Monday, April 4, 2011

So you decided to keg...

But now you have to chill those bad larrys. Sure, you could put them in your fridge. However, unless you're single, or your wife doesn't mind giving up easily 1/3 of her fridge space to a giant stainless time capsule, you're going to need a kegerator. This is going to be your one stop guide to building your very own, honest to goodness, home brew (or commercial if you want) dispensing machine. And brownie points to you for not displacing your SO's Thanksgiving Turkey.

STEP 1!!! The vessel.

The kegerator we're going to build today is what is technically known as the Keezer. The keezer is a kegerator, but converted out of a chest freezer. This is only one variation on the common kegerator, so just because we say it here doesn't mean you have to limit yourself. The sky (or the bounds of common refrigeration products) is the limit! When shopping for your chest freezer, make sure it's big enough to fit what you want. The simplest setup is to put a keg and the CO2 container inside the freezer, do you have enough room? What if you want to expand? You can get a cheap chest freezer at Lowes which will fit 2 kegs and a 5 lbs tank for about 140 bucks. Before I forget, don't buy one that has a temperature controller on it if you can, you're going to be bypassing that later on.

A note on craigslist chest freezers. Refrigeration is a delicate system. A tiny hole in your copper tubing and before you know it you aren't cooling crap. Around Orlando, chest freezers run about 100 bucks on craiglist big and small. In my opinion splurge the extra 40 bucks and get one you know hasn't been rocked in a California earthquake.

Steeeeeep 2! Gas.

I'll say right now we're going to go bare bones for today's how-to. Budget is paramount here. At the same time, thinking long term is always important. You'll need to supply gas to your beer. CO2 tanks aren't cheap. A 5 lb tank will run you about 90 bucks. A 10 lb one will run you about $125. Obviously the big tank will supply twice the amount of kegs your 5 lb will (provided you dont have any leaks). A 10 lbs CO2 tank will dispense on average 35, 5 gallon corny kegs (which doesn't include carbonating or bottling, etc.). The savings comes into getting it filled. For whatever reason, a 5 lbs tank will run you about 16 bucks to fill, where a 10 lbs tank will run you $18. Why? Dunno. But it pays for itself in about 3 fills.

You'll also need a regulator. There's two types (basic types), a single gauge regulator, and a dual gauge regulator. The difference is that the dual gauge will warn you when you are just about to run out of gas. It won't tell you when you have a half a tank, because it will read full until you are almost out. Oh well. I recommend getting the dual gauge regulator. I wouldn't want to be the host of the party and have my tank run out. The regulator will run you 70 bucks (which is about $15 more than the single gauge).

STEP 3! Control.

Your chest freezer is programmed to do one thing, even if it has a temperature controller on it, freeze stuff. You don't want frozen beer. Well unless you're freeze distilling. That's another story. You need a temperature controller. A temperature controller does just that, control the temperature inside your beer dispensing device. This is the last expensive item that you'll be purchasing on this list. At $70, the unit may seem a little steep, but the one made by Johnson Controls is a quality piece of equipment. Installation is easy. Plug it into the wall, plug your freezer into it, dangle the probe in your freezer, set your freezer to it's coldest setting, and adjust your controller to whatever temperature you want.It works because your freezer will always sense that it's too warm, but the controller will cut power to it when it's probe is satisfied. Voila! Perfectly zen temperature for distributing beer.

Next week we'll do the cheap stuff! And before you know it you'll be distributing fresh draught beer at home! Questions? Comments? Post below! And for the love of god, if you haven't submitted your beereview yet for your chance to win your FREE T-SHIRT (and your chances are pretty decent right now), go drink and write! Then send it to ataleoftwobrewers@gmail.com!!

3 comments:

  1. Nice intro post, can't wait for the rest!

    Do you know anything about the Peltier (Thermoelectric) coolers? Would they work? No tubes or moving parts...

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  2. Great post with lots of really good information!



    Refrigeration Equipment

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