Introduction: Portable Keg Cooler (a.k.a. R2-Beer2)
I purchased a kegerator last year to enjoy cold beer on tap at home. Early this spring, I thought that it would be nice to make it portable for camping, parties, fishing trips, etc. After thinking a bit about hauling a refrigerator around (not to mention the need for electricity) I decided to build a large portable cooler designed to hold the keg and CO2 canister.
I considered constructing a jockey box but that got trumped by wanting a more enclosed system.
I looked around online for some ideas and found a few commercially available insulated coolers starting around $180. Too rich for my blood! in addition, those were typically not set up for a CO2 driven system but more towards a one-night keg killer party with a standard air tap.
As with most of my projects like this that drive my wife crazy, I talked about it for a few weeks, researched on the 'net, and had a fairly detailed plan in my head by the time I started buying materials.
Step 1: Materials
1. 55 Gallon Plastic Barrel (used) - $10
2. 30 Gallon Plastic Barrel (used) - $10
3. 4' x 8' x 2" Extruded Polystyrene Insulation - $28
4. Shower Drain + Reducer - $??
5. Misc PVC Fittings and pipe - left over from previous plumbing projects
6. PVC Ball Valve - $??
7. Thermos - $5
8. Casters (4) - $12
9. 4' x 8' x 1/2" Faced Insulation - $9
10. Can of "Great Stuff" - $6
11. 4" x 7/8" Corner Brace (2) - $5
12. Aluminum Tape, spray glue, plywood, screws, etc. - Extra stuff laying about
Grand Total = about $105 (figure $20 for the stuff that I don't recall the price)
Step 2: Big Drum Prep
Cut the lid off the big drum. Something to watch out for here is if there are any left-over chemicals in the drum (particularly if they are explosive, corrosive, acidic, or extremely basic). The one that I obtained previously contained car-washing chemicals that I saved in a gallon milk jug (including the label). I'm still figuring out if I can use that on my car or if I need to take it to the hazardous waste drop-off.
Before cutting, draw a line around the top and use that as a guide for the saw. The plastic cuts fairly easily and a jig saw makes quick work of it. I left about 1" of the sidewall attached to the lid. If doing it again, I would leave about 2-1/4" so I could insulate the lid with the pink foam board (more on that later). Give the drum a good washing out. It doesn't have to be perfect as the beer you drink will never touch it.
Set the drum aside and let it air out a bit.
Step 3: Small Drum Prep
My small drum had been used for rainwater collection so other than being a bit dirty, it didn't take much clean-up. It necked down around the top so I cut about 2" off the open end.
If you have a spare keg handy, this is an excellent time to size everything up.
Step 4: Drain and Bottom Support
Next, assemble the drain, reducer, and elbow. Mine came out to just over 4" tall. To allow room for the drain as well and insulate the bottom, the inner barrel will need to be elevated.
Cut two pieces of plywood to the appropriate dimensions to fit inside the big drum and make a nice sturdy "X" with a couple of cuts in the center. I added 2" x 2" chunks on the side to hold everything together, but that isn't really necessary.
Check for size and start cutting the foam board to fit the spaces between the supports. Once everything looks good, put the small drum inside and mark the hole for the drain. Mount the drain and check everything for fit.
Step 5: Starting to Come Together Now...
Cut a few strips of insulation and brace the small drum inside of the large one. Cut an access hole in the bottom of the large barrel under the drain.
Finish out the plumbing by adding a short pipe from the drain, another elbow, and the ball valve. The valve is optional but will allow for controlled draining of the cooler.
At this point, mount the angle brackets that will hold up the CO2 canister with some bolts and fender washers. I neglected to do this until later (Step 7).
Step 6: Insulate Away!
Cut a bunch of 2" x 2" strips of the foam insulation. These should be at least as long as the drum is high. Push the strips down between the two drums. These will provide the majority of the insulation.
Once all the strips are in, fill in the gaps with the "Great Stuff". Don't forget to fill in the access hole in the bottom as well.
Go have a beer and wait for everything to set up.
Once the Great Stuff is cured, trim things up nice and neat.
Considering all the time that it took to cut the strips of insulation, I considered using Great Stuff all the way around. But, I think that would have taken way too many cans and blown the budget. I also looked around for some marine-style pour in insulation but was not able to find any locally.
Step 7: Final Steps
Getting almost to the end now....
Flip the whole works over and mount the castors. The bottom support boards will provide a good solid mounting for this.
Put the keg in the cooler and drill a hole for the tapper. It will need to be above the edge of the keg to allow room for the hose.
I made the mistake of not mounting the brackets before it was too late to just use bolts and washers. As a result, I had to use drywall anchors. Either way, time to mount the 1 gallon jug on the outside to hold the CO2 canister. Screw the bottom of the jug onto the brackets and add a strap to make sure the canister will be secure.
Step 8: Lid and Finishing Touches
Remember way back in Step 1, I mentioned that I should have cut the lid a bit deeper? Instead of being able to use the rest of my pink foam board, I had to purchase some 1/2" insulation for the lid. Cut insulation to size and secure to lid with spray glue.
The pink insulation ring was added to keep the lid from moving around and to allow the hoses room to extend up from the top of the keg. The weather-stripping is there to provide a good seal to the cooler.
For a finishing touch, I added aluminum tape to the top of the cooler to cover the insulation and keep water out. I also tried to be generous with the tape on the lid.
Step 9: Final Result
For the debut, I put a 1/2 full cold keg in with 50 pounds of ice. Let me just say, it was the hit of the party! The ice easily outlasted the beer and 48 hours later I disassembled the cooler and dumped out about 20 pounds of ice that still remained. A more typical situation for me would be a weekend fishing or camping trip and I will need to update this instructable once I know how well it holds up after a full day in the sun. For multiple days, the plan is to just drain out the excess water and then add ice as needed to the top.
The only thing that I have remaining on my list is to add some latches to the lid and pimp it up a bit with some LED ground effects.
As I mentioned before, total cost was about $105. The time commitment was around 20 hours or so.
2009_09_08 - UPDATE! - I had a Labor Day Weekend Beach Party and once again the R2BEER2 was a huge hit. With a full keg and about 30 pounds of ice, the ice lasted all weekend of 80-90 degree temps. Unfortunately, the beer ran out much too quickly.