Made On Earth — Fire-Cooled Brew

Craft & Design


New Zealander Simon Jansen has all the bona fides of an alpha maker. A software engineer and classic car restorer, he’s got a half-built R2-D2 and a custom minibike he made from scratch. He achieved geek fame with his ASCII animation of Star Wars scenes (, which practically defined obsessive attention to detail.

But a jet-powered beer cooler? This bloke operates on a whole ’nother level of absurdity.

Jansen set out to make the holy grail of many a maker: the homemade jet engine. In his Auckland garage, he welded his own combustor, bolted it to an old turbocharger, and added a leaf blower for air flow and a propane tank (sans regulator) for fuel.

The trickiest part was the oil system, which must maintain critical lubrication pressure: “I used an oil pump from an old Ford Escort Mark 1, driven by the motor and gearbox from a cheap 12-volt rechargeable drill!”

Don’t try it at home without an exhaust temperature gauge that goes to 1,000°F and an rpm meter that hits 100,000. But bloody hell! It worked, with the head-splitting roar that jet hobbyists live for. “Incredibly loud,” Jansen recalls fondly. “You can hear the air being ripped apart as it is sucked into the turbine. I was grinning for days.”

From adversity came the real breakthrough. Jansen’s jet burned propane so fast that the tank rapidly iced up, dropping the fuel pressure. So he stood the tank in a tub of warm water. When a colleague remarked that the iced water could then chill beverages — eureka!

Jansen says beer and dangerous machines don’t mix, so he abstains from the frosty bevvies until he’s finished playing with the engine. Ever the tinkerer, he has stripped down and rebuilt the jet beer cooler several times. “The latest iteration should be more self-contained and portable,” he promises. “I’ve been telling the mates at the office we’ll fire it up in the car park.”

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