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MAKE magazine contributor Bill Bumgarner (who wrote the “Pinball, Resurrected” piece in MAKE Volume 08), wanted a kegerator (keg refrigerator) for his homebrewed beer. He didn’t want to buy one (they can be expensive), so he built one. He started with a cheap Home Depot 5 cubic foot chest freezer. He extended the lid and stacked a couple of 2 x 4s in-between the lid and the body of the fridge to house his taps and CO2 tubing. A few nifty touches here, such as:

Ben Holt suggested a neat hack; stick a scale on the tank holder such that you know, by weight, when that 5# of CO2 is about gone. The high pressure gauge is close to useless in that it’ll read about 750-850PSI until almost all of the liquid CO2 is gone, then the pressure drops rather rapidly.

Nice work. [Thanks, Brian!]

Make: Kegerator!

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. atpley says:

    http://gallery.me.com/jerfa#100118

    I really like Bill’s styrofoam temperature probe shim; I might have to do something similar.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Yeah, I love simple little “hacks” like that — like your drip tray strung from the faucets.

      BTW: Here’s a really big kegerator for five kegs and carboys. The builder started with a 20.5 cu. ft chest freezer he found in the classifieds for $25:

      http://www.west-point.org/users/usma1986/42894/kegerator.htm

  2. SKR says:

    Definitely insulate the wood box. Preferably with something that will seal any air gaps between the boards. A fan will improve the efficiency greatly. Have you measured the temperature of the first pour versus latter pours? The standard kegerators have an aluminum sheet that conducts heat down to the expansion coils in order to keep the tube cold (it is somewhat effective but the towers are terrible at keeping the tube cold). Maybe wrap the tube in aluminum foil? I just thought of that, and now I think I might have to give that a try at home. Looks good.

  3. SKR says:

    actually, now that I look at your setup, I think the 3/16 line to the faucet is really short. How long is it? It should be at least 6 foot and IIRC for Anchor Steam it should be 10 foot. Watch out for your pressure as well. IIRC Anchor Steam needs a pressure of 14 psi to maintain proper carbonation. If you have short tubes and reduce the pressure so that you get something other than foam, the beer will go flat. The CO2 that comes out of solution will collect in the tube and your initial pours will be foamy.

  4. bbum.myopenid.com says:

    @SKR You are absolutely correct. I moved to a 5 foot line and it is vastly improved, but still foamy. 10 foot and 14psi? Where *do* you find these numbers?!?!?!

    I’ll be keeping the post up to date in both the comments and text as I figure out who to pour the perfect pint!! All knowledge and lore is welcome!

  5. pcmofo.clavid.com says:

    I built a 5 keg, 4 tap, kegerator also from a chest freezer. I cut away insulation on the lid to stealth the tap handles into the lid itself so that when you open the lid the lines are not running all over the place making it difficult to remove and add kegs. Also, I built a custom temperature controller using only analog components (comparators etc) Painted it Black and added a Vinyl magnetic logo for my homebrew beer. Working on adding castors/wheels to make it easier to transport. After conversion, kegerator uses very little power (measured with Kill-a-watt) as chest freezer is very efficient design.

    http://www.blackheartbrewery.com/index.php?page=22107125

  6. SKR says:

    I find the numbers by searching the Micromatic forums. There is a wealth of valuable info there. Also, you can check the brewer’s website as I think most of them will provide recommended temperatures, for both storage and serving, and pressure. The tube length is just whatever works with that pressure and temp. You have to pay attention to “how” the beer is foamy in order to troubleshoot the setup. If the faucet “burps” in the beginning of the pour, it is a temp or pressure problem. If the beer comes out clear but really fast and crashes into the bottom of the glass causing foam, that is a tube length problem. If the beer is just foamy throughout the pour, it is probably a dirty tap and/or tube. Keeping the tube and tap clean is very very important.

  7. SKR says:

    Here is a calculator that will figure out presures for different ber styles.

    http://kegman.net/equilibrium.html

  8. TonySwank says:

    Here is a great resource for setting up your liquid lines.

    http://www.draughtquality.org/

    It can get a little tricky with only one regulator when you have a commercial and a homebrew on tap. Commercial beers usually need about half the amount of carbonation as a homebrew to keep it pumping through the lines because they are fully carbed when you get them. The homebrew will keep absorbing some of the CO2 for weeks after it is hooked up even if you naturally carbonated it.

    Here is a chart to figure out the forced carbonation of a homebrew.

    http://ebrew.com/primarynews/ct_carbonation_chart.htm

    With all the information out there, I’m sure you’ve noticed that every case is different enough and you just have to keep tweaking it until it works for you.

  9. SKR says:

    With all the information out there, I’m sure you’ve noticed that every case is different enough and you just have to keep tweaking it until it works for you.

    QFMFT

    Everyone thinks, “Oooh, I want beer on tap. It’s just plug and play right?” Wrong. However, if you are a tinkerer, fiddling with knobs and trying to get the pour just right can be fun.

  10. SKR says:

    damn italic tagfail

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