Camlock Fittings or Hose Barbs

Often in brewing it’s the small things which make the biggest differences on brew day, and connecting the vessels is one of those small things. Whether your system is two plastic buckets on two tiers, or three shiny 26 gallon stainless steel tuns with pumps, these need to receive and transfer liquids safely or brew day can be incredibly frustrating.

I’m sure a lot of us have been there: strike water is heated up to 167+°F ready to go in the mash tun, the tap comes on and hot water is spraying all over kitchen/shed/garage. Or even worse, the water is pumped around your system where every joint acts like a dangerous water cannon. Some of you, as you rush to switch off the tap with one hand whilst calling the burns ward with the other, might be thinking “would this happen with camlocks?” This article looks at whether camlock fittings or hose barbs are better for a homebrew system.

So What Are Camlocks and Hose Barb Fittings Anyways?

Camlocks: For those who don’t know, camlock fittings are a type of standardized tap fitting made to secure, in a homebrewer’s case, a hose to an inlet or outlet. There are of course other applications for them, but as brewers this is our main concern. There is a male and female connector which clip very easily onto each other and have a secure “lock” so they don’t come apart by themselves. What they shouldn’t really be used for is patching leaks in connections, although they can do this.

cam lock fittings

Hose barbs: as I’m sure most of us know, fit on the end of inlets and outlets (basically taps) and allow hoses to be secured onto it. Barbs come in standardised sizes too to match the inner diameter of the hose. Unlike camlocks though, the barb’s jagged surface relies on friction to stop the hose falling off and is not mechanically secured.

We usually start off with hose barbs attached to our mash tuns, some are even shipped with barbs attached. And this is one of the benefits of hose barbs: their availability. Their use extends far beyond homebrew and any decent DIY store or plumbers’ merchant will stock them. But this is also their downfall. Because there are so many, even though they’re standardized, they still differ by a few millimeters externally, and that’s the difference between hosing sitting really snug and a jet of water spraying out the side. With this in mind it makes buying the setup – both hosing and barb – a bit more difficult. Knowing that certain brands of hosing work with certain brands of hose barb means the huge selection is whittled down somewhat.

hose barb fittings

The way around this for a hose barb is to have a jubilee clip (or hose clamp). This will do the job at clamping the hose onto the barb with no leaks 99% of the time. And a pack of jubilee clips is far cheaper than upgrading to camlocks. This is definitely the cheaper option, but if every brew day you are screwing on and off butterfly clips, this adds more to do on the day, and the life of the hosing will be shortened. In come the camlocks. The hosing is secured to the barb end of the camlock, and as it’s staying there indefinitely it means a jubilee clip doesn’t have to keep coming on and off, so the hosing doesn’t leak and there’s no fiddling around with tightening and loosening every brew day. The hose doesn’t have to be replaced as often either.

Camlocks are really easy to secure and remove from their counterparts. So if you have a two vessel HERMS or RIMS where the hosing needs to be moved two or three times from the kettle to the mash tun outlet, this saves a lot of time and ease. Hose barbs sometimes work too well and a removing a hose end requires a tug-of-war with the tun before the hose is free. This tug of war isn’t the best for the tap either, and having camlocks gets around this.

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So Camlocks Are Better Fittings?

So which is better, camlocks or hose barbs? In an ideal world camlocks would be on every system as they are so easy to use and provide a secure fitting, but what it comes down to is ease of use. Both have the potential to leak if the right size hoses aren’t used, but their price tag does beg the question “is it worth it?”

At the end of the day camlocks don’t improve the quality of the beer, but they improve the ease of brew day. Fighting less with tubing means you can concentrate more on ensuring you hit your numbers, so if that ease is worth the expenditure then camlocks are for you.

~ Josh Charig is a British home brewer living in Ireland. He has a home brew blog called Honest BeerGuide.

written by Josh Charig

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2 comments on “Camlock Fittings or Hose Barbs”

  • I am happy that they make custom hose fitting for circumstances like this. I would really like some help understanding what parts that I need. I would like to get some custom barb fitting as well.
    http://www.libertyhoseandsupply.com/hose

    Reply
  • i finally decided to go with the cam lock fittings using the high temp silicone hose. its so quick to change hoses. I have a three kettle ss setup with one chugger pump so there is a number of hose changes on brew day. Camlocks in my opinion are well worth the investment, there chick to change and they don't leak.

    Reply
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