Saturday, May 6, 2017

How To Add A Whirpool Port To Your Kettle

The thought of drilling a hole in your favorite boil kettle can be intimidating to most any homebrewer. Unless of course they have had some previous metal working experience, or they can enlist the help of someone having the skills needed. The more adventurous do-it-yourself types, those who have access to a variable speed drill and the right drill bits, can easily handle the task, along with the help of some PAM cooking spray for lubrication.

Adding A Whirlpool Port To Your Kettle? No Problem
The installation of the whirlpool port shown in this article, including setup and cleanup time, took about two hours. Allow yourself additional time to obtain the items listed below. Having all of the required parts in hand from the start, will allow you to successfully complete the project from beginning to end in just a few easy steps. Everything needed to successfully install the bulkhead fitting and whirlpool port were very easy to find online and they can be delivered to your door in under 5 days.

Whats Needed:
Adjustable wrench and/or channel lock pliers 
Teflon tape
Center punch, or nail to mark the hole center
1/8" pilot hole drill bit
Milwaukee 3/16" to 7/8" Step Drill Bit #4
Stainless Steel Weldless Bulkhead 1/2" NPT
Anvil 1/2" NPT Swivel Dip Tube
Danco #12 Rubber O-Rings



Boiling wort is extremely hot and it has the potential to scald your skin in a matter of seconds. Coming into direct contact with boiling wort is also one of the most common causes of injury when brewing beer, something to keep in mind when working around it.


Pumping boiling wort from the kettle, through a counter-flow chiller and then returning the wort to the kettle, is a very effective way to sanitizing the counter-flow chiller. Returning the hot wort exiting the chiller to the kettle, by using a clamp on the kettle rim to hold the end of a silicone hose in place, is not a safe. Temporary clamps can slip and move, causing a loose hose end to unexpectedly spray hot wort on brewers and equipment.   

The safest way of returning hot wort to the kettle is through a permanently mounted whirlpool port. The use of a weldless whirlpool port ensures a solid physical connection between the kettle and the silicone tubing. Once a solid connection has been made between the two, the risks of hot wort unintentionally splashing outside of the kettle are greatly reduced. 

Weldless Bulkhead Fitting And 90 Degree Swivel Elbow
Every successful project begins with a well thought out plan. Knowing exactly where to locate the whirlpool port before drilling a hole in the kettle is a must. The orientation of the port, its distance from the bottom of the kettle and how far it will extend inside the kettle, are all critical factors to be considered. Once a suitable location for the port has been found, that works with the size and dimension of the parts ordered, you are ready to drill the hole.

Drilled Hole Shown With Metal Shavings And Food Grade Lubricant
Turning the kettle on its side, laying it on a floor or other stable surface, and preventing it from moving as much as possible will make marking and drilling the hole much easier. Using a center punch, or a nail, mark the side of the kettle with a small 'X' to indicate where the center of the hole will be. Next use a hammer and nail to strike a dimple in the side of the kettle at the center of the 'X'. The dimple in the metal will prevent the drill bit from wandering away from the hole center when drilling.

Spraying the hole center with PAM, or another food grade lubricant, will prevent the tip of the drill bit from burning up. Drilling holes in stainless steel requires a combination of steady pressure on the drill, slow bit rotation and plenty of lubrication to keep the tip of the drill bit cool and sharp. Center the tip of the 1/8 inch pilot bit into the dimple then trigger the drill on and off, using a slow drill speed while pressing firmly down on the drill.

Expanding The Pilot Hole Using A High Speed Step Drill Bit
Expanding the pilot hole to the finished hole size is easy when using a high speed step bit. Once again, to prevent the bit from dulling use plenty of lubricant, trigger the drill at a slow rotation speed and apply a firm downward pressure on the drill. Keep in mind that using a step bit with a maximum hole diameter, that matches the diameter of the hole needed for the whirlpool port, eliminates the possibility of making the hole too big. Extra care should be taken, to prevent drilling a hole larger than needed, when using a larger diameter step bit.   

Debur the inside surface of the hole by running the drill from inside the kettle, lubricating the bit and rotating the bit at a slow speed. Again if using a larger diameter step bit be careful not to press too hard and make the hole any larger than needed. A small, fine, half round stainless steel file can also be used to debur the inside of the hole. Paper towels can then be used to wipe up any lubricant and metal shavings before installing the whirlpool port.

Bulkhead Fitting Installed With Orange Washer And Grooved Nut
The threads of the bulkhead fitting point inside the kettle. The orange silicone washer, with matching grooved nut, hold the fitting in place and seal the hole to eliminate leaks. The orange washer is squeezed, between shoulder of the stainless steel coupling on the outside, the kettle wall, and the grooved nut tightened against it on the inside of the kettle. Care should be taken when tightening the nut. Over tightening the nut will push the soft silicone washer out from underneath the groove in the nut, and cause the bulkhead fitting to leak. 

Coupling Shoulder Tightened Against Outside Kettle Wall
After the mash has finished, and the grain basket has been removed from the kettle, the swivel dip tube is threaded onto the bulkhead fitting inside the kettle. The swivel dip tube is removed during the mash, to provide the space needed between the inside of the kettle and the outside of the perforated grain basket. If the swivel tube is left on the bulkhead fitting the grain basket would not fit inside the kettle.

Clearance Needed Between The Bulkhead Fitting And The Grain Basket
With the grain basket removed from the kettle the swivel dip tube can be threaded onto the bulkhead fitting and the wort brought to a boil. Pumping the boiling kettle wort through the counter-flow chiller and returning the wort to the kettle through the whirlpool port sanitizes the chiller while creating a strong whirlpool in the kettle. Increased hop utilization and greater hop isomerization is achieved when combining the whirlpool effect in the kettle with the use of a hop spider. 

Whirlpooling Hops To Increase Utilization And Isomerization
And there you have it. With a bit of advanced planning, the correct parts and the right tools for the job, you too can successfully install a whirlpool port in any kettle. The benefits of a having a whirlpool port in your kettle are many. Increased safety, improved hop utilization, clearer wort and the ability to do whirlpool hopstands, these are just a few of the benefits. Another benefit worth mentioning is in knowing that you were able to successfully do-it-yourself.  

Add A Whirlpool Port And Brew Better Beer!


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