Over the years I’ve had a fleeting love affair with the idea of switching my homebrew setup to use all tri-clover fittings. The theory is that doing so would ensure that there was not place for beer spoiling organisms to take hold on the cold side and ruin my beer. Each time I dove in to plan out the changes I ran into two major problems. The first was the obvious problem that switching over all my fittings would cost a princely sum. Each hose would require two barbed tri-clover ends and each vessel or pump would need some as well. My rough cost always penciled out to $250.
The less obvious issue was that since many of my components were threaded already (e.g. the March pump and ball valves on the Blichmann Boilermaker) then switching to a tri-clover fitting had minimal benefit. The threads themselves potentially harbor the wort spoilers. Threading a tri-clover fitting onto the existing components didn’t really improve the situation other than just looking cool.
So for a long time I simply used brass hydraulic hose quick disconnects (email me if you want more details.) Well I ultimately decided to get rid of the brass but still stick with fittings that took minimal effort to connect and disconnect. My first attempt was the original Blichmann quick disconnect fittings. They did just fine but got too hot to touch when recirculating the mash or boiling wort. Well John Blichmann once again read my mind when he improved his quick disconnect fittings.
Recently Blichmann Engineering started offering the Blichmann QuickConnector Stainless Steel Fittings. Basically they are silicone coated nut over various tail pieces to meet your needs:
I swapped out all my brass quick disconnects to these because I have more confidence that heat will sanitize the tailpiece and silicone O-ring assembly compared to the brass quick disconnect. Additionally the silicone ensures that I’m able to quickly switch my hoses without burning my fingers.
Compared to the previous quick disconnectors the obvious benefit is the silicone that makes it more comfortable to use with bare hands. The less obvious change is that the silicone O-ring stays with the nut and tailpiece fitting much more solidly. Previously I had to watch out for the O-ring falling out and had to store them separately. Overall the new QuickConnector fittings are winners.
Getting back to the tri-clover fittings, given that I have to have threaded connectors on the cold side of my brew setup anyway the tri-clovers simply aren’t worth it. If I were building a nano-brewery I’d weld in threadless fittings on each vessel and on the pumps but that’s not an option. As a result the Blichmann connectors are the right balance of features for homebrewing. My only reservation is that when you include the tailpieces they retail for around $15 a piece, which seems too steep to me. I went ahead and plonked down the cash but honestly think that the right price point is closer to $10 for a pair. Hopefully John will get to this point as he increases the scale of manufacturing.