Prepping a cap for an airlock – using the tools at hand

Last year, we made apple cider vinegar using the bright red apples from just one tree. The result was a delicious, delicately pink cider vinegar, and we were looking forward to making it again.

There was just one problem.

The instructions we followed said to put the jar in a dark place, so we tucked it into a cupboard. Unfortunately, it attracted fruit flies. The jar was covered with a coffee filter and they couldn’t get in but, as it fermented, some had bubbled up enough to dampen the paper. Which meant any time we opened the cupboard, we’d find a cloud of fruit flies inside!

Not good.

Since then, we’ve bought the things necessary to make mead. This includes smaller bungs to fit airlocks into gallon jars. We will be using some to make hard apple cider out of our crab apple juice, later. With airlocks being so cheap, I’ve picked up extra, so we could have all our gallon jugs, plus the 5 gallon carboy, all going at once, and still have extras.

This year, I will be taking advantage of our mead making supplies.

Since making the ACV requires using apple pieces, I need to use a wide mouth jar. I also want to make more than last year, so I wanted to use something bigger than a quart jar.

Every now and then, we picked up the big gallon jars of pickles at Costco, and I’ve been keeping the jars. That’s what I’ll be using to make the vinegar this year.

The question then becomes, how do I use an airlock on one of these?

Now, if I had some silicon grommets (which I learned the name of only yesterday), I could drill an appropriately sized hold in a cap, pop on a grommet, and insert an airlock.

I don’t have those. I do have extra bungs, though.

I don’t have anything I can use to simply drill a hole that big into a cap, though, so I had to do it the use-watcha-got way.

The first thing to do was mark the size of hole I needed. After protecting the bung with plastic wrap, I traced around it with permanent marker. As the bung is tapered, the actual size of the hole needs to be slightly larger than the inside of the circle.

With a scrap of wood underneath, I punched a series of holes well within the marked circle, then used pliers to break off the middle.

Working directly over a garbage bag, I used a series of metal files to grind away at the opening to smooth it out, then make it larger.

Once I’d reached the inside of the marked circle, I switched to the Dremel to grind and smooth the metal.

Then it was time to test the size of the opening. A perfect fit!

We’re not done yet!

Though the metal was ground smooth, it still is sharp enough to potentially damage the bung, if I were to push it in tight enough to great a proper seal.

Silicon sealant to the rescue!

I used the same stuff we got to fill screw holes when our satellite dishes got moved, then again, for a final seal in the cracks on the rain barrel we set up by the garden. It’s a multipurpose, indoor/outdoor product that is coming in very handy.

The tube it comes in is also very easy to control, even for a job as small as this. After giving the cap a very through cleaning, I lay a bead down on both sides of the cap, right on the edge of the hole, so that top and bottom would touch and completely cover the metal edge. Basically, I imitated a silicon grommet. This should both protect the bung, and ensure an air-tight seal is created.

Now it just needs time to cure before I can test it again with the bung.

Since we have so many apples, I might make two; one with the airlock, and one without, to see which works better. I’ve also picked up some fancy-schmancy ACV “with mother” to use as a starter (last time, we just used water and sugar). Using just a coffee filter, it relies on exposure to the air to get the bacteria needed for fermentation. So it’s touch and go, whether you get a good bacteria or not. With an airlock, it won’t get that exposure, so using a vinegar with the mother in it will ensure the right kind of bacteria is already in there.

We shall see how it turns out!

The Re-Farmer

6 thoughts on “Prepping a cap for an airlock – using the tools at hand

    • Thanks. πŸ™‚

      We do have a baited fruit fly trap right now (but they still went after, and got into our sourdough starter! 😦 ). They can get in, but they can’t get out. I don’t know why we suddenly got so many of them, but sometimes when I go past it, I see all sorts flying around inside it – and just as many, sitting on the top!


  1. Pingback: Crab Apple Cider Vinegar: bottling day | The Re-Farmer

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