Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Kegerator


I have long proclaimed myself a bottle guy, but it turns out the lure of the keg was too strong for me. So now that I have the room I decided to start kegging some of my beers. I am planning on just doing session beers and hoppy beers for the time being (since they need to be consumed the quickest). I like sour beer too much to have that sort of access to them (18 months in the fermenter... 18 days in the keg), and I still want to be able to squirrel big beers away for more sporadic tastings.

One of the things I am not is handy, but with a couple trips to Home Depot I was able to put together a new collar for my chest freezer (which I had been using for fermentation temp control). Nothing too fancy, just a sliced up 2x10, some L brackets, screws, and a can of black spray paint. Being a bit inexperienced with wood working (and not having all the right tools) it turned out a bit rough (the boards don't quite fit together like they should), so I won't go into the details of construction, but I am sure there are plenty of great sites out there on build a kegerator.

I got the actual guts of the kegging system from Keggle Brewing, their prices were pretty reasonable, but the big draw for me was that they assemble all of the gas/liquid lines for you (so I haven't had much of an opportunity to screw anything up... yet).

I went with a dual body regulator so I'll be able to serve my beers at two different carbonation levels at the same time. I also upgraded to Perlick forward seal faucets, since I may not be opening both taps every day I don't want them drying out and sticking.

I got my CO2 filled up at Bars By Bud Mepham (the only place in the greater DC area that seems to fill CO2 tanks on Saturdays). It will be another week or two before I am pouring beer (my hefeweizen is cold conditioning now), but I am really getting excited.

Anyone have any great kegging tips to share?

18 comments:

Scott said...

Looks Great Mike !! Nice Job. Getting ready to spruce mine up a bit. Here's a little tip. Go out and get some Damp Rid and place it in the freezer. It will soak up most of the condensation that will build up in the freezer. Over time, you'll get water build up in the bottom if you don't use something to absorb the moisture.

Scott

Scott said...

Another tip, keep your temps around 40-45 degrees. I found anything colder will cause chill haze in pale beers.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks (although you missed the Damp Rid tub in the picture). I was planning on going up near 45 anyway, I'm just not a big fan of really cold beer.

Is it worth running the CO2 lines into the fridge if I have room to just keep the CO2 tank in there?

Jimmy said...

If you have room, then CO2 in/out doesn't matter.

Keep a spray bottle of Star-San around to check for leaks when you put a new keg on. Sometimes the lids or the pressure relief valves don't seal correctly.

Scott said...

Mike, it doesn't matter. I keep my tank in the freezer, haven't had any problems.
I dropped the temp in mine when I put my keg of O'fest in for more lagering time. Had to free up my fermentation freezer. All my pale beers turned hazy. Once I kicked up the temp to about 41-45 they cleared.

t_viemont said...

Mike-

The star san tip is a good one. I went through a couple of tanks of CO2 right after I started kegging because of a small leak somewhere in my system. After I tightened and lubed the fittings with keglube, the beer flowed without incident.

Seanywonton said...

Nice job Mike! I'm a big fan of using a 20 pound CO2 tank and keepng it outside, but I don't think it matters in terms of perforance. If you go that big, it can last a really long time though without a refill, like a year or longer depending on how much beer you serve.

Big +1 on the damp-rid, before I found that stuff my kegerator was always wet and had a funky vinegar smell! That can't be good.

Josh said...

SEXY. (As a big white box can be....)

Although, why did you go with the collar? It looks like that fridge/freezer was tall enough to begin with for all the piping. Post pics of the inside!

Just keep an eye on the seams there, it may leak cool air, and if it's leaking cool air out that means it's might take warm air in from the radiator. If the kegs + associated plumbing fits into it without using the collar I think it might be easier on your wallet (and the beer) to put the lid back on proper. I know what you're going to say - "But then I have to drill on the freezer and get different taps!" YOU'RE THE MAN WHO CUT UP A TABLE LEG FOR THE OAK, I'M SURE YOU CAN HOLLOW OUT ANOTHER ONE FOR A BEER TOWER! How awesome would it be to have a breakfast table supported by TWO egg-crates!? ;)

Nick said...

Nice Job!

Quick question: What are you doing for fermentation temp control now that you have converted your freezer to a kegerator/keezer?

I have a similarly sized freezer and I've had secret thoughts of converting to a keezer, but that leaves me without fermentation temp control.

My fridge is currently unmodified and is serving double duty as extra food storage and kegerator...might have to continue that way as a THIRD fridge/freezer is not going to fly with the wife.

Congrats! Looks good.

PS...picked up your blog from one of your posts on HBT. Nice job on the blog!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for all the tips and encouragement.

Half of the bottom of the freezer steps up ~18 inches, so there was enough room for one keg, but sadly two would not fit without modification. I reinforced the seams with putty (to make up for my shoddy carpentry), so that should help to cut heat loss. I may end up relegating the kegs to the basement (away from the heat), but I haven’t figured out a plan yet. The basement has a badass old bar (wood paneling, “Bud on Tap” lights, padded bar), but the ceiling is only about 6’ 5” (which makes it feel pretty cramped).

My new house came with a spare fridge in the basement, so that has been called into service for fermentation control for the time being. It is a pretty old unit though so I will probably replace it with a larger chest freezer when I get around to it.

nathan said...

Awesome. Just did the same thing a few months ago. One tip, get yourself a few small 9-10oz glasses (I use some Libby juice glasses that look like small 20oz imperial pint glasses). That way you drink less, i've found. Otherwise it is way to easy to breeze through 20oz, of session beers at least. You can have two 8oz samples of both beers on tap!

Definitely get a spray bottle full of Star-San.

A bottle filler shoved into a plastic picnic-tap placed into a cold growler/bottle allows you to take the beer wherever. Release pressure then turn the regulator on to around 2 and fill - works great. Enjoy

simon said...

when i first started kegging, nobody told me that the gas in and beer out posts were different sizes. when you are cleaning and sanitizing, make sure you remember which is which, or else your quick disconnects wont fit properly.

i have also found that naturally carbonating kegs with bottling sugar saves a lot of CO2 over force carbing.

Chris' Brew Log said...

The gas post is also grooved (g for gas and groove) so it is pretty hard to mess that one up with this knowledge. Kegging is great, it is a lot easier to clean on container than 50 when it is time to bottle/keg.

Dan said...

With all the new space you have, it's time to upgrade to a 10+ sq ft freezer. That way, you can have 4-5 beers on tap. To put all that work into one beer is a little bit much.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

"With all the new space you have, it's time to upgrade to a 10+ sq ft freezer. That way, you can have 4-5 beers on tap. To put all that work into one beer is a little bit much."

The point is that I don't want to keg all of my beers, I want to keep bottling most of what I make. Anyway this freezer has room for another 1-2 kegs, so I could install more taps if I end up wanting to or just install a splitter so I can carb a keg while there are still two on tap.

Scott said...

Mike,
Definitely pick up a manifold if you go more than 2 kegs. With your dual regulator you should have a Y splitter so that you can push/carb beers at 2 different settings. If not, go out get a splitter or manifold. Looking foward to checking it out soon.

slim chillingsworth said...

here is a wonderful method of cleaning kegs if you have a need for a submersible pump. i use mine to circulate ice through my immersion chiller. first link is the original write-up, second is mine from my blog (last of the three projects in the post). http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/Beer-Gadgets/Doc-Tasty-Style-Keg-Cleaner
http://handsonhomemade.blogspot.com/2009/07/some-brewery-projects.html

THE MERKIN MAN said...

You are going to love kegging, and I can tell by the beers you brew, you will be no stranger to bottling though you have kegs now.

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