So, it’s been awhile. Real life got in the way for me and I haven’t had time to complete my blog series on homebrewing. For that, I’m sorry. Hopefully, I’ll start brewing again in a couple months and can write more blogs then . . . BUT, I do have a blog to share now.
Last month, I purchased a 7.1 cubic foot chest freezer.
“Why do I care?” you might ask. Well, I’m going to do something different with it. It is called a “Keezer.” It is short for a “keg freezer.” The idea is simple. Use the freezer to keep kegs cold, and have taps coming out of it to dispense either beer or soda.
To have taps coming out of the freezer, I can do one of two things. The first one is to drill holes into the freezer for the beer lines and install the taps directly to the freezer. The second one is to install a “collar,” which is a wood frame that fits between the freezer and the lid. The lid is lifted onto the collar and the collar is adhered to the top of the freezer. This allows me to drill through the wood to install the taps, thereby not damaging the freezer at all.
Here is what the collar looked like (after the wood was cut).
I’m going to take you through my process. I’ll share with you my successes and lessons I’ve learned while making my Keezer. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting.
It should be known that I am not good with woodworking, or any type of construction. I am not a handyman. I do not have a lot of tools or experience when it comes to this sort of thing. So, bear that in mind when you laugh at my “lessons learned.”
For construction of the collar, I decided to use 2×10 pine. That means the lid would be lifted 10 inches off of the cooler. This allowed me to fit everything inside, with a little room to spare. Then, I needed to decide on a few options for the wood. I chose a color of stain (I purchased a primer/stain in one) to be cherry-ish in color. I decided to get removable adhesive for “gluing” the collar to the freezer. I also bought some wood glue and corner brackets to connect the wood boards together.
For insulation of the wood, I got a 3/4” polystyrene slab. It can be cut to size with a razor and is inexpensive.
Next, I had to get the hardware. This includes tubing, thermostat (to get precise temperature control), valves (to bring or shut off CO2 to the kegs), taps, and a CO2 regulator (to specify the exact pressure going to the kegs).
So, here is what the collar looked like after I cut the pine (mitered the corners), and fit the insulation.
As you can see, I’ve got 3 kegs and my CO2 tank in there. On the right side, there is a raised shelf (it is raised because the compressor is under it. I can fit another keg there (bringing the total to 4), and that is why I decided on 10 inches for the collar. The fourth keg wouldn’t have fit with a smaller collar. Even though the CO2 tank is inside the freezer in that picture, it will be outside once the keezer is finished.
So, now I have everything set and ready. Now, the challenge begins. Putting it all together, when I have barely a modicum of skills. Instead of overlapping the boards to make the collar, I decided to miter the corners. If you look at the previous picture, you can see the corners are cut to a 45 degree angle so they fit together without seeing any cut wood. If you look closely, you can see it isn’t perfect, and that caused a big problem.
I only had a hand-held circular saw to cut. I could rotate it to a 45 degree angle. I thought “perfect”! Ha! Hardly. Very small errors led to big problems. Instead of having perfect 90 degree angles (which are required for the lid to fit snug over it, I had a few degrees off (above and below). I found this out after I had glued and bracketed the boards together.
So, I had to come up with a solution. The priority was for a tight fit of the lid. That means I had to accept the boards weren’t going to have perfect alignment. If you look closely at that picture, you can see they are already slightly off. But, I had an idea. Remove the brackets, break the glue adhesive, and get some molding and put it around the corners, hiding the mistake. It worked well. At least, in my opinion.
My second mistake had to do with the lid. The inside of the lid had plastic design that extended downward and that caught on a fraction of the collar. I needed a dremel or rotor to trim the inside corner of the collar. I don’t have one of them, unfortunately. Soooo, I had to use a chisel (“gasp”!). It worked, but didn’t look professional, at all. Fortunately, it was on the inside, where looks really don’t matter. In hindsight I should have used 1×10. That would have solved the entire problem.
I also had to trim the insulation down a bit to fit. Again, I don’t have the best tools, so this trimming did not look professional at all either.
Now, I had to drill holes for the 2 taps and 2 gas lines I wanted to install. That was easy. 1” bits, measured precisely. Once they were drilled and tested for accurate fit, it was time to sand and prime. That took a long time, since it is roughly 20 degrees here.
Here is a picture of the collar (with the moldings) after sanding, painting, and installing the taps/gas lines. If you look closely, you can see the white plastic on the lid that gave me so much problem.
My next challenge was the thermostat. The wiring came off the bottom (instead of the back). I didn’t want any wires to show, and the temperature probe needed to be inside the freezer. I came up with a solution for that. I took a small block of the cut wood. I chiseled out a path for the wires, and cut a small half-moon hole at the bottom of the collar for the wires to go through. It worked very well.
I used some removable “caulking” material to glue the collar to the freezer. The goal was to get a good seal and be able to remove it later, without damaging the freezer. This failed, utterly. So, I got some double-sided sticky foam, very similar to the 3M adhesive to taping pictures to walls. That worked much better. To hide the obscene chisel job on the inside of the collar (and to help provide a smooth seal), I got some very thin insulation material with adhesive on one side.
In that picture, you can see the shanks to allow the gas tubes to connect. The shanks allow you to have a tight seal (instead of drilling a small hole for the gas lines and having to calk it for a seal). The gas lines attach to the “nipple” on either side of the shank.
Now, to screw the lid on to the collar. That was simple. I just used the hinge on the freezer and screwed it to the wood collar (instead of the back of the freezer). I just had to make sure the screws were placed in exactly in the correct place, so it would close without any gaps.
Last, I had to attach the valves to control which keg gets CO2. As you can see in the picture below, there are two sets of valves. This allows me to have two different CO2 pressures. This way, I can have beer and soda kegs (which carbonate at very different levels) at the same time.
As you can see, the taps aren’t labeled. So, I got some dry erase neon markers. I can write directly on the freezer lid to label the taps. It looks cool, erasable, and glows bright under a black light.
Last, but not least, leak checking the tubing. A small leak can drain your CO2 tank overnight. The way you check for leaks is turn on all the gas. Crank it up high. Then, spray soapy water on all the connections. If there is a leak, you will see bubbling. It will look like this.
You can see the bubbling on the gauge on the left, where there is a hole and a spring. That is where the pressure relief valve is. It makes sure your pressure doesn’t get dangerously high. Unfortunately, it was leaking at lower pressures, so I have to replace it.
So, there you go. It looks great (from the outside anyway) and should work very well. It allows me to have 1 beer and 1 soda on tap at all times. I have room to carbonate the beer and soda that are in the queue (ordinarily it can take up to 2 weeks to carbonate) at the same time, so there is no down time between batches. Once I replace the regulator and make sure there are no more leaks, I’ll start on my next batch of beer and soda. I can’t wait.
Follow Reim on his past beerventures here