DIY Sight Glass and Sight Glass Installation

Volume is one of the many quintessential measurements we as homebrewers use to rule our brewing lives. Whether it be pre-boil volume to determine our end result yield, or the right amount of water to sparge with, these quantities can undeniably make or break your beer and brew day.

Thankfully due to a surge in interest in the hobby over the past few years, home brewing gear has continued to improve and evolve, making it easier and easier to monitor and fine-tune these measurements on the go. Unfortunately as most of us know, not all brewing equipment is created equally!

When perusing online or at your local homebrew store it can be fairly easy to find a brewing vessel with some form of graduation marks or a sight glass/gauge attached, but in the case of the latter, be prepared to shell out a fair amount of cash for those upgrades. In addition to cost, newly converted kegs (keggles) and other economy priced kettles often are without these frills to begin with. So without spending an arm and a leg, what’s a brewer to do? Well fear not my economically minded friends; if you’re a do-it yourselfer like me who is always looking for new and inexpensive ways to upgrade your brewhouse, this article is just for you! We’ll cover a relatively inexpensive way to create and install your own weld-less bulkheads and sight glass for a fraction of what you’d pay from the manufacturer.

Tools and Supplies

sight glass parts and fittings

  • A way to make two 13/16” or 7/8” holes in your kettle (Step-up drill bit, Greenlee KO punch, or Carbide tipped hole cutter (My favorite!)
  • Cutting Oil (Vegetable oil works well, it’s food grade and easier to clean)
  • Tape Measure and Straight edge
  • (2x) SS 0.5” NPT to 0.375” Barb Adapter
  • (1x) SS 0.5” x 1” Close Nipple
  • (2x) SS 0.5” x 1.5” Threaded Nipples
  • (2x) SS 0.5” Locknut
  • (1x) SS 0.5” Male x 0.5” Female NPT Elbow
  • (1x) SS Tee 0.5” FPT
  • (3x) SS 7/8” ID x 1.5” OD Flat Washers
  • (2x) SS 0.5” Full Couplings
  • (3x) High Temp Silicone O rings for 0.5” NPT
  • (1x) 0.5” Camlock Silicone Gaskets
  • (1x) SS 0.5” MPT Plug (hollow or solid depending on HLT, MLT, or BK)
  • Teflon Tape
  • 80 Grit Sandpaper
  • 12 to 18” long 0.5” ID High Temp Silicon Tubing (depending on kettle height)

fittings banner

Steps

1) Determine where you’d like to place your sight glass, and drill holes into your kettle walls for your weld-less bulkheads. If your vessel has handles, you’ll probably want to place your holes somewhere offset between the front and side of the kettle. I suggest starting with your bottom hole, and trying to mark for it at least 1.5” above the bottom of kettle. Now use a tape measure and straight edge to evenly mark your top hole at least 2” from the top lip of your kettle.

holes drilled for sight glass

2) Clean up your newly created holes using sandpaper to ensure there are no burrs or sharp edges present. Afterwards assemble your two weld-less bulkheads. Everyone has different inclinations when it comes to weld-less bulkhead assembly so feel free to put it together in whichever way you prefer as long as it prevents leakage.

Another consideration is that you'll want to make sure they extend outside the kettle equally so that when you go to connect them it’s a straight shot. If using the same style assembly for top and bottom this should be fairly easy. Based on the suggested tools and supplies above you can find a few nice diagrams for bulkheads below. Don’t forget to use Teflon tape on your threads to ensure a water tight seal.

*A convenient feature of making your own bulkheads is that you can customize them for future modification. As seen below, I decided to use a SS Tee on the bottom rather than an elbow so that I can attach a thermometer if I’d like.

3) Once your two bulkheads are lined up and installed, attach your SS barbs. Use your tape measure to measure the distance from halfway point of the bottom barb to the halfway point of your top barb. This measured distance is going to be the length of high temp silicone tubing you’ll need to cut to act as your sight glass. Cut your tubing evenly, and slide it over your barbs to the halfway point you measured from earlier. For added safety you should apply O clamps or Worm drive clamps to the barbs to guarantee your tubing won’t slip off.

finished bulkhead assembly for sight glass

4) Take a step back and marvel at the beautiful attachment you’ve just made for you kettle! You can now add water at 1/2 or 1 gallons intervals to mark your tubing for volume graduation.

Electric tape and permanent marker work well together as a way to monitor your volumes. If you’re using the kettle as an HLT and have concerns over whether or not you’ll be able to see the volume through the opaque silicone tubing, squeezing the tube slightly should disrupt the liquid enough to identify its location. Alternatively, I’ve heard of people using food grade plastic beads as floats in their tubing to observe volume as well. And there you have it! For a fraction of the cost of a pre-assembled models, you’ve successfully created a fully customizable sight glass and weld-less bulkhead combo which can now be used for a plethora of different applications.

finished and attatched sight glass

Time to stock up on ingredients, and brew on!

Logan is an avid homebrewer and food scientist from Southern Wisconsin. You can follow his new projects and beers on Instagram at Labrat_Experimental_Brewing.

written by Logan Cisewski

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6 comments on “DIY Sight Glass and Sight Glass Installation”

  • The hose gets dirty and there is no way to clean it so you have to replace it every time.

    Reply
  • Lol, "for a fraction of the cost of a pre-assembled model" Ummm No you just spent wayyy more on all those stainless fittings and other odds and ends, you can buy them pre-assembled way cheaper.

    Reply
    • Was thinking the same thing. Unless you just had the fittings lying around or bought those nasty $1 ones from China. Paid $40 for mine with fittings, pyrex tube and housing.

      Reply
  • I do my homebrews on a burner outside.
    I'm just afraid that the heat will get along the side of the pot and melt the tube.
    Am I worrying too much? Have you tried with a burner?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Is there a local store everyone buys there fittings from

    Reply
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