The Manfish Keezer Build

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If you are anything like me, once you are satisfied with the quality of the beer you are brewing, you will want to have a nice place where you can serve it to your to friends and family. Eventually I decided to build a bar so we could all sit together and enjoy the fruits of my labor. But as time went on I grew tired of looking at my refrigerator turned kegerator sitting behind the bar. Don't get me wrong, for years this setup worked out exactly as I had hoped it would. But I knew that I wanted something new, something better. Fortunately for me I did inherit the 'DIY gene' when it came to working with wood, and so I decided that I would build myself a keezer!
Why go with a keezer versus a kegerator?
This is a matter of personal choice really. It's fairly easy to convert an old fridge into a kegerator and a kegerator takes up much less floor space than a chest freezer or a keezer. For me however it was a simple choice. I was tired of having to reach into the back of the kegerator to pull out an empty keg then having to disconnect and move the other kegs just to get to that one empty one. Let's not even discuss what it does to the residual yeast and hop particles that have already settled out in the other kegs. With a keezer you lift the lid and only have to deal with the one specific keg you need to work on, leaving the other kegs undisturbed.

Making sure everything is level is a must!
So you want to build a keezer, now what?
The first step in the process will be deciding which chest freezer is the right one for you. There is a great thread here on HomeBrewTalk that compares a bunch of different chest freezer models. If you have not read the thread already you can check it out here. https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=377518
When I started looking for a chest freezer to buy, the two main things I thought about were:
1) How many taps do I want to have? By determining this, you will know how big of a freezer you will need to buy.
2) How big is big enough'? Despite what you may have been told size
does matter. You will want to know how many kegs the keezer will hold
and whether or not your Co2 tank(s) will fit inside it or not.
Will it fit in the area where you want it to go when I am done building it?
Before choosing a chest freezer be sure to measure the area where you plan to put it. You want to make sure the finished keezer will fit in the space you planned to use for it. I suggest adding a few extra inches to those measurements to allow for any design changes that may come up as you construct the keezer. This will provide you with a reasonable idea of how much room the finished keezer will need, in the end you want it to fit into the space you plan to put it. When measuring for height be sure to include the height of the casters too. If I could make a suggestion, based on my experience, when it comes to casters go big! I started out with 3 inch casters and I could barely move the keezer. I eventually went back and replaced those with 5 inch casters and now it rolls around easily.

Keezer top attached to freezer lid with 4 bolts, washers and nuts.
Are all keezers the same?
Once you have decided on a keezer build, know exactly where you want to locate it and how many taps it will use you are ready to chose a chest freezer. Next, you will need to decide on which type of keezer you want to build a 'Collar' type or a 'Coffin Box' type. Going the collar route make for a much easier build and is more cost effective. To building this type of keezer it can be as simple as removing the lid from the chest freezer, building a collar and reattaching the lid.
With a coffin box style keezer you need to skin' the entire chest freezer and then build the coffin' tower on top of it where your taps will go. It is a lot more work but you aren't building just a beer delivery system, you are building something that you can also take pride in. I decided to go the route of the coffin style keezer because I felt that if I built it right, it would better fit what I was looking for and that it would be the focal point of my home brewery/bar for years to come.

Putting the grain and hops on the top before pouring the epoxy.
Let the fun begin
Having decided on exactly what I wanted to do, it was time to start getting the things together that I would need to make this build happen. I was replacing an old kegerator with a new keezer so I already had the main pieces of hardware I needed. I had the taps, shanks, beer and gas lines, connectors, corny kegs, Co2 bottles, regulators and the gas manifold needed to supply Co2 to all four kegs. I would need to buy a temperature controller and two computer fans, one to provide air flow in and one to provide airflow out of the coffin box. The design of your keezer can be as simple, or as complex, as you would like it to be. I chose to add LED lights to my build, use ceramic tiles on the backsplash and to include a digital temperature display too. I also added a
separate compartment on one end, to store my Co2 tanks on the outside of the freezer, for a few reasons.
1) If I put the 20# tank inside the keezer it would take up room where I could put another keg. Locating the tank on the outside of the keezer allowed me to use a smaller chest freezer and still have room for enough kegs to have 4 beers on tap.
2) I would rather use the compressor hump area inside to put a 5# tank and for miscellaneous bottle storage.
On one end of the keezer I wanted to build in three shelves to store my pint glasses. Since the other end of the keezer would be going tight up against a wall, that's the end where the Co2 tanks were going to go, and the shelves for the pint glasses on the opposite end. This way the Co2 tanks would be on the outside of the keezer and against the wall and the glasses would be easily accessible as I walked to the back of my bar to grab a beer. Perfect!

Removing the excess bubbles in the epoxy for a smooth finish.
The next step was to buy the supplies I still needed and start building the keezer. Since I wanted it to be a focal point, I decided to build it using high quality oak wood. All of the exposed wood is oak including the wood trim and the plywood that I used. I love the classic look of oak. I had previously built my bar using oak in much the same way. A big piece of advice I can give you is 'be sure you are making accurate, square and level cuts' as you build out the cabinet that goes around the freezer. Check and make sure the floor where you are building it is level as well. While it seems pretty obvious, checking for a level floor is something that often gets overlooked. This is a very important step that will affect the cabinet assembly later on. Trust me on that!

Shelves built on one end to hold the Manfish Brewing pint glasses.
For my keezer I wanted to do something a bit different with the lid and top. When I was researching this project I saw pictures someone had posted showing grains and hops that were encased in epoxy resin. I immediately fell in love with that idea! I had seen other people doing things in epoxy, like pennies and bottle caps, but this was awesome and very 'brew-centric'. I knew I had to do this too and the best part was that it was quite easy to do. It was as simple as securing the grains and hops to the top using a small amount of epoxy as a thin coat of glue and then sprinkling on the grains and placing the hops. Once that was done and the grains and hops were glued in place, little by little I mixed the epoxy and poured it over the entire top.
Epoxy is self-leveling and this is where it is really important that you have the entire keezer level, otherwise you will have a mess. You can take my word for it as I found out my garage floor is not level! There are some great videos on YouTube to show you how to use epoxy. They show you how to use a small blow torch to get the bubbles out of the epoxy and to get a clear, shiny glass-like finish.
After giving the wood a good sanding and staining I brushed on a few coats of polyurethane. I prefer Minwax brand and trust me when I say that not all brands of polyurethane are the same. This last finishing step gave the entire project a great shine and really helps to make your work of art stand out and be noticed.

The keezer in place and looking good.
Once the polyurethane dried the last thing I had to do was to wire everything up. I was adding a temperature display below the taps and I needed to find a way to wire it along with the fans in the coffin box. Luckily I found an old unused cell phone charger cord that I was able to use to splice the thermometer and fan wires together. It really couldn't have been any easier. As for the LEDs, they have their own power supply and I just plugged in it. There's nothing to it.
Once I had the unit complete, it was time to move it inside. I do suggest waiting until you have it in place to put the kegs in and start running your lines. Even though it is on wheels, that could be a lot of added weight and depending on how far you need to move it, it could prove difficult.

The keezer's big debut - the calm before the big BBQ storm.
After getting the keezer in place, putting your kegs inside and connecting all your lines (both gas and beer) you will need to plug your keezer into your temperature controller (and plug it into the wall). When you build one of these, or even if you buy one, there are some very good instructional videos on YouTube you can watch on how to set it up get to maximize temperature as well as to make sure you don't overdo it and wear your compressor out by having it running constantly. Personally, for the beers I like, at the temperature I like, I usually set mine for 38F with a 2F variance. To me, that keeps everything right where I want it. This, like many other things, is a matter of personal choice and will vary depending on what kind of beers you are serving as well.
The best part of any DIY project, in my opinion, is getting your hands dirty and actually building something. To see it all come together, step-by-step, as you work on it is as gratifying as being able to use the finished project. My suggestion to any one, especially if you are a beginner, would be to not be afraid to take your time. Even with as many projects as I have done over the years, I still find myself spending a lot of time searching Google and watching videos on YouTube to learn how to do things or in this case, reading posts on Home Brew Talk from others that have built keezers. When you are done, and you pour that first beer that you hand crafted, from a keezer that you hand crafted, not only will it taste especially good, but it will also be well deserved!
Ken "Manfish" Lee
Manfish Brewing - Renton, WA
www.manfishbrewing.com
//www.pinterest.com/pin/create/extension/
 
Awesome Build and awesome website!! just curious did you copyright the name? I was planning on doing something the same but don't want anyone else taking my name.
 
The SuperSonics pint glass is pretty amazing.
I live out by Maple Valley, but still in Renton. I will have to come by and check it out some time.
Dan
 
@CTS Thanks! I am in the process of getting it copyrighted, however, I have Trademarked it, which is easy to do.
@bsktbllmn23 - Miss the Sonics!
 
Sweet! Lucky man. I wish I had not only the patience to do this but the know how.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
 
That is a beautiful keezer/bar setup. Great buil. Glad you mentioned the airflow issues and need for the fans. Also the part about taking your time. You don't rush through a great project like that one, unless you are that good, I am not and will take my time
 
What a unique idea for your bar top! Had you seen someone do something similar or was that an original idea with you? Either way it looks fantastic. Nice documentation too.
 
@beernutz As I mentioned above, I had seen others do it... "When I was researching this project I saw pictures someone had posted showing grains and hops that were encased in epoxy resin. I immediately fell in love with that idea! I had seen other people doing things in epoxy, like pennies and bottle caps, but this was awesome and very 'brew-centric'."
I am not trying to take credit for it, heck, the general and overall design I pulled different aspects from others here at HBT as well as online. That's one of the best parts of doing a project like this, seeing what others have done and doing your own. Make it fun, make it fit what you need and enjoy :)
 
Great build Ken, thank you for sharing with us! If destined to build on someday I am going to follow this article. I would add some collectible brewery coasters to the grains and hops, to remind me of the fun places I visited.
Do you know of any issues when covering beer coasters with the epoxy? I have never worked with epoxy tabletops before.
 
@ScrewyBrewer I did my brew table (the one that I use on brew days to hold all the little things I need like my scale, water minerals and hops) with coasters encased in epoxy. The only thing I noticed is that A) they can move by floating, so I would suggest securing them down first and B) Due to a liquid being poured on them, they will discolor some. Now, this just pretty much makes them darker, so my only real complaints about it is on the ones that are primarily white as it will turn a kinda brown-ish.
I would also suggest watching out for suicidal flies as one took his own life by dive bombing my table and forever encasing himself along with my brewery coasters.
If you want to check out the Manfish Brewing FaceBook page later tonight, I can post a few pix. :)
 
That's a beautiful build and would totally make a home bar. I built a collar keezer a few years ago and there is one thing I just don't get about the coffin keeper design. A freezer is a heat exchanger that moves heat from the inside to the outside of the box. The outside body of my keezer acts as a heat sink for the radiator coils and helps the heat escape to the air around. If you cover the body with wood, you are reducing the efficiency of the system by trapping hot air around the body. This is going to mean more stress on the compressor and much higher electricity use than is necessary. Wouldn't it be a good idea to have ventilation grills at the top of each panel to allow convection? Or is this something that doesn't affect those of you in cold areas? Or do your freezers have the black external radiators at the back like some fridges? Just wondering.
 
Really nice.
At some point in the future I will be doing something like this... at least it's on the list of things to do.
I don't have a home bar and right now the keezer is in the garage which is great when working on the bikes or during summer when out back... not so great in cold/wet weather when I'm not outside.
Awesome article, thanks for sharing.
 
Nice job but as a bar designer myself, I see one, possibly two critical flaws and correct me if I'm wrong.
1. Opening the top that close to the wall will be impossible due to the tap tower interfering with the wall...
2. Casters, if you had casters on the bottom, that might allow for an easier move away from the wall for reloading.
For something a bit smaller, our built in keg box designs in the EHBP-03 and EHBP-04 give you more room than a kegerator but a bit less that a keezer. http://www.barplan.com
 
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