Poor Man's Airlock




I have always been brewing in plastics bottles (not very professional, but for me it works without problems) and so I thought of some better way of getting CO2 out of the bottle and no oxygen in than capping the bottle and letting it squeeze when there's high pressure.
The liquid-filled airlocks are fine but making them is a horror and also, I was used to let bottles in cellar for long time until it's finished and sometimes I found out that it dried...
So there's one primitive airlock that needs no care.

It works just on two facts:
1)There's still higher pressure in the bottle than outside (this works until yeast dies or runs out of sugar)
2)Relative molecular weight of CO2 is 43.99 g/mol. Air has 25.93 g/mol. Result of this is when you have CO2 in bottle, it won't mix with air until wind blows into the bottle (at least for some time, due to diffusion).

Step 1: Materials

OK, now what will we need:

Step 2: Making the Base

First, take the sand paper.
If the cap has some imprint on it, sand it down so the cap is flat.
In the middle of the cap, use the sand paper and make it rough. It should not be smooth.

Now we will drill three holes so that an M3 screw can be put in them.
One will be in middle and the other on opposite sides, place them near the inner cap circle.
Now, rip off anything overlapping off the holes.

Step 3: Placing Screws

Now, put M3 screws in the outter holes with head down.
From top, put pads on them and then nuts.
Tighten until screws get  partially inside the plastic (this will deform the plastic a bit).
This will ensure they will be air-tight.
Look at photos.

Step 4: Making Spring Holder and Placing Spring

Now, cut a piece of metal. The shape of it is up to you, but rectangle is easiest.
Its length should be about the same as cap's diameter.
Make it wide enough so it won't break when you make 3 holes into it.
Use rasp to make edges and corners round (for safety).

Now drill into it 2 holes of M3 size in the same distance as the screws are placed in cap.
Between them, make another hole. Its size will vary, because you need to use screw big enough to hold the spring.

Now, put a short screw in the middle hole.
Put pad and nut into the spring and screw it together with spring holder.
You can see it on photos.

Now just put the spring holder on screws and put nuts on them.

Step 5: Making the "valve"

Now, cut a rectangle out of rubber. It should be some rubber that doesn't bend very easily.
I used pipe sealing rubber.
Its width should be bigger than diameter of hole in cap.
Make it longer than its width.

Put some oil on the top of cap around the hole.
It should be some light oil with no smell, non-toxic. I would like to suggest you to use silicone oil.
(It is often sold as spray, very good for this use)
Put also a bit on the bottom of rubber.
Put the rubber between the hole and spring. It should cover the hole and spring should be applying some force onto it.

Use the nuts on screws to adjust the pressing force of spring.
It might be good to use some anti-corrosive or at least any protective paint on heads of the screws.
The rest which will not be inside the bottle doesn't need any paint, the silicone oil will be enough.

Good luck in brewing!



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    51 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Grab a straw, make a hole in the lid, secure the straw with hot glue or even plasticine, and direct the end of the straw into a cup of water. Easier and cheaper than this.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great 'ible!

    I make Ginger Ale at home in a 3L bottle, and this would be perfect for letting the gas out over the 3-day fermentation period.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeast eats the sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. If you did not release the pressure built up by the carbon dioxide in the bottle, it would eventually explode.

    As an "airlock," the hole in the balloon allows excess carbon dioxide to escape.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I use plastic bottles and I never came across any problem with it. No exploding bottles, no infection in wine. Just that several times I forgot the bottles closed and the yeast stopped working and living. (So far, the best ones are Sprite bottles, they have thick wall).


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I have read that plastic soda bottles can withstand up to 150 psi, so I imagine that the risk of bottle explosion in this situation is quite low indeed.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You can find these on amazon, 3 for $1.50, and they're real airlocks. Just putting that out there.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Dutado- Everyones' comments aside, I say you are pretty smart to make a pressure releif valve where non existed- at least in your immediate area!

    Sure, WE can just get into the car, and drive to the nearest outdoor supply store, and pick one up, but can ANY of you do better with stuff you have on hand when YOU need a pressure releif valve?


    I sat here and tried to think if I could make one, and I don't have the spring on hand...

    GOOD JOB, Dude!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    A poor man's airlock indeed. The poor guy wasted all that time and hardware making it when there's a cheaper (if you don't already have your hardware) and less complicated DIY airlock -

    Cut a hole in your lid
    Stick some clear plastic hose into the hole, but not so far that it touches your liquid.
    Stick the other end of the hose into a container of water that's lower than the top of your fermenting liquid.

    Saved me plenty of times when I ran out of proper bubble airlocks (which are only $1.25 at most retailers)

    6 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I started making wine about48 years ago. The problem with the hose and water is that when the fermentation dies down and the barometric pressure changes the hose will suck contaminated water back into the wine. The commercial locks avoid that. I normally take a plastic grocery bag and put a piece of that either over the bottle with a light rubber band or in a bucket I put a trash bag over the bucket and a couple of turns of springy yarn. It has worked flawlessly for me EXCEPT when there were children, cats or puppies nearby who tore the plastic. I once saw a man who lived alone who made wine in jars and jugs. He put a flat piece of glass over the top and it worked well, but he was a recluse and lived alone.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    We do the same for brewing beer - a wide roll of plastic wrap (lunch wrap, Glad Wrap, cling film, Saran Wrap) does the trick without any problems. The rubber ring seal taken from the fermenter's lid works to keep the plastic wrap in place. You can be sure it's sterile too, so if it falls onto the wort, no contamination.

    You should use vodka as your airlock liquid. The alcohol reduces the chance of contamination. The only problem I had was that it evaporates faster.