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Old 01-27-2012, 02:00 PM   #1
carter840
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Default Thought I could do it, but need your help

Alright long story short I am turning a 53 gallon oak barrel into a keggerator with two cornys inside. Basically I have a garbage can inside the barrel with an inch of "great stuff" foam between it and the side walls of the barrel. In side the garbage can are my two kegs and my CO2.

My plan and the way things currently are relies on using water to exchange heat within the barrel system. I have a mini fridge (really mini maybe 2.0 CU ft) with 2.5 gallons of water in it that gets pumped (by a submerged low power water pump) directly into the trash can inside the barrel. The barrel simultaneously drains water back into the mini fridge. So the kegs and CO2 are actually in a water bath that is 80% of their height.

This system has an enormous thermal mass, basically there are 10 gallons of liquid in the kegs and probably another 6 in the garbage can. I turned it on for the first time last night and here is what I have for data after 5 hours of running.

At Start:
Fridge temp 60F
Water inside barrel 74F

4 Hours after
Fridge Temp 57.5F
Water inside barrel 67.5

I am worried at this point that I don't have the cooling capacity with this small fridge. I would consider it a success if I was able to get the beer to 42F even if it took a full week to chill it. I would also be somewhat happy if I had to spike the barrel with a few frozen water jugs whenever I added warm beer to the kegs as long as the system cool keep a cool temp on it's own after that initial ice spike. At this point I am waiting to see if things cool down, but also want to start planning other options.

Other options include:

Larger fridge or freezer (off craigslist) same idea of water pump and water bath in the barrel. This would give me the ability to have more water in the fridge and also more cooling capacity. Your thoughts?

Putting a cooling unit of a fridge or freezer directly in the garbage can inside the keg. Don't know how to do this, I would definitely need to run lines external to the barrel and there also isn't much room in there.

What are your thoughts on this whole system. Obviously it's way out there, but I'm going for something unique and If I can just figure out how to chill it I'll have the coolest keggerator.

Thanks

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Old 01-27-2012, 02:30 PM   #2
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First thing you need to decide is how much you are willing to spend to having something unique. I don't think there is anything wrong with the setup, the cooling capacity doesn't appear to be adequate.

Sounds like you are going to need that bigger refrigerator. The question then becomes why bother with the second enclosure (the barrel) when I can just put the kegs in the refrigerator? You could probably buy some nice serving taps, CO2 manifold, etc to make that fridge a sweet kegerator for the money it is going to take to make the barrel idea work.

Then there is a question of capacity...a regular sized fridge will hold 4-5 kegs instead of your barrel only holding two kegs. So there is a opportunity loss going with the barrel idea there as well.

But again, there is value to you in uniqueness--which leads me back to my original question.

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Old 01-27-2012, 02:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by broadbill View Post
First thing you need to decide is how much you are willing to spend to having something unique. I don't think there is anything wrong with the setup, the cooling capacity doesn't appear to be adequate.

Sounds like you are going to need that bigger refrigerator. The question then becomes why bother with the second enclosure (the barrel) when I can just put the kegs in the refrigerator? You could probably buy some nice serving taps, CO2 manifold, etc to make that fridge a sweet kegerator for the money it is going to take to make the barrel idea work.

Then there is a question of capacity...a regular sized fridge will hold 4-5 kegs instead of your barrel only holding two kegs. So there is a opportunity loss going with the barrel idea there as well.

But again, there is value to you in uniqueness--which leads me back to my original question.

For me it's worth it. I've already got everything that is needed. I have a tower mounted on top of the barrel, which thanks to me now has a hinged lid. Tower has 2 perlick 525 taps. I've also got a dual regulator already setup. Basically nothing was spared in the expense of setting this thing up. As for chilling with a larger fridge my only issue is I don't want to have the large fridge around- at that point it basically does defeat the purpose.

Is there a smaller water chiller or something that might do the job of the mini fridge more efficiently?

It's going to be an awesome keggerator and as soon as she's done I will post pictures.
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:42 PM   #4
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You said it yourself, this thing has enormous thermal mass. 4-5 hours isn't even going to come close. Run this thing for a week and maybe you'll see what the system can really do. You could accelerate that as you say by spiking it with cold water or ice.

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Old 01-27-2012, 02:45 PM   #5
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I assume the kegs were warm when you put them into the barrel? That will take a long time to cool no matter what.

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Old 01-27-2012, 02:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by dbrewski View Post
You said it yourself, this thing has enormous thermal mass. 4-5 hours isn't even going to come close. Run this thing for a week and maybe you'll see what the system can really do. You could accelerate that as you say by spiking it with cold water or ice.
Yeah in all honesty I'm an engineer and this has been an idea of mine for a while, so I really have thought it out. I did intend to use a larger fridge, but since I already had this one I figured try it first.

I did spike the water this morning with a few cold packs, but tonight I'll have 4 gallons water frozen in bottles waiting for it. I should know by Sunday what I'm dealing with. I guess I just wanted to see if people though I was completely insane. A couple of my brewing buddies think the idea is nuts. I probably have about $400 in the project so far if I ignore the cost of kegs and CO2, but all the components are top notch.
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by onthekeg View Post
I assume the kegs were warm when you put them into the barrel? That will take a long time to cool no matter what.
Yes the everything in the barrel last night was basically 74F. It's going to take a while I just hope I can get there eventually. I'll posts temps when I get home tonight.
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:58 PM   #8
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The next time you fill it up and it gets to 74*F, drain it and refill it with tap water. I'm guessing your ground water is about 55*F or so. That would be a very quick way to reduce the temp.

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Old 01-27-2012, 03:00 PM   #9
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I agree that there is a lot of thermal mass there, so you've got to measure this over a longer time to draw any meaningful conclusions about cooling capacity.

Another thought.. what kind of insulation do you have on the top and bottom of the barrel? What about on the lines between the barrel and your fridge? If you're an engineer then I'm preaching to the choir here, but Anything you can do to eek a few more percentage points of effective R value out of your system will really help. If you have room, you could even add a layer of insulation inside the garbage can (since you've already filled the outside with great stuff, there isn't much you can change there).

You might also try to collect some data on how often the compressor in your mini fridge runs and for how long. If its duty cycle is low maybe there are some changes you could make the the fridge. Either increasing the efficiency of heat transfer between water and the fridge, or maybe somehow get the temp probe for the fridge thermostat in contact with the water in the fridge?

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Old 01-27-2012, 03:03 PM   #10
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My guess is that if you chilled 6-7 degrees in only four hours, you have enough chilling capacity. Have you given any thought about the kegs wanting to float when they are nearing empty?? Search around, people have disassembled minifridges and used the cooling plates and motors for builds such as this as well.

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