For the past few months I have begun assembling the components necessary for a kegging setup for my homebrew. The biggest question was what type of refrigeration unit. Kegerators aren't that cheap (even on Craigslist) and an used full-size fridge would not work in my house. That left a chest freezer, which when converted by homebrewers, is known as a keezer.
First I picked up two kegs, a giant CO2 tank and a CO2 regulator on Craigslist. The common size for a CO2 tank is 5 lbs and this one is 20. Still a quick look on the forum assured me that folks with 20 pounders were quite happy with them - less trips to get the tank filled. However, it is quite large and heavy.
About a month later, I picked up a 5 cubic foot chest freezer on Craigslist. Amazingly it fit in Amanda's Honda Fit. The two kegs fit inside no problem but it would haven't a lot of clearance to fit the CO2 tank.
Once I had the chest freezer, I was able to put together measurements and begin the build in earnest. In order to have taps you either need to go through the lid (via an expensive tower) or attach a wooden collar and drill through that. You can't go through the walls of the freezer 'cause you'll hit the coils. I went to Home Depot and got some cheap 2x6 which I had them cut for me.
I knew I wanted this thing on wheels so that I could wheel it into the finished section of the basement if we have a party. I kept this really basic. I bought some wheels at Harbor Freight and just used some old 2x4s we had in our creepy trailer. I added a little ledge on the side of the dolly where I can attach the tank so that it can get wheeled around as well.
One thing I didn't really consider is the height increase from both the dolly and the collar. It adds another foot to the keezer. It looks good but I hadn't considered how I'd lift a full 5 gallon keg over the collar. I filled a keg with water and tried it out. It was not easy. A stepstool helped but it's still tricky. For this reason many people opt to attach the collar to the lid so that when you raise the lid the collar, taps and lines all move out of the way. That sounds great but it's also more DIY than I want to deal with. So I'm going to glue the collar down and just deal with the clearance issue.
Another hurdle was temperature control. Since this is a freezer, I can't just run it or it'll freeze the beer. So some kind of device is necessary to regulate the temp. You can buy plug 'n play versions but they veered into the $60-70 range. This project was up there already and that was way more than I wanted to spend.
The homebrew forums provided a cheaper alternative. A DIY version could be made using an aquarium temp controller ($13 on Ebay) along with an old computer cord and a wall outlet. Once I bought the controller I was able to scrounge together all the components from around the house. I was nervous about the DIY wiring but it proved to be very easy and within an hour I had built a functioning temp controller (I used an old tupperware to contain it all.)
The temperature controller worked! I set it up so that it would switch on when the temp in the freezer reached 46 degrees and turn the freezer off at 41 degrees. But my ghetto tupperware case wasn't cutting the mustard - the outlet hung pretty loose in there and I wasn't satisfied. Another stop at Home Depot and I picked up a hard plastic outlet box. This one fit the temp controller and the outlet snug as a bug.
I was off to a good start but there was much more to do! Click here for Part II where it all comes together!