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Building a Keezer/ Freezer Kegerator

The daunting decision to move away from bottling, and into kegging, is one that most homebrewers must face at some point in their brewing career. In addition to the variety of keg styles, sizes, and materials available on the market today; figuring out how to store and serve those kegs can be an undertaking. This article will serve to de-mystify the latter part of the equation by illustrating just how easy it is to convert a simple household appliance, into a beer cooling and serving machine!

Part I. Chest Freezer Selection

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*For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus solely on chest freezer conversion, however a majority of these suggestions can be used in the conversion of a refrigerator as well! Arguably one of the most important parts of the process, chest freezer size selection can make or break your project early on, so make sure to take these into consideration before dropping any cash.

  1. Figure out what keg sizes you will primarily use, and factor that into what size chest freezer to acquire. The most commonly used kegs for home brewing are typically 5 gallon ball lock soda kegs aka “corny kegs.” They are cheap, relatively easy to maintain, and very abundant! Their dimensions can vary slightly, but a safe bet is to assume each is approximately 25″ tall x 8.5″ in diameter.
  2. Making a cardboard cutout of your keg base to use during your shopping can be a great time saver, and can prevent a lot of frustration later on. Especially so when trying to squeeze that one last keg in there! Depth can be a concern as well, but the collar we will build later on will extend that depth by close to 3.5 inches or more depending on your desired material.
  3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. We’ve all heard the old adage, but it rings true with keezer building as much as anything else. Cheap chest freezers are a dime a dozen, but can have mechanical and electrical problems that you won’t see until it’s too late. You don’t want to build rocking keezer just to have the compressor go out two weeks later. Not to mention, older units may be cheap up front, but cost more in the long run due to much higher power consumption.

Part II. Building a Keezer Collar

* If you don’t want to build a collar, you can purchase a beer faucet tower to attach on top of your freezer lid. In my opinion, these can be cumbersome when opening and closing, and don’t look nearly as aesthetically pleasing. A collar gives you a nice place to put your shanks and beer faucets without having to drill into your freezer. So you’ve managed to score a chest freezer whose size caters to all your needs, now it’s time to start the transformation process. Before getting too far into the build, here is a quick list of tools/materials you’ll need on hand: Tools - Power drill - Small drill bit for pilot holes - Saw (any type) - 7/8” hole saw/drill bit for shanks - 5/16” drill bit for gas lines - 1/8” drill bit for temp. probe - Tape measure Materials -Wood glue -Wood screws (2”-2 ½”) -(2) 2”x4”x96” treated studs or (2) 2”x4”x96” untreated studs and waterproofer -Primer & Paint (if desired) -A few good beers to quench your thirst 

  1. Prior to crafting your collar, you’ll need to remove the lid of the freezer. Unscrew the lower set of screws which hold the hinge to the body of the freezer. BE CAREFUL! This is a job best suited for two, as the hinges can spring back in violent manner when removed. If possible, have one person hold the hinge in place, while the other removes the screws. Leave the hinges attached to the lid to save time for later on, and save the screws you removed from the freezer.
  2. After the lid has been removed, measure the perimeter of your freezer lip so that you can determine the dimensions of your collar. It’s better to be a little small than a little big as the lip of the freezer will likely be wider than the 2x4 on its side. Try and be as accurate as possible. With measurements in hand, you can now cut your 2x4 studs accordingly.
  3. Before permanently attaching your collar pieces together, set them on top of your freezer lip and do a dry fit. If it looks good you can begin assembling the collar together one side at a time, making sure that each side is square before drilling your pilot holes and screwing them together. I recommend one screw on each side initially, so it’s easier to make adjustments if need be.
  4. Take care of the aesthetics. If you don’t mind the raw wood look, and you used treated lumber you’re ready to move on to the next step. If you used normal 2x4’s, I suggest applying some sort of waterproofing agent, or if you’d like a unique color now is the time to prime and paint the collar.

*Waterproofing untreated lumber will extend the life of your collar, as the inside of your keezer will be exposed to a fair amount of moisture over time.

Part III. Drilling Ports into the Collar

[caption id="attachment_1538" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Drill holes in your keezer collar. Make sure to drill for your taps, as well as Gas (if your CO2 tank will be outside) and temp control probe.[/caption] *It’s significantly easier to drill your Collar holes before it’s attached to your freezer! Now that you have a fancy looking wood square, it’s time to make some decisions regarding layout. Where will you place your gas manifold? Do you want your gas tubing to come from the left, the right, or maybe the back? Do you want to evenly space out your taps across the front of the collar, or stagger them to one side? These decisions are largely a matter of preference, but there are a few things to keep in mind when making your choices.

  1. Drill your gas tube hole on whichever side will ultimately feed your gas manifold with a 5/16” drill bit. Remember, your beer gas cylinder can remain outside of your keezer, as it does not need to be cooled. By feeding your gas line through the side of your collar, you free up valuable space inside. If you’re using a dual regulator with two gas lines then drill two holes.
  2. Mark the front facing center of your collar using a tape measure, and use the 7/8” hole saw to drill the holes for your shanks and taps. The number of shank holes should correlate to the number of kegs you’ll be able fit in your keezer. The outside of the shanks typically have a ring around them, so you’ll want to space your holes far enough apart to ensure they won’t overlap. A good rule of thumb is at least 3 ½” apart. Marking the center of the collar guarantees uniformity amongst your shanks, and ultimately your taps.
  3. Don’t forget to drill your temperature probe hole. You will need to invest in a temperature controller to regulate and override the chest freezers internal thermostat. Take the probe size into consideration before drilling.

Part IV. Attaching the Collar

After the collar has been drilled for hardware, it can be permanently affixed to the top of the freezer. Dry fit the collar on top of the freezer one last time before attaching to make sure nothing shifted during the drilling process.

  1. This is the point of no return! Once glued into place, it will be extremely difficult to adjust the collars position, so check, then double check. Apply a fair amount of glue to the bottom of the collar, and set it on top of your freezer. Push down gently, and wipe excess glue away with a rag. Walk around and make sure the collar looks evenly placed.
  2. Place the freezer lid back on top of the of the collar, and verify the collar hasn’t shifted in the process. If everything was cut accurately, the lid and lid gasket should fit evenly on the collar.
  3. Place a few heavy objects on top of the lid to help settle and secure it in place. Kegs filled with water work perfectly for this. The extra weight will guarantee the collar seats nicely again the lip of the freezer and forms a seal. Allow the glue to dry for a minimum of 48 hours before moving on to the next step.

Part V. Re-attaching the Hinges

The hardest part is nearly over, and you’re one step closer to serving your delicious homebrew on tap! Re-attaching the hinges can be a pain by yourself so invite a friend or significant other to help, if possible.

  1. With the lid resting in place on your collar, carefully pull the hinges down and mark where the screw slots fall. Depending on the size of your hinges this may be on the collar, or on the freezer near where the original top screw holes were.
  2. Remember those screws you saved from before? Use them to re-attach the lid to the collar. If the hinge doesn’t match up to where the original top screw holes were drill new pilot holes for your hinge screws. Screw the hinges into place.
  3. Open the lid up and down to verify the hinges work and the lid seals properly. Some minor adjustments may be necessary, but everything should be very close.

Part VI. Purchasing and Installing Hardware

Congratulations are in order! Your keezer is nearly finished. The last step is to purchase and install the relevant hardware to carbonate and serve your beer. All setups will vary, but here are a few essentials that remain constant through every build; Kegging Hardware Overview Here is a list of kegging hardware you'll need. There is more information on each further down the article.- Shank Assembly (1 per tap) - Faucets (1 per tap) - Tap Handles (1 per tap) - Temperature controller - Gas Manifold (if using multiple taps)

  1. Shanks, faucets, tail pieces, and tap handles. These are lumped together as you’ll need one of each to serve one beer. If you can fit four kegs into your Keezer, therefore drilled four shank holes into the collar, you’ll need four shanks, four faucets, four tail pieces, and four tap handles. I recommend using 4” shanks for a collar constructed from 2x4s.Installation is as simple as sliding the shank through your collar, then tightening the nut on the inside to lock it into place. Tail pieces then fit on the threaded end of the shank on the inside, and faucets fit on the threaded front of the shank on the outside.
  2. Temperature Controller. This is requisite for a keezer, as the internal thermostat for the chest freezer is not setup to regulate temperatures above freezing. The temperature controller effectively fools and overrides that thermostat. Most controller models are now digital, and can regulate your keezer temperature to within + or – degree of your set temperature.
  3. Gas Manifold. A gas manifold is essentially a distributor for your beer gas. This allows you to run one gas line into your keezer, then distribute that gas pressure evenly over as many ports as your manifold can handle. Manifold sizes can range from as few as two ports to as many as 16 in some cases. You will want to purchase a manifold which correlates to the number of kegs you can fit inside the keezer.

After all your hardware is in place, hook up a keg of your favorite homebrew and enjoy! Cheers, your beers are on tap! Logan is a home brewer, food scientist, and aspiring writer from southern Wisconsin.