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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

Bread

IMG_0414 Had some fun making bread with the family – getting the kids (et.al.) very messy kneading the dough in flour. 

I decided to make the bread while driving, and just went to the store planning on finding the recipe on the back of a bag of flour or on the yeast packet.  Unfortunately they all had complicated bread like pumpkin bread, or oatmeal bread

I kinda wanna learn the real chemisty behind making bread so I don’t always have to consult a recipe.  I’ve accomplished this for chili, and now want to add bread to the repertoire. This repertoire idea was inspired by my oldest sister who can make chocolate chip cookies without reading a recipe.

I found this recipe online, and it comes close – but the one the flour bag listed eggs and butter, so I improvised a bit and added a couple tablespoons of butter and an egg.  SuzShe warned that messing with a bread recipe would make it fail to rise.

My bread rose just fine – easily doubling in volume.  I planned a little poorly and didn’t want to cook it that night because everyone would be in bed when it was done – and the best part of baking bread is eating it right out of the oven.  So I put it in the fridge after it rose.  It rose a little more in the fridge, then the top got a little hard – dried out.  It wasn’t much, but another day in the fridge would’ve ruined it I’m sure.

Here’s what I ended up with for a recipe:

  • 3 cups of Flour + more to tune
  • One packet regular yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Mix the flour and yeast, then add the water. 
  2. Add the rest of the dry ingediants and stir. 
  3. Add the egg and butter and mix.
  4. Mix in more flour until it’s not sticky.
  5. Knead on a flour covered surface until the kids are bored of it.
  6. Let rise in greased bowl until double volume (15min -> overnight) in warm place with cover and make sure bowl is big enough for double volume.
  7. Pound dough to get rid of really big air bubbles.
  8. I braided 1/2 and made a loaf with a big X cut with a wet knife for the other 1/2.
  9. Put bread in oven before preheating, with a pan of water on the bottom rack.
  10. Cook for 40min or until golden brown. 

Next time I’ll try more butter and maybe more sugar.  I think the key to the rise is the yeast + warm water + sugar, based on my home brewing experiences.

Food Diary

I’ve read in a couple places that keeping track of what you eat is a good way to loose weight and improve the quality of what you eat.  So I’m going to try to keep a food diary.  I’m going to do it here, in the blog.  I thought that maybe this wasn’t the best place – but if I tag everything with “food” it should be easy for readers to ignore – or for me to remove all the posts to a different blog at a later date.