Kegging, Part 1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have decided to make the jump from bottling my beers, which is a massive pain in the ass, to kegging my beer. Every book I have read about brewing and kegging has its author crying why, oh why, they didn't keg sooner. I had the same reaction. Where the Hell was I on that one?? For example:

Bottling requires cleaning and sanitizing the following: 45-50 bottles, 45-50 caps, a bucket, a racking cane and related equipment, a small tap system for the bucket, a line for the beer, and a bottle filler. Then, you fill and cap every single bottle, and wait at least 2 weeks, usually more, for the beer to condition in the bottle.

Kegging requires cleaning and sanitizing: a keg, 9 small, easily-removable keg parts, and racking equipment (3 tubes, essentially). Get the beer into the keg. Chill the keg. Force some carbonation into it. Drink.

So I have the keg and keg parts now, and they are cleaned. But what I lacked was a suitable kegerator. And so we arrive at the subject for today's post: Smitty's 30-minute Field Expedient Kegerator, or, How Smitty converted an ancient (and free) dorm fridge into a kegerator.

First, the fridge:
I understand it is inadvisable to keep the CO2 tank in the fridge with the keg. This means I have to run a line from my CO2 tank outside the fridge to the keg in the fridge. Enter an 11/16" borer bit and 2 rubber electrical grommets.
I first measured exact center for both the top of the fridge and the inside top of the fridge, then marked a space 2" toward the back of the fridge from each of those spots. Then I drilled with the borer up through the plastic interior, then down through the sheet metal top. Voila'! A hole! (The dark half-moon you see is my fingertip, showing the hole goes all the way through)
I slid the 2 grommets over the end of the CO2 line that connects to the gas tank (NOT the keg...that's a huge piece that stays INSIDE the fridge!!); 1 for the hole on the inside of the fridge, one on the outside. Wiggle wiggle, shove shove, and the grommets and tube are in place! Here's the outside:
And the inside:
And that's it. I wait for the caulk to cure this evening, and tomorrow, I will keg and chill the beer, force-carbonate, and I figure by Friday, I am drinking my Belgian Cherry Dubbel!

More on the kegging process and forced-carbonation process tomorrow.


steves 8:00 PM  

Love the faux wood grain dorm fridges. My circa 1989 dorm fridge is in my wife's classroom.

Looks good, BTW. Can't wait to hear how it works out.

Bob 7:40 AM  

So should a beginner to beer brewing jump right to kegging?

Also, if you don't drink it all at once, won't it spoil?

Smitty 9:23 AM  

Kegging is way easier than bottling, but it has a much higher front-end cost; a keg, a CO2 tank, lines, filling the CO2 tank, getting a fridge to put it in, etc. Bottling is cheaper and a good way to learn the process. But making the jump to much easier.

Kegs you get at a party store with the pumps on them...those spoil. You're pumping air into the keg to create pressure, and oxygen is bad bad bad for beer.

But a kegging system uses CO2. C02 is good for beer. Beer under CO2 will last as long as the beer itself will tolerate. SO with big Russian Imperials, essentially forever. For lighter beers, 6 or so months. But it's not that the beer spoils, it just gets stale. CO2 will allow you beer to last essentially forever.

Sopor 9:35 AM  

Very nice!

I can't agree more with Smitty about how much easier kegging is. But it's an investment, that's for sure!

Now you just need to get one of these.

Bob 9:40 AM  

It may be a sin around here at ATK, but I stopped keeping beer in my fridge at home. I was getting too fat. I have dropped 5 pounds since slowing down on the consumption.

If I had beer on tap, I would have one huge beer gut.

Smitty 10:02 AM  

I hear you, Bob. I am surrounded by beer here, but am still able to keep it moderate and have bumped-up my own exercise regimen. I have dropped 10 pounds, but have to exercise harder because I average a beer a day.

Smitty 10:06 AM  

Oh yes, Sopor. That's next. Oh yes indeed.

Bob 10:21 AM  

Now you just need to get one of these.

Oh yes, Sopor. That's next. Oh yes indeed.

Then we will have to come up with a personalzed tap pull for your brand.

Bob 3:33 PM  

BTW - you must have had a fun time drilling through steel with a spade bit.

Smitty 10:28 PM  

BTW - you must have had a fun time drilling through steel with a spade bit.

Actually, it was easy. I measured exact center on the top of the fridge and on the top of the interior. I then marked a spot 2" back, again on the interior and exterior tops. I drilled a 1/8" pilot hole in each of those spots.

That gave the tip of the spade bit a start. I bought a high-quality spade bit, extra sharp, and applied as much pressure as I would to push it through a 2x4.

What it did was grind a perfect circle , and left a little disc of metal stuck to the spade bit, which flicked right off with a screwdriver. The plastic interior shredded like wood.

I used a spade bit because an 11/16" drill bit was $50. Fuck that. Elbow grease and a pilot hole and a $7 bit was cheaper.

The drill bit survived and is sharp enough to make it through wood still.

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