Keezer and bar build

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duncan.brown

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I've picked up a bunch of useful information on how to build a keezer on these forums, so I thought I'd create a post to document my build incase it's useful to others. The keezer sits in front of the wall that divides the back part of our basement (where the brewery is) to the front (where the bar is), so I run my serving lines from the keezer, through the wall, and into my taps.

Keezer build

The base of my keezer/bar is a Frigidaire 8.7 cu ft chest freezer (Model number FFFC09M1RW). This is a good size as it fits four 5 gal corny kegs in the main part of the freezer, leaving the hump over the compressor as free space. I build the collar from 2"x10"x12' Douglas fir lumber from Home Depot. Using a table saw, I cut the 2"x10" down to 2"x8.25" to give flat edges on the top and bottom. The lid is two 43 13/16" x 8.25" x 2" and two 19 1/16" x 8.25" x 2" joined together using pocket hole screws (#8 2 1/2" blue plated). To get the draught lines through the wall between the keezer and the bar, I run them through a 3" PVC Sch. 40 pipe. I drilled a 3 1/2" hole in the back of the collar, since the pipe has a 3 1/2" OD. The wood is painted with Behr Marquee interior semi-gloss (which is only supposed to take one coat, but I have the collar two coats anyway).

I made a frame to sit on top of the wood from 3/4" x 2 1/2" x 8' Cellular PVC Trim, trimming to down to 2" wide with the table saw, so that the lid fit inside the rectangular frame. The PVC was cut with miter joints and glued together with Gorilla glue. I taped 2" foam insulation tape to the bottom of the PVC frame, and then used pocket hole screws to attach the to frame to the wood. I applied some Frost King 1 1/4" x 7/16" Black High-Density Rubber Foam Weatherstrip Tape to the top of the freezer and placed the wooden collar on top. I had some freezer hinges from my old (now dead) kegerator that I used to attach the freezer to the wooden collar with #10 wood screws. The original hinges from this fridge are used to attach the freezer lid to the collar with #10 wood screws.

Before lifting the keezer into place, I drilled a 3 1/2" hole through the basement wall. The interior basement walls are made of 0.42" Hardie Board, so after going through two of those, my Milwaukee 3 1/2" Hole Dozer was pretty toothless. The PVC pipe was a snug fit, so I used a rubber mallet to knock it through the hole in the wall and into the hole in the back of the keezer collar (which was lined with 2" foam insulation tape), once the keezer was lined up.

Finally, I cut some 1 1/2" R-7.5 Rigid Foam Board Insulation Sheathing to fit between the top of the freezer and the PVC frame to line the collar. I trimmed the foam board with 2.5" foil HVAC tape and pushed them into the collar. They sit rigidly, so I didn't bother gluing them to the wood.

Here are the pictures of the collar build:

Completed keezer
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The picture below shows the freezer, a layer of the thick foam tape, the wooden collar, thin foam tape, PVC frame, and the freezer lid.

Dual hinges at the back


Bar build

On the bar side of the wall, my beer lines come out of the 3" PVC pipe connected to the back of the keezer:

PVC pipe waiting for beer line installation


Given the styles of beer I drink, I was looking for a bar with two lager taps, two taps for ales, and a beer engine. I decided to go all in with my dream tower, the BTD-BR4V four-tap bridge from Czech Brewery Systems. These guys were great to deal with and sent me a system with two standard compensator taps for regular beers and two nostalgia beer taps with side-pull handles for lagers. The side pull taps are awesome and, with a bit of practice, you can easily do the three Czech pours with them. I also picked up a flush mount 8" x 24" x 3/4" drip tray, rinser, and water pressure regulator from American Coffee Urn. These guys had great service and customer support. Growing up in England, I'm a big fan of cask conditioned ales, so I purchased an Anagram CM 1/4 pint beer engine from UK Brewing Supplies (also great service) as well as a cask breather because I can't drink 2.5 gallons of ale in three days. Don't tell CAMRA.

My current bar is a temporary set up made of 2x4s and a 3/4" piece of plywood for the underbar. Eventually the underbar will be a butchers block countertop with a proper bar made of a live-edge slab of English elm above it, but that's a project for the fall. I also wanted to prototype with plywood before I start drilling and curtting butcher's block. To mount the beer engine, I drilled a 2" hole for the beer lines coming out of the bottom of the tower and holes for the bolts that hold the tower to the bar. I found an online video that walks through the installation of an counter-mount beer engine. I used a jigsaw to cut out the beer engine mount hole, and cut a rectangular hole for the flush-mount drip tray. The drip tray drips into a bucket until get the full bar installed and plumb it into the drain.

IMG_5964.jpeg


Draught line build

For the beer lines I purchased Bev-Seal Ultra 1/4" ID barrier tubing, after reading Kal's awesome posts on beer line tests (I also hate vinyl taste and dumping beer). I ended up getting 500' from Installation Parts Supply for just over $100, which is way more tubing that I will ever need but was the best deal on line length and shipping that I could find.

All my fittings are John Guest acetyl-copolymer speed-fit fittings from Freshwater Systems. My corny keg ball lock fittings are screwed into 3/8 OD x 1/4 Flare fittings (JG part number PI4512F4S) which connect to the Bev Seal tube. At the other end, the BTD-BR4V beer tower came with 8mm stainless steel pipe, which is almost exactly 5/16". John Guest recommend the super-seal fittings if you are connecting to stainless steel, so I connect the Bev Seal tubing to a 5/16" Superseal - 3/8" union (JG part number SI041012S). The connection on the bottom of the Angram is slightly larger and needs a 1/2" Superseal - 3/8" union (JG part number SI041012S). The Superseal spanner is also really helpful in getting these tightened up.

Here are a couple of pictures of the John Guest fittings in action:

JG fittings on the beer tower
JG fittings on the kegs


Since my tower can't be air cooled by the keezer, I went with a glycol cooled long-draw system for the beer lines. I already had an SS Brewtech 1/5 HP glycol chiller for my fermenter, so I used a couple of free ports on this to cool the line, beer engine, and beer tower.

I made my own trunk line by running two pieces of 3/8" OD copper tubing from the keezer, through the wall, and to the bottom of the beer tower. The overall distance from the keezer to the beer tower is relatively short and straight, so I went with copper for better thermal conductivity, rather than the PEX that is used in Micromatic's trunk line. The 3/8" copper can be used with the 3/8" John Guest fittings that I had for the Bev Seal (copper is soft and so doesn't need the Superseal fittings).

Having run the copper roughly to shaped, I ran the Bev Seal tubes from the keezer along side the copper. I used cable ties to temporarily make a bundle of tubes, then wrapped the tubing in 2" moisture strapping tape, then 2" foil tape, both from Micromatic. The section of tubing that went through the PVC pipe was double wrapped in Micromatic's 2" insulation tape. The rest of the beer line was wrapped in 1 1/8" x 1" K-Flex Insul-Lock (Pre-Split Rubber Pipe Insulation w/ Self Sealing Lap) from Express Insulation. I shoved the end of this into the 3" PVC pipe to seal it up on the bar side, and cut a short plug of the insulation to seal up the keezer side of the PVC pipe.

Finally, the trunk line was wrapped in Micromatic's 2" Barrier Tape. I don't have any pictures of the construction of the trunk line, but here's the finished product:

Out the keezer
Through the wall
Into the beer engine and up to the tower


I added a one-way John Guest check valve just before the beer engine to prevent beer flowing back into the cask.

Balancing the beer lines

The biggest pain in the system was finding the correct beer line length. Since I used the 1/4" ID Bev Seal Ultra, my lines have pretty low resistance. However, I couldn't find the correct roughness to use in Mike Solty's beer line calculator. I found a post on the Electric Brewery forum that does the simpler form of the calculation, using a resistance of 0.45. The Draught Beer Quality Manual quotes a resistance of 0.35 for 1/4" ID barrier tubing, so I split the difference and went with 0.4. I also had compensators in all four of my beer taps, which needs to be taken into account.

In the end, I went with the simple calculation L = ( P - (H / 2) - p ) / R from the Electric Brewery post, as that roughly matched what I found in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets (Wiley, Edited by Eßlinger). Reinhold Merten's chapter on beer dispensing (Chapter 14) in this book states that a compensator tap has a pressure drop of 0.88 bar (12.7 psi).

Merten's states that the temperature of the beer at the tap should be 5 C (41 F) for a drinking temperature of 5-7 C (41 - 45 F). Given that I have a short, glycol cooled line, I set the keg refrigeration Johnson Controls A419 thermostat at 41 F with a differential of 2 F and the glycol chiller at 29 F. I typically drink kegged beers at 2.5-2.7 vol, but I wanted a bit of slack to also serve some Belgian-style beers on draught at 3.0 vols. Using the standard carbonation charts, a beer with lagers 2.6 volumes of CO2 at 41F needs 14 psi of head pressure.

This means that for my setup:

Ppressure set on regulator gauge15 psi (2.7 vols at 41F)
Htotal height from the center of the keg to faucet in feet3.3 ft
Rresistance of line0.4
presidual pressure remaining at the faucet6 psi
Llength of beer line in feet18.4 ft

I went with 20 ft of beer line for each of the taps on the tower. Using a timing test, a 15 second pour on the standard taps delivers with a dispensing pressure of 15 psi delivers just under 750 ml of liquid with the compensator fully open. This is almost exactly the 3 litres / min Marten's said that I should aim for. It also gives me some flexibility with the compensator for more highly carbonated beers.

The beer engine operates at roughly atmospheric pressure, so I used a short length of line for that.

Putting everything together, I have two lager taps, two keg ale taps, and a beer engine for casks.

Cheers!
 
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duncan.brown

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A few more tips in addendum, since I couldn't include more than 10 pictures in the original post:

I used a Penguin Glycol pump in the SS Brewtech chiller to pump glycol through the trunk line, the tower, the beer engine's cylinder jacket, and back into the chiller.

Since the outlet itself is not protected, my glycol chiller, keezer, and glycol pump are all plugged into a GFCI power block. Very important!

I picked up two Whitmor 6054-584 wire stacking shelves which fit perfectly in the main part of the keezer. I set the height of the shelves to match the height of the compressor hump. The shelves are useful for a couple of reasons: they raise up the kegs so that it's easier to lift them in and out of the keezer, and I can store the coiled up beer line under the wire shelves so the extra beer line is in the coldest part of the keezer to reduce foaming. I also sit a small USB power fan on the shelf to blow the cold air at the bottom of the keezer around the interior.

You can see the coiled up beer line, the fan, and the shelves in the picture below:

Shelves and fan


I also built a stillage to sit on top of the compressor hump to hold my cask beers. This is made of cedar 2x4s and holds a 2.5 gal keg at at 15 degree angle. The kegs are converted to casks by cutting an inch off the long dip tube, connecting it to the gas post and turning it at an angle so it sits in the gas space of the keg when it's tipped up. The shorter (normally gas) tube is connected to the liquid out post for the beer.

Here's the pictures of the conversion:

IMG_5836.jpeg
Cut the liquid line short for gas
Position the liquid line to the side


Then it sits on the stillage in the keezer and is connected to the beer engine and the cask breather:

Cask in keezer


The wooden stillage does double duty holding the gas distribution for the kegs. You can see the cask breather in the second picture.

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IMG_5933.jpeg


Just for completeness, I went with a Taprite dual regulator and a 20lb CO2 tank from MoreBeer:

IMG_5938.jpeg


You can see the top of the SS Brewtech glycol chiller in the background. The glycol lines are 3/8" ID x 1/2" OD vinyl tube that connect to the copper lines in the trunk line inside the keezer. Everything is wrapped in 2" insulation tape to prevent condensation.
 
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duncan.brown

duncan.brown

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Since I haven’t had any work travel recently, I’ve been using the last few weekends to finish the bar. Here’s the progress:

First step is dismantling the temporary bar that I put together earlier.

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The beer engine and tower are disconnected and the trunk line is bagged up to keep dust out of it. Getting six John Guest fittings off was a challenge.

Next step is to extend the under bar structure to a full six feet.

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The black pipes are a support post and a 4” (4.5” OD) cast iron drain pipe for the upstairs bathroom. I boxed around the base of them. The one thing I didn’t do was cut the cast iron pipe and install the PVC connnector. I had our contractor do that when he refinished the basement.

Next step is to build the support for the bar itself. I used 2x4s with one bolted to the floor to secure the whole bar (probably should have used pressure treated lumber for that one, but oh well...). I used brackets from Centerline Brackets which will support the bar itsel, which is a live-edge English elm slab from Berkshire Products.

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The under bar is a 6’ birch butchers block countertop from Home Depot. I used the router to cut out the hole for the drip dray and a Diablo hole saw to cut a hole for the beer lines. For the sink and the beer engine, I made templates out of MDF using my router (nasty, nasty MDF) to simplify the routing of the butchers block. Glad to have a P100 dust mask when doing that.

I boxed in the lower part of the pipes with drywall and made a top for the box out of butchers block. That was a bit tricky. I measured up the location of the pipes, and used two picees of 1/4” plywood to make a template. After finding the center of the pipes, I drew a diagonal connecting them. I used Milwaukee Hole Dozer hole saws to cut the holes and then cut with my router across the diagonal line just deep enough to cut the top piece of plywood and graze the bottom one. I then routed the bottom one on the other side of the kerf so that I had two pieces that fit together perfectly. I then sliced the butchers block along the diagonal using a circular saw and used the two pieces of plywood as templates to route out the four semi-circles for the two holes. When done the top fits together around the pipes and is held together with two zip bolts.

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The plumbing for the sink was tricky. For some reason, our contractor put in a wye, not a sanitary tee. The wye is not code and because the trap doesn’t have sight of the vent it can cause the p-trap to be sucked dry. Changing the wye was not an option as I didn’t want to deal with the cast iron pipe, so I grabbed an Oatey Sure-Vent from Home Depot and plumbed that in between the p-trap and the wye.

42A6A880-0B40-4680-8E72-F9392CDBBB0B.jpeg

The most nerve-wracking step was cutting the live edge slab of English elm. A router slip on the butchers block could be fixed by a trip back to Home Depot and $150, but the live edge is a one off. I managed to use the circular saw with a Diablo 60 tooth Ultra Finish blade to cut off one edge (almost) perfectly and then cut the edges to square. I routed out a corner so it fit with the bar.

Here’s the progress to date with the sink, beer tower, engine, and drip tray temporarily placed in.

9D5C4E87-882F-4138-9E21-087406BF852A.jpeg

Tomorrow is finishing the wood and next weekend is plumbing everything back in!
 
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duncan.brown

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Here's a final update on completing the bar.

The last major step was finishing the live-edge slab. I pretty much followed the techniques in this video. There was a small hole on the upper surface and two on the lower surface that I filled with Total Boat epoxy resin. I got the slow cure, but the holes were small enough that I could have done this with the fast cure and saved myself a day of cure time. I then sanded both sides of the slab using a random orbit sander first with 80 grit and then 120 grit paper.

I finished the wood with Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C, which is why I stopped sanding at 120 grit. Rubio Monocoat is magic. It's a European hard-wax oil intended for flooring. You mix the oil with the accelerator, apply it to the wood with a plastic scraper and then buff it off with a lint-free cloth (the video linked above demonstrates this nicely). The oil binds to the wood fibers providing a waterproof surface that's integral with the wood. It is also food safe and zero VOC (in fact it smells nice... like linseed oil).

Rubio Monocoat gives a matt finish, rather than a shiny one, but I prefer that. I used "pure" color, which slightly darkens the wood, but lets its natural color come through. Since the Monocoat binds to the wood, the surface has to be completely free of dust. I vacuumed everything and then wiped down with Rubio Monocoat Raw Wood Cleaner. This stuff is not zero VOC as it's some kind of paraffin oil and so I recommend using a decent mask if using this indoors. I have a cheap, but effective Gerson One Step P95 mask, but these seem to no longer be available.

I also used Rubio Monocoat to finish the butchers block countertop and the bar stools. The bar top is 42" high and I found some nice 30" unfinished wood bar stools on the Home Depot web site. I finished these with Rubio Monocoat as well.

Here's a close up of the finish on the elm slab:

IMG_6081.jpeg


and here's how it looks on the butchers block and the stools:

IMG_6080.jpeg
IMG_6112.jpeg


There are four DIY tasks that I hate: hanging drywall, taping drywall, skim-coating drywall, and sanding drywall. Basically I hate anything to do with drywall. However, after watching a few videos on finishing corners, skim coating, and sanding I was able to finish the box that covers the drains.

IMG_6109.jpeg


I finished the front of the bar with 1" x 8" cedar board from Lowes. I rounded off the edges with a 1/8" rounding over bit on my router, sanded to 120 grit, and finished them with Rubio Monocoat. They are screwed in from the back inside of the bar. Here they are unfinished:

IMG_6105.jpeg


And here's the finished look:

C97CEA2D-C669-40B9-B57E-D14FCC9482C2.jpeg


The last steps were installing and plumbing in the sink, and then re-installing the beer tower and beer engine. This was much easier than with the prototype bar, as I had more space to work with.

Re-assembing the John Guest fittings on the beer tower:

IMG_6126.jpeg


These connect to my home made trunk line. The copper is glycol in from the chiller, and the four white tubes are the Bev Seal Ultra. The small black line going off in the lower left is the return copper for glycol and the Bev Seal line to the beer engine. A short piece of copper connects the glycol out from the tower to the glycol in of the engine.

IMG_6127.jpeg


I haven't finished the serving side of the bar yet, as I want to give it a shake down and watch for any leaks first. I have faith in John Guest fittings, but I'd rather have it open for now so any problems are obvious. I'll probably add some doors to the front to cover up the guts of the bar.

IMG_0161.jpeg


With one lager and a double IPA ready to serve, and some great take-out food, we're ready to eat and drink!

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tiadobatima

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This is gorgeous. Very well done.
Did you make the stainless trunk line that goes inside the beer tower? If yes, mind sharing how you did it?
Especially interested where you got and cut the stainless tubes to size... And how you're connecting them on both ends :)

Thanks!
 
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duncan.brown

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Did you make the stainless trunk line that goes inside the beer tower?
No, the beer tower came with the stainless lines installed by the manufacturer. They are connected to the beer lines with John Guest fittings. To connect to stainless steel, make sure you get the SuperSeal version of the JG fittings, which are needed to connect to hard metal. They have an extra o-ring and you screw the top down to make the connection. Here's a close up of the connection.


IMG_6125.jpeg
 
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tiadobatima

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No, the beer tower came with the stainless lines installed by the manufacturer. They are connected to the beer lines with John Guest fittings. To connect to stainless steel, make sure you get the SuperSeal version of the JG fittings, which are needed to connect to hard metal. They have an extra o-ring and you screw the top down to make the connection. Here's a close up of the connection.


View attachment 691761

Gotcha. I see the Micromatic sells that assembly, but at $1800, I'd rather figure out how to make it myself :)

And thank you for the tip on the Superseal version of JG

Anyways, your setup looks amazing. Great job and thank you very much :)
 
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duncan.brown

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Update on the build after a few months of experience. I decided that a two-way regulator wasn't giving me enough flexibility for a four-keg keezer, so I picked up a Taprite three-way secondary to give me four independent pressure controls. I mounted this on the outside of the keezer collar.

Using the stillage to mount the gas manifolds was making it a pain whenever I wanted to remove and clean the cask-breather and associated tubing, so I decided to run the gas lines straight through the collar. I picked up four 1/4" NPT pipe fittings. The 4" version goes nicely through the wood and the insulation inside.

I then upgraded all of my gas tubing to BevSeal Ultra 235 and John Guest fittings. The only tubing that is still vinyl is a small jumper where I failed to unscrew the gas-in barb and vinyl tubing to and from the cask breather (after a JG one-way valve).

Here's the secondary regulator on the side of the fridge. You can see the primary hooked up to my 20 lb carbon dioxide cylinder.

IMG_6462.jpeg


Here's the 1/4" NPT to 3/8" JG fittings round the back of the keezer:

IMG_6461.jpeg


Here's the gas manifold on the inside. One of the gas lines (marked A) supplies the cask breather and has an extra gas connector for the small keg I use for running BLC and StarSan through the lines.

IMG_6460.jpeg
 
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