Most homebrewers, who are not doing so already, always want to move to kegging. I have been kegging for a few years now, but over the last year went back to bottling because I wanted to build a new kegerator, my old stand up fridge with a single tap in the front was not cutting it. I wanted to have the ability to not only expand, but also keep my a place to store my bottles. So I set out to find a cheap, or free, used chest freezer that is newer than my old unit to convert. It took a few months of searching and asking around, but months later, I got lucky. A friend of mine purchased a house and it had a chest freezer in the basement. A nice 10.5 cubic foot model. Even better yet, my friend didn’t want it, and he was giving it to me for free! So now I have a project to do, here is the way I converted this free chest freezer for around $60 (not including the taps and hoses I already have).
Step 1 is plan way ahead and be patient. In other words, the key to building a Kegerator on a tight budget is to not get all your parts in one purchase. Once you know you are going to build one, start watching for sales and scouring craigslist, ebay, ask around at your homebrew club for someone with extra equipment they may want to sell, and sign up to hear about special deals from online homebrew supply stores. Morebeer’s deal of the day is a good one to check daily. For the chest freezer, if your patient you will find a heck of deal in your area if you give it time. I know that Menards in our area sells used but working units that they remove from people’s homes. So it may be worth checking places like that as well. Chances are one will turn up in your family or among your friends soon enough. Sometimes if you offer to move it out of the house or offer up a case or two of homebrew some people will part with an older chest freezer. Worst case, you may have buy one, but do not spend over $100 for a used model. Heck, I wouldn’t spend over $45 which was my cap limit until I found one for free. The most expensive unit on my kegerator is the temperature controller, you can find these used on ebay or buy them without the plug wired and wire it yourself. A digital one will run you a bit more, but the analog one I got ran me $45+shipping.
- Used Chest Freezer
- 1 Tube of Caulk
- 1 small box of Roofing nails
- 2 – 1x4x8 premium boards
- about 8 small L brackets
- small Sheet Metal and 1 1/4″ wood screws.
- 6 plastic cable clips
- Super Glue (For attaching the cable clips)
- Then you will need a faucet, some tubing, a keg, a CO2 tank, Regulator, gas and beer disconnects, ect. (Prices vary based on used equipment prices or new, and where you purchase these. But count on at least $150 minimum for this portion of the investment)
First things first. You should block the hinges because they are spring loaded. Then, once you have them blocked to they don’t snap you in the fingers, unscrew the lid from the hinges.
Once you remove the lid. You want to use a pry bar to gently remove the gasket, while keeping the snap in buttons in tact as much as possible. If you break a few, don’t worry we have a remedy for that. You will also be removing the plastic cover if your lid has one.
Then, like in the picture below. You want to cut your wood with a miter saw and screw the wood pieces together getting them as square as possible. Then line it up with the lid. It is important to measure twice and cut once in this instance. Plan out where the collar is going to go in relation to not only the lid but also the main part of the freezer.
Once you have it figured out, cut, and put together, you want to attach the collar to the lid (If you are wondering why I attached the collar to the lid, it’s because the extra height of the collar on the freezer would make it difficult to reach the bottom. If you prefer to attach the collar to the bottom of the freezer, that is your choice. It will be easier to put together, but harder to reach the bottom on large freezers). To do this I used small L brackets. When possible I drilled directly into the lid to fasten the collar, where it was not, I placed the L bracket below the sheet metal and attached the part to the wood. I also used caulk around the edge to help create a seal and to act as an adhesive. See below 2 pictures.
Now that the collar is firmly attached to the lid. It’s time to put on the gasket and plastic cover. To do this I placed the plastic cover on the collar. This plastic cover on my model had the holes for putting back in the plastic buttons. So I used that as a template then drilled small holes to fit the button prongs in the place of the holes. That way I could snap the buttons into the holes, and use a bit of caulk adhesive to help reinforce the hold. I also used caulk between the plastic and the collar as well as the gasket and plastic. It worked out pretty well. See below for pictures.
Now we are in the home stretch. Figure out where you are going to put your taps. In my case, I was not going to use the whole freezer for taps, but just 2 for now and up to 4 later. The rest of the space if for bottle storage. So I cut a space in the plastic for access to 2 taps.
I used some plastic cable clamps to hold my hoses. Having the collar on top and the taps to lift when you open your lid would leave hoses in the way. So I used the clamps to manage the hoses. EDIT: Although I forgot to mention it here, don’t forget to install your temperature controller. I attached mine to outside on the collar, on the rear corner. I then took the probe and placed it in a bottle of water. You can see it in the second picture below in the corner on the compressor hump. That ensures that your beer will be at the temperature you are setting the controller at and reduce the cycles of the freezer, or so I have been lead to believe.
All that’s left is to add any accessories you have purchased and/or clean and paint the kegerator. I chose to repaint it since the one I got was a bit dingy on the outside. Here is the completed kegerator from the outside.