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How to Build a Chest Freezer Kegerator

UPDATE (2/1/2010) :  The original GE 7 cubic foot freezer I used to build my chest freezer kegerator out of ended up taking a crap on me.  The new one I purchased from Sam's Club ended up being about 1" narrower than the previous model I had purchased.  I was still able to fit 4 kegs into the freezer, but it was a MUCH tighter fit.  Looking back, I probably would have shopped around for a different model that had a little more room.  Check out this forum post about different models of freezers and how many kegs they hold:  http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/sizing-your-chest-freezer-corny-kegs-75449/#post790572

After building a Sanyo Kegerator and getting a lot of use out of it, I realized that I needed a wider variety of beer on tap.  I did a little research on the Northern Brewer forum as well as some Google searches to find examples of what I was looking to build.  I ended up getting a 7.0 cubic foot GE chest freezer from Sam's Club for $177 plus tax that would fit 4 corny kegs comfortably.  If you are unsure how many kegs a particular model of chest freezer will hold, I suggest you make paper cut-outs of the base of your kegs and place them inside the freezer to test it out.

I considered two methods for dispensing beer with a chest freezer.  The first was to mount two draft towers with two taps on each tower which can be seen HERE.  This would require drilling into the lid of the chest freezer and bracing the towers with some kind of wooden support from below.  The other option is to build a wooden collar out of 2”x wood of your choice which can be seen HERE.  The taps can then be mounted through the wood collar and no permanent damage is done to the freezer.  I chose the second method because it seemed like the most logical way to go about building a kegerator.  If the freezer quits working, I can take off the collar and the freezer is back to its original configuration.  Here's what I came up with for the final price of the Chest Freezer Kegerator:

Part

From

Price

GE 7.0 Cubic Foot Chest Freezer

Sam's Club

$177

4 x Chrome Beer Faucets w/ Stainless Steel Lever

Beverage Factory

$60

4 x 3" Shanks w/ Nipple Assemblies

Beverage Factory

$56

20 Feet 5/16" Vinyl Gas Tubing

Beverage Factory

$11

20 Feet 3/16" Beverage Tubing

More Beer

$10

4 x Liquid Quick Disconnects

More Beer

$20

4 x Gas Quick Disconnects

More Beer

$20

4-Way Gas Manifold

More Beer

$48

10lb CO2 Tank

Beverage Factory

$78

Standard Double Gauge CO2 Regulator

Beverage Factory

$36

Analog Temperature Controller

More Beer

$54

Other Parts (Wood, Stain, Silicone, Screws, Hose Clamps)

Lowe's

$25

Total

$595

After unpacking the chest freezer, I removed the lid and measured the top so I could build a wooden collar to mount my taps through.  I decided that I would use 2”x6” pine to build my collar.  My first attempt at building a collar didn’t work out so well.  I tried using 45 degree miter cuts to give the collar a cleaner look, but my cuts must not have been exactly 45 degrees because my collar wasn’t square.  After wasting a night messing with that, I went back to Lowe’s and had them cut the wood square for me so I wouldn’t have to mess with it at home.  When I got home, I realized that the kid at Lowe’s cut two of my boards too short, so I made another trip across town to get the right sized wood.

I held the wood together with miter clamps and used two 2.5 inch screws on each joint to hold everything together.  I probably should have used some wood glue in between each piece, but I didn’t.  I did a little finishing sanding and rounded the edges of the collar in order to get it ready to stain.  The stain I used supposedly had polyurethane in it so it was a one coat type of thing, but I ended up putting on two coats just to be safe.  Here are some pictures of the collar as it was drying.

After the collar had dried overnight, I put it on top of the freezer to make sure it was square.  Once this was done, I laid down a thick bead of silicone all the way around the freezer and put the collar on top of it and weighted it down with some dumbbells and ammo containers.  To ensure a tight seal and good insulation, I used silicone to seal up all the seams on my collar and also where the collar met the freezer.  Since some people on the Northern Brewer forum stated they had rust issues in the metal seams of the freezer, I also sealed up the bottom of the freezer to prevent this from happening.

Once the silicone had dried overnight, I positioned the lid on the collar and screwed in the hinges using 1” wood screws.  Here are a few pictures of what it looked like.

Now that the freezer was starting to look more like what I was aiming for, I figured I’d better get the taps mounted.  I decided to drill my holes towards the top of the 2x6 so I wouldn’t have to bend over as much when I was pouring a pint.  I may have to build a wooden base to rise up the freezer for better access later.  I used a 7/8” drill bit to make the holes through the collar and that provided a very snug fit against the shanks.

After measuring twice and drilling the holes, I inserted the 3” shanks and attached the faucets.  If I were to go it again, I would have purchased 4” shanks instead so I would have a little more working room.  With my 3” shanks, I can’t build an overhanging collar like others have done to provide a more stable collar.  I took this opportunity to put some tap handles on the faucets and snap some shots of what the finished project would look like.

Next came the gas setup.  I used a 4-way gas manifold from MoreBeer since I was planning on using 4 kegs.  I would have purchased a 5-way but they didn’t have one.  An extra CO2 line is always handy for quick keg carbonation or running cleaning solution through your lines.  For my gas lines, I used 5/16” blue tubing from The Beverage Factory.  I figured that 4’ of tubing for each keg would be plenty, so that’s what I cut them to.  One “issue” I ran into with the tubing was that the quick disconnects were ¼” and the tubing was 5/16”.  The hose clamps I purchased from Menards weren’t the best quality, and when I tried tightening them down hard, they would slip.  I ended up using some clamps that I had purchased from Lowe’s on the ¼” quick disconnect barbs.  These clamps had smaller notches in the metal so they tightened down without any problems.  Another positive for bulidng a collar was that I could fit my 10lb CO2 tank inside the freezer without a problem.

After the gas lines were installed, I attached the beer line to my shank barbs.  The beer tubing was 3/16” inner diameter, and the barbs were ¼” which made for a very tight fit.  I found that soaking the end of the tubing in hot water made it much easier to put on the barbs.  I used 5 feet of tubing for each tap and plan on setting the CO2 at 10-12psi.  This makes for a balanced system.

Since I didn’t want my beer to freeze inside the freezer, it was then time to install the temperature controller.  After measuring the distance between the mounting holes on the back of the controller, I used 4 screws to attach the controller to the collar.  I then drilled a hole in the back of the freezer just big enough for the probe to fit inside the freezer.  You want the probe to be suspended rather than be touching the metal sides of the freezer.  Once I had the probe positioned, I used a good amount of silicone to seal up the hole.

Now that everything had been installed, I moved the kegerator to its final location and set the temperature controller to 38 degrees.  I plugged in the power and the compressor turned on.  The freezer cooled down very quickly and seemed to be at the right temperature.  I already had 5 kegs waiting to go in the freezer, so I picked out 4 to be the christening beers.  My Goldings Stout, Winter Warmer, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, and Brown Ale all went into the kegerator and I hooked up the CO2.  I mixed up half a keg of Idophor sanitizing solution and ran it through all the beer lines so they would be ready to go.  Now all I have to do is wait.

 


Contact Information:  mikeyounghb at gmail.com

 
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