DIY - Keezer

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yeast can be a fickle worker; sometimes it works too fast or too slow and on occasion it can get a little gassy while it's laboring away. Fermentation temperature is usually the final rein a homebrewer has to grab in order to gain control over their beer. Once you can consistently control the temperature of your wort as it transforms into beer you will be able to reliably reproduce any style without worry.

It may seem like an overwhelming DIY project for some, however, this keezer (freezer converted to a kegerator) can be an extremely simple and cheap to build - you only need two pieces of equipment! That being said, there are different levels complexity that can be added, so we will walk through all of them to find out what's best for you.


At its base, a keezer is a chest freezer that has been hacked with a temperature controller that allows precise temperature control of the unit - from ambient down to the unit's minimum (although you shouldn't drop your beer below 30 F). This simple hack involves splicing the power cable from the freezer into a temperature controller box that you can find over at MoreBeer.com un-wired for less than the wired ones. If you would like to skip the wiring part, instead you can buy one already setup, so all you do is plug the freezer into the controller and the controller into the wall! I'd recommend the later, it's worth the extra few bucks if you aren't experienced in electronics and want to make sure you don't burn your house down. Strangely enough, as of this posting, Amazon has the wired Johnson Controller (har har) for the same price as the un-wired Ronco at MoreBeer.

Johnson on left - My unit and Ronco on right

The other essential piece of gadgetry that you will need is a bit bigger, so make sure you have room for it; the chest freezer. These wonderfully efficient cold boxes come in many flavors and sizes. Your needs may be greater than your space availability or your budget, so plan well and be smart about it. I just happened to have enough room for a good sized 5 cubic feet freezer like the one below.


This is basically the smallest you'll want to buy, however not all of these 5 cu ft models are created equal. Every freezer will have a "hump" on the inside that protrudes up into the area where you will put your beer, this space is for the compressor that is below - a necessary evil.This is where you will have to do your research, hit up some Lowes & Home Depots with a tape measure or search online for other folks that did the research already. 

You need to know is the footprint, or bottom dimensions of the lower and upper levels and depth from both levels to the top of the chest. If you look at the first image in this post you will see the hump (shelf) that sticks. This hump only allows me to use a carboy below, buckets won't fit on the bottom of this model but I can fit one above. My freezer does have an advantage though (not pictured), unlike most 5 cu ft freezers, the footprint of 4 kegs (two on each level) will fit inside. This does not account for the height of the kegs though, so a modifcation must be made to the freezer.

A collar can be added to any of these chest freezers with a little bit of carpentry and some cheap foam board insulation. The reason for this collar is to account for the loss of depth due to the hump and in this way I am able to fit a standing keg on top of the hump (which is about 8" tall). The collar that I made adds about 9" to the depth of the unit, more than enough for extra goodies! The collar is a simple frame, glued, nailed and lined with foam board insulation. 

picture coming soon

The hinges and original lid are still used, all I did was silicone the lid closed on to the top of the collar and then had the hinges lift the whole collar (lid and all). The reason for this is to avoid having to lift 60 pound carboys from the very bottom of the freezer out and over an extra 9-12" - it's already enough of a workout without that extra height. The only extra I would buy is a sturdy handle so that you can lift the collar not the lid (silicone is not glue and that wood is heavy, it will pop right off).

Craigslist is your friend! I got my freezer for $50 compared to the $150 brand new one at Lowe's. Although it would still be worth the extra for a new one you can save some serious dough by getting one used. Just make sure it runs and isn't too gross looking before you hand over the cash.

If you have the money and space you should absolutely upgrade to a larger unit and if you're ambitious you can take this a step farther and turn it into an actual kegerator with taps and all. Checkout this post to learn all about adding a tap system to your freezer or refrigerator. Since mine is in an unused room and isn't the prettiest, below I have a few links to a some really nice DIY keezers I've seen over the years.

 

  



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