Keezer 2.0

>> Friday, June 28, 2019

Keezer 2.0
I can't remember the exact date, but my old keezer (keezer 1.0) died in the early winter or late fall last year (2018). The manufacture date on it was 1994, so it definitely had a good run. Out of necessity, I started running ideas through my head on a replacement. I kept going back and forth on whether to try to get my hands on a commercial kegorator this time, or build a new one based on a residential freezer. On the residential front, I was going back and forth between chest freezer and upright. The insulating properties of chest freezers are hard to beat, but the smaller footprint of an upright would work better in my already crowded garage, where the keezer will live. At one point I stumbled upon an all stainless commercial fridge at an incredible price...then I noticed a huge hole on the back caused by a careless forklift driver, and it looked like it had damaged one of the copper cooling lines connected to the compressor (hard pass). After a whole bunch of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to buy my wife a new upright freezer (for frozen food) then repurpose our couple year old chest freezer for my new keezer (keezer 2.0).

The design of keezer 2.0 is similar to the old one. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are a few words along with a bunch of pictures.

Key Features
  • 9.0cf Chest Freezer - Holds five ball-lock kegs (four 5-gallon, plus one 3-gallon) plus one 1-gallon mini-keg used for carbonated water. It has a 4" collar and the main purpose of it is to add a bit of height and also provide a way to route CO2 lines, temp probe, and DC power into the fridge. The top is made from 3/4" maple plywood, 1/4" cement backer board, and ceramic mosaic tile. The top plus the tower is quite heavy, definitely heavier than the thin glass tile on v1.0. The top and collar are joined using a standard piano hinge and so far it's holding up to the weight just fine. I insulated the insides of the top and collar using 1" rigid foam insulation.
  • Six Tap Tower - For keezer 1.0, I built a wooden coffin designed for five taps. This time I went with a pre-built stainless tower with built-in glycol chilling capability. I really only wanted five beer taps, but I couldn't find any five tap towers for a decent price. I got this six tap one used off of eBay for an incredible price, so the sixth tap is being used for carbonated water. My wife digs having the carbonated water for cocktails or just drinking straight, and so far I'm really liking it too. It's even handy for rinsing your glass between beers. The taps that came with the tower were chrome plated brass, and were completely worn out. All the old faucets and shanks were removed and replaced with stainless equivalents. The glycol cooling loop (copper tubing plus aluminum blocks) was retained for use with the stainless hardware. The tower was re-insulated using 1" rigid foam insulation. One last note, this tower is unbranded, but it's a really nice tower, very solid and pretty easy to service.
  • Glycol Chilling - Anyone that's built a keezer using a coffin or tower knows you have to figure out a way to chill the taps. If you don't, the first pour of the day tends to foam. This is caused by the beer hitting the warm shanks and faucets resulting in CO2 breaking out of solution. Once those parts cool down from the cold beer flowing through them, they tend to pour well. However, if the time between pours is long enough for the tap to warm back up, it'll foam again. Blowing cold air into the tower is one solution and is what I did for keezer 1.0, but most commercial towers use a glycol loop for chilling Since this tower came with a glycol loop, I decided to take advantage of it. My glycol chiller uses computer hardware intended for water-cooled CPUs. It consists of a small combination pump/reservoir coupled with a 120mm computer fan mounted to an aluminum radiator. Both fan and pump run on 12VDC power. I made some brackets out of aluminum flat stock and mounted everything to the brackets, so it's a fairly self-contained unit that resides on the compressor hump inside the keezer. The fan and pump have separate power connections, so the fan runs 24/7, helping to circulate cold air throughout the keezer. The pump gets switched on (plugged in) whenever it's time to pour a beer. The pump circulates the chilled glycol through the radiator, up to the taps (chilling them), then it flows back to the reservoir. The fan blows through the radiator, thus re-chilling the glycol before it's sent back up to the taps in a continuous loop. When I was piecing this together, I was a little worried the reservoir might not be big enough and it might result in foaming beer out of the taps. I may have gotten lucky, but so far it's working great.
  • Drip tray - On keezer 1.0, I installed the drip tray somewhat permanently. Basically I set it in place in some silicone caulking, tiled around it, then caulked the edges. This looked really good but it was a pain to clean. I would have to swab out the nasty spilled beer, then wipe, wipe, wipe, until it was clean. This time the drip tray sits, surface-mount style, on top of the tile. Whenever there are spills, I just carefully pick up the tray and empty it into the sink. I added some adhesive rubber strips to the bottom which prevents it from slipping on the tile top. This drip tray is from American Coffee Urn Manufacturing. It's a really nice tray and it was way cheaper than a lot of the other options out there. I the bought the 5" x 24" version. They also sell some of their trays on Amazon, often available with free Prime shipping.
  • Digital Controller - I re-used the temp controller from keezer 1.0, which is a Willhi model WH7016C controller. This controller isn't super common anymore, at least not in the configuration I have. I really like it because the relay on my particular unit is rated for 30 amps, and, contrary to what you may read in online forums, my unit reads in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. Good beer shouldn't be too cold, so I usually have it set at 40-42F.
  • Beverage line - I went with Accuflex's Bev Seal Ultra 235 tubing. This is the same tubing used in trunk bundles in a lot of commercial draught systems and it is awesome stuff. It's basically impervious to oxygen, so there's no need to dump oxidized line beer on the first pour of the day. It also has a flavorless and odorless liner that doesn't retain flavors/odors and is reportedly very easily cleaned. The only downside is it's definitely stiffer than standard vinyl tubing so it can be a little harder to work with. Also, the liner offers less flow resistance compared to standard tubing, so you usually have to go with longer lines to keep things balanced.  I'm running 18' lines on my setup. Previously, I used ~13' lines for standard tubing. Did I mention Bev Seal is cheap? I got mine for $0.39 per foot at BrewHardware.
Those are the highlights, and those were more words than I'd planned, so now onto the pictures.
Test fitting kegs

Reassembling the tower after teardown

Original brass shanks that came with the tower; #buystainless!

Test fitting the top

Checking tile and tower layout

After painting wood and grouting tile

Tower innards - copper glycol loop held in place by aluminum cooling blocks

Lines running up to faucets

Glycol pump and radiator; still need some split loom to cover the wires
Rear panel; first six are CO2 inputs, then pump power, fan power, and temp probe