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Keezer Part 3

In my last post about the my Keezer build I stained and finished the collar and also assembled it. Once that was completed I had to secure the collar to the freezer. To do this I used all purpose Liquid Nails. Once the Liquid Nails fully set (about 24 hours or so) I caulked all of the joints as you can see below.

Once the caulk dried I went ahead and drilled a few holes. The first set was to realign the hinges so that the lid could open and close normally. I made a paper template by holding a piece of paper up to the old holes on the freezer and poking holes through the paper with a pencil. Simple, but it worked. Remember I am doing this conversion with as few tools as possible. So far the only power tool required is a drill.

After I drilled the holes for the lid I drilled a hole for the temperature controller. The temperature controller is in charge of keeping the freezer from doing it’s job. The freezer can get down to 0 degrees on it’s lowest setting, I don’t want that to happen because I can’t drink or serve frozen beer. The two pictures below show the hole from the outside and inside of the keezer.

In my next update I will drill holes for the faucets/shanks and button the whole thing up.

Keezer Part 2

My keezer project is coming along nicely. I purchased the collar in order to raise the height of the lid on my chest freezer. By doing this I will increase the height of the chest freezer and give myself the height I need for an extra keg as well as a place to mount the taps. There are tons of ways to go about doing this, but living in an apartment gives limited power tool options.

I really only have a drill, so making this thing simple is very important. I made a trip to my local Lowe’s and picked up the required hardware. My chest freezer is a 5.0 cubic foot GE model. It measures 29”x22” and those were the dimensions that  I decided to make my collar as well. After some searching online I found that a typical Cornelius keg is 26” tall but you want to leave yourself some room for the connections and hoses. This means that I needed to give my collar a height of ~10” in order to have the room necessary for an additional keg.

One quick sidenote. The GE chest freezer will fit two kegs with no modifications, but the right side of the freezer has a “bump” in it for the compressor. This bump makes it necessary to add a collar to fit a third keg. You can see the bump in the right side of this image.

While at Lowe’s I found a long construction grade piece of lumber that measured 144”x12”x3/4”. This is perfect for what I needed and I found an associate to cut it down for me (free at Lowe’s) to get two boards at were 29” and two that were 19.5” since I needed to account for the board thickness. The other nice thing is that these boards cost in the neighborhood of $10. I also purchased some angle brackets, woods stain, polyurethane, and some sand paper. After all was said and done, it came in around $25.

Once I got home I sanded down the boards and applied the stain with a brush I already had. After two coats it was the color that I wanted. I gave the stain the required amount of time to sent and then I added four coats of poly, making sure to sand each one (but the last) with 200 grit sand paper. Doing this allows the layers of poly to bond properly with each other. I’ve had poly peal off by not doing this before.  I then screwed in the angle brackets to the outside and inside walls of the wood to make a sturdy box. I also used liquid nails to help hold them together. More coming in my next Keezer update.

Keezer Part 1

Santa was nice enough to bring me a few things that will make me enjoy homebrewing a whole lot more. The big guy brought be a chest freezer, and a two keg setup! I’m pretty excited about it and I can’t wait to have my homebrew on draft. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I have with homebrewing is bottling. It takes forever, a lot can go wrong, and you have to wait till it carbonate to drink your beer. Bummer.

Soon enough I’ll have a fully functioning keezer with two taps and room for a third. The term keezer comes from the combination of kegorator and chest freezer. Some in the homebrew community dislike the name, I am indifferent. Anyway, I picked up a chest freezer off of Craig’s List for $80 and the thing looks beautiful. As a comparison a new model of the freezer runs for $150.  I will be keeping a journal of my progress with the keezer along with anything that I find helpful. The project should me pretty quickly since it isn’t very complicated.

I currently live in an apartment and power tools are not abundant, so I am going to make this thing with the use of two tools; a drill and caulk gun. Happy New Year and I hope everyone had a few good beers over the holidays.

Mini fermenter

09-03-20-01So I finally got tired of opening my buckets to take hydrometer reader (actually I use a refractormeter). I got smart and made a mini fermenter to show me what is going on in the real fermeter. The main reason I would do this is becasue I don’t want to rely on airlock activity to be a measure of my fermentation progress. I want to take gravity readings.

The first step in making on of these things is the equipment. You need a bottle, preferably clear, a drilled stopper, and an airlock. You sanitize everything the same as you would you fermenter. When your wort is put into your fermenter and combined with yeast, you take a small sample (only a few ounces) and put it into the bottle. Now you have a mini batch taken from your larger one. It is the exact same thing, and if you keep it in the same storage, it should produce the same results.

Why would you want to do this. If you are working with a plastic bucket or a carboy, it can be a pain to keep reaching into your fermenting beer to grab a sample. You run the risk of infection every time you touch it. Also, you take from the main fermenter, you can’t put your sample back into the beer. Making a small version you don’t have to worry about wasting any beer as you can use the same sample over and over since you will never be drinking it.

Another nice thing is that you can visually see what is going on; if you are not using carboy this can be a real advantage. There are a few problems with this method however. The biggest being that a small sample of liquid reacts much quicker to temperature changes then a large sample of liquid. This can increase or decrease your actual fermentation process. I think getting gravity readings this way is a good way to go and you can leave your beer alone while still knowing what’s going on inside.

Brew pots

Anyone who homebrews needs a brew pot. The basic process of brewing involves boiling your wort for an hour or so. Without a pot, this is pretty tough. There are a few options to consider when you are choosing a pot; what is it made of, how big does it need to be, what is my price range.

What is it made of?

09-02-13-01There are three basic types of pots out there to us for your homebrewing. The first is an aluminum pot. It is a pretty typical kitchen accessory and they are readability available. Aluminum has a few key advantages. The first is that aluminum does an excellent job of distributing heat. This means that as you heat the bottom of the pot, the heat is spread to the rest of the pot efficiently. This is good for you becasue it means no burned wort on the bottom. Another great thing about these pots are that they are easy to find, and can be found in large sizes.  The biggest deterrent for these pots is that the wort will actually leach some of the aluminum off of the pot during the boil, causing aluminum to be in your beer. A few recent studies have found that this will happen for the first or second time using to pot, but an oxidized layer will form on the surface of the pot and the wort will no long leach.

Another common pot used is an enamel coated pot. They are easy to find and can be found in various sizes. The biggest problem is that the pot is iron coated in enamel. If you scratch or chip off some of the enamel, the iron will be exposed to the wort. Not a big deal at first, but the iron will eventually rust (another type of oxidation) and you will be boiling your wort in rust, not the most favorable of conditions.

The last type of pot is stainless steel. Like the others they can be found in many sizes and are pretty easy to find. They do not distribute heat very well but do a decent enough job at it. The biggest thing is that stainless steel does not rust, stain, or do anything bad to your beer. It is food safe and durable. Lets take a look at sizing.

Pot Sizing

A brew pot needs to fit your wort and still provide head space for the hot break foam that occurs during boiling. I personally have a 20 qt stainless steel pot that does a fine job of making 4 gallon all grain batches or 5 gallon extract batches. The reason for the difference is that your generally want to do a full boil in all grain brewing and in extract you can do a partial boil and add water in the fermenter to get to your final volume. Your pots height and width are things to take into consideration for how much you can boil. If you wanted to do a full boil 5 gallon batch you would mostlikely want a 7.5 gallon pot. I’ve heard of people getting away with 6 gallons, but the chance for a boil over is much higher this way.

Pot Pricing

While all of the pot types can be easily found and come in a great number of sizes, you may want to look at the price tag. Enamel pots are generally your cheapest, with a 5 gallon pot going between $15-25. Just remember that if any of that enamel chips, you need to get another pot. The middle pot is the aluminum pot that can be found anywhere from $25-35 a pot. The most expensive is the stainless steel pot coming in at $40-55 for a 5 gallon pot. The thing is, you will never need to buy a new one ever again (unless you start doing higher volumes). You could always try yard sales or asking around, sometimes people have the perfect brewing pot, just sitting there. A friend of mine recently got a 20 qt stainless steel pot for $5 at a yard sale.

Well there you have it, the basics on brew pots. They can be very simple or very complex, but I’ll get into that at a later time.