Some time ago I got into homebrewing. After about a year of buying, saving, de-labeling, cleaning, sanitizing, and filling bottles (phew!) I started thinking about kegging my beer instead. Most of the kegerators I saw were as gaudy as they were expensive. I started looking online at converted refrigerators, and then converted chest freezers, or keezers. With the help of a number of very detailed, very helpful guides on Pinterest, YouTube, etc. I set out to to build my own.
One of the best sources of inspiration, homebrewtalk.com's Show us your Kegerator forum, features over a hundred pages of people's own kegerator creations. Everything from mini-fridge conversions, to simple collared keezers, to elaborate tower keezers with tile inlays and even microcomputers. Being a designer, I wanted to take what I learned from others' projects and put my own spin on the tower keezer. Check out my design and read on to find out how I made it happen.
The final product was an industrial-style kegerator with a three-tap galvanized pipe tower, concrete top, and weathered-wood sides.
Step 1: Frame Build
The chest freezer I used is a Haier HCM071LC that I bought from my local Costco for ~$170. This is a freezer that many people use for keezer-builds because it's size is great. To keep the freezer from, you know, FREEZING, I bought an STC-1000 digital temperature controller on eBay for ~$20, and wired it up in a Radio Shack project box. There are guides for this part elsewhere on the internet, but basically, the unit has a thin-wired thermometer probe that you slide below the lid of the freezer and when the correct temperature is reached power is cut to the freezer.
I started with a piece of plywood as the base, attached four caster wheels to the bottom, and built a 2x4" frame for the front and sides (the back is left open to slide the freezer in and out if necessary).
Step 2: Wood Sides
I used planks from an old fence to build the front and sides. Luckily a neighbor carefully tore down their fence right when I started this project. The frame and sides are built to match the height of the top of the freezer lid so that the "concrete" top will lay on top of the frame. Since the screws will be visible, I used stainless steel screws to attach the boards.
Step 3: Concrete Top
The "concrete" top is actually particle board covered in a concrete mixture. Particle board is very stiff which is critical to keep the concrete coating from cracking. It also keeps the weight down as much as possible, which is important since the freezer hinges will be supporting way more weight than they were designed to. To get the desired thickness, I used two pieces of particle board, wood-glued together. The other benefit of using two pieces was that I was able to make a cut in the top piece to serve as an inlay for the drip tray.
After cutting the drip tray and gluing the pieces together, I bolted the top to the freezer lid. This was not easy. Rather than dismantling the lid and its built-in insulation, I meticulously measured the position of screws on the top of the particle board and the bottom of the freezer lid, and drilled holes in the insulation big enough to squeeze a washer and nut into to tighten long bolts from the top. The bolts also had to be countersunk so that I could concrete over them. Note: This means the top is permanently attached to the lid. This is one reason I went with a new, name-brand freezer. Hopefully it will last a long time; and if the compressor dies, hopefully I can remove the whole lid/top and reattach it to the same model.
Step 4: Concrete
To give the top a concrete look, I used a product called Ardex Feather Finish. I referenced a helpful guide to using this product to refinish countertops. It took about 4-5 coats, sanding inbetween, to cover completely and get the look I wanted, but it turned out really well. It's not quite as polished as you might imagine from seeing real concrete countertops, but that's the look I was after. After completion, I applied a concrete sealer. I think this is very important, not just to protect the look of the concrete, but to keep water from seeping into the particle board, causing it to swell and crack the concrete.
Step 5: Tower and Connections
The tower is made completely of galvanized pipe and fittings. Assembly was definitely frustrating as you have very little room to work with. Using reducers I was able to mount 2.5" shanks to each pipe output without making any cuts or holes in the steel. I added as much insulation as possible around the lines in the top of the tower to keep the lines insulated. From there I attached the whole unit to the kegerator top. There was only enough room in each pipe for two beer lines, so two went through the right pipe and one through the left. Each line was run through a piece of copper tube that extends down into the freezer to keep the lines cool (cold beer+warm lines=lots of foam). Instead of traditional tap handles, I used "garden-variety" faucet handles that fit tight enough for me to screw them directly on the faucet collar (you still pull for beer, rather than twist). For the drip tray, I ordered a cast-iron grate for a Viking range from eBay (random, I know, but it gives it a industrial storm-grate look).
The kegs, CO2 tanks, lines, connections, faucets, etc. were ordered online from Beverage Factory. I ended up with two homebrew kegs, two CO2 tanks, and an extra slot for a commercial craft-brew keg.
It was a labor of love to be sure, but it came together beautifully, and there's no better reward than the delicious beer that it dispenses. I love that I was able to put as much of my own hard work and personality into my kegerator as I do my homebrew. I couldn't have done it without the countless people who shared their experience and expertise on the internet, so I hope that this guide offers some help and inspiration to those thinking about building their own kegerator.