Keezer Modifications: Giving your draft system polishing touches

When I started homebrewing, instead of beginning with extract kits and bottles, I jumped all-in opting for all-grain batches and kegging my beer. I like to brew all different styles of beer from hefeweizen to rye IPAs, from wee heavies to imperial stouts . . . and everything in between. Knowing how I started brewing is important because my personality is to jump into the deep-end no matter what I’m doing. Why do something small and simple when you can jack it up?! Realizing I needed cold storage and faucets, one of the first items on my list was a kegerator. I knew I wanted a keezer — a kegerator made from a chest freezer. I’m a construction/utility worker by trade and I’ve been mechanically inclined since I was a kid, so taking on a keezer build sits snugly in my wheelhouse.

My research on keezer builds started on Homebrew Talk and also Instagram. Who knew there was so much to consider? I have a small basement brewery and I wanted to maximize the available space. I also wanted to keg all the beers but still be able to bottle at times and, of course, it had to look professional. I took in as much information as I could to figure out what would be best for me. What size freezer? How many kegs do I want it to hold? Do I want a collar on my keezer? And so on.

So after a lot of time in research mode, it was time to design my blueprint. The first thing that became apparent was that I needed to build a collar . . . but what size? Again maximizing space and functionality was a must. A collar build would give enough clearance with the keg and have the necessary height inside the freezer for my modifications. My blueprint also included storing my CO2 tank on the compressor hump inside of the keezer so everything is nice and neat.

The chest freezer is a Fridgidaire 12.7-cu. ft. (0.36-m3) that I purchased at a home improvement center. This gives me room for six Corny kegs with room to spare. My blueprint called for the collar to be attached to the base freezer. Some keezers will attach the collar to the lid instead and there are pros and cons to each configuration.

I’m a construction/utility worker by trade and I’ve been mechanically inclined since I was a kid, so taking on a kegerator build sits snugly in my wheelhouse.

For additional modifications, first I decided to add a circulation system to the keezer to prevent thermal stratification, which will keep the taps colder. I added a handy CO2 port to the exterior of the keezer. I also added an LED lighting system to the underside of the lid that would illuminate when a magnetic sensor switch was triggered. The final touches were placed on my keezer by custom crafting my own tap handles and creating a digital taplist.

Tools and Materials

Chest freezer
16 ft. (5 m) 2×8 cedar lumber
Taprite 7-body, high-pressure, regulator manifold
(6) Stainless steel 4-in. (10-cm) beer shanks
(6) Perlick 680ss creamer faucets
4-in. (10-cm) jockey box coupler
Inkbird ITC-1000F
120V AC to 12V DC power converter
EP auto relay
RioRand PWM DC
Electrical wires and connectors
Magnetic door switch
John Guest flared fittings
10 ft. (3 m) of 2-in. (5-cm) PVC pipe
Atwood 3-in. (7.5-cm) bilge fan
3×2-in. (7.5×5-cm) rubber reducer
LED tape light roll and pin connector
(6) custom tap handles (optional)
32-in. TV with Taplist io app installed (optional)

1. The Collar Build

Once I had my chest freezer in place, I temporarily removed the lid so I could install the collar. Unfortunately I learned the hard way about types of woods. I initially used a less expensive pine wood but it ended up warping. So I had to rebuild my keezer collar and this time went cedar, which is a harder wood and better suited for the high moisture content found in the keezer. The collar itself is 2×8 cedar with mitered edges for a seamless look.

The collar is attached to the base of the freezer using construction adhesive. I placed the freezer lid on top of the collar (not attached yet) and weighted the top to let the adhesive set up for a few days. Once it was set I applied silicone to the inside to seal all the gaps. I waited a few days for the silicone to set before installing the temperature control and faucets.

2. Collar Modifications

There are seven 15⁄16-in. holes drilled into the face of the collar using a hole saw, which allows for six faucets, plus a CO2 hook-up. There is also a cutout for the temperature control box. I purchased (6) 680ss Perlick faucets with 4-in. (10-cm) shanks and in the seventh hole placed a jockey box coupler shank for a dedicated CO2 line for my Tapcooler counter-pressure bottle filler or to purge kegs. I installed a 7-body, high-pressure regulator manifold to the collar. This allows each keg to get the right amount of carbonation dialed in for that brew and each tap can be individually adjusted to a desired pressure (as well as my exterior CO2 outlet). I utilized John Guest flared fittings for all my connections, which allow for easy disassembling for cleaning purposes.

3. Keezer Circulation System

I installed the 2-in. (5-cm) PVC duct system with a 3-in. (7.5-cm) bilge fan for air circulation to keep even temperatures and less fluctuations. This means there is less foaming of the beer when pouring from the taps. The circulation system is wired so that when the keezer lid is open, the circulation system shuts down to prevent blowing out cold air. The fan will then kick back on when the lid is closed.

The duct system on the bottom of the keezer acts as supports for a metal shelf that sits on top of the piping, creating a false bottom. The weight of the kegs is evenly distributed and this allows the duct system to pull the cold air right off the floor of the freezer.

4. LED Lighting

This is a fairly simple step, but one that was a big upgrade. Some chest freezers come with an interior light, as did mine, but it was not very bright. I don’t like working in the dark. The magnetic switch (a) that was used to turn the circulation system on and off when the lid is opened is reversed so the LED lights will turn on when the lid is open and off when closed. The LED lights provide ample brightness to easily see pressure gauges and which Corny keg post is which when I’m trying to hook up a new keg.

5. Wiring It All Up

I installed a 120V to 12V power converter (b) connected to a automotive relay (c) to power and control both the bilge fan and LED lights. I also added a PWM (pulse width modulation) (d) controller to adjust the bilge fan speed.

First I mounted and wired the high-voltage (120V) wire to the power converter. Also I mounted the relay and PWM on the back side of the keezer collar. I installed the magnetic door switch on the inside of the keezer to control the lights and fan. Next, I installed the low-voltage wiring from the power converter to the magnetic door switch in the keezer and to n/o and n/c contacts on the relay. I wired the other side of the magnetic switch to the relay coil and then back to neutral on the power converter. Then I wired the n/c contact wire from the relay to the LED tape lights and then back to neutral on the converter.

Next up, I wired the n/o contact wire out of the relay to the PWM power hot side and then back to neutral. I wired the hot side of the PWM controller to the hot side of the fan, then wired the neutral side of the fan back to the neutral side on the PWM. Wiring schematic can be found at the bottom of this page.

6. Custom Tap Handles and Taplist

To make my keezer look even more professional I had custom tap handles made (no, I did not actually make these myself) and added a digital taplist. My taplist is on display on a 32-in. television mounted back behind the keezer. Overkill? Sure. Awesome? Hell yes! To see more pictures and information about my build, check out my Instagram account @calculatedriskbrewery

Issue: November 2021