Bottle conditioning beer takes extra time, increases the risk of beer oxidation, and can lead to more spillage. Instead of buying an expensive kegerator from the store, you can easily build your own keezer at home with this guide.
Selecting a Freezer
Chest freezers are more energy efficient than refrigerators because they open from the top, which allows the cold air to stay at the bottom and reduce the operating cost. Believe it or not, they’re also easier to load kegs into since you drop it down rather than try to maneuver it in stretching your arms out. Most homebrewers use Cornelius kegs, so that is the size we’ll deal with for this guide. This sizing guide also includes a five-pound CO2 tank in the keezer with everything.
Some freezers are built with different dimensions, so researching before purchasing a freezer is always a good idea. Here is a rough estimation:
- 5 cubic foot freezer: three kegs
- 7 cubic foot freezer: five kegs
- 10 cubic foot freezer: ten kegs
Building a Collar
A collar is a wooden box that extends the height of the freezer to fit more kegs in. This does not void any warranties like installing a tower, and allows for an easy place to run taps to. You do not want to drill through the walls of the actual freezer/keezer.
To build a collar, you’ll need the following supplies.
- Lumber- the exact size will depend on the perimeter of the freezer
- Something to cut the lumber with
- Wood screws and something to drive them in
- A drill and bits to cut holes for the taps
- Wood putty to go back and make everything look pretty
- Wood stain and sealant
First, you’ll need to measure the perimeter of the freezer from edge to edge, and cut the boards to match. It’s extremely important to measure twice and cut once. Use some wood screws to hold everything together, and go ahead and test fit it to the freezer. If everything looks good, then drill out the spots where the taps will go. Be sure to leave plenty of space between them so you don’t have to worry about the tap handles hitting each other. At least four inches is a good rule of thumb.
After this is built, it’s time to get creative and make it look great. Grab some wood stain and apply a light layer, then let it fully dry per the instructions. Repeat this step until you’re happy with the look, then apply a layer of sealant. This will keep the wood safe from the humid environment that will be created in the keezer.
Once this is complete, you’ll need to reattach the lid to the collar. Set the lid on top and mark where the holes on the hinges are. Drill these out and re-attach the lid to keep your beer nice and chilly.
Setting Up the Gas Side
To push the beer out of the keg, you’ll need gas to flow to the kegs. Here is a list of materials required for building the gas side.
- 5-pound CO2 tank
- Dual gauge primary regulator
- Secondary pressure regulator (optional for low carb beers)
- Gas manifold with as many barbs as kegs
- 5/16 ” gas tubing
- Gas ball locks
- Flare nuts and barbs to take ¼ inch to 5/16”
- Clamps to lock down the hoses and avoid accidents later
This parts-list may seem overwhelming, but it all goes together rather easily. Assembling everything will only require a screwdriver, and maybe a lighter if the lines are really tight going onto the barbs.
Pick a spot of the CO2 tank and measure out tubing to run from there to the gas manifold. Be sure to leave some extra line in case you need to go back and move the tank. Slide a clamp over the end of the tubing to make sure it’s on there good and tight.
Slide a flare fitting onto both ends of the hosing, and secure it with a clamp. Attach one end of the hose to the CO2 regulator and the other side to the gas manifold.
Measure and cut lengths of tubing to reach from the gas manifold to each keg. Be sure to leave some slack in this, or changing out kegs will get pretty difficult. A ball lock disconnect goes on the keg side for each one of these. Be sure to attach these with a clamp.
Now we have everything we need a setup to get gas to our kegs to push the brewskis out.
Setting Up the Beer Side
Now that we have the gas lines set up, we need the most important part installed- the beer! Here’s a list of parts you’ll need.
- Cornelius kegs to hold the beer
- Clear vinyl beer line (3/16”)
- 1/4” barb
- Faucet shank (4”)
- Tap handles
- Forward sealing faucets
To prevent all the CO2 from breaking out of the beer as you pour, you’ll need to use a longer line to run beer to the tap, and then our gas lines. A good starting point is 10 feet of line, but it’s better to cut this longer and shorten it up as needed. Attach a ball lock to one side of this line and a 1/4″ barb to the other side, and apply clamps on each end.
Slide the beer shank through the collar and attach everything to the tailpiece of a wing nut, which is held in place by a wing nut. Using a forward-sealing faucet will make life much better for the keezer in the long run. The cheaper models will slowly leak beer and will leave gunk if they aren’t used daily. This would definitely be one spot to not cheap out on.
Putting It All Together
Now that the lines have been run, it’s time to put the finishing touches on it and get beer flowing. Here is a list of things you’ll need to finish up.
- A temperature controller
- Something to keep the humidity down
- Line cleaner
The only problem with using a freezer to build our keezer is that it’s built to freeze things, and frozen beer does no good for anyone. A thermostat temperature controller is needed to keep the temperature around 38 F. Open a bottle of distilled water and drop the temperature probe in to make sure temperatures are consistent.
Condensation will only make your new keezer gross over time so it’s important to add some desiccant to keep it to a minimum. It’s equally important to replace the desiccant when it goes from, say, blue to purple indicating it has absorbed max moisture.
To clean the lines, fill a keg with line cleaner and push it through the lines to make sure they don’t contribute off-putting flavors to the beer. This also works well to make sure everything is in working order before potentially wasting beer.
Our final step? Hook up a keg and enjoy!