When you think of a kegerator, you normally think of an old clunker of a fridge in the corner of a frat house, covered in bumper stickers and stale Natty.
Your kegerator should add style to your place. It should turn heads and get people talking. The type of kegerator I will teach you to build, known as a keezer, will do just that.
Then it’s up to you to fill it with great beer, but I’m sure you can handle that.
This page is the starting point for building your keezer. What follows are the steps I wrote about the build as well as parts lists for the kegging setup I use.
Make sure to scroll the the bottom of the page to check out pictures of the build as well as keezer picture submitted by readers who built theirs from my instructions.
Parts for the gas side
- 5 lb CO2 tank
- Dual gauge primary regulator
- 4-Way Co2 Manifold
- Gas tubing (5/16″)
- Gas ball locks
- Flare nut and barb (1/4″ to 5/16″)
- Hose clamps
Parts for the beer side
- 5 gallon Cornelius keg
- 2.5 gallon Cornelius keg
- Perlick faucets
- Clear vinyl beer line (3/16″)
- 1/4″ barb
- Faucet shank (4″)
- Tap handles
Other Accessories and Resources
- External thermostat
- Eva-dry Wireless Dehumidifier
- Carbonation chart pdf (Thanks PA_Jeff for finding this)
When you lose a loved one it’s hard to take your mind off the hurt and pain. Ever since my kegerator died I’ve missed its presence in my living room. The glistening tower, the fresh homebrew only a handle pull away. Once you go tap, you never go back. So it’s time to build a new kegerator.
Chest Freezer or Fridge?
I’m going with a chest freezer, which will make this a “keezer”. For one I just think they look better as kegerators. They look like a nice piece of furniture while a refrigerator looks like well, a refrigerator with a faucet sticking out.
They are also more energy efficient since they open from the top which prevents the cold air from escaping.
This will be a four keg set-up. More than that is more than I want to deal with. As easy as people make kegging appear, there is actually a good amount of work involved with keeping the whole system clean. Four is enough to keep up with my brewing schedule but won’t become a hassle to maintain.
On my trip to K-Mart I sized chest freezers using cardboard cutouts that represent the keg footprints. I came across a sexy 8.8 cu. ft. black Kenmore that spoke to me. Sure enough, it will fit 4 kegs as long as I use a collar (see below).
Kegs are pretty simple. For homebrewing you’re almost always going to be using Corny kegs. Officially called Cornelius kegs, Cornies were used for soda at restaurants before they were replaced by those cardboard box and bladder things. Now they are very popular among homebrewers.
The keg you’re probably most familiar with is the Sanke, or Half Barrel keg. In college I spent a lot of time inverted over one of these. The picture below is very useful for distinguishing the different keg types.
Corny kegs are split into two categories depending on how the gas and beer lines connect: pin lock and ball lock. There’s really no advantage to one or the other, and Wikipedia tells us that Coca-Cola used pin locks while Pepsi used ball locks. Fun fact.
Since I already have two pin-lock kegs I’ll be using those. To keep things consistent I’ll probably use pin-locks for the other two.
I have a 5 lb CO2 tank from my previous set up that I’ll use for this one. For this size system a 10 or 20 lb tank is ideal, but they’re expensive so I’ll only upgrade if I really need it.
Another option you have with the gas is your regulator. You can choose to supply the same gas pressure to all of the kegs or give them each their own pressures. For the latter you need a secondary regulator. With a secondary regulator, you feed in gas at a higher pressure (~35 psi) and can then control the outgoing gas to individual kegs (9-13 psi).
While it would be nice to carbonate my English Mild at a different pressure than my Berliner Weisse, it’s not worth it for the price of secondary regulators which can cost $200.
Instead, I’ll get a 4 way gas manifold. It splits the gas to four different kegs, but unlike the secondary regulator you can’t control the pressure to individual kegs.
This baby will look nice mounted on the inside of the collar. If I ever want to upgrade to a secondary regulator it’s an easy switch, but I’ll start out with the cheaper option.
A keezer collar gives you a way to build a kegerator without drilling through the freezer. Some of the benefits are:
- It gives you a place to mount your taps without drilling through the freezer.
- It gives you more room. With the collar, I can fit an extra corny keg on the inside shelf which I couldn’t fit before.
- If you keep your CO2 tank outside the freezer, you can drill holes in the collar to run your gas lines.
- You can mount other accessories like C02 manifolds, drip trays, and bottle openers. You could also put chalk paint on it to display your tap list.
- It looks badass.
There is an inner collar and an outer collar. The inner collar rests on the ledge of the freezer. The freezer’s lid is removed and reattached to the inner collar. The outer collar bolts to the inner collar. It is a couple inches taller than the inner collar, so it hangs down lower over the outside of the freezer.
Although no part of the collar is physically attached to the chest freezer, the outer collar hangs down low so it essentially locks the whole thing in place. If you tried to pull it off, the outer collar would bump into the freezer.
You have a choice with chest freezers on where to put the taps. One option is to drill a hole in the lid and put a tower on top. This is what I had on my deceased keezer. The benefit of tower is that it’s attractive looking and there are some very nice looking towers. Construction is easy because it mainly involves just drilling a hole in the top.
The drawback is that you’re damaging the freezer. You can say goodbye to the warranty. There were also many occasions when I would open the lid and the handles would open, shooting beer into into the abyss behind the freezer.
The other option is to do what many homebrewers do and use a collar. This thing is best described with a picture:
Basically, it is a wooden box that extends the height of the freezer. The benefit of the collar compared to a tower is that you can use it as a pinboard for all your parts without damaging the freezer. You can install:
- Gas manifold or secondary regulator
- Temperature Controller
- Drip tray
- Hooks to organize beer/gas lines
- Hole to run external gas line
- Bottle opener
- Gun rack
The collar also allows you to give your kegerator a unique look so it doesn’t resemble your copycat neighbor’s. Also, if the freezer craps out (I know about this), then you can transfer the collar/tap set up to a new one.
Another huge benefit is that you can add more kegs. Most chest freezers have a small shelf for the motor, and without a collar a corny keg won’t fit on the shelf. Since the collar extends the height, you can fit a corny keg on that shelf. This is crucial for my 4 keg setup.
Standard beer faucets are known for getting stuck if you don’t use them daily. They also gunk up easily which is not only one more thing to clean but it compromises your beer. I dealt with both of these problems with my old faucets.
Perlick faucets on the other hand are forward sealing, meaning they stay full of beer and you don’t have the sticking or gunk problem. Yes, they are pretty damn expensive at $30-$40 each, but they’ll be worth it. Plus they just look cooler.
The faucets will install onto 4″ metal shanks which go through the collar and connect to the beer lines on the other side.
Type of wood for the collar
A trip through the lumber section at Home Depot may overwhelm you with all of the varieties of wood to choose from. Key things to consider are appearance, cost, and durability.
For the inner collar we went with untreated pine. It’s cheap, and since it’s on the inside appearance isn’t as much of an issue. For the outer collar we went with oak. Although much more expensive, oak looks simply fantastic. For all the work we’re putting into this thing I didn’t want it to look cheap. Plus, oak is much harder and more durable than pine. That’s important since it’s on the outside (this is a kegerator which means stumbling drunk people will be around it).
Insulating the Collar
I’m hoping to have this completed in the next 1-2 months. To be able to put food on the table during that time I’ll probably start with 2 taps and then expand to 4 when the funds allow. Speaking of money, I’m sure you’d find it useful for a cost breakdown of the whole system. I’ll provide that in a follow up post once it is built and I know all of the costs. So consider this part 1 of a 2 part series.
Thanks for following along. If you have questions about the kegerator or suggestions for improvement, let me know down in the comments. I’d also love to hear from other kegerator owners about their setups.
She’s done. Sorta.
There are still some finishing touches to be made on my new kegerator but the collar build was a success and beer is flowing.
Since the kegerator is made from a chest freezer, most people would call it a keezer. The main part of building the keezer was building the keezer collar. I spent hours looking at examples all over the internet. There are tons of designs out there and from those I conceptualized what I wanted mine to look like.
With a plan and place and anxious to get started, I told my Dad what I wanted to accomplish. He hopped a flight from Virginia to Denver to help with the build. This wasn’t something he was going to miss. I’m good with a boil kettle, but he’s better with a hammer and I couldn’t have made something this beautiful without him.
Without further ado, here are the instructions that go with the video for building the keezer collar. I hope it helps homebrewers who want to build their own.
Attach the collar to the freezer or lid?
We rested it on the freezer as opposed to attaching it to the lid. Some people attach it to the lid because:
- They don’t want to whack (and possibly break) a shank or faucet with a full keg when lifting it over the collar. Attaching the collar to the lid gets everything out of the way when the freezer is open.
- They don’t want to lift kegs the extra distance over the collar.
It’s personal preference, but to me those reasons weren’t worth the extra effort it takes to attach it to the lid. To avoid #1, I just load from the side and am careful. As for #2, if I can’t lift a keg an extra 6 inches then I shouldn’t be lifting it at all.
Besides, the collar with all the attachments is pretty heavy and I don’t want to put the extra strain on the hinges which weren’t meant to bear the weight.
Kegerator Collar Parts
- 12 feet of 1×8 red oak – $45
- 14 feet of 2×6 pine – $9
- Red Mahogany Stain (1 jar) – $6
- Minwax Semi-Gloss Spar Varnish (1 spay can) – $8
- Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (1 jar) – $6
- Sponge Rubber Weatherstrip – $4
- Brass Bolts (12 total) – $10
- Gusset Angle Brackets (4 total) -$4
- Wood Screws – $8
- Washers – $3
- Nuts – $3
- Total – $106
Building the Kegerator Collar (step by step guide)
- Remove the freezer lid by unscrewing the hinges. Put a long nail or drill bit through the hole so the spring doesn’t let the hinge whack you in the face.
- Measure the front, back, and sides of the top of the freezer. These will be the dimensions for the pine inner collar.
- Using the measurements from step #2, measure and cut the pine.
- Attach the pine pieces together using the angle brackets and wood screws, creating butt joints. You’ll now have the fame of the collar.
- Measure the cuts for the oak. You can make butt joints like you did with the pine, or make 45° miter joints like we did. The miters look nicer but they are tougher to make. You’ll want to use a miter saw for these. Measure the oak so that it fits snug around the pine.
- Cut the oak.
- Clamp the oak to the pine, making sure the tops are flush. The oak is taller so it will hang ~ 2 inches below the pine. We put the oak on the front and the sides. Since it’s pretty expensive we didn’t bother with the back where no one will see it.
- Mark where you want the bolts to go that will attach the oak to the pine. We put 2 bolts about five inches from each end and a couple of inches apart, in the upper area of the oak. With 2 bolts on each end of the oak boards, and 3 boards total, we used 12 bolts.
- Drill the holes and insert the bolts. Secure them with the washers and nuts.
- Put the freezer lid on top of the collar, position it so it’s centered, then reattached the hinges using the wood screws. This time the hinges will be connected to the collar, not the freezer.
- Measure and mark the holes for the taps. This one is going to vary depending on the size of your freezer, number of taps, and preference. We used my 19″ drip tray as a guide and kept the outer taps within that length. We spaced them 4 1/2 inches from each other and positioned them slightly above the midline on the front oak board.
- Drill the holes for the taps. This was tough because we were drilling through an inch of oak which is hardwood, plus 2 inches of pine. We used a Forstner drill bit for this. You could also use a spade bit. Make sure you’re drilling the correct size hole for the shank you’re using. We drilled 3/4 inch holes.
- Insert the shanks to make sure they fit. Ours didn’t quite fit at first so we had to loosen them up a little with the drill.
- The drilling, cutting, and bolting of the collar is done at this point. Remove the lid and get the collar ready to stain.
- Stain the wood. We used the Minwax conditioner to make sure everything spread and absorbed evenly. That dried quickly, then we applied the red mahagony stain. That was left to dry for 24 hrs, then we applied a semi-gloss spar varnish for a little shine.
- When the semi-gloss dries (a few hours), put the weatherstripping on the bottom of the pine. This will ensure a good seal between the collar and the freezer.
- Place the collar on the freezer and inject clear silicone caulk into the gaps between the inside and outside collars. This will insulate the unit and also makes it looks nicer. Wait for the silicone to dry.
- Reattach the lid.
- Attach the shanks and faucets.
- Attach any other accessories. I added a 4-way CO2 manifold to the back of the collar on the inside. I’m going to attach my drip tray soon.
If you’re wondering about the rest of the keezer – the taps, gas lines, shanks, drip tray etc…..don’t worry, I’m going to do a post on that eventually. Because it’s not entirely done I am going to hold off, but since the collar is such a major portion of it I thought it’d be best to do a dedicated post.
When the entire thing is done I’ll post about it and include the total cost.
Definitely let me know if you have questions. There were a lot of little steps and I’m sure I missed something. Cheers.
There are a lot of questions that I answer in the comments but with 140 of them (and counting) and I know it’s a pain in the ass to wade through them all. So here are the most frequent questions I get and their answers. If these still don’t answer your questions, leave a comment and I’ll to get to it. If I don’t, bug me until I do!
Is the collar secured to the freezer? Do you worry about it falling off?
No and hell no.
What did you do about the cord that turns on the light inside the lid?
The cord is stays plugged in. It’s long enough that it can reach from the lid to the bottom of the chest freezer, even with the collar installed. See the picture.
What model chest freezer do you have?
It’s am 8.8 cu. ft. Kenmore Model #: 16949. I paid $347.92 at Sears in 2011.
How many kegs can you fit in it?
I can fit 5 5-gallon cornies plus a 3 gallon corny & CO2 tank on the compressor hump.
Does the fan run constantly?
Where did you get those metal caps for the holes in the collar?
Ace Hardware. They are called metal hole plugs.
What about the alarm on the freezer?
Mine has an On/Off switch so I just turned it off. Not sure about other models.
More Taps and Upgrades
Where I last left off, I made the collar and had two out of the four taps hooked up, with caps in the other two holes.
Since the last post, I’ve:
- Switched from using a “tee” on the CO2 to having four gas lines running through the manifold
- Added the final two Perlick faucets
- Added a new 3 gallon and 5 gallon corny
- Added a mini-dehumidifier
- Added a fan
The fan is what I mainly want to talk about.
The problem was that the top of the keezer was much warmer than the bottom because of the collar. The collar doesn’t have any cooling coils running through it, and we know cold air sinks, so that area stayed a good 14°F warmer than the bottom.
That meant the lines were warm and that first pour was always a warm and foamy one. No good.
The fan is used to circulate the air. It doesn’t have to be very strong, it just needs to get things moving.
After installing the fan, the temperature different between the top and the bottom went from 14°F to 3°F. Not bad.
Here’s how I built it.
Adding a fan to a keezer
The goal was to attach the fan to the collar and have it pointing down instead of sideways so it would push the warm air down and the cold air up.
At first I was stumped. I looked all over at other setups but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. A lot of people attached the fan to the inside lid of of the freezer, but I haven’t damaged the freezer one bit yet and don’t plan to. That’s the whole reason I built the collar. It’s a tool belt.
Finally I decided on what you see below.
It’s a combination of hinges and a shelf. The hinges are great because they stick the fan far out past the lip of the freezer. The problem was that they wouldn’t stop at 90°, which is why I built the little shelf.
The shelf is just a scrap piece of plywood attached to the collar with a corner brace.
These are the parts I used:
- 3″ AC cooling fan from Radio Shack
- Extension cord
- 1 2-inch corner brace. The exact ones I bought aren’t on Ace’s site.
- 2 3-inch strap hinges
- Scrap piece of plywood I had lying around
- Two machine screws, washers, and nuts. Not sure the size but I fitted them to the fan at Ace.
Building it is pretty simple and you can probably figure it out from the picture, but a few notes:
- The wood screws went all the way through the plywood so I cut the tips off with a Dremel.
- I cut the female end off the extension cord and attached it to the wire leads from the fan using wire connectors.
- To be safe, I plugged the fan into a GFCI adapter.
- I spray painted the hinges and brace the same color and stained the plywood with the leftover stain from the collar so they match. It’s a big improvement as you can see from the pictures on facebook.
Like I said, it works great and although I’ll continue to tinker, I’m happy to call my keezer complete.
If you’re wondering about the drip tray, I decided not to add one. I have an old one I keep on the floor below the taps, but honestly the Perlicks drip so little that I don’t even need it.
Another useful addition was the dehumidifier. I tried Damp-Rid first and this works much better.
If there are any significant changes in the future then I’ll do another post, but otherwise, let me know if you have any questions. If you’re ever in Denver, swing by and grab a pint! For the longest time my wooden keezer collar remained uninsulated. I’m often asked why. Maybe some expect an intelligent answer, but I don’t have one. The real reason I haven’t insulated it?
Not just that, but it hasn’t been a high priority for me. Certain projects I get to the “good enough” stage and move on. This has been one of those. The estimated electricity use on my chest freezer is $27 per year. Obviously that changes when you add a wooden collar. On the flip side, the normal operating temperature is less than 0°F and I’m running it at 35-45°F.
The point being, at a few bucks per month I don’t have a large incentive to improve the electricity use. The bigger motivator is to save the chest freezer’s compressor by reducing how often it turns on/off. On that front, I’ve been very happy with how infrequently the compressor turns on.
That’s my case for not insulating. HOWEVER…..I recently picked up a foam insulation board for another home project. It’s 1″ thick and has an R Value of 6. There was plenty of it left over to insulate the collar so hell. This was also one of those rare occasions where my keezer was not in use (a sin) and unplugged. So hell, why not.
Overall it was an easy project. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the cleanest of jobs, but like I said above – “good enough”.
The foam board cuts very easily with a box cutter. It would have been a much easier process it not for all of the “stuff” attached to the collar. That’s the blessing and the curse of the collar – great for attaching things, bad if you want to insulate.
I cut holes for the shanks on the front of the collar. The back of the collar is where the manifold and fan are attached. There are some gaps because of those items. The sides are clean except for a few bolts. Right now the board is just pressed up against the collar. I may add some glue later but it’s a pretty tight fit.
Is this the last chapter in the keezer saga? Doubtful! There is always more tinkering to do. First things first though, time to get some beer in there.
It’s just a question of which one of these beer recipes to brew?