Who is behind BrewHardware.com? It's easy to see a retail website as the face of a big corporation but this one is extremely small. Although I get some help from family from time to time, all quality control,customer service, and order processing goes through me. You may know me as Bobby_M on Homebrewtalk.com or BobbyfromNJ on Youtube.com. Either way, it's important that you know that I'm half brewer, half garage tinkerer and this little business venture is simply an extension of my obsession with the brewing hobby. I didn't start off thinking from a business perspective but rather fell into it due to popular demend.
I originally got the idea to start producing sight glasses because I wasn't able to find any for a reasonable price when I need them for my brew rig. The kits have gone through various design configurations over the last year or so and I'm finally happy with the balance between function, parts availability, and cost. With that said, you will never find stagnation here. Developing new brewing tools to make our day easier is a constant evolution so you should see new products being added all the time. Customer feedback also drove us to carry other hardware gadgets such as ball valves, bulkheads, refractometers, scales, etc. We will likely never be a complete one-stop shop for everything you need (especially ingredients) but our goal is to provide the best function and value on the items we do carry. If we're not, please tell us.
1. What is a sight glass?
A: A sight glass is also known as an exterior level indicator. Once installed into the side wall of a tank or pot, it allows you to read the exact volume of liquid that is inside at a glance.
2. Can't I just _______ instead of installing a sight glass?
A: There are all kinds of alternatives to installing a sight glass. You can brew without them. When I first started all grain brewing, I simply measured all my liquid volumes in a spare bucket that had gallon markings printed on the side. That was fine for smaller batches at a time when I transfered everything with a bucket. After you start pumping from one vessel to the next, the use of a bucket is a waste of time.
A lot of brewers also create calibrated dip sticks (or story sticks) that you drop into the vessel to read the level. In the case of a boil kettle, you'll need the level to last for a minute so that you can remove it to read because a constant stream of steam makes it hard to see into the boil kettle. Also, if you use a tiered system where the hot liquor tank is up high, it's a pain to climb up a step stool to watch the level as you drain it. The basic story here is that a sight glass is a matter of convenience, not necessity. However, Now that I'm used to it, I don't think I could brew on my system without one.
3. Do you make kits for larger or smaller vessels?
The standard kit is tall enough for a 15.5 gallon Sanke keg based vessel at about 20" total. If you have a shorter pot, you can buy the standard kit and cut the tube shorter yourself with a hack saw or you can add a request during the paypal payment to cut it to a specific height. For taller vessels, you can visit the brewhardware.com/custom page to upgrade to 24" tubes (25" overall) which accomodates most large homebrew based vessels. Of course, I can also make longer kits but you should email me via the contact form with your requirements so I can quote you a price.
4. Can you sell me just the threaded tubing?
No, the process I use to thread the tubing without damage must also be used to connect it to the hardware. You would end up destroying the tubing in the process. If you have a custom project in mind, odds are pretty good that I have the parts to make it for you. Use the contact form.
5. Can you sell me a kit with pyrex tubing instead of polycarbonate? I'm worried about the poly melting.
Pyrex tubing (actual glass) is certainly an elegant solution but it is impractical for most homebrewers due to how delicate it is. I would only recommend something like that for a clean in place system and only if it is well protected from breakage. This kind of system is also cost prohibitive.
Overheating polycarbonate tubing is a valid concern but most burner setups do not overheat the tubing. For a full explanation of the overheating concerns and other handling concerns with polycarbonate, please view the article on the instructions page which also includes a brief video on the topic.
6. Do you make the sight glass that works on the same port as my ball valve drain?
No, this is not an advisable application. First, the sight glass liquid level will not be accurate while draining and in order for the drain bulkhead to maintain a siphon on a dip tube, the top of the sight glass would have to be plugged up. You can combine thermometers and sight glasses, but not drain bulkheads and sight glasses.
7. Can you help me select the appropriate sight glass kit for my pot?
I do my best to describe the application on each of the product detail pages but I understand that it's a pain to scan through all the pages. I've put together a quick video to highlight all the options.
If there is any question that hasn't been covered here, please use the contact form to ask me.
Why buy a sight glass from BrewHardware.com? We are so confident that our sight glass kits offer the best combination of price, function, and features compared to the competition, we’re happy to let you know what your alternatives are. Please keep in mind that we have no intention of defaming our competition or misrepresenting their products. From our perspective, this is an honest look at the sight glass market but we encourage you to verify with your own research as well.
Style: Weldless Sight Gauge Only:
Fermentap (Morebeer) weldless sight gauge vs. our BrewHardware LK/LP kit.
Despite the advantage of Borosilicate glass being more inert than polycarbonate, several disadvantages make it much less functional and valuable than the BrewHadware LK/LP kit. Those disadvantages include:: Nearly 3x the price, no calibration numbers available, no method of stabilizing at the top of the vessel, no accommodation for the angled walls of converted kegs, height not adjustable/cutable (fixed lengths only), often out of stock at most retailers, support handled by reseller, not manufacturer, replacement glass difficult to find.
Bargain Fittings (weldless keg sight gauge)
This is much closer in design to ours than the Fermentap kit because it is based on an exposed polycarbonate tube and uses an eyebolt at the top. It is also priced similarly at the time of this writing. However, there are some notable advantages to the brewhardware kits including::calibration numbers, thicker tubing wall (.125” vs .063”), accommodation for the wall angle of converted kegs so the top of the tube does not angle away. Any other differences are relatively negligible.
Style: Weldless Sight Gauge with integrated Thermometer:
Bargainfittings (weldless thermometer sight gauge kit) is the only competing product we are aware of. Brewhardware.com has two different models in this category so we’ll compare and contrast separately
Our Brewhardware Model TK/TP is a more compact design using a small hole in the vessel (9/16”) and a 2” dial face thermometer. It can be considered a direct competitor in purpose but the design and component makeup is 90% different.There are some notable advantages to the brewhardware kits including: calibration numbers, thicker tubing wall (.125” vs .063”). Accommodation for the wall angle of converted kegs so the top of the tube does not angle away, lower profile allows liquid level reading at less volume (just over 2 gallons). The smaller components also reduce the cost by approximately 15%. Any other differences are relatively negligible.
Our Brewhardware Model LTSK/LTSP (LTS=Large Tee Sight) is an upsized version of the above using a 3” dial face thermometer and larger fittings which is a more direct comparison to the bargainfittings offering. Any of the benefits listed above which are attributed to size or cost are mitigated but several advantages remain: calibration numbers, thicker tubing wall (.125” vs .063”). Accommodation for the wall angle of converted kegs so the top of the tube does not angle away, lower profile allows liquid level reading at less volume. Any other differences are relatively negligible.
In summary, you’ll get a superior product from brewhardware and you don’t even have to justify paying a premium price. On the contrary, our pricing is on par or less than our competition. If you disagree with this assessment or feel that the contrasts have been exaggerated, please contact us immediately.