Keezer Build Guide for the DIY Homebrewer
Posted on January 09 2019
Four Hundred. I was inventorying my home brewing equipment, and realized I had at least 400 bottles stored in my basement. I was always envious of home brewers that were able to keg their beer. No more bottles to clean and sanitize, monotonously filling them, rinse, repeat (literally!). Upon the realization I needed to reduce the storage in my basement, I was able to convince my wife that building a kegerator “keezer” would solve the problems of endless cases of beer bottles, and spilling beer all over the kitchen while I was bottling.
For those unaware of the term, Keezer is a chest freezer that has been converted into a kegerator. There were several Pros and Cons when deciding to build a keezer vs. a kegerator.
- Readily available premade
- May be able to use without an additional temperature controller
- Easier to load kegs in and out
- Potentially more storage capacity
- More energy efficient?
- No physical changes to freezer necessary
- Potential to be more aesthetically pleasing (at least compared to commercial kegerators)
I decided to go this route as it had the potential to be more aesthetically pleasing (this was important if I was allowed to keep it in a public area of our house).
Sizing Your Chest Freezer
When choosing the freezer that will become the new focal point of your home, you’ll need to make sure it can hold the amount of corny kegs you want to serve (and possibly more for carbonating). The best example I’ve seen is creating cardboard templates to test fit everything. You may want to include templates for kegs, carboys, buckets, co2 tanks, etc.
You’ll then need a way to properly control the temperature, so you don’t end up with frozen beer. There are many options / vendors.
Johnson, Ranco, Love, Ink-bird
Digital vs Analog
- Generally more Expensive
- More precise temperature control
- Precision may not be necessary for serving temperatures
Common terminology you’ll see with digital controllers:
- SP (Set Point)
- Temperature you want
- Chest freezer will continue to cool even after compressor has shutoff as the coolant finishes cycling through the lines
- dIF (Differential)
- Allowable temperature window before compressor will kick on/off
- Asd (Anti-Short Cycle Delay)
- Time delay before compressor can turn on again
- I chose the largest number, less stress on the compressor
I will also recommend insulating the controller’s temperature probe (foam or bubble wrap), so it less susceptible to temperature swings.
Serving Your Beer
How are you going to get all that delicious beer into your glass? There are several options for dispensing the beer, and luckily there is an option for every budget and skill level. The simplest and cheapest option is to use picnic taps. Just make sure the height of your freezer allows all the kegs to fit. The example below shows many kegs utilizing picnic taps, with no physical changes needed on the freezer.
(image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marubozo/4933816022/)
The next simplest option is using a tap tower. It only requires you to drill a hole within the lid of the freezer. Luckily chest freezers do not have any coolant lines on the top, unlike many small refrigerators. These are readily available at most homebrew supply stores.
The most complicated and labor intensive is building what is known as a Coffin. I’ll just show a picture of a nice example. In essence it is a wooden box you build out to run the tap lines through. The beer faucet comes through the front of the box with your tap handles attached.
Building a Collar
What I chose to do is build a Collar. This is simply a wooden rectangle that sits on top of the freezer. There are a few ways to attach the collar, using the existing lid’s hinges:
- Hinges between freezer/collar
- Original freezer lid is permanently attached to collar
- Hinges between lid/collar
- Collar permanently attached to freezer
- Hinges between both lid/collar & collar/freezer
- You can generally order more hinges from the freezer manufacturer
Example of original lid attached to the top of the color.
Building a Collar
I decided to build my collar without using the original lid at all, instead I used a piece of wood nailed down to the top of the collar. I used 1”x8” red oak for the sides; I didn't miter the corners - just made sure that the front board covered end to end for a one piece look (no butt ends showing). Most big box stores will cut this for free if you don’t have the tools to do it yourself.
Use brackets and Liquid Nails to hold pieces together (pocket screws would work too). I then used silicon caulk to seal all internal gaps. This will make sure there is no air leaking. I drilled 7/8” holes for the tap shanks.
To make it more energy efficient, I chose to add additional insulation to the collar. I used foam board insulation, and cut it to size using a box cutter blade. Make sure to use foam board glue, as some other glues will actually eat away at the foam. You may need to account for the additional thickness the foam adds when calculating the height clearance of your kegs.
I wanted this to look more like other furniture in the house. So, back to the hardware store to look at trim pieces. I found a couple of patterns, and simply glued those to the collar using Liquid Nails. I also covered the top with 1” tiles:
A nice set of Wood Tap Handles help set it off.
While at the store I purchased adhesive weather stripping, and placed it on the bottom of the collar for a good seal. One tip to make sure you have everything sealed properly is put a light source in the keezer I (I used a flashlight), and look for any light escaping.
I through and put together a simple base with casters to set the chest freezer onto. When selecting wheels, make sure they are appropriately rated for the weight of the keezer full of beer. I also put decorative trim around it for a finished look:
Top view of base
Side view of base
Trim pieces nailed to base
You can obviously purchase the equipment at almost any homebrew store. For simplicity, I ordered a complete kit from kegconnection.com. I would strongly recommend upgrading to forward-sealing faucets if your budget allows it. The rear-sealing faucets have a tendency to stick if not used heavily.
The Finished Keezer
And here is the finished project! In the background you may notice a chalkboard I use to list which beers are on tap, along with more information about the beers. Time to drink up!
Here are a couple of upgrades you may want to look into after you finish your keezer. They may not be necessary for your situation, but I did find the useful.
The cool air in your chest freezer will settle in layers, forming temperature stratification. A user online reported he placed 1 cup of water on the bottom, 1 cup on the hump, and one at tap level and let sit for 24 hours. The reported temperature differences were 34, 42, and 51 respectively! The warmer temperatures at the tap level can cause foaming issues. One solution is using a small computer fan to circulate air.
(image from http://billybrew.com/keezer-updates)
Any tap handle will work as long as it has a 3/8th" threaded insert. However why go with something plain and mass produced like the small black tap handles when you can pick out tap handles custom made from exotic woods. These have a Tap Sign chalkboard on them so you can see whats on draft.
Chest freezers running above freezing temperatures may have excessive moisture. I use the Eva-Dry dehumidifier, as it is a stand-alone unit that can be placed anywhere inside (No batteries or cords required). When the indicator crystals turn pink it is time to "re-new" the unit. Simply remove it from the keezer and plug it into a power outlet. There is a built-in heater that will warm the crystals allowing them to expand and release the moisture as water vapor into the outside air. It takes about 12-14 hours to completely re-new the unit. When it is completely renewed the indicator crystals will change back to blue.
This a great chart to show you what PSI and temperature settings to use to get the carbonation levels you want.
Lastly, here are some resources you may find helpful when building your own keezer!
Sizing your chest freezer: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/sizing-your-chest-freezer-corny-kegs-75449/
Carbonation Chart: http://www.kegerators.com/carbonation-table.php
100’s examples of kegerators and keezers: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/show-us-your-kegerator-29053/
Custom Wood Tap Handles: www.halfyankeeworkshop.com
Kegging Supplies: http://www.kegconnection.com/
Eva-dry dehumidifier: http://www.amazon.com/Eva-dry-E-500-Renewable-Wireless-Dehumidifer/dp/B000H0XFD2
Cheap stainless steel 19” drip tray: http://www.barproducts.com/index.php
|Caleb Schickedanz has been a homebrewer for over six years, and president of the Kansas City Bier Meisters the past two years. He resides near Kansas City, KS, and has actively been involved in the homebrewing and beer community in the area. He holds a National rank in the BJCP, and hopefully soon will be a certified mead judge. Caleb's brew system includes both a typical three-tier gravity setup, as well as an electric brew-in-a-bag system. He enjoys brewing (and drinking) almost all beer styles when he is not busy working as an IT manager.