Adapting Burco Cygnet Water Heater as HLT

A traditional hot water urn like Burco’s Cygnet makes for a great hot liquor tank (HLT) / sparge water heater. It’s easy to clean thanks to a hidden heater element, has a built-in adjustable thermostat with enough resolution to dial in your desired sparge water temperature, and occasionally you run across a real bargain locally or on eBay. The only problem is that the standard tap doesn’t lend itself very well to being hooked up against other brewing kit, unless you’re happy with serious levels of cowboy bodgery. Which means you need to do a bit of fettling.

The good news is that the standard tap is easily removed, and plenty of parts are available to help you replace it with a much more versatile equivalent. I went for:

  • ½ inch BSP stainless ball valve assembly from The Malt Miller
  • bespoke silicone washers from eBay (inside ⌀ 20 mm, outside ⌀ 40 mm)
  • stainless steel washers, also from eBay (inside ⌀ 21.5 mm, outside ⌀ 38.5 mm)

Once I’d removed the standard tap using a 30 mm spanner against the copper nut inside I was able to thread first a stainless washer and then a silicone washer onto the threaded end of that ball valve assembly, poking it into the Cygnet and securing it with another stainless washer and its own nut. The standard tap didn’t have any kind of seal on the inside of the urn and that’s just as well, because there’s only just enough thread on the ball valve to tighten it well with what I used.

All of this took less than 5 minutes once the parts had arrived, with the only downside being that the ½ inch ball valve seems to bizarrely have an even lower flow rate than the original tap. When testing this with cold water I couldn’t get my B40pro to ‘fan out’ from the centre pipe, but a subsequent go at mashing with heated water proved the flow to be more than enough; it fanned out adequately when needed, nearly burnt my face off, and will empty the 20 litre tank in under a minute if you’re so inclined.