Introduction: How to Build a Kegerator
I've been home brewing for a while now, and got fed up with all of those pesky bottles. So I switched to kegging. The next logical step was having a kegerator to enjoy said homebrew! This was a fun project that is a great addition to our home.
In this Instructable I will cover how to modify a small 'counter high' refrigerator into a functioning kegerator. I will not cover how to keg beer or how to brew beer, look for those in future Instructables =)
So lets get started!
Step 1: Grab a Beer!
First and foremost you need to start your build with a cold beer. Homebrew is great if you have it, but any cold libation will suffice. This often neglected step is important because it helps provide inspiration and gives you something to look forward to when the build is complete!
Remember the homebrewer's mantra : Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew!
Step 2: Gather Your Materials
I already had the keg and CO2 kit when I made this, I just wanted to include pricing for everything if starting from scratch.
THE FRIDGE (Craigslist)
For this build I used the SANYO Mini-Fridge model SR-3770S. I went with that model because I found it for $20 on craigslist. These instructions won't be the same for all models. There is a lot of information on the interwebs about building a kegerator out of various models, so if you have specific questions about yours, ask the Google Man.
THE TOWER AND FAUCET (kegworks.com)
- 3" diameter Single Tap Draft Beer Tower (stainless steel)
- Perlick Perl 545PC faucet
DRIP TRAY (optional)(online or local brew supply store)
- Stainless Steel Drip Tray
COOLING TUBE (Optional) (hardware store)
- 2 feet of 1/2" diameter copper pipe
- (1) 90 degree 1/2" diameter copper elbow
Cost: approx $6
KEG (online or your local brew supply store)
- 5 gallon (standard), ball lock, cornelius 'corny' keg (23"x9" dia) with new gaskets
CO2 KIT (online or local brew supply store)
- new 5lb CO2 tank (full)
- Low pressure regulator with dual gauge and gas valve
- Gas in/liquid out ball lock fittings with hoses
SOLDERING KIT (if adding cooling tube)(hardware store)
- handheld propane tank with burner
- solder wire
Step 3: Prep the Interior
- Remove all trays, bins, and the freezer flip door. If you have a way to re-purpose this stuff, way to go. I just threw it all away...
- This model has a molded shelf in the back that can't be removed. The compressor is directly under it. Unfortunately this limits the keg count to 1.
- Leave the thermostat where it is
Step 4: Prep the Door
The inside of the door is molded plastic that will not shut if it's got a keg in it, so we need to cut it out.
- Pull back the door gasket so the screws holding the plastic to the door are exposed. Unscrew the molded plastic from the door.
- Pull the gasket off the molded plastic and set it aside. Be careful handling this as we'll need it later - On the molded plastic, mark out a cut line that's about an inch or so from the edge.
- Using a utility knife, cut the perimeter bolt hole pattern off the molded plastic. This gives us a 'frame' to put the gasket back on. - Carefully put the gasket back on the modified plastic frame and screw it back onto the door.
(I've seen some examples where a piece of wood or plastic is used as the 'frame', so if something goes wrong with the original plastic, don't stress - there's a plan 'B')
Step 5: Bend the Freezer Plate
BE CAREFUL ON THIS STEP!
It's not dangerous, but you can potentially ruin your kegerator if not handled carefully.
There's a freezer plate near the top of the fridge that's in the way and needs to bent down. The refrigerant line extends from the back of the fridge into the plate. If the refrigerant line gets kinked or broken, the fridge will no longer function correctly.
On this model the refrigerant line is in the upper left (if facing the fridge). To keep from bending the line, I rigged up a support using some 2x4 blocks, a baseball bat and a clamp to bend only the plate. The baseball bat provided the bend radius I needed to make enough room for the keg. Take your time doing this step.
Step 6: Locating the Refrigerant Lines
This step is crucial because if you cut into a refrigerant line you will be shopping for a new fridge!
The refrigerant lines run along the top of the fridge and are covered up by insulation, and can be hard to find.
There are a few ways to locate the lines, but someone way smarter than me came up with the clever idea of using cornstarch and vodka.
- Remove the plastic top of the fridge (I ended up throwing it away in favor of the black metal finish)
- Plug in the refrigerator and let it run for about 30-40 minutes
- mix cornstarch and vodka together into a paste (about the consistency of sour cream)
- spread the paste around the (top) surface of the fridge
- the refrigerant lines are hot and will cause the vodka to evaporate from the mixture faster than the surrounding areas, leaving a lighter colored line that indicates where the refrigerant line is.
- mark this location with tape, then clean up your mess
Once you find where the lines are located, you can layout where you want to position your hole.
Step 7: Make the Cut!
MAKE SURE YOU'VE LOCATED YOUR REFRIGERANT LINES!
When considering the size of your hole, take into account how you want to cool the tower. Some folks use a small computer fan and hose running up through the tower, I went with a copper tube sleeve.
- Measure the ID of your draft tower and make your hole a little smaller than that. I laid the circle out using painter's tape and a drafting compass.
- Make sure you don't layout a hole that's the same diameter of the flange of the draft tower, you'll be kicking yourself down the road
- You'll need something that can cut through metal. I used a dremel tool with a spiral cutting bit and a circumference attachment. You could use a scroll saw or just drill a ton of holes and cut with tin snips.
- Once the top is cut, it's time to remove that insulation. Again I used the dremel tool. It will make a mess so I taped the end of a shop-vac at the edge of the work area to suck up all the cut insulation.
- You should now see the black plastic of the interior ceiling of the fridge. Go ahead and cut that out as well using your tool of choice. Utility knifes work as well.
Once the hole has been cut, I recommend using aluminum tape to cover the exposed insulation to protect it from condensation.
Step 8: Cooling the Draft Tower
Cooling the draft tower is important to help prevent foamy beer. There are a lot of ways people like to do this, primarily with fans and hoses and such. However I went a cheaper route and used copper tube as a sleeve.
Disclaimer: It was really late and I was a few beers in when I thought this up: I was going to be ‘smart’ and run ½” copper tubing all the way from the draft tower down into the fridge and down behind the freezer plate to ‘maximize’ my cooling gradient. With three 90’s and one 45 elbow, trying to shove the (similar diameter) beer line tubing for the draft tower proved to be a dumb idea…
So instead I did this:
- measure the distance from the faucet connection to just below the ceiling of the fridge.
- Cut this piece from the 1/2 inch copper tubing and solder on the 90 degree elbow. DON'T BURN YOURSELF!
- Cut another 6 inch section of tubing and solder it to the other end of the elbow
- Once the whole thing has cooled down, run the beer line through the tubing. No need to attach it, the 90 degree bend will hold it in place.
Step 9: Assemble the Draft Tower
I didn't have any pictures of this step but it's pretty straight forward.
- On the top of the fridge, mark the location of the bolt holes for the draft tower flange. Before you drill make sure that the faucet is lined up how you want.
- Drill the bolt holes in the top of the fridge.
- Assemble the tower with the included hardware.
Step 10: Add Drip Tray
This is optional. It's not pictured but I ended up buying one. It's a nice addition and really ties the room together.
Step 11: Have a Beer!
You're done! Enjoy your new kegerator!
Step 12: Useful Sites
There's a ton of information out there about making kegerators! I used these in coming up with mine:
Home Depot: www.homedepot.com
Micro Matic: www.micromatic.com
Home Brew Talk: www.homebrewtalk.com
Keg Works: www.kegworks.com
The Fermentologists: www.thefermentologists.com