Starting kegging from scratch, want to do it right the first time

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Beernik

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I need some advice on building a kegging system from scratch. 3.5 years ago we moved from SLC to Lopez Island, WA, for my work, so we could live near the ocean, and because we all were tired of the cold & snow.

We downsized from a 2000 sf house and my wife’s 1000 sf shop to a 1000 sf condo. Because of the size reduction, I gave away all my bottles with the plan of transitioning to kegs after the move.

The size reduction ended up being harder than anticipated, living on the island was more expensive than anticipated, but the main thing was my time lost to ferries was much greater than expected. When you live on one island and work on another, your life revolves around the ferry schedule and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

Last year, I took a job on the mainland. It was a sizable pay bump and now we are making the move to another island, but it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge. This way, we can still enjoy living on an island but I can stop giving 2 to 4 hours of my life to the ferryman every workday.

The new house is twice as big as our condo plus a 2 car garage. The garage will become my wife’s shop and I’ll get a corner of it for brewing.

Some of the proceeds from selling the condo are going into buying new appliances for the house and this includes finally getting a kegging system.

Here’s the question: if you were starting over and could build the setup you want, how would you do it? I’d like to do something nice and do it right the first time. I don’t want to piecemeal something together over years like I did with my brewing & fermenting equipment.

I don’t brew more than 8 gallons or back-to-back 5 gallon batches at a time. So I’m thinking a 2 keg system with the ability to expand to 3 is what I’m looking for. The 3rd keg would be for rotational purposes or soda water.
 

mongoose33

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Do you like the look of a kegerator with a tower better than a keezer? Or maybe a coffin keezer?

When my keezer died last September I proceeded to make another. I adjusted a couple things--moved the secondary regulators outside the keezer, made it look nicer--but the fundamental format/structure I kept the same.

If you're ABSOLUTELY sure you'll never need or want to go beyond 2 or maybe 3 kegs, then you may be able to get away with a 5 cubic foot freezer made into a keezer. There's enough room for 2 kegs on the floor of th freezer, but that's all. If you get either a smaller keg, or a squat-format (see Torpedo kegs, slimline versus regular), then you can put a 3rd keg on the hump.

You *can* keep a small CO2 tank and regulator inside a keezer, but I hated doing that as it cost me space. So I put mine outside, transferred the gas to the inside using bulkhead shanks, and it's cleaner and easier inside.

I started with only 3 taps on my keezer, allowed for it to grow over time if necessary, which it became.

Below are some pics of my old and new setups. If I were you, I'd browse through the "show me your keezer" threads to get ideas. Or you could go on google images and search keezer, kegerator, etc. and see if there's anything there that pleases your eye.

Here's a friend's keezer, using a 5 cu ft freezer:

korykeezer.jpg
korykeezer2.jpg


My old keezer; I used chalkboard paint to cover the dings and dents in an old freezer:

Early:

keezer3tapsmall.jpg


Later:

keezer5tapsmall.jpg


Now, the newer version, complete with glass rinser:

newkeezer6.jpg


And the final version, complete with computer menu:

keezerandmenu.jpg


Finally, check out my signature lines if you want a way to make a keezer that is easily portable and doesn't require permanent modification to the freezer.
 
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ApolloSimcoe

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This is mine, I went with three taps but i can expand to 5 if i want. I also preferred to put the CO2 tank inside for a cleaner look
IMG_0264.jpg
 

mongoose33

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Here's more advice (and remember, free advice is sometimes worth what you pay).

1. You need some kegs. Typical these days are cornelius (corny) kegs that used to hold syrup for soda fountains. Five-gallon size. Used ones cost about $50. New ones are about $95 and up.

Two styles of connect posts on these--ball-lock and pin-lock. Get the ball-lock, it's the most desirable and the standard size. If you find kegs for cheap, check to be sure what kind of posts are on them, as you need quick disconnects to connect to them.

2. You need a source of CO2 in a tank, a regulator to drop the pressure to what you want, and a tubing line from the regulator to the keg. You need a quick-disconnect to connect to the post, and something (worm clamp, oetiker clamp) to secure the tubing to the quick disconnect.

2a. You can use splitters, or manifolds, to feed multiple kegs from the same line.

2b. Get a regulator with two gauges. One shows the pressure in the keg, which can be adjusted; the other shows how much gas is remaining in the tank.

2c. There are other types of regulators that have two gauges for keg pressure so you can use two different pressures. You can also use secondary regulators if there's a need for multiple pressures.

2d. A standard 2-gauge regulator is more than enough for most people starting out.

3. You need a way to dispense the beer. One way is to use the same kind of dispenser they use at keg parties, called a picnic tap. The more typical way is to use a faucet. The faucet on a keezer, for instance, is composed of the faucet, a shank to which the faucet is connected, and a tailpiece (and rubber washer) to which one attaches the tubing that runs back to the "OUT" post on the keg. You need a quick disconnect for that too.

3a. Quick disconnects come in two colors for ball-lock kegs. Black ones are for the liquid OUT post, gray ones are for the gas IN post. They are not interchangeable as the posts are designed to accept only the QDs designed for them.

4. You need something to attach the faucet to (though you could simply use it like a picnic tap, but that's no fun).

When people do a keezer they employ a wooden collar between the freezer and the lid, through which they can pass the shank that connects to the faucet. The collar does two things--it provides a place to drill a hole through which the shank can be passed, and it raises up the lid so kegs will easily fit.

If you do a little probing on Youtube, and search here, you'll find more information that should help you.
 

Alex4mula

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I did mine with a 5.5cf freezer and I think is one of the easiest ways and works great. Easy to build because the tower is super easy to install. As you can see it fits two 5gal kegs and a 3gal keg. Usually I am serving two kegs when a third beer is ready. At that point one of the 5gal kegs only have left 3gals or less. At that point I just transfer that beer to the 3 gal keg (or another 1.75gal keg I have) and then put in the new 5gal keg. I serve all beers at same pressure as I am not picky about that. When buying make sure about the inside height (top to floor) as some freezers are a little less tall and the hoses at the top may bind a little. Happened to me on my cold crash freezer but I usually do not have gas there. Oh, and that 5lbs CO2 bottle will last a looong time. I started keging before brewing and I think it was the best investment for the hobby.

K1.jpg
K2.jpg
K3.jpg
 
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Beernik

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@mongoose & @apollosimcoe

Thanks. You got me thinking more about it and I’m starting to develop a plan. I’m thinking of a +7 cu.ft. unit so I won’t have any problems fitting the three kegs in plus the CO2 tank.

I searched some of the coffin keezer threads and I’m thinking that’s the look I want. I’m assuming the lines run out the collar on the backside. I guess I need to decide if I want to go with an industrial look or something my wife could put her art on.

As for kegs, I’ve been looking at a kit with ball locks, a double regulator, and some really cheap looking taps. The taps would definitely have to be replaced with something better.
 

mongoose33

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@mongoose & @apollosimcoe

Thanks. You got me thinking more about it and I’m starting to develop a plan. I’m thinking of a +7 cu.ft. unit so I won’t have any problems fitting the three kegs in plus the CO2 tank.

I searched some of the coffin keezer threads and I’m thinking that’s the look I want. I’m assuming the lines run out the collar on the backside. I guess I need to decide if I want to go with an industrial look or something my wife could put her art on.

As for kegs, I’ve been looking at a kit with ball locks, a double regulator, and some really cheap looking taps. The taps would definitely have to be replaced with something better.
If the taps are included but junk, you'll pay too much.

Here's a place where I buy a lot of my stuff: ritebrew.com

Check out what they charge for QDs, and you can't beat the faucet prices, I don't think. Get quality and go quality from the get-go.

They have a 2-gauge regulator (Taprite, a good brand) for $49.49: http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/843622.htm

They have good QDs for $3.79 and $3.89: http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/843381.htm and http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/843385.htm

They have a variety of faucets; you're not going to find the Perlick Flowcontrol faucets cheaper: http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/843179.htm

Though the Intertap flow control faucets have a pretty decent rep: http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/843160.htm

Shanks: http://www.ritebrew.com/category-s/1915.htm

Tailpieces: http://www.ritebrew.com/category-s/1917.htm

Tubing: http://www.ritebrew.com/category-s/1918.htm

Anyway, good luck. It's a lot of fun putting all this stuff together. You'll probably need a bit of kibbitzing as you go along, after you figure out what you want. And BTW, I don't have a coffin keezer, but I think generally the lines go through the lid, not through the collar. You don't want beer lines exposed to the warmth outside the keezer, because they'll warm up and that will promote foaming.
 

LittleRiver

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This video was helpful to me when I was figuring out the basics of kegging.

It's the clearest and best produced video I found on the subject.
 

Alex4mula

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@mongoose & @apollosimcoe

Thanks. You got me thinking more about it and I’m starting to develop a plan. I’m thinking of a +7 cu.ft. unit so I won’t have any problems fitting the three kegs in plus the CO2 tank.

I searched some of the coffin keezer threads and I’m thinking that’s the look I want. I’m assuming the lines run out the collar on the backside. I guess I need to decide if I want to go with an industrial look or something my wife could put her art on.

As for kegs, I’ve been looking at a kit with ball locks, a double regulator, and some really cheap looking taps. The taps would definitely have to be replaced with something better.
I may put a collar later on on my second keezer due to the height issue I mentioned. Is just more work. BTW, I'm using these Intertap faucets that are not very expensive but work great and have forward sealing mechanism which is better.

https://www.homebrewing.org/Intertap-Faucet--Chrome-Plated_p_7054.html
 

JONNYROTTEN

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First look at the look of kegerators vs keezers and pic the one you like. Personally I cant stand the look of keezers with the wood band around them. Just my opinion ...If you get a kegerator get a good one. A commercial kegerator or even just a commercial kegerator size fridge is easy to convert to a kegerator. Just drill a hole in the top and mount a tower. A Commercial fridge usually have a fan to move the air and are generally built better

As far as the system the only real difference is the kegs and faucets.
100% get flow control faucets. They take all the guess work and tinkering around with line length out of the equation...most will agree

The real difference in opinion is the kegs. Most everyone will recommend corny kegs. Corny kegs were made for soda and adapted for homebrew. They have skinny dip tubes that can clog, O rings that can leak, lids that dont seal...basically built for potential issues.

Sanke kegs were made for beer and every beer serving establishment in the county uses them for a reason....they work hassle free....I've used both and find sankes serve better....so does the entire multi billion dollar beer industry

So my 2 cents is get flow control faucets, sanke kegs and pick whether you like a keezer or kegerator look better....the only other thing in a keg system is a regulator and tank which is a non issue
 
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Blazinlow86

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Do you like the look of a kegerator with a tower better than a keezer? Or maybe a coffin keezer?

When my keezer died last September I proceeded to make another. I adjusted a couple things--moved the secondary regulators outside the keezer, made it look nicer--but the fundamental format/structure I kept the same.

If you're ABSOLUTELY sure you'll never need or want to go beyond 2 or maybe 3 kegs, then you may be able to get away with a 5 cubic foot freezer made into a keezer. There's enough room for 2 kegs on the floor of th freezer, but that's all. If you get either a smaller keg, or a squat-format (see Torpedo kegs, slimline versus regular), then you can put a 3rd keg on the hump.

You *can* keep a small CO2 tank and regulator inside a keezer, but I hated doing that as it cost me space. So I put mine outside, transferred the gas to the inside using bulkhead shanks, and it's cleaner and easier inside.

I started with only 3 taps on my keezer, allowed for it to grow over time if necessary, which it became.

Below are some pics of my old and new setups. If I were you, I'd browse through the "show me your keezer" threads to get ideas. Or you could go on google images and search keezer, kegerator, etc. and see if there's anything there that pleases your eye.

Here's a friend's keezer, using a 5 cu ft freezer:

View attachment 627540 View attachment 627541

My old keezer; I used chalkboard paint to cover the dings and dents in an old freezer:

Early:

View attachment 627547

Later:

View attachment 627548

Now, the newer version, complete with glass rinser:

View attachment 627549

And the final version, complete with computer menu:

View attachment 627550

Finally, check out my signature lines if you want a way to make a keezer that is easily portable and doesn't require permanent modification to the freezer.
Nice set-up mongoose
 

lowtones84

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This thread has been really helpful, thanks guys! Both my brewing buddy and I are thinking of building 2-3 tap keezers soon so we can split 10 gallon batches, so this is a great resource.
 
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Beernik

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It looks like the taps included on the kit I was looking at are plastic picnic taps. I’m currently perusing other kits. I’m not quite to the point I’d be ready to make a parts list.
 
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Beernik

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If I were to give the coffin keezer an industrial look, would I be able to mount the gauges on the outside?

I’m thinking something like this. On one side, I’d have the three taps and on the other side I’d have the gauges.

Basically, I’d drill the hole for the gas tubes and push them into the holes, flush with the outer edge. Then I’d push the manifold into the tube.

45348EED-72FC-44BE-A1BB-D4280CE5601E.jpeg
 

ApolloSimcoe

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I believe that some people use a fan and or insulate piping such as you are showing.
 

mongoose33

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It looks like the taps included on the kit I was looking at are picnic taps. I’m currently perusing other kits. I’m not quite to the point I’d be ready to make a parts list.
Take your time. It's not a race. When the time comes, post your parts list here and we can give you some feedback on it.
 

mongoose33

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If I were to give the coffin keezer an industrial look, would I be able to mount the gauges on the outside?

I’m thinking something like this. On one side, I’d have the three taps and on the other side I’d have the gauges.

Basically, I’d drill the hole for the gas tubes and push them into the holes, flush with the outer edge. Then I’d push the manifold into the tube.

View attachment 627726
Do you mean as in secondary gauges, such as this?

Or do you mean the two gauges as on a standard 2-gauge regulator?

If you look closely at this pic, you can see that the bank of secondary regulators are all fed by a single line that connects to the 2-gauge regulator, and then each secondary regulator feeds a line that then goes through a bulkhead shank to the inside of the keezer.

newkeezer3.jpg


All this means you can do about anything you want. I'm not sure what you mean by putting the regulators on the backside of your pic above, but most any configuration could be accommodated.

You can get secondaries in any configuration you like, from 1 to 8 or even more.
 
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Beernik

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I started playing around with some ideas in CAD this morning.

I finally found a picture of something fairly close to what I was thinking.

I don’t know. I’ll probably get home tonight and my wife will tell me just to wrap it in sheet metal and she’ll paint a seascape on it.

1AE224FE-C94B-4EF3-90B1-9FB33570C118.jpeg
 
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Beernik

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Talked to my wife about it tonight and she said, “No metal if it’s in the house.”

So it looks like I’ll frame around the freezer with 2x4s and plywood and then make the shell from plywood & wainscoting/paneling unless I can find some reclaimed wood. Then I’ll mount a box on the top for the taps. I guess this plan also solves my dilemma of where to put the temp control display.

Now that I know what it will look like, I can start spec’ing it out.
 

TallDan

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I have an upright freezer with four taps, and a four gang secondary regulator. 8 ball lock kegs. Bevseal Ultra lines. 20lb co2 tank. Started with a 5lb, should have started with the 20lb.

The one thing i would do different if I were to do it all again is to do it with sanke kegs. Wonder why commercial beverage services all ditched cornies and all use sankes? I don't. They got just as sick of chasing leaks and maintaining a large number of seals as I am!

Most people in the homebrew community think that sankes are hard to use and expensive. In reality, they're similar in price, and you'll spend way less time messing with poppets and leaks.
 

day_trippr

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fwiw, and not to take the edge off your rant, but "commercial" beer dispensing never used Cornelius kegs...

Cheers!

[edit] A bit of history: when I started homebrewing one could obtain serviceable 5 gallon ball lock corny kegs for $15. That was roughly 1/10th the price of a sanke sixtel. It's a no brainer how I ended up with 16 ball lock cornelius style kegs.

And more: "commercial" beer dispensers don't deal with cleaning kegs, they send them back nasty and get freshies in return. And they rarely if ever keg-hop the beers on tap...
 
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TallDan

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fwiw, and not to take the edge off your rant, but "commercial" beer dispensing never used Cornelius kegs...

Cheers!

[edit] A bit of history: when I started homebrewing one could obtain serviceable 5 gallon ball lock corny kegs for $15. That was roughly 1/10th the price of a sanke sixtel. It's a no brainer how I ended up with 16 ball lock cornelius style kegs.

And more: "commercial" beer dispensers don't deal with cleaning kegs, they send them back nasty and get freshies in return. And they rarely if ever keg-hop the beers on tap...
...which is why i said that commercial "beverage" ditched cornies. They were used for soda before soda all switched to syrup. :)

That "bit of history" is also relevant and helps enforce the point. Homebrewers got into using cornies because they were cheaply available used, not because they were the best thing for the beer. Now that they aren't even cheap, why do we still use them?

And yes, breweries deal with cleaning their kegs. Bars and distributors don't clean them. And yes, breweries have specialized expensive keg cleaning machines. However, even without a machine, a sanke keg isn't hard to keep clean.
 

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...which is why i said that commercial "beverage" ditched cornies. They were used for soda before soda all switched to syrup. :)

That "bit of history" is also relevant and helps enforce the point. Homebrewers got into using cornies because they were cheaply available used, not because they were the best thing for the beer. Now that they aren't even cheap, why do we still use them?

And yes, breweries deal with cleaning their kegs. Bars and distributors don't clean them. And yes, breweries have specialized expensive keg cleaning machines. However, even without a machine, a sanke keg isn't hard to keep clean.
You wasting your breath. I've been advocating sankes forever. It falls on deaf ears. Cornys are "The homebrew thing to do"...outdated, inferior, troublesome thing to do....but homebrew thing to do none the less
 
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Beernik

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I got turned off sankes when I built my keggle. Granted, it was probably because the keg had been sitting in someone’s backyard for years, but the snap ring was impossible to remove. I had to grind the damn thing off so I could pull the spear. It seemed like a design flaw at the time.

I’ve put some dimensions on my preliminary design. Does 3’-2” for the lid opening height and 4’-0” to the tap height seem too tall?
 

day_trippr

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...which is why i said that commercial "beverage" ditched cornies. They were used for soda before soda all switched to syrup. :)[...]
Right, but even there your statement is misleading because "beverage" dispensers switched to Bag In Box - not Sankes. And they would have never switched to Sankes.

I don't have an axe to grind wrt sanke kegs, but the proselytizing grows tiresome when advocates make cornies seem like metal devils incarnate. The reality is with a modest amount of maintenance cornelius kegs work well, are easy to clean, easy to inspect, and even now - with a bit of effort - can be had far cheaper then sanke sixtels which invariably must be purchased new...

Cheers!
 
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TallDan

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Right, but even there your statement is misleading because "beverage" dispensers switched to Bag In Box - not Sankes.

I don't have an axe to grind wrt sanke kegs, but the proselytizing grows tiresome when advocates make cornies seem like metal devils incarnate. The reality is with a modest amount of maintenance cornelius kegs work well, are easy to clean, and even now - with a bit of effort - can be had far cheaper then sanke sixtels which invariably must be purchased new...

Cheers!
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/sankey-kegs.665070/#post-8593256

Check out probrewer for many, many more used sanke kegs available for sale.
 

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I got turned off sankes when I built my keggle. Granted, it was probably because the keg had been sitting in someone’s backyard for years, but the snap ring was impossible to remove. I had to grind the damn thing off so I could pull the spear. It seemed like a design flaw at the time.

I’ve put some dimensions on my preliminary design. Does 3’-2” for the lid opening height and 4’-0” to the tap height seem too tall?
I'm quite sure that if you left a corny keg in someone's backyard for years it would be impossible to disassemble too. Also, using proper tools makes a big difference.
 
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Beernik

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If I did 1/6bbl sanke’s, should I get both of these? Like I said before, trying to remove one with a screwdriver sucked for me.

And then it would just be a D-coupler on the top of the keg? Would I need a different style of manifold for setting different pressures on kegs?

Also, now my wife is talking about painting the outside with unicorn spit (It’s a penetrating dye gel). It’ll be cheaper than wainscoting it.
 
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JONNYROTTEN

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View attachment 627840 View attachment 627839 If I did 1/6bbl sanke’s, should I get both of these? Like I said before, trying to remove one with a screwdriver sucked for me.

And then it would just be a D-coupler on the top of the keg? Would I need a different style of manifold for setting different pressures on kegs?

Also, now my wife is talking about painting the outside with unicorn spit (It’s a penetrating dye gel). It’ll be cheaper than wainscoting it.
Any tool made for the job will certainly make it easier...buy once cry once...I just use a screwdriver and pliers because I have them and have done it so many times its easy at this point

The key is getting ALL the pressure out, which is as easy as sticking your thumb on the ball. Even a little pressure will make the ring more difficult to get out
 
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Beernik

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I’m not close to having to decide between ball cornys and sankes yet, but I’ll make sure my design works both ways.

Also, my wife has informed me she’ll give me another remedial knife safety class if I bring that tool home because I’m notorious for needing stitches. (At least the island we are moving to has 24-hour access to actual doctors.)
 

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I’m not close to having to decide between ball cornys and sankes yet, but I’ll make sure my design works both ways.

Also, my wife has informed me she’ll give me another remedial knife safety class if I bring that tool home because I’m notorious for needing stitches. (At least the island we are moving to has 24-hour access to actual doctors.)
It's not a blade, I'd sooner call it a pick than a knive. About as dangerous as a screwdriver. (I've certainly slipped and stabbed myself with a screwdriver though.)
 
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Beernik

Beernik

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That’s good to hear.

With the fridge dimensions I’m playing with, it looks like I only need to raise the lid by 2-inches to make it work for either ball kegs or sankes (includes space for the coupler & hose bend).

The biggest difference is with ball kegs, it looked like I could easily fit a 4th keg inside. With sankes, it looks like it is strictly 3 kegs and the tank on the compressor
 

JONNYROTTEN

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If you go the sanke route you could get this low profile coupler. The hoses come out the side and its only like 3/4" over the top of the keg. No hose bend

My kegs wouldnt fit in the kegerator without them. With them they slide right in...beautiful thing

You could probably find them cheaper. I think I paid $50....

https://www.amazon.com/Perlick-40030SSLD-Low-Profile-Coupler/dp/B00Y1MTX6U/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?gclid=CjwKCAjw5pPnBRBJEiwAULZKvjvbVhiPE85vyavMP8VGh_V57SYXoJa1HxGalYEue2KyENr1xTtWWxoCa_0QAvD_BwE&hvadid=243788022621&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9004539&hvnetw=g&hvpos=1t1&hvqmt=e&hvrand=6175635581365662056&hvtargid=aud-648278611385:kwd-349274329634&hydadcr=19335_9707698&keywords=perlick+low+profile+coupler&qid=1558559938&s=gateway&sr=8-3-fkmrnull
 

mongoose33

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That’s good to hear.

With the fridge dimensions I’m playing with, it looks like I only need to raise the lid by 2-inches to make it work for either ball kegs or sankes (includes space for the coupler & hose bend).

The biggest difference is with ball kegs, it looked like I could easily fit a 4th keg inside. With sankes, it looks like it is strictly 3 kegs and the tank on the compressor
You need to know one thing: Apparently JohnnyRotten gets a commission every time someone uses a Sanke keg. For reasons nobody knows, he feels it's his mission to spread their gospel, and denigrate the use of the old and inexpensive standby, corny kegs.

Now, he may be right about the superiority of sanke kegs over corny kegs. I don't know. I've actually thought about trying them, but I'd A) have to buy a bunch at a higher price than corny kegs, B) I'd have to replace the fittings I use to connect them. The cost issue is significant.

In the meantime, you have to ask why, when Sanke kegs are out there, so few homebrewers use them. I wish there was a cheap way to try them, but it's rare to find them for sale used, and when you do, you have to wonder whether the owner is selling something that actually is the property of a brewery.
 
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