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Sir Humpsalot

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8 taps, 8 beers, on a budget (under $500), in a confined space (no more than about 5 square feet).

First off, let's clarify one thing. The term "budget" is subjective. I could go out and spend $600 on a ready-made single-tap kegerator. I could spend $500 on the tower alone. I also know that some of you handy scrounger-types can do a basic kegerator for a hundred dollars or so. My budget is $500, plus cornies, and I'm ok if I go a little bit over.

With the goal being 8 beers, we can forget about any kind of pre-made solution. Have you seen what a multi-tap T tower goes for these days? It's ridiculous. I thought about using PVC pipe, as some have done, but it doesn't seem practical for 8 taps. I went with wood, sealed on the inside. It won't last forever, but it will be cheap and I know I'll get a good number of years out of it.

I should also mention that, if I weren't so stubborn, it would be a lot easier and cheaper to go with 6 taps rather than 8 because cold plates which are used in my design commonly have up to 6 circuits. Having 8 taps requires 2 cold plates and adds significantly to the cost. On the other hand, the extra cold plate means extra thermal mass for the refrigerator which should help keep the beer colder for successive pours.


Step one: Build a basic wood box and drill hoes in it. Nothing fancy. No need to be too neat, it'll all be covered when you're done.


The basic box is made with 1x6" boards. I used an electric hand planer to quarter-round the edges, then smoothed it out with 150-grit. The idea is to give the face a slightly curved look. Of course, if you have a router table, I'm sure your results will be better, though for what it's worth, I've also had perfectly acceptable results using nothing but a bastard cut file. It just depends on how long and how much you're willing to spend on it and how many tools you have lying around already.

To make it all line up, I just used 1x2" material for blocking up the 1x6's. The only real thought here is to make sure the 1-inch side is up against the face of the box that will hold the faucets. Think about it. You have six inches, minus 3/4" on the top and also the bottom because the other 1x6's need to butt up against it. Then you lose another 3/4" to the top and bottom blocking that holds up those 1x6's. Now you're down to a 3" space to drill the holes for the shanks and attach the nut. I figure that's cutting it close.

Now, unless you're a master woodworker with a fancy jointer/planer, the pieces aren't going to line up perfectly. Do the best you can, then fill in any slight gaps with wood putty. Remember, the blocking will prevent any flow of cold air out of the tower, so you're just concerned with aesthetics here.

As for the holes, I drilled them with a drill. That's definitely the best way to do it. Then just sand the thing smooth.


Step two: Cover with your covering material. I used Tolex with 3M Super-77 adhesive. Tolex is used to cover guitar amplifiers and is pretty tough stuff. You can get it from tubesandmore.com for about $20-30 a yard. I know that's expensive for fabric, but think about what you're buying- it's the stuff that protects guitar amps for years and years of gigging, being tossed and dropped by roadies, having beer bottles sweating on it for hours, the occasional cigarette burn... this is pretty tough stuff as fabric goes and it can be applied with just a little adhesive. And, fortunately, one yard is more than enough. You can get it in different colors too... purple, red, cream, vanilla/white, snakeskin, whatever.



Now, if you want a really clean guitar-amp-like look, you can trim it all very carefully and make the edges line up just like Fender does on their amps. When I've redone amps, I've done it that way. But for this, I'm less picky. I'm going to fold the sides over like a Christmas present and tack them down. It'll hold, it'll look pretty nice, and requires minimal cutting/planning/trimming and has minimal risk of error.
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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This is, unfortunately, a funds-limited project, so I can't promise any regular updates. :(

Here's a partial parts list:

Still needed:
Corny Kegs (cost not included, but as we all know, they're about $25 each)
Fridge ($120 est)
Cold chamber/lagerator ($120)
8-way Manifold ($22 McMaster-Carr)
8 ball valves for manifold ($60 kegkits.com)
Tubing ($20 est)
10lb CO2 tank ($80 est)
Regulator ($40 est)

Acquired:
Tolex: $30
Wood: $15
Wood Glue: $5
Wood Filler $8
3" PVC Pipe for tower: $6
PVC bases (2) to bolt into fridge and cross member: $20
8 taps: 2 free, thanks olllllo, 5 in exchange for one Perlick, thanks jrpark22000, 1 ventmatic: $70

Total is right around $600, though there's some corners to be cut by, for example, using tee's rather than 8 ball valves, using SWMBO's mini fridge rather than buying new, etc.


2/5/08 The taps just came in. Here's the tower...




:ban: I will probably still tolex the little spot where the flange meets the T. I will also put tolex over the PVC pipe.

I don't have the shanks yet, so this is kind of a "staged" picture. It also shows you the access panels on the bottom of the T... these are to gain access to the shanks. An important consideration, I would say.

Also note the use of furniture tacks to hold the tolex down wherever it is folded over.
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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Here you can see what I will probably use for tap handles. These can be made from an oak leg from bLowes or MeNards and a T-flange for about $2 each.




And here is a close-up of my "tuxedo fold" for the sides of the T-tower. I don't know, I just think it kind of looks like a tux coat all buttoned up. Very simple to do and looks pretty nice... It's just like folding over the sides of a christmas present.

 

Brewpastor

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OK, I will take the next spot because I figure the way you are buying real estate on speculation this spot will be worth a whole lot down the road!
 

McKBrew

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I deleted my comment because I didn't want to take the space. Seriously though, I like the idea of a do it yourself tap set-up. I'll probably do something similar if I use a chest freezer. Depends on what I can get for free off craigslist.
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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McKBrew said:
I deleted my comment because I didn't want to take the space. Seriously though, I like the idea of a do it yourself tap set-up. I'll probably do something similar if I use a chest freezer. Depends on what I can get for free off craigslist.
My plan is to take up a space 3 carboys wide by 3 carboys deep with one spot being used by the 10lb CO2 tank. On top of that will sit a tiny tiny refrigerator ($100 new at your local electronics store or hardware megashop) containing 2 or 3 plate chillers to chill the beer on demand. On top of that will be my T-tower.

No, it will not get the beer down to 34 degrees, but guess what... I don't like my beers that cold anyway. And I'm figuring that for the occasional party (I would throw maybe 2 or 3 a year), we can just chill down the cornies in ice to give it a head start. I figure for the other 362 days a year, there's no need to keep all that beer that cold when I'm only drawing a pint or two each night.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a chest freezer, but I'm renting a house and don't want to have to ever move something like that. :cross:
 

ohiobrewtus

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Very interesting. I've been trying to figure out a cost effective way to have 4+ taps in my basement. I look forward to reading your updates.
 

Lil' Sparky

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KiltLifter said:
I didn't need any special tools for this one, just square cuts and miter cuts. Just plywood and trim from Home Depot. Just needs a skirt (or a kilt!) around the freezer:D .

Dude, that's sweet!
 

KiltLifter

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Thanks for imbeding the image Sparkey! I'll upload it in a better spot tonight.

The top is also the lid (slips over the real lid and screwed from below). You have to beware the box on top (called an Irish Coffin) hitting the wall when you open it.
 

Bobby_M

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You might be able to keep all the kegs cold if you just attach the open doored mini fridge to an opening in your keg chest. Once you get the kegs cold, it doesn't take much to KEEP them cold if the box is well insulated. A lot can be said for keeping kegs cold and one of them is clarity.
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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Bobby_M said:
You might be able to keep all the kegs cold if you just attach the open doored mini fridge to an opening in your keg chest. Once you get the kegs cold, it doesn't take much to KEEP them cold if the box is well insulated. A lot can be said for keeping kegs cold and one of them is clarity.
Sir, you have me convinced. I think I will try that. Foam insulation is cheap.
 

balto charlie

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Sir Humpsalot said:
8-way Manifold ($22 McMaster-Carr)
8 ball valves for manifold ($110 Northern Brewer)
Are you going to buy the ball valves at that price?? Gotta be a cheaper place. I need some so will keep an eye out for you as well. If you get a better price let me know. Project looking good so far. Charlie
 

Jester369

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KiltLifter said:
I didn't need any special tools for this one, just square cuts and miter cuts. Just plywood and trim from Home Depot. Just needs a skirt (or a kilt!) around the freezer:D .

Very nice! Looks a lot like the box I want to do (if I ever get back to that damn project!!!)

:mug:
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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balto charlie said:
Are you going to buy the ball valves at that price?? Gotta be a cheaper place. I need some so will keep an eye out for you as well. If you get a better price let me know. Project looking good so far. Charlie
So far, NB has the best price on those ball valves. Bear in mind when pricing them elsewhere that these valves also have an internal check valve.

As for shanks, the best price I've found so far is here...
http://www.beveragefactory.com/draftbeer/faucets/shanks/index.shtml
and from what I can tell, they have a cookie tracker. You seem to magically get a 5% discount if they think you're shopping around on them. Go back to the site a few times over the course of a few days and you'll see a little discount. Or maybe I've just been drunk and thinking I see a correlation there. :drunk:
 

balto charlie

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Sir Humpsalot said:
So far, NB has the best price on those ball valves. Bear in mind when pricing them elsewhere that these valves also have an internal check valve.

As for shanks, the best price I've found so far is here...
http://www.beveragefactory.com/draftbeer/faucets/shanks/index.shtml
and from what I can tell, they have a cookie tracker. You seem to magically get a 5% discount if they think you're shopping around on them. Go back to the site a few times over the course of a few days and you'll see a little discount. Or maybe I've just been drunk and thinking I see a correlation there. :drunk:
How important is it for each valve to have a check valve? If protecting the gauge the purpose then a check valve located at the pressure gauge would solve the problem. Am I right here or not?? Charlie
 
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Sir Humpsalot

Sir Humpsalot

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balto charlie said:
How important is it for each valve to have a check valve? If protecting the gauge the purpose then a check valve located at the pressure gauge would solve the problem. Am I right here or not?? Charlie
You are right. However, a check valve on each keg is slightly better because it will prevent kegs from intermixing during a change in pressure, such as when changing kegs. Of course, I'm a newb here. I'd like a more experienced person to chime in.

The other thing is, the plain valve is 11 bucks or so.. whats a couple more for the check valves? Then again, multiplied by 8, little dollar amounts add up...
 

HarvInSTL

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Sir Humpsalot said:
Ooh! Good find! That brings the cost down to about sixty bucks!
I figured those were what you were looking for, just wanted to make sure.

Tom @ KegKits is a great guy and just give him a call if you have any questions or are looking for something out of the norm.

Also he is running a coupon until the end of Feb, that is $10 off $125 purchase or $25 off a $250 purchase, so if you need some other items check him out. He has pretty good prices on other items as well.

As balto pointed out his manifold prices are pretty good. You could buy 2 4port manifolds with the check valves for $82 plus shipping. Which is about what it would cost you to buy the fittings from McMaster Carr and the check valves from him.

Just a thought.
 

balto charlie

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HarvInSTL said:
I figured those were what you were looking for, just wanted to make sure.

Tom @ KegKits is a great guy and just give him a call if you have any questions or are looking for something out of the norm.

Also he is running a coupon until the end of Feb, that is $10 off $125 purchase or $25 off a $250 purchase, so if you need some other items check him out. He has pretty good prices on other items as well.
Thanks his manifold prices look very good, as does his valve prices. I Now I gotta get the freezer.
Sirhump thanks for that info. I guess it will also keep your manifold clean if the beer backs up that far. Never had that problem but eventually will. charlie
 

fermentednonsense

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$25 is low for your kegs. I have 5 and haven't paid less than $30. And that was only 1 or 2 of them on Craigslist. $35-50 per corny would probably be more realistic
 
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