Instructables
Picture of Installing a ball valve on a Coleman cooler
In this instructable, I will show how I installed a ball valve on a Coleman cooler.

A cooler with a valve installed is the first step in building various equipment for homebrewing beer. Once the valve is on, this cooler can be made into a mash tun or a wort chiller. This instructable is meant to be the first step in my following instructables on how to build these.

This will allow you to drain liquids from the cooler at a controlled rate and will be simple enough to disassemble and clean.

Step 1: Rule # 1 aka "The Golden Rule"

Picture of Rule # 1 aka "The Golden Rule"
Rule # 1 on making equipment to make some tasty homebrew is to have a tasty homebrew!

Please note: Have all of your materials on hand ahead of time. You don't need to be driving to the hardware store after following the golden rule.

Step 2: The cooler

Picture of The cooler
For this, I used a second-hand Coleman cooler. The plug was broken and it wouldn't hold water anymore, but it's perfect for this since I'll be removing that part anyway.

Most homebrewers brew beer in 5 gallon batches. Make sure the cooler is big enough. If not using a new cooler, try and pick one that is clean, smooth on the inside and free of cracks. Since the cooler in this instructable already has a plug hole drilled into it, I will not be covering how to drill a new one since it isn't necessary.

Step 3: Prepping the cooler

I began by removing the 4 screws that held on the lid of the cooler. With the lid temporarily removed, it won't get in the way.

The plug assembly on the cooler consists of a stem, a rubber washer and a nut on the outside. They need to be removed and cleaned. Simply unscrew the outside nut, push out the stem and pull out the washer.

Step 4: Modify the outside nut

Picture of Modify the outside nut
cooler07.JPG
I modified the outside nut a little bit by cutting off the plastic part that holds the plug. I also widened the inside hole with a knife, cutting carefully to only shave off some of the threads.
 
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piperchem 2 months ago
Worked great! I did mine with stainless steel but the instructable is dead on.
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babeladyj1 year ago
WONDERFUL SYSTEM - CONSERVES WATER - ACHIEVES CONTROL OF HOW COOL THE WORT GETS - BRILLIANT EASY TO FOLLOW PICTURES & DIRECTIONS.
THANK YOU
furby4 years ago
this (if big enough to fit your fermenter) could be used as a "Light Lock" and a crash chiller. i have 2 15L fermenters and could probably fit both one of these.
tinman504 years ago
Quick for clarification question. The rubber washer goes on the inside of the tank, correct?
iPodGuy (author)  tinman504 years ago
It's on the outside against the larger washer.
3frog5 years ago
Hey
Great idea, even if you use it to drain your cooler while camping!  I would recommend using braided hose. This is a much stronger hose that will not kink, bend or get damaged if anything is put on top of it by accident.  It is a little more expensive, however for 2 to 3 feet the difference might be a couple bucks!
iPodGuy (author)  3frog5 years ago
I actually work part-time at a campground and people throw away tons of coolers because the plug breaks off.  The blue cooler in this instructable is one that was rescued from the trash because of a broken plug.  Score!
Do you mind if I ask what part of the country you are in?
iPodGuy (author)  onlinenow5 years ago
Ocean County, NJ
3frog iPodGuy5 years ago
You lucky guy!
tashiandmo5 years ago
Nice 'ible.  I second the suggestion to replace the washer on the one you're going to use for the mash/lauter tun.  The highly acidic wort will corrode that one after just a use or two (don't ask me how I know that).  I used hard plastic because it was what I had on hand at the time, and it was cheaper than buying a stainless washer.  The washer you used should be okay for the wort chiller and the hot water tank though, just replace them if they start to show signs of corrosion. 
husker5 years ago
 Sticks out way too far
t.rohner5 years ago
Nice instructable,
i was thinking about one of these 10 years ago. (When i started all grain)
But in the end, i decided that i want to be able to do step mashes, without the need of a decoction. So i use a 50l keg with a burner and insulation.(in the meantime, we have a new insulation installed)
I got all three kegs for 150$, and built the tower with the help of a pro-welder. He also enlarged the boiler to hold around 75l  (20gal).
We brewed around 400 batches with this setup.
In the second pic, you can see my brewbuddy willy stomping Sauerkraut.(Upcoming instructable) Left of the blue barrel, there are our 3 new 100l (26gal) stainless containers. The one in front with the sticker was used to raise money during our 10 year anniversary. We will soon step up our production with them...(I was very lucky, i got them for free)
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Speidumb5 years ago
Do you think this would work for the fermenter? Drill a hole in the lid, add an airlock, then make sure something heavy is on it so no air gets in. This would make bottling a ton easier if I didn't have to siphon and could just use the ball valve straight into the bottle.
speaking of airlock i'm still waiting on that instructible for building a moonbase :P
iPodGuy (author)  Speidumb5 years ago
That's hard to say. First thing I would change would be to find plastic parts to substitute for the brass so that brass parts aren't constantly sitting in the wort. The extra hardware inside might also harbor bacteria that could cause an infection which is why fermentation is usually done in a smooth container (bucket, carboy, etc.). Also, kits usually come with a bottling bucket where you move the liquid from the primary for bottling. This helps to remove some chunks from floating around in your finished bottle. It's hard to say how high the yeast and trub will sit in a cooler since the bottom is so broad compared with a bucket or carboy, but if you were to bottle from it, you might be sucking all that stuff into your bottles. Last thing I can think of is that when fermenting vigorously, the yeast heats up the wort a few degrees. When using a bucket or carboy, the heat can dissipate through the glass or plastic. The cooler is insulated and it may trap too much heat and cause your fermentation to be incomplete. Of course, I have no real way of knowing that. If you were to try it, please keep me in the loop. I'd love to know how it turns out!
yopauly5 years ago
How about a brass quick disconnect to get it out of the way when not in use. How about attaching the hose to the cooler and putting the valve at the end of the hose? Just some friendly ideas for you to ponder. 8)
iPodGuy (author)  yopauly5 years ago
Since I'm beginning the move from extract to all-grain brewing, I really wanted to document how I made my beginner equipment for others.  When I begin investing in top-notch equipment, I will definitely want to include QD's and more stainless parts.

I'm sure there are a million ways to put a valve on a cooler.  I used whatever I could get at the hardware store.
I recommend using a stainless steel washer on the inside of the cooler since it will be in contact with beer, which can be very corrosive.  The washer on the outside will get cold and "sweat", so stainless is good here as well.
iPodGuy (author)  The Lightning Stalker5 years ago
I agree with using just as much stainless as possible.  However, since I'm just beginning all-grain brewing myself, I wanted to show others how I made my beginner equipment before I take the next step of investing in all the top-notch stuff.
morgano5 years ago
Are you planning to use the internal coupling to hook up a hose braid, and then batch sparge with this setup?  Or would a manifold thread into the coupling?  Just curious.  You might want to either expand this instructible or link to another one to show how to complete the mash tun.  Nice job!
iPodGuy (author)  morgano5 years ago
This instructable was actually meant to go along with three others I have in the works (the mash tun being one of them).  I am making 3 cooler-based pieces of equipment but each of them has the same valve assembly.  Rather than repeating myself 3 times, I plan to link back to this i'ble for the valve assembly process.  If you look at the wort chiller i'ble I published, it links back to this for one step and then proceeds with the rest of the instructions.

For the mash tun, the internal coupling attaches to a CPVC fitting and that is what I use to lauter with. The filter is all CPVC. I am also working on an arm that could be incorporated into the lid for fly sparging, but the MLT could certainly be used for batch sparging.  I actually plan on trying both to see what my efficiencies will be.
They make special nuts that will thread onto the pipe thread.  You can use that instead of the coupling.  You could also drill the hole out bigger and use what is called a 'tank adapter' or 'tank fitting'.  You could even use an old water heater instead of a cooler since they are insulated.
Mig Welder5 years ago
cool
malopez47855 years ago
How do you sanitize one of these bad boys? What stage do you use this for, priming?
iPodGuy (author)  malopez47855 years ago
You could sanitize with a pre-mix sanitizer, bleach & water, starsan, iodophor - whatever it is you've been sanitizing with. If you are using a sanitizer which must be rinsed, make sure to do so throroughly. However, this instructable is meant as the first step in constructing three different things. So, I did this to three coolers and from that 3/8" coupling, I will adapt each cooler - one is a wort chiller, one is a mash/lauter tun and the other is a tank to hold sparge water. The wort chiller i'ble is published, but I'm putting the finishing touches on the other ones.
Koosie5 years ago
Rather than putting cans and ice in there, empty the cans into the ice. Can u say: Ultimate Chug!"
This is how many people, myself included, made their mash/lauter tuns. All you need is a manifold attached to the nipple on the inside of the cooler. works great. However, this would make a terrible fermentation vessel. Use a carboy or a bucked. The plastic in the cooler is soft, can scratch easily and will end up harboring bacteria.
Neat. Thanks for the details. Might do this to use for my gravity-feed shower
~Sasquatch~5 years ago
Dunno about using this as a fermenter - plastic absorbs impurities and odours that might affect the must/mash. Just my $0.02;)
uknative5 years ago
You should always clean brass by soaking in vinegar for at least 30 mins, to clean off any chemicals from the production process, otherwise this is an awesome idea. Another which I wish I had thought of.
Wow! It comes out so smoothly. Nice!
ahava4885 years ago
That's a pretty awesome way to start brewing your own beer. And I'm sure it's cheaper then buying a whole kit for brewing. :) Hopefully I can try it out myself one day.