Taps

Got it into my head shortly after we moved into a house with a bar that a tap would be nice to have.    I spent the next 6 months thinking about it, and the last month doing the research into how I could make it happen.  Most people purchase completed systems for this sort of thing, or modify an old fridge by sticking a tap through the door.  These devices are called kegerators and there is no shortage of images of them on the internet.

My first thoughts were to modify the existing fridge under the bar – but it’s a pretty nice fridge and I realized I’m still going to want some cold beverage storage at the bar.

I found an Internet forum of people who discuss these systems and dole out tons of advice to noobs like myself.

A few days searching on craigslist and I found a pretty standard old fridge for the project, sold by a guy right around the corner from us.  I brought this home and got a keg in it to make sure my CO2 system still worked.

Next I started to drill the holes in this fridge.  I could not find a diagram of where the coolant lines were inside the old fridge – but my drill bit found one.  A loud HISS and the fridge was garbage.  It’s possible to repair a coolant line and recharge the coolant system – but it would end up costing about 5 times what I paid for the fridge.  So, that fridge is garbage now.  So much for this being a “green” project.

This crisis however turned into a beautiful opportunity.  While killing the fridge I was doing more reading online and decided that a chest freezer was probably a better choice for the system.  Craiglist to the rescue again – a little further away this time – but I acquired a Kenmore C675 freezer with I think a 13 ft^3 capacity.  It will easily hold 3 kegs + CO2 tank vs. the old fridge only holding a couple.

I spent a night drilling holes in the bar and floor and garage ceiling.  Had to cut out more than I planned on becuase my 2.5 inch drill bit wasn’t close to long enough for the whole job.  This was probably a good thing as I was able to explore what was in the various layers between the bar and the garage before drilling through them.

I convinced my friend Chris to come help on a Thursday night – he’s very willing to help with beer related projects – and we assembled the various parts of the system in one night with only a single additional trip to Home Depot.

The main design goal of the system aside from delivering carbonated beer to the tap is to keep that beer cold all the way to the tap.  If it gets warm in the lines it will come out as foam and then settle into flat beer.  There are a couple of ways to do this – the expensive way: coolant lines and a compressor in the fridge, and the cheap way: a blower motor blowing cold air from inside the fridge up a pipe with the beer lines in it.  I chose the cheap way. 

Here’s the freezer chest in the garage under the bar:

IMG_3437 

There’s a 2inch PVC pipe coming out the side insulated with foam.  The 2×4 skirt around the top is there to raise the lid a little (some homebrew kegs are to tall) but mostly to avoid having to cut into the freezer – which I was more than happy not to do.

Inside the freezer are the kegs and the CO2 system:

IMG_3440

There’s a blower motor attached to a blower hose that goes up into the 2in PVC pipe.  The beer lines go inside this blower hose.  The blower pulls cold air from in the freezer and blows it up the hose alongside the beer lines.  This air goes to the tap on top and then returns to the freezer on the outside of the blower hose inside the PVC pipe.  There’s a little spill in the freezer from a mistake I detail below, and I plan to clean it all out after I kick these two kegs.

There are two lines run up to the taps – but I only have one D coupler (keg tap) so I only have one beer online at the moment.

The interface between the freezer and the outside world:

IMG_3435

Here we see the external thermostat – becuase beer is very sensitive to temperature and the freezer doesn’t have a setting warm enough for beer. 

Inside the tap tower:

IMG_3426

Here is where a mistake was made – I used a thin walled hose to deliver the beer initially (all they had at Lowes) and it leaked. The hose clamp just wasn’t able to get a good seal no matter how tight it was. So when we first turned it all on the beer leaked back down the hose all the way down into the blower motor.  A quick trip to Home Depot and I got 20ft of nice thickly walled 1/4″ hosing.  This new hose sealed perfectly.

The finished project:

IMG_3422

There’s probably a drip tray in my future – and I’m currently running the beer through 20ft of hose.  The advice is to get the hose too long and shorten it to get the flow rate you want.  It’s currently pouring a little slow, but there’s very little foam and I’m afraid to mess with it.  There are also probably some tap handles in my future.

We had some folks over for my son’s bday party and the tap worked perfectly.  Spent a lot of time outside with the kids this weekend as well and it got me thinking of having a quick-change tap system to dispense beer inside the freezer.

All in all – it was a lot of plumbing and the biggest thing I would have done different was to get the right hose from the start.  I also will probably seal up/insulate the 2×4 skirting a little better as it get’s warmer – but currently the outside temp is colder than what I want inside the freezer.

I also need a name for the whole thing.

Cheers!

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