Introduction: Chest Freezer Kegerator
Anyone who's had a couple of successes with home brewing will quickly grow tired of bottling 5 gal batches of beer and change over to kegging. Once you start kegging you want better and better ways to ease access to your 'food of the gods' as well as ways to show off your craft.
The Kegerator is something that's relatively easy and not too expensive to build. Especially if you already have the kegging hardware.
This is how I took a used chest freezer and made a custom beverage cooler and dispenser.
Steps 1&2 are for refurbing a freezer that is in bad shape. If you have a new one or one that's Aluminum lined just go to step 3.
Step 1: Clean Up
Find yourself a used chest freezer. This is a 15cuft model but you can go bigger or smaller depending on what you can find. I recommend Craigslist as there are always people needing to get rid of their bulky freezer when they move.
This one was in fine working condition but did have a fair amount of surface rust on the inside so it needed to be cleaned up and repaired.
To clean it up wash the inside with some mild detergent and a Scotchbrite pad. This should remove most of the big stuff.
Next you will want to clean up the rust spots with with a wire brush. I used a wire brush cup attached to a handheld drill. Gently clean the rust spots until you don't see rust but only shiny metal. But don't get too aggressive and start tearing all the existing paint off just hit the rusty areas.
Once you have removed all the rust wipe down the inside with a cloth with some rubbing alcohol. This way you can wet the areas to wipe them clean without introducing water to the fresh metal. Be careful when leaning into the freezer. You have a confined space with fumes in it.
Step 2: Prepare
Get two cans of appliance paint from your local hardware store.
Make sure to tape off all the areas that you don't want paint. It is very easy to get overspray onto the surfaces where the gasket is supposed to seal.
Important: Do this step with the freezer outside or if you are going to do it in your garage…like I did, then open the garage door and get a couple of fans to bring in fresh air.
Follow the directions on the can. I did a total of three coats just to make sure everything was covered.
Once you are done remove the tape and masking and allow it to dry for at least 4 hours. You will have a beautiful looking 'New' freezer.
Step 3: Detach Lid
Since we are going to do some serious surgery on this freezer it will be much easier to work on if we remove the lid.
To do this locate where the hinge is attached to the base of the freezer. You will find some screws holding the hinge i place.
Mark where the screws are currently located on the bracket. The loosen the screws about two turns so you can slip the hinge bracket out.
Step 4: Examine Inside of Lid
Take the top off so you can get to the gasket on the inside.
Flip the top upside down so you can get at the fasteners. These are plastic 'one time use' like fasteners that are not meant to be removed. But if you are careful you can pull them out and reuse. Use one or two flathead screwdrivers to get under the edge and ease the fastener up. After one or two tries you'll get a hang of it and they should come out pretty easily.
Step 5: Remove Inside of Lid
As you remove the fasteners you may be able to pull the gasket out. Some freezer models have the gasket just pinched between the plastic inside and the metal lid. Other models actually have holes in the gasket that the fasteners go through. So you'll have to remove all the fasteners before you can remove the gasket. On this model the gasket was just pinched so once you got it started you can peel the entire gasket off.
After you get the gasket off finish removing all the fasteners and you'll be able to remove the plastic inside. Then you will see what's inside the lid. On some older models there will be a sheet of fiberglass which you can just pull out whole to access the inside of the metal lid. However, on this one it was filled with expanded foam. I'll show you how do deal with this scenario.
Step 6: Place and Position Upright
This step may seem out of order however it's here for a reason. At this point is when you size the top to make sure it will fit and make any adjustments before you start making holes and cutting things.
I had built this top for a previous kegerator that is no longer used and am transferring it over. This top looks nice and is easy to build. The pictures will show the different parts of the top.
The top is a 4'x2' piece of 3/4" solid oak that I bought at home depot. I had them cut it lengthwise 8" from one side. Then bought edge trim matching the same wood. You'll need about 12' of edge trim for the entire perimeter. To cut the edge trim I just used a simple mitre box and hand saw to cut the corners at 45°. I attached the trim with wood glue. You will see from the pictures that the main piece is just a square cut but the edge trim is the 45° and when you put it together it makes a nice corner without the effort it would take to cut the big piece at 45°. Then stained it with some Minwax cherrywood stain.
After that I measured out where the holes for the tap shanks will be. Then use a 1" Spade Bit to make the holes.
To hold it upright I got some shelf L bracket and two pieces of 1"x4" wood. Use some 1/2" wood screws to attached the L brackets to the 1"x4"s as well as the upright. When you are attaching the brackets to the upright set it square on top of the server part. This way when you screw the freezer top to the server part you will also attach the upright.
For the serving part of the shelf, position it on the front side of the freezer top. Make sure it's evenly placed. From here you can push the back(upright with supports) together with the server part to make sure it is all placed correctly. Once in place, mark the edge of the back side so you know where to put the tubing hole. Then pull back the back away from the server side. Drill 4 holes through the wood and through the metal top into the foam.
Step 7: Make Tubing Access Hole
Keeping an eye on where the edge of the support lined up, find the center of the lid and measure between 4"-6" from the back of the lid.
Make approximately a 2" square around this center point. I will be putting 6-8 tubes through the lid so it will need to be pretty big. If you will be using less tubes you can make a smaller hole. After making the square drill a hole about 1/3rd of the distance from the back edge of the flap. This will be for the insulating cap to attach to.
Cut three sides of the out so you can bend up a flap. After cutting, you can pry up the flap with a screwdriver to start the bend. Use a sturdy flat edge to get a clean bend on the attached side. From here you can bend down the square edges or cut them off. You are bending these down so the flap will fit inside of the insulating lid.
Now you can access the foam insides and cut a hole to the interior.
Step 8: Secure Server Part of Top
To secure the top to the lid you will need to deal with the foam. Using this trick you can make some precision holes in the foam and attach the top with a minimum amount of work.
Take a paperclip and unbend it. Then sharpen the end to a point so it will go through the foam without catching. If you leave it dull it may catch on the foam and push out a chuck. Push the paperclip through the hole in the lid you made earlier for the server side of the top. Once you've pressed it though, you will be able to see where the paperclip comes out the other side. Using this as a guide I used a 3/4" spade bit to cut through the foam to the drilled hole in the metal lid. Since the spade bit will bottom out at the hole in the lid you will need to clean up the inside of the lid with a regular drill bit. You will want to leave a flat surface for the washer to sit on.
Once you have the hole cleaned up insert the washer and make sure the hole in the washer is lined up with the hole in the lit. If it is not perfectly aligned you can use a phillips screwdriver in the washer hole and push the washer until it's aligned.
At this point lay the lid on upside down on top of the server part of the top and line up the holes. Since these are through holes you can use a flashlight or your paperclip to make it a bit easier that you got everything straight. Once you have things aligned you can start putting the screws in. I used 1-1/2" wood screws to do this. Install the screws about 1/2"-3/4" into the server part of the top. This way it will be secure but not protruding. Later on you'll finish driving the screws in and secure the upright part of the top.
Step 9: Make Hole for Tubing
Using a regular drill bit make a hole through the foam big enough to hold as many of the tubes as you will be using. Since you've practiced shaving the foam in earlier steps this should be pretty easy.
Take a piece of tubing and double, quadruple, etc fold it and stuff it in the hole. This is to make sure you can fit as many tubes as you have through the hole and still have some room for adjustment.
If you balance things just right on the rest of the freezer you can make pretty quick work of moving this lid around. I demonstrate how to flip it over and work from either side without the need for assistance.
Step 10: Attach the Rest of the Top
Place the upright back in place lining up the marks that you made earlier. The 12 holes is the back support (Left, Middle, Right) will be used as a guide to drill through the top of the lid. After drilling the holes remove the upright and using the same paperclip technique drill and clean 12 more holes through the foam.
From here you will add the washers and screws like before. i.e. screw the screws just enough through the metal so they stay. From there turn the lid back over set the upright into position and using a hand drill, coming from the bottom, screw the screws all the way in. You can try this with a hand screwdriver but will wear yourself out pretty fast.
Step 11: Repair Damage Done to Freezer Lid
Now that you have your entire top secured it's time to fix the damage to the foam. Flip the top over again so you can get to the foam side. Using expanding foam fill up the holes for the screws. You just need a little dollop at the bottom of the hole. This stuff expands a lot and will keep expanding for about 10 min.
After filling the holes let it rest at least 10 min for it to stop. I used a cut piece of a paper plate to trim the excess while it was still soft. Or, you can wait an hour and let it dry some and just cut it off with a serrated knife.
Step 12: Reinstall Inner Liner and Gasket. Reattach Lid
Reinstalling the plastic cover and the gasket is pretty easy.
Lay the cover on top of the lid. Then place the gasket on top. Some models will have the gasket on top of the cover and some will have the gasket sandwiched between the lid and the cover. Fit the gasket into whichever configuration is appropriate. Once you have it in place start reinstalling the fasteners. Go around the entire perimeter.
The flip lid back over and place in it's original position. Bend the spring/hinges back into place and insert the screws into the slots. Line up the marks that you make before taking the top off. This will make sure everything is in it's original position. From here tighten the screws down.
Test the top by opening and closing it a few times and make sure it moves smoothly and you don't see any gaps when the lid is closed. A significant amount of weight has been added to the top so I recommend always opening and closing the lid with both hands. Depending on the model you may be able to open the lid all the way up and have it balance open. But be careful if this closes from full open it will smash anything in the way, including your hand or head.
Step 13: Check Your Work
After the lid is adjusted so it opens and closes easily then you can test how well your kegs will fit. Technically you would have already done this before buying the freezer but it's nice to eyeball exactly how much clearing you will have.
Step 14: Prep and Install Faucet Hardware
Wash and sanitize all your hardware. The taps I use are CMBecker creamer full SS faucets from Germany. But you can use whatever you prefer.
Installation consists of inserting the shank through the hole in the upright and tightening down the nut to secure it. Make sure the faucet is level. After the faucet is tight then install the liquid connection.
Step 15: Install the Rest of the Hardware
Repeat with as many taps as you have.
Step 16: Install Liquid Lines
Now that the hardware is in place it's time to put in the liquid lines.
I use the liquid connectors that have the threaded attachment instead of the hard installed barb. This way if I want to change the connector type or attach it to a different source I can just unscrew the connector from the line and then attach the different attachment. If you use the one that has the hard installed barb you will have to cut the line to attach something different.
You will need a small hose clamp for each end of the connection. i.e. on the tap side and the keg side.
Size your liquid line according to the psi you plan to push the liquid with as will as the type of beverage and the height difference between the keg and tap.
There's a great discussion on this matter at HomeBrewTalk.com
Beer Line Length and Pressure Calculator
In addition to the standard length calculations also pay attention to the total length required to go from the taps to the keg with the lid fully open. You will want to leave enough slack that you can open and close the lid without it binding up.
Once you figure out the length of the line you can set up a quick cutting system on any flat surface. You'll need a piece of wood, a tape measure, and a razor. I had a little over two feet to work with so for a eight foot piece you just measure two feet, four times. After measuring the length you want use the razor and push it straight down to get a clean square cut in the line. If you make a crooked cut you may not be able to get a seal and the hose will leak or possibly pop loose when under pressure. So if the cut is not straight just move up 1/4" and try again.
After you've made all your cuts you will connect the lines to the shaft side of the tap. To do this soak the end of the line in some hot water for about 1 min, this will make the line more flexible. After getting it warm press and twist the line onto the barb until it goes to the backstop of the barb. Then take a hose clamp and feed it from the unconnected side and tighten it on the tap barb. Repeat this will all lines.
Step 17: Liquid Line Access Hole
Next take a 1" spade bit and gently cut a hole through the plastic inner lining of the freezer cover.
After cutting this hole open up the top and using snips, cut open the hole large enough to fit the bundle of hoses.
Push all the lines through the hole and take out all slack. This is a good time to determine if your lines are too short to open the lid without stressing the hoses or the connections on either side.
Step 18: Liquid Line Insulating Cap
To make sure the freezer is as insulated possible I used a styrofoam faucet cover.
Using a 1/2" bit makes holes strategically so that you have the minimum flexing of the hose at the intersection point. I made six holes since there are six lines. Two on top two on the 'front' and one on either side.
Push the lines through the holes and pull them all the way through and pulled into the interior of the freezer. This is the best time to add a label to each of the hoses so you can identify them later. At this point you can attach the securing hook or loop of the cover to the hole you made in the bent metal flap. Seat the cover in place and tighten it using built in strap.
I found that even with it tightened the force from all the hoses will not allow the top to sit flush on the freezer cover. This will be important since you will be filling the inside of the faucet cover with expanding foam. If you have a gap the foam will find it and push it's way through. To secure the faucet cover more securely I used some tape to hold it down.
Note: Before using the foam to seal the hoses in I did an experiment to see if there were any negative interactions between the foam and the hoses. I took a scrap piece of hose and covered about a 2" section completely with the foam and let it set up over night. Then I cut the hose free from the foam to look at the surface of the hose. I could not see any deterioration of the hose.
With the faucet cover secured in place open the lid so you can access the inside of the cover from the inside. Make sure all the hoses have all the slack removed. Once you foam the cover you will not be able to change things.
Insert the tube for the foam into the inside of the faucet cover and start adding foam. You do not need to keep adding until you see foam coming out the bottom. Just hold the trigger down for 10-15 seconds. You probably got a feel for how much is dispensed when you were fixing the holes in the freezer cover earlier, so play it by ear.
After dispensing the foam, cover up some of the hole with tape to make sure the foam stays inside as much as possible. You can remove the tape and trim the foam after it has set up.
After the foam has set I used a cable tie to hold the hose bundle together as strain relief.
Step 19: Keg Side Liquid Line Install
Now you can connect your liquid disconnects to the other end of the hoses using the same hot water method to allow the insertion of the barb.
Hopefully you labeled the hoses earlier, but even if you did not you can figure out what goes where with trial and error.
At this point it's time for a pressure test of each of the lines. To do this I fill a keg about half way with water and pressurize it to about 40 psi. Then connect connection # 1. Close the lid while paying attention to how the hoses move while closing as well as opening the lid. Then pull the tap handle and dispense into a bucket. Jiggle the handle and other connection and look for any signs of leaks or if the hoses are becoming unseated. If a line pulls free you will have a bunch of water spraying everywhere. But it's better to know now and to lose some water then to find the 5 gallons of your special high gravity brew that took two months to make and $70 worth of ingredients in a big puddle on your floor.
Once you are satisfied that this connection is good open the lid back up and connect line #2 to the water and repeat until you know all lines are secure.
From here hook up the individual kegs as you see fit. You are almost done.
Step 20: Install Temperature Controller
I use a Johnson Temperature Controller to maintain the desired temperature inside the freezer.
This device consists of a temperature probe that goes inside the freezer, a through plug that plugs into your wall outlet and the freezer plugs into the controller's outlet, and the dial part that you set the temperature with.
I put the probe in through the back of the kegerator. It's almost touching the bottom but not touching anything, especially the walls. You can bend the wire to fit the contours of the lid and the gasket should seal relatively well even with the probe wire in place.
Once this is in place and the temperature is set you are done. I like 34F but other people like things warmer. With the dial you can make it anything you like, try different temps and see what works for you.
Now you are done, Hopefully your kegs are well chilled after all that work because you deserve a cold one. And now you can have a cold one on draft any time you like.
Step 21: Finished Product
The only thing left is something to catch the drips. I used two glass rail mats from a restaurant supply to cover the entire width.
Now that you are done it's time to have a few friends over and give it a test run.