Beer On Tap… At Home!

By Northern Brewer

Welcome to the Brewer’s Corner! As homebrewers, we are passionate not only about the beer and the brewing process, but the stories behind them. Here, you’ll find stories about brewing, recipes, equipment, and advice for the brewer or non-brewer alike. In this issue, we guide you through building your own keezer/keggerator.

Building a keezer or keggerator, either for home brew or commercial kegs, is a fun and easy project. The end result is a good looking home for your brew, as well as cold, fresh beer poured straight from the tap. Like so many home projects there are many ways to go about designing and building your keezer, so here are a few ideas to get you going.

Well, what exactly is a keezer and keggerator? A keezer is a top-opening chest freezer with a collar for faucets made of 2×4’s, while a keggerator is front opening dorm-style fridge with a draft tower on top.

When deciding exactly how you want your final product to look and function, make sure to consider both the number and size of the kegs you’ll be storing, and the area of your home that you’ll be keeping the keezer/keggerator once it’s complete. The first step then is to purchase the appropriate fridge or freezer for your set up. We recommend an appliance discount store, or eBay and Craigslist as good options.

Let’s go over a draft tower style keg fridge first as that’s a slightly simpler project. For this design you typically are selecting a front-opening fridge since your tower will be attached to the top. One or two tap towers are most common due to the size restrictions of the fridges available, but three tap towers and more are available, as well as tower extensions to increase the number of draft lines later. Construction is fairly simple for this design as the only real modification you’re making is drilling a hole through the top of the fridge large enough to fit the beverage tubing line through. You’re then simply attaching the tower to the top, usually by screws, and connecting your faucets and any drip tray you might want.

Because of size limitations many people prefer to leave their CO2 canister outside of their fridge. If that is your case, you’ll want to drill a hole large enough for your gas line to pass through as well, usually on the back side of the fridge. Safety time: Whenever drilling through a fridge or freezer, make sure you are not puncturing any coolant lines. This will not only wreck the fridge, but can also potentially be dangerous. Make sure to consult the paperwork that comes with your fridge.

A top opening freezer is slightly more challenging because of the aforementioned safety concerns. You want to drill through the side of your freezer to attach your beer shanks and faucets, but that’s exactly where your coolant lines are. For this reason, the common approach is to first remove the lid of your freezer. Then, with carefully measured 2×4’s (Remember, measure twice and cut once!) you will construct a collar that fits flush around the edges of your freezer, attaching it with a sealant that properly adheres to both vinyl and wood, usually a silicone-based adhesive. After you re-attach your lid, usually by screwing the hinges into your new collar, you can then drill through the 2×4’s to attach your shanks and faucets. one-inch holes spaced a few inches apart is plenty of room to insert your shanks, on the outside of which you’ll attach your faucets, and the inside of which you’ll attach some tail pieces and your beverage line tubing that goes to your kegs.

Many people like to finish out their keezer by decorating the collar with either a stain or some paneling to spruce it up a bit. Whether going the tower or collar route, a great way to jazz up the final product is to get your hands on a great looking tap handle. Northern Brewer has a wide variety available, as well as inserts to make your own. I personally like to decorate my freezer with stickers from all of the breweries I’ve visited.

Now for a few notes on tools and techniques. Serving temperature should be roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you’re purchasing a fridge make sure it can get close to that temperature. If purchasing a freezer, you’ll also want to purchase and install a temperature control unit. These can be very simple to install, not requiring any re-wiring of your freezer whatsoever, so don’t feel daunted. Serving pressure should be near 12psi, and for a good pour every time you’ll want to install at least 5 feet of 3/16” inner diameter beverage tubing.

If you’re intending to house multiple kegs at once, a CO2 distributor is required. Simply run some gas line tubing from your CO2 regulator to your distributor, then attach as many kegs to the distributor as you please. One final safety tip as well: don’t underestimate the power of a building buddy! There are many times throughout this project, from removing and re-attaching the freezer lid to setting and adhering your collar, where an extra set of hands goes a long way. Especially, if you’ve had one or two beers already.

Finally, consider making the upgrade to go all stainless steel for your components. Chrome plated brass is common and inexpensive, however that chrome will wear away over time leaving your beer exposed to brass which can get you some unfortunate metallic flavors. From shanks to faucets to tail pieces it’s best to simply go stainless from the start.

This is just a brief overview of what can seem like a complicated project. There are plenty more details to consider, from clamps to drill bits to keg couplers, and you’ll want to be sure to purchase the right components for your set up. Fear not! There are plenty of good resources online for you to view, not the least of which is Northern Brewer’s own video guide found on our YouTube page, or our forums found on our website. Rest assured, one of our staff or forum goers would be more than happy to assist in your design. Because really, at the end of the day a keezer is one of the best ways to share and enjoy a pint of brew.

For a more in-depth visual of building a keezer check out: www.northernbrewer.com/keezer

Got a question about homebrewing? Feel free to email us at brewerscorner@growlermag.com and we may feature your question in a future issue.

Brought to you by Northern Brewer, Minnesota’s and the nation’s leader for ingredients, equipment and knowledge serving the first-time and advanced brewer for nearly two decades. Retail stores in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Photos courtesy of Northern Brewer.

 
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