Feb 8, 2012

The Kegerator

Money shot.  At the beginning, nonetheless.
So, while I am waiting on the rest of my valves to come in and while I am putting off drilling a hole in my very nice, very expensive brew pot, I needed a post.  Since we are still in the beginning stages of this blog, I figure looking back some more is not all that bad.  So, since I reasoned myself to this point, this post will be about my kegerator which I built in August of 2011.

Now, a kegerator is typically a beer lover's dream come true.  Draft beer at your fingertips.  Ready to go at a moment's notice.  Unfortunately, buying a pre-made kegerator can be expensive and you usually can't get exactly what you want.  So, many homebrewers and beer lovers have converted an old fridge to serve such a purpose.

Some people use chest freezers (and convert them to "keezers") and build a collar around the top to give some extra head space for kegs, as well as giving a convenient place to put faucets without worrying about knicking a coolant line and turning a perfectly nice freezer into a giant, heavy, white box that does nothing.  Others use a regular refrigerator.  And some use a small dorm fridge.  That is the route I went.  Your decision depends on space and how much beer/how many taps you want to have.

There are plenty of fridges which can easily be converted.  A simple search of homebrewtalk.com will bring up hundreds (yes, hundreds.  No hyperbole there.) of people converting a dorm fridge.  So, if you are looking at this blog and thinking, "Hey, I would like to do that!," make sure you check that site first.  You will probably get more help there than here, especially if you buy a dorm fridge new.  This isn't quite a "how you can" but a "how I did" kind of post.  I didn't have enough foresight to take pictures of each step of the way, so you will just have to use some imagination.

I guess we will start with the inside.  That is the most important part, right?

There is a lot of extra stuff in a fridge that you don't need in a kegerator.  The best example is the shelving in the door.  It just takes up valuable space and often a keg won't fit if that plastic piece is attached.  So, first thing I did was remove plastic shelving from the door.  It was simple enough.  Just lift up the seal around the edge and you will find screws.  Simply remove the screws and the shelving (along with the seal) will come right off.  Screw the seal back on.  Bam.  Done.

I added some adhesive insulation (the black stuff in the picture) to make a better seal.  I placed it so it covers the crack between the seal and the door so no cold air can escape that way.  We'll get to the shanks and the block of wood in a minute.

Now, the fridge part.

Some fridges have coolant lines that run all around the box and cool from all directions.  Some, especially dorm fridges, have a freezer compartment that gets really, really cold and that is what cools the inside of the fridge.  Some have both.  My fridge was the really-cold-freezer type.  Leaving the freezer in place also takes up a lot of room, so what we have to do is remove - or at least move - it.  Since it was my cooling source, my only option was to move it.

Coolant line is the white tube in the back.
What I had to do was - while the fridge was warm - bend it down 90 degrees so it was vertical in the fridge as opposed to horizontal.  I emphasize the warm fridge because you are bending a - nay, THE - coolant line.  Break or kink that and you've bricked your fridge.  In the picture, you can see the freezer tray bent down and the coolant line coming from the back of the fridge to the tray.

To start the process, I just ripped off the freezer door (don't need that junk anymore!).  There were screws to the top of the fridge holding the freezer in place.  I couldn't get a screwdriver in there so I ended up using a large pair of bolt cutters we have.  Ok, they are actually heavy-duty tree branch shears, but it worked like a charm.  Once the freezer tray was free, I just ever so slowly, gently, easily bent the tray down.

Most fridges come with trays or shelves on which you place your food.  So unnecessary in a kegerator!  I removed and tossed those.  But while in the fridge, the shelves needed someplace to rest.  There were little ledges built into the side walls.  The fridge is pretty snug already, so to maximize my space I removed those ledges.  The claw end of a hammer worked really well.  In the picture, you can see some of the remaining pieces of the ledges.  I didn't need to go all the way to the back because a keg can't fit on the raised floor.

There also bricks in my kegerator.  Why, you ask?   You may notice the back of the fridge slants up to a second level so the entire floor of the fridge is not available for me to use.  Two kegs will not fit in the area on the lowest level.  The bricks allow me to move the left keg back farther up the slope, so I get more area and I can fit two kegs.  Kind of ghetto, but it works.  And if that made no sense to you, don't worry about it.  Forget this entire paragraph and move on.

Because I knew I was limited in space, I decided to put my CO2 tank on the outside of the fridge.  This was a relatively easy process because I knew I didn't have coolant lines running around my fridge.  If I did, this would have been a much harder, time-consuming, and nerve-racking process.  But, as is, I just drilled two holes in the back through the fridge and fed the CO2 lines through.  I put some caulk around the hole to seal it up once the lines were run.

Ok, so all that is set up.  Now for the stuff that actually makes it look like a kegerator: the shanks and faucets.  The shanks are the metal tubes which actually go through the door of the fridge.  The faucets are, well, the faucets.  They make beer flow into your glass.  The shank installation was fairly simple.  A trip to Home Depot got me a hole saw drill bit (just one size bigger than 1", I do believe).  I measured on the door where I wanted the faucets, I measured again, and then went at it!  I had two holes for shanks!  The wood is just there for stability. Without it, the whole faucet would move when I went to open it up.  The shanks just install with that nut you see.  Easy enough.

Then, I accessorized with a drip tray.  It keeps me from wiping up drops of beer every time I visit the kegerator.  It also helps hold your glass while you wait for a poorly poured beer to settle down.

So, there is my kegerator build.  I use it for homebrew and commercial kegs.  I have fittings for both.  I can fit two homebrew kegs or one homebrew and one commercial.  Two commercial kegs are just too big to fit in my fridge.  And that is fine by me.  Keeps me homebrewing.  Can't let a kegerator sit empty for too long!

Breakdown of costs and where I purchased from.
Hope this was informative and helpful.  If you built your own kegerator, let me know.  I'd love to see what you did.  If you haven't built a kegerator, did this give you the itch?

Cheers.