This is story of how my husband built our newest fixture in our house. And I have to say it is awesome.
There comes a time in the life of many an aspiring homebrewer when he or she becomes fed up with washing, rinsing, filling, and capping dozens of bottles of beer, only to open, drink, wash, rinse....repeat. Don't get me wrong here; the bottle is a fine means of beverage storage and transport...it is the process that I have found to become mind numbing, knee breaking, and time consuming.
I decided it was high time to start kegging my beer. All the great breweries do it anyways, right? Considering I wanted my kegerator to become a permanent household fixture, I knew that this endeavor would be both expensive and complicated.
To begin this quest, I researched the different types of kegerators and drafting systems available, both commercially built or custom made. Every kegerator has the same minimal components: a temperature controlled refrigeration box, a CO2 tank with a pressure regulator, gas lines with gas disconnects, beverage lines with beverage disconnects, and faucet assemblies. The 2 most important considerations for purchasing or building a kegerator are the type of kegerator and the number of kegs it will be able to handle. The first thing to consider is the type of kegerator; one where the beer is delivered to a draft tower coming out of the kegerator top, or one with faucets coming directly out of the front of the kegerator. Each one has various advantages. I decided to build my own kegerator out of a chest freezer, with the faucet assemblies coming out of the front. Next, one must determine how many kegs the kegerator will service, as this will dictate the size of the kegerator. I wanted to have the capacity to maintain 4 kegs and keep the CO2 tank inside the refrigeration box, so I purchased a Frigidaire chest freezer model LFFE09M5HWL (outer dimensions 21 3/4" x 41 1/4"x32"), which has enough room in it for a 5 lb CO2 tank and 4 Corny kegs.
Rather than drilling holes for the beer shanks in the side of the freezer, I designed a wooden collar to fit on top of the freezer, into which the shank holes would be drilled. I used cherry wood 2x4s (keep in mind a 2x4 is REALLY a 1 3/4" x 3 1/2"...but this was sufficient for my collar) that I purchase from a local lumber store. I had the cherry wood mitre-cut at the corners, and had the shank holes drilled 4" apart at the right of the front section. I stained the wood with a walnut stain/polyurythane finish. About 2 coats was sufficient to get the rich walnut color I wanted.
Once the finish dried, I drilled holes for the metal right-angle braces in each piece, glued the pieces together and affixed the braces. The collar being completed, I detached the lid of the chest freezer and drilled holes in the rear board of the collar to attach the lid hinges to. To my pleasant surprise, the weight of the cherry lid was sufficient to handle opening and closing of the lid with ease. I then decided where I wanted my gas manifold to hang, and drilled the holes for that. Installing the shanks required a little sanding of the shank-holes, since some of the finish dripped inside.
The lid attached, the mount for the manifold set up, and the shanks and faucets installed and the collar is complete! The next task was to seal the collar to the freezer. This was accomplished using silicone sealant. I ran a thick bead of silicone all the way around the freezer top perimeter where the collar would contact, placed the collar on, and proceeded to seal any cracks or crevices either in the collar itself or where the collar meets the freezer.
After letting the silicone set overnight, I filled the CO2 tank, put in one of my kegs, plugged the freezer into the thermostat, put the temperature probe in the freezer, and waited for the beer to chill! Cheers!
We currently have two beers on tap. An Imperial Russian Stout and an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I think we are going to be in trouble.