grow in it like the water and if you accidentally get some in the beer it won't harm it like that water will. Especially when it fist starts fermenting it can get a little crazy.
static5 years ago
 When dad made his home brew, all he used was a 35 G. crock with a heavy towel covering the top. No fermentation lock that I can recall. Can't recall anyone complaining about the lack of alcohol content either.
Re plant containment. I was thinking aquarium
Grady5 years ago
Couldn't one use a rubber gommett in the hole before inserting the tubing for an air-tight seal?
Lupigarth5 years ago
I've used something similar with making mead where a blow-off tube is used that just fits within the 5-gal carboy neck. I'm not sure of the diameter (it seems like it was about 1-1/4 - 1-1/2" ID) but that was good as it allowed junk to go into (and past) the airlock without getting clogged. I did experience a vacuum that nearly sucked water back into the carboy. Raising the carboy above the airlock did help with the vacuum, but it was strong enough to still pull a couple of feet of water.
gregd8885 years ago
Lmao I made a homemade hookah that looks something like this
lol i know what y mean.
good job. way easier to understand and construct, use than the little ones that look like a mini film canister. and can handle large volumes
I just have to say GO SLEEPY SLEEPY RULES SO DOES BOB BARKER and i guess i'll say AOL
cowboy7095 years ago
I have seen a method similar to this but using several fermenting buckets and all the tubes going to one jar of water. very efficient
hg3415 years ago
or! you could pump the co2 back in the wine beer and have a soda for adultz it was well done and i now know how to make a airlock
finfan7 hg3415 years ago
Beer contains CO2 from a later step anyway. (that's what gives it its head) And bubbly wine is what is commonly called champagne. (though most of what is called champagne is just sparkling wine)
hg341 finfan75 years ago
oh... i didnt know that
lemonie5 years ago
So this can suck-back into your fermenter, and there's nothing to keep the water sterile? While gas is coming out the lock is really only useful to exclude insects, but when the fermentation stops, it's a bit different.

ralegg (author)  lemonie5 years ago
Good point, the suck back could be avoided by placing the airlock jar below the water level of the fermentation vessel (ie. on the floor, but would require longer hosing). However if something goes horribly wrong and your airlock vessel starts to suck back liquid from your fermenter, you could either: Overflow your brew all over the place or
Possibly suck back nutrients into your airlock, which would then definitely become a habitat for bacterial growth.

Also, I did post that a compromise between the water/sanitizer debate is that some people use vodka (because if you buy the good stuff it should be odorless and tasteless) which will not greatly affect the outcome of your brew except make it a little higher in alcohol content.

Thanks for commenting, and thanks to all for the feedback, this was my first Instructable
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