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Chris112

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I've visited this forum over the years and found it useful for design ideas and brewing help and figured I should make an account to share my progress, and maybe it will also help someone else with their own project.

So far, I have finished out about 2/3rds of my basement (1600sq rancher with a full basement). It was bare concrete block and I did all the framing, drywall, and finish work. I started in the summer of 2019 so we are almost at the 4-year mark of the project. Last summer / fall I began work on the bar and brewery area. The design accommodates a 3 vessel setup from SS brewtech (started as 1V but needed to expand due to some design constraints), a beverage cooler, and a large L-shaped bar with room for a keezer setup on the short side. I also want the bar tower mounted on the bar top itself and have a nice drip tray and glass rinser to install as well. The bar itself is a thick MDF core that will be wrapped with walnut veneer and solid walnut edge trim. Still waiting on some countertop supports to be fabricated and delivered. We purchased cheap basic cabinets from lowes, primed and painted and upgraded to soft close hardware. The counters are quartz and we had them installed through Ikea. The beer cooler was a black friday special on Amazon and the huge sink, pot filler (which is UF filtered), faucet and vented hood were all also from Amazon. It's a lot of stuff but it's also been a few years of steady progress.

Progress pictures from the construction phase:

Progress pictures from the brewery / bar phase:

Now I have reached probably the most complex challenge (so far) and that is how to cool the DIY beer tap tower while using flexible beer lines and still being able to slide the keezer out to access kegs and clean lines.

I've explored a few ideas so far and also looking for advice if anyone has any. I got a little ahead of myself and spent the money on some aluminum threaded pipe for a DIY tower but I am realizing that it may not work well enough due to the smaller 3" pipe size (roughly 2-1/2" ID). I also bought a cheap chest freezer and tried a PVC duct with a union, thinking I could unscrew the union, pull the freezer out, and have slack in the beer lines pull through from inside the freezer. What I didn't think about is how inflexible vinyl tubing gets when it's cold and with just one tube installed, it would not easily slide out without kinking and getting stuck and I fear pulling too hard would mess up the connections from the faucet end or worse, have them pull loose inside the tower.

First option:

Air chill the lines using a ducted fan of some sort inside the keezer, blow cold air through a tube containing the beer lines that goes into the tower. From what I've read, I need that tube to be insulated and have enough space inside to allow air to flow through with the beer lines in there as well. Then, that is supposed to be put inside another larger tube that connects to the beer tower and also needs insulation on the outside. All of that would need to be at least 6-7 feet in length and flexible enough so I can slide the keezer out and back under the counter. The slack would just hang down next to the keezer under the bar. Then, in addition to that, I don't even know if the freezer would handle the heat load that would be coming from the beer tower. I think this is the main concern. Being aluminum, the beer tower is going to be an effective heatsink in both directions while trying to equalize with the ambient air in the basement (65-75F).

Maybe I am overthinking it but it seems like the return air is going back into the keezer having pulled some ambient heat from the aluminum beer tower, and with the chest freezer itself only having a cooling capacity of around 400BTU (based on my rough math) I don't think it's going to be cold enough.

Second option:

A separate glycol chiller placed elsewhere in the basement (to reduce noise) and run insulated glycol lines into the keezer, back out with the beer lines and into the tower. Not an easy task but doable based on the access I have to pull the glycol lines through the ceiling and down into a wall. This would probably be close to a 40 foot run and I have no idea what to get for that but I bet it's expensive. I've seen a couple glycol fermentation chillers for $600 - $1000 plus lines would be around the $1500 mark but again, no idea if that's enough for a 40 foot run.

Third option:

Scrap the freezer, spend $1k + on one or two front load fridges or kegerators and plumb the beer tower with rigid tube and plenty of insulation. Then there's still the concern of having enough cooling capacity and getting that cold air into the tower.

Whew, that was a lot and hopefully, someone can chime in with their thoughts on the cooling situation. I'll try to keep this thread updated as I go and hopefully get things finished this spring. Cheers!
 
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Chris112

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Awesome build. I mean if I was using your wallet I would opt for Option #2. :)

Great work!

Cheers
Jay

Thanks! Honestly the more I think about option 2 the more it seems like a good idea. Larger kegerators are a good bit more than chillers it seems, plus still have to plumb and insulate the lines anyway. This is definitely one of those projects that keeps costing more than anticipated!
 

Deadalus

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So I have a 2" iron pipe tower with four taps. The four lines run inside 1" flexible pvc and the pvc ends at the last tap. The return air runs down the other support. It's u-shaped and I have a return barb at the base of the flange. I hadn't quite installed the fan when I sprung a leak inside the tower. I had to break it all down to clean it. I have insulated it twice, the first time I think I had a rubberized foam type sleeve which was tight. I couldn't find where I got that from so I found some appropriate width foam sticky pipe wrap and layered it that way. I am waiting for a 1" wye to hook up the fan.

I ran about 6-8 kegs through it before the leak but can't comment on airflow of the fan yet. The setup is tight. I would recommend a greater diameter than 2" though for four lines. ON my keezer, the freezer is surrounded by a wooden bar. The bar lid hinges up, so the lines run through the freezer lid and the bar top. This is less than ideal because the freezer top and bar top hinge at different points.

Before the leak I used 1" vinyl tubing but it is stiff and tends to collapse. I saw that a member here at HBT had used flexible pvc for a project and after the leak I switch to that. It holds its shape much better.

I like what you did with the steps. What type wood on the treads and is that elecrical conduit for the railing?
 
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Chris112

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So I have a 2" iron pipe tower with four taps. The four lines run inside 1" flexible pvc and the pvc ends at the last tap. The return air runs down the other support. It's u-shaped and I have a return barb at the base of the flange. I hadn't quite installed the fan when I sprung a leak inside the tower. I had to break it all down to clean it. I have insulated it twice, the first time I think I had a rubberized foam type sleeve which was tight. I couldn't find where I got that from so I found some appropriate width foam sticky pipe wrap and layered it that way. I am waiting for a 1" wye to hook up the fan.

I ran about 6-8 kegs through it before the leak but can't comment on airflow of the fan yet. The setup is tight. I would recommend a greater diameter than 2" though for four lines. ON my keezer, the freezer is surrounded by a wooden bar. The bar lid hinges up, so the lines run through the freezer lid and the bar top. This is less than ideal because the freezer top and bar top hinge at different points.

Before the leak I used 1" vinyl tubing but it is stiff and tends to collapse. I saw that a member here at HBT had used flexible pvc for a project and after the leak I switch to that. It holds its shape much better.

I like what you did with the steps. What type wood on the treads and is that elecrical conduit for the railing?

Great info, thanks for the reply. I also considered a removable hatch in the top of the bar so I could reach down in and access the freezer but it seemed so ridiculous once I measured it out and realized the space I'd have to work with. Also considered a hinged bar top but with a veneer layer on top I don't think it would hold up over time. Good to know about the flex PVC!

The steps are just plain pine treads stained and polyurethaned to sort of match the upstairs hardwood color. Yes, electrical conduit and black spray paint. I used premium pine 1x4 laminated to make the 4x4 posts and then drilled the angled holes with a Forstner bit on a drill press. Same for the handrail. Still need to finish some trim and then clean / paint a final coat on the railing but super happy with how it turned out and way cheaper than a custom metal railing.
 

Deadalus

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I only saw the first set of photos. The remainder very nice!

Is that tower mounted yet? I think you'll be fine with 4 taps in the the 3 inch and a fan. I'm not sure how your return air might work though.

Can you get four 5 gallon kegs in that freezer? That size sometimes needs a collar to use the hump. A bar would have a sliding door or vertical opening door like a kegerator. If you have your lines inside some other tubing the part between the lid and the tower base is stiff. I was also thinking of using a union on mine but those 1" pvc unions were too fat and hard to even disconnect in that limited space. You will also want to put wheels on the bottom of the keezer probably. Any kind of sliding rail system might be exorbitant in price. You have to move a freezer and 4 full kegs. I got an idea for you though. Disconnect the hinges and fix the freezer top or make it so you lift the top just a little. Then you can slide out the freezer. That stiff junction between the tower and the freezer top will stay in place. You can have slack on the lines inside. You probably wouldn't be able to pull the freezer all the way out but enough to get into the freezer. Depends on the tap tower placement.

I can also think of two other ways to adjust for that stiffness in the junction. One would be to put 90's in the lines at the base of the tower. You could shoot the lines in different directions that way. Another would be to come in through the side of a collar. The collar idea may not work in your setup though but it has some potential maybe. If you had a collar and you had the lines enter the freezer through the back side of the collar, pulling it out would be easier.

I think you might be best served though with more of a bar fridge.

The railing is really nice, I have to get a drill press one of these days.
 
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Chris112

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I only saw the first set of photos. The remainder very nice!

Is that tower mounted yet? I think you'll be fine with 4 taps in the the 3 inch and a fan. I'm not sure how your return air might work though.

Can you get four 5 gallon kegs in that freezer? That size sometimes needs a collar to use the hump. A bar would have a sliding door or vertical opening door like a kegerator. If you have your lines inside some other tubing the part between the lid and the tower base is stiff. I was also thinking of using a union on mine but those 1" pvc unions were too fat and hard to even disconnect in that limited space. You will also want to put wheels on the bottom of the keezer probably. Any kind of sliding rail system might be exorbitant in price. You have to move a freezer and 4 full kegs. I got an idea for you though. Disconnect the hinges and fix the freezer top or make it so you lift the top just a little. Then you can slide out the freezer. That stiff junction between the tower and the freezer top will stay in place. You can have slack on the lines inside. You probably wouldn't be able to pull the freezer all the way out but enough to get into the freezer. Depends on the tap tower placement.

I can also think of two other ways to adjust for that stiffness in the junction. One would be to put 90's in the lines at the base of the tower. You could shoot the lines in different directions that way. Another would be to come in through the side of a collar. The collar idea may not work in your setup though but it has some potential maybe. If you had a collar and you had the lines enter the freezer through the back side of the collar, pulling it out would be easier.

I think you might be best served though with more of a bar fridge.

The railing is really nice, I have to get a drill press one of these days.

Yeah, the return air issue is a concern. I measured height and I'm good there. I can fit three 5 gallon kegs and one 3 gallon on the compressor shelf with some room to spare. Still debating the options with myself and whether or not to just throw money at the problem or completely redo the initial design. Thanks!
 
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Chris112

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So I've spent a lot of time researching since I posted this thread and I have decided to go with the dedicated glycol chiller and trunk line option. I figured if I was going to spend more money, I didn't want to buy a couple of kegerators (or a big single unit for 4 kegs) and then immediately modify them to route the beer lines through the bar top. My worry is that I'd still have thermal issues keeping the beer lines properly cold, not just "slightly cooler" than ambient.

With a dedicated chiller, I have plenty of cooling capacity (way more than 400BTU from the chest freezer), I can keep the chest freezer (which I already cut a hole into to try the air duct option) to cool the kegs and I can put both the chiller and freezer outside of the finished basement area to reduce noise.

The only catch is, I have to pull about 40 feet of insulated trunk line behind the back wall of the basement and cut some holes in the wall and the inside of the bar to get the lines up to the tap location.

Hoping to start on that soon once the hardware arrives.
 
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Chris112

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Working on a new beer tower since the 3” aluminum pipe is too small for the trunk line.
Walnut and brass L-shaped tower with a removable back panel. The brass is a brass push plate that you sometimes see on commercial doors, cut to size. Thought it would be a good cheap ($15) option for a face plate.

Built the top of the L tonight.
 

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Chris112

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Mostly finished the custom tap tower! Turned out great! Next up is to rough in the locations for the lines in the bar top and then install the veneer and trim before pouring epoxy.
 

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Chris112

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The walnut veneer has been installed! I also added a brass sheet inlay to deal with the seam between the two sheets. The veneer instructions said that the sheets may shrink when using a water-based contact cement and they were not wrong. After the cement dried overnight, there was about a 1/8" gap between the sheets! I think the brass inlay works great to hide what would have been an unsightly gap.
 

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Chris112

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It's been a busy few weeks since I updated this project and I am just about finished!

The bar top epoxy was an adventure. I really like the finish I got with UltraClear Epoxy (not a sponsor) although I will say their calculator is a bit off. I ran out of epoxy during the first attempt at pouring and had to order another batch, sand down a lot of areas, and then pour another batch. It was definitely an ordeal, especially with all of the steps to go through. I do like the finish though, I would just be sure to order at least 20% extra if I had to do it again.

The custom tap and long-draw lines are set up and working. The SS chiller is set to 29 deg F and definitely keeps the lines cold enough over the length of the 40' run from the keezer to the faucets. I used some copper tubing and looped it inside of the tap tower to help chill the faucets and it works surprisingly well. I just need to make some adjustments to the insulation to reduce condensation and make the cooling more efficient.

I plan on doing a little bit of testing to see what the temperature delta is from the chiller / keezer to the faucet this week.
 

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