Kegerator

I've finally attained the ultimate in homebrewing paraphrenalia... the kegerator! I've documented the construction as best I can, to help any would-be kegerator owners who want to attempt something similar.

Table of Contents

  1. My Situation and Goals
  2. Acquiring the Beast
  3. Putting Holes in Things
  4. Finishing Touches
  5. Additions
  6. Costs

My Situation and Goals

I lived in an apartment with somewhat limited space, and without the ability to run a line from the kegerator drain to somewhere where it wouldn't destroy my carpet. Therefore, I chose to go with a chest freezer as the base of the kegerator. No spills, since the door's on top.

I brew fairly frequently, but not quite every month. 2 taps seemed like too few, 4 seemed too expensive, so I aimed for a 3-tap setup.

Acquiring the Beast

I had to buy my chest freezer new, since no one happened to be selling used chest freezers in my area. I settled on a 7.2 cubic foot chest freezer from Sears, because it would hold 3 kegs (Cornelius soda kegs are about 9" in diameter) without too much wasted space.

When I put together the kegerator I owned a lovely, gas-guzzing Jeep Wrangler, a vehicle which has many fine points. Most of those fine points, however, involve off-roading and parallel parking, and not hauling large objects. To get my freezer home, I had to do this:


Talk about a scary drive home up the freeway.

Putting Holes in Things

In order to run lines through the door of the chest freezer, I obviously had to put some holes in it. This sounded kind of intimidating, but it turns out that the door of my freezer consists of a really thin sheet of metal, a bunch of insulation, and a really thin sheet of plastic.

I have a truly pathetically underpowered drill, but I still had no trouble getting through the door with a 1 1/4" wood boring bit, and lesser bits.

The main hole had to be 1 1/4" in order to provide room for the three lines to run from the freezer into the tower. I probably could have gotten away with 1 1/8". I also drilled holes for the bolts to hold down the tower and the drip tray, and for the drain from the drip tray.

I then repeated the same pattern of holes in an 11"x18" rectangle of 1/2" plywood, which goes under the door as backing to hold everything together. My original thought was to use a sheet of stainless steel for backing, but I don't have the tools to put holes in the steel.

Incidentally, the wood backing had to be large enough that I was forced to destroy some plastic ridges on the back of my fridge door. This was accomplished frighteningly easily with a ripsaw attachment on my trusty Dremel tool.

Finishing Touches

We can't have the inside of the door looking all crappy, so I rounded the edges of the plywood with a drum sander on my Dremel and painted the plywood white.

Once the paint dried, I put it all together. I was very relieved when all of my bolts found all of their holes with a minimum of wiggling. The drip pan and the tower were each secured to the lid with four bolts. It seems pretty solid.

It looks a little uneven there because the bolts weren't evenly tightened yet.

As I mentioned, the chest freezer needs to be converted into a refrigerator. This is done by means of a thermostat that cuts power to the freezer when it gets below the desired temperature. When the thermostat came, there was a significant amount of wiring to be done to hook it up to an extension cord. My friendly neighborhood homebrew store guy, Bob, does these in his sleep, so he was good enough to wire it up for me. (plug: Bob's Homebrew, in the University District, Seattle, WA. Highly recommended if you're in the area, especially if you want to undertake a project like this)

The tap lines are hooked up to quick disconnects so that it can be easily attached to a Cornelius keg. I labeled each of the lines so that I won't constantly have to guess which one is which.

The final step was to put a small bucket next to the CO2 tank on the shelf and run a tube from the drip tray drain to the bucket. I'll have to dump out and clean the bucket periodically so that it doesn't get too nasty, but it's far easier to manage than an external drain would be.

When the keg was attached and the temperature reached a comfy 50 degrees, I poured the first pint, a nice pale ale that my friend Kyle and I brewed a few weeks beforehand.

The only downsides I see to the way I handled this project were:

Costs

The kegerator is not a cheap item. It could be built significantly more cheaply than I did it, however. My primary concern was getting the right kind of equipment quickly. If I'd been willing to spend a little more time finding a cheap (or free) fridge, in particular, or if I'd had the skills to create my own drip tray, I could have avoided some of the financial pain.

Item Description Cost (USD)
Freezer 7.2 cf chest freezer from Sears $200
Thermostat Thermostat to convert the freezer into a refrigerator $90
Tap Tower A gargantuan (4" diameter) 3-tap tower, with lines $220
Drip Pan Custom stainless steel drip pan to catch excess foam $70
Drillbits 1 1/4" Wood Boring Bit for the hole for the lines
1/4" Wood Boring Bit for the holes for the bolts for the tower and the drip pan
5/8" Wood Boring Bit for the hole for the drain for the drip pan
$10
Total Without Kegging System $590
Kegging Stuff This isn't, strictly speaking, a cost that's specific to the kegerator. I had never kegged beer before, so I needed a CO2 tank, a regulator, a keg, and all the odds and ends. $220
Total With Kegging System $810