The Keezer Build: Pt. 1

It took me long enough, but it’s high time I wrote up my keezer build. I seemed to to a lot of talking about it, but finally it’s time to at least write up a general “how I did it”. I built my keezer in a similar fashion to the keezer that’s detailed on Homebrew Academy. It’s your best source of information if you’re looking for specifics on building a keezer.

It’s easy to drive yourself mental with the options you have when it comes to kegging your beer. I’ve discovered there’s no shortage to how much control you can have over your homebrewed beverages. For my keezer, I wanted to be able to do the following:

  • Serve three different types of beer
  • Carbonate a keg while serving with other kegs.
  • Keep the construction relatively simple.

After much debate in terms of whether I build a collar versus building a more elegant bar style keezer with the coffin box on top, I decided in the end to do a collar style build. This build is already a step past what I’m used to and considering I’m making a draft system for the first time, the collar style build is the easiest way to go.

Planning

One thing I find is that I try to plan things to the n’th degree. I like to know exactly what I’m getting into when I take on projects like these, since ones like these tend to come with a price tag. With a general idea for keg sizes and the dimensions of some freezers I had in mind, I made a 3D model in Google Sketchup to see what my collar build would look like in terms of dimensions.

Isometric View
Isometric view of Keezer
Overview of Keg placement
Better Idea of Spacing Between Kegs
Pipe System
View of PVC Network for Air Movement

This gave me a good sense of realistically how many kegs I was going to be able to fit in. I had tried to convince myself that possibly I could fit all four kegs on the bottom, but it was going to be really tight. Basically, I had to accept that I was likely only going to be able to fit three on the bottom and maybe a low profile or 2.5 gallon keg on the compressor hump.

Since I’m a neurotic engineer, I try to estimate my costs as accurately as possible, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from the wisdom of others would take on projects and document them on the web, it’s that no matter how hard you try, you’re always going to spend more than you think. Taking this into account, I made an initial bill of materials, then multiplied the total cost by 1.2. Not surprisingly, I spent more than this. That being said, the actual cost was relatively close to the 1.2 multiplier on the estimated cost. I was only over by about $50. Good lessons to remember for the future.

With a digital representation of the keezer, it was time to jump into the real build.

Getting the Materials

To build a keezer, you need the main ingredient: a freezer. You’ve got a number of options, there’s usually a good number of people looking to get rid of freezers on craigslist, however I have a $100 gift card to Lowes and they had the size of freezer I was looking for. In the end, I picked up a Idlyis 7.1 Cu-ft freezer for $109 after the gift card.

I had struggled to find exact dimensions of the insides of freezers online. One good way to easily determine how many kegs will fit in a freezer is take some cardboard and cut out circles the size of the keg diameter. Then, go to Lowes, or Home Depot, and put them in the bottom on the freezer. This quickly tells you how much space the kegs are going to take up in the freezer you’re looking to buy. The image below shows using the templates on the floor models at Lowes.

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Keg Cardboard Templates in Idylis 7.1 CU Freezer

 

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Loaded and Ready to Go

Considering now I had a freezer and two kegs, I was committed at this point. I took a trip down to the local homebrewing store Adventures in Homebrewing. It’s wonderful living so close to Adventures in Homebrewing, the team there is incredibly knowledgeable and helped direct me to everything I needed for the keezer build.

Below is a rough bill of materials. Since I bought some tools for the first time while doing this, my costs were a little bit out of whack, but below is a fairly good review of how much the Keezer cost.

Material/Component Cost
2 x 6 Lumber  $          5.83
Beer Line (15 ft, 3/16″ thick)  $           13.13
Beer Line Disconnect (x 3)  $           15.87
Beer Shanks (4-1/8″, SS)  $           79.47
Carbonating Beer Line  $           16.42
Castors  $           11.51
CO2 Tank (10 lb) – Reconditioned Tank and Fill  $           90.10
Computer Case Fan  $             5.17
Computer Scroll Fan  $             7.09
De-Humidifier  $           31.75
Double Body Regulator  $         105.99
Fasteners  $           11.26
Faucets (Perlick, 630SS)  $         114.48
Freezer  $         109.88
Gas Ball Locks (x3)  $           15.87
Gas Line (12 ft, 9/16″)  $           10.05
Gas Manifold  $           41.33
Hose Clamps  $           11.72
Insulation  $             5.81
Miscellaneous  $           17.30
Oak Trim  $           31.86
PVC  $           18.54
Shelving  $             5.24
Swivel Nuts (1/4″)  $           12.69
Tail Piece Assembly (x 3)  $           15.87
Taps Handles (x 3)  $           12.69
Temperature Controller  $           61.42
Wall Wart  $             5.30
Weatherstrip  $             3.47
Wire Connectors  $             2.52
Grand Total  $         889.61

The above doesn’t account for the fact that I needed some extra tools and materials as well. If you don’t do much woodworking, you’re probably going to need a good palm sander, along with a wood stain and a varnish. My total cost after materials ended up being about $100 more than what’s listed above.

There’s places you can save money, like finding a freezer on craigslist for less than $50 if you really look around, or by going with chrome material instead of stainless steel. The double body regulator is a big cost, if you don’t mind carbonating a keg then serving it separately, you can save about $45 going with a single regulator. Depending on what you want, you can probably do this a little bit cheaper. I wanted to be able to carbonate and serve at the same time, the double body regulator lets you split off two separate pressures, so I can have a high one for carbonating, and a low one for serving.

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My Trip to Adventures in Homebrewing

Building the Collar

The first steps involved getting the collar built. Removing the lid is a bit of a challenge because the hinges on the back are spring loaded, so I had to be careful when taking the screws out. Once they were out, I measured the top of the open freezer and cut the 2 x 6 lumber to create the base of the collar. I used basic screws to hold the collar together.

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Then, I reinstalled the lid onto the back of the collar, since I wasn’t going to be putting any oak trim on the back. If you really wanted to go basic, you could stop here with the collar, seal the insides, and drill faucet holes. However, the nice thing about the oak trim is that it creates a glove for the keezer that gives it a nice polished look when combined with the staining.

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Oak Trim Installed

Using brass nuts and screws, I fastened the oak trim to the 2 x 6s. The oak trim hangs about 2 inches below the bottom of the collar and lines up with the top of the 2 x 6 interface with the lid.

One of the issues I ran into is that I discovered after I attached the oak trim was the the front face had a crack that ran right though the center. This irritated me as oak trim is not exactly cheap. Oh well, first hangup. No biggie, back to home depot more oak.

There was a silver lining because I used the cracked piece as a template for mounting my beer shanks. I used the cracked piece to determine the size of spade bit I needed to use (I think it was 7/8″, though I forgot to take down the size I used!) & I got a chance to see what the taps would look like on the trim. I also used the cracked trim piece as a template when I made the mistake of using a spade bit for the beer shanks that was a little bit too small. As I said, the cracked piece ended up working out pretty well 🙂

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Silver Linings Cracked Trim
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Test Fitting the Faucets

Once I got a new piece of oak trim, I drilled the holes and attached the taps to test the fit. So far pretty good!

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Test Fit of Faucets.

Staining the Collar

The whole reason I got the oak is that I wanted the outside to be stained. I like the stained look of oak, so I ended up getting a cherry red stain and glossy urethane finish. This took about a week to do, since I did 3 coats of stain and 4 coats of urethane.

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Staining the Collar
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Urethane Coat Drying

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I like the red color, and I didn’t want to go too dark with the stain as I wasn’t planning on doing anything to the fridge. I had originally thought of painting it black, but it’s something I can do in the future if I really want to.

Air Movement

While the collar was being stained, I built the network of PVC tubes that would move the air. In retrospect, doing the PVC tubes is overkill, but I wanted to go the extra mile. If I really want to I can always remove it later.

I wasn’t able to find the exact PVC tube sections I had in my sketchup model. So I improvised and made the PVC network a little more curved with a few extra 90 degree elbows and a four way connection.

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Cutting the PVC

In the end, I think it turned out alright. The PVC size I use was 1-1/2″, but the truth is you can use any size you want, you just have to make sure to account for the keg height change with respect to putting the PVC in the bottom. So if you use 2″ PVC tube, the top of the keg will be 2″ closer to the top (plus a little bit if you put something over the PVC). If you’re collar height was based on the keg sitting on the floor, the lid might not close!

Once the PVC sections were cut and fitted together, I tested out how the fan would sit on top of the reducer section right at the top of the PVC network.

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PVC Network All Assembled

For the wiring the sits on top of the pipe network, I found some cheap wire shelving at home depot. I used a dremel to cut out the sections of the shelving to fit above the pipe network. It was a cheap solution, but it worked great!

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Shelving Sections Cut to Shape
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The Shelving Fits Perfectly!

One thing I noticed (which I’ll discuss in part 2) is that the fan hardly moved any air at all. For the time being, it worked as a good surrogate part to place everything so it fit.

For Part 2

In the next post, I’ll go through some of the smaller details as I finish up the build, such as insulating, routing hoses, and sealing, along with plans for the future. I’ve got two beers finishing up fermentation, so I hope to be enjoying some nice draft out of the keezer soon!

More to come soon!

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