This will be a continuous project, as it’s kind of expensive. I’m even doing this the cheap way, but some things are just too awesome to pass up. A black twin tap tower, for example. But I’ll get to that later.
I’ve reached that point in my beer connoisseurship where I really want freshly tapped beer, chilled and at the ready in the kitchen. It also makes drinking homebrew much quicker since it wouldn’t need to condition (carbonate) in the bottle for two+ weeks. The keg is force carbonated by a small bottle of carbon-dioxide, so as soon as it chills, it’s ready to drink.
Of course, there are minor changes to a beer that can occur over time, and some styles are definitely better after some aging. Imperial stouts and barleywines come to mind. These beers are higher in alcohol content, unfermented sugars, and hop oils. They will change and peak at a certain time when the flavors have combined to make that wonderfully delicious concoction which you waited so long for. Everyone has their own preferred tastes, so this will come at different times for everyone, but longer is generally better.
However, most beers are very flavorful and unexpected when fresh. India Pale Ales, especially Imperial IPAs or Double IPAs, are THE BEST when dranken fresh. The hop oils have not been degraded or diluted and all the aromas, bitterness, and hop flavors you could ask for will assault your senses in full force. Ohhh, that’ll be the day. Stars are in my eyes as I picture pouring pints of the beer I brewed for my wedding, a pale ale brewed with a ton of grapefruit rind and hops. Mmmmm… summer.
Anyway! Now that I’ve bored everyone who just wants to see pictures, here are what I have so far. My apologies for not having more “in process” pictures. I’m horrible about that.
I found a mini fridge on Craigslist for $40. I shopped around and this was about the average. The only exception to the rest was that this one is black. Anyone who knows me, might know that I like black. I picked it up after work, along with a propane burner for outdoor brewing, and surprised Steph when I asked her to help me unload something from my car.
The inside is small-ish. Enough for a Corny keg (5 gallon), hopefully two with some modifying. It’s an Oster brand, 4.5 cubic foot, I believe. Dimensions (for those interested) are 21” wide x 21” deep x 32” high outside, and 17” wide x 17” deep x 28” high inside. There’s a small step in the rear for the recess in which the compressor and lines fit. That’s probably where I’ll keep bottles to be chilled.
This fridge had a upper deck freezer thing which was the main source of refrigeration. The keg wouldn’t fit with it mounted there, so I unscrewed it from the top and carefully bent it out of the way as pictured.
The door would be really nice if I decided to keep stuff on the shelves. However, to make a second keg fit, all that useful shelving is going to be chopped off and scrapped. Thankfully, I have the handy-dandy Dremel my father-in-law gave me for Christmas. He just knew it would be useful to me. I used it for cutting out the corner on the top piece of Plexiglas and for cutting a hole in the side of the fridge for the next picture.
This is the temperature controller. I’m quite proud of my achievement here. Installing it tested both my mechanical and electrical abilities and it’s…well…pretty badass. I learned how to wire one up and test it from a coworker, and I was intrigued. EBay showed me loads of temperature controllers for sale. Overwhelmed, I searched for the unit I learned on and arrived at a great deal for this Omron E5CSV 115volt AC unit with a length of thermocouple wire.
Wiring it is pretty straight forward. I drilled a hole in the rear of the fridge for a three-wire AC cord, fished that through and crimped on terminal spades. Then I removed the old 1-8 sad excuse for a temp controller from the fridge. This exposed the wires controlling the compressor. There’s also a green ground wire which I could connect to the ground now coming through the rear.
Spade terminals crimped onto these wires, and I was ready to test out the temp controller. These new wires from the old temperature controller to the fridge compressor connect to the Output of the Omron controller, the AC cord provide the power supply, and the thermocouple to the thermocouple inputs, obviously. Straight forward enough? Plugged it in and nothing caught fire. First good sign. Second good sign came when the controller did not flash “---“ or “FFF”, meaning there was no error with the thermocouple. Instead it showed the temp reading of the thermocouple. Putting my fingers over the end of the thermocouple showed the temperature readout to increase. Success!
Now for the gritty part.
I took measurements from the inside where I wanted the temp controller to come through, making sure it wouldn’t get in the way of the keg or door. I transferred the measurements to the outside of the fridge and squared and taped the area I wanted to cut.
I used my Dremel cutoff wheel to carefully remove the outer metal shell, leaving some leeway to clean up the edges. Once that was cut, I scraped out the insulation foam down to the internal plastic lining. I poked through this with a knife and removed it, leaving a nifty square hole. I tried various Dremel tools to clean up the edges, but the cutoff wheel was the most efficient way to remove the remaining material.
The edges cleaned up, it took a couple test fits to find the spots that needed to come down.
Annnnd… it fits! And an obligatory picture of the inside with the wires.
Wired up to test with the keg in place to test fit. All is well!
I put some electrical tape around the exposed terminals and some silicone sealant to hold it in place. If condensation becomes an issue I'll consider other options. There isn’t much I can do to seal the terminals with this configuration. The operating temperature in this controller’s instructions shows that the inside temperature of this fridge won’t reach outside the range, and I don’t believe humidity will be an issue. If things start to oxidize and act funky, it may be time to reconsider this installation.
And again, finished.
Soon I’ll purchase a carbon dioxide tank, gas pressure regulator, lines, and a tap. A kit I found from Beverage Factory in San Diego has all that good stuff with a picnic tap to use until I get the tap tower. Oh, and a second keg.