Installing a Ball Valve on a Coleman Cooler




About: Just your average handyman.

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"

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

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

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.

Step 5: The Ball Valve Assembly

Here are the parts I used to make the new ball valve assembly:
- (1) 3/8" brass ball valve
- (1) 3/8" brass hose barb adapter
- (1) 3/8" brass coupling
- (1) 3/8" x 1-1/2" brass pipe nipple
- (1) 16mm flat washer (it fits over the pipe nipple)
- (1) huge washer (this is not the technical term)
- 3/8" clear tubing (I had this already)
- the modified outside nut on the cooler

The tools I used to install it were just a pair of wrenches. These parts cost me about $18USD.

Step 6: The Ball Valve Assembly Cont'd.

Start by putting the rubber washer that came on the cooler back in. Put the outside nut back on the cooler. Discard the stem as it will not be used.

Next, screw the pipe nipple onto the ball valve. Take the huge washer and place it over the outside nut. Slide the pipe nipple into the cooler through the washer, outside nut and rubber washer. The other end of the pipe nipple should be visible on the inside of the cooler. Slide the 16mm washer over the pipe nipple and make sure the threads of the pipe nipple are visible.

Step 7: The Ball Valve Assembly Cont'd

Tighten the pipe coupling onto the threads of the pipe nipple and snug with a wrench. This should make the cooler water-tight again.

Now put the hose barb on the other side of the ball valve and that's it.

Step 8: Testing the Valve

I tested the ball valve over the sink with some water and had no leaks. I disassembled the hose assembly after testing to see if there was any leaking in between the plastic layers of the cooler and it was dry as well.

If you have any leaks, try tightening the ball valve and the coupling. Try not to over-tighten.

Here is a video of the ball valve in action:

Step 9: Summary

Installing this ball valve is the first step in making my mash tun and wort chiller.

By itself, it doesn't do much, but it will allow me to fit my coolers with a ball valve ahead of time and simplifies the whole process. Now, I have the 3/8" female end inside of each cooler and I can use it to build off of while I design the components of my two tanks.



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    33 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Worked great! I did mine with stainless steel but the instructable is dead on.


    6 years ago on Introduction



    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Quick for clarification question. The rubber washer goes on the inside of the tank, correct?

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 7

    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!

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    speaking of airlock i'm still waiting on that instructible for building a moonbase :P


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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)

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

    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.