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Old 02-07-2009, 04:38 AM   #1
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Default The Beer Fridge Thread

So, as recently seen in my previous thread, I fail with rubber nipples. OBVIOUSLY the solution was to twist them harder. Now I know! I shall not make that mistake again.

Anyway, this is the beer fridge thread. In this area, I most definitely do not fail. This fridge was left in the basement when we bought the house. "Hey, you guys want that fridge in the basement?" Hell yeah. The internal freezer compartment is just the right size for a pint glass.

There are two Nitro taps and two CO2 taps. I like to keep one stout on nitro, and on the other a big IPA (by big, I mean 7.5 % + alcohol, and 70-80 IBU).

It's a bit difficult to see in the picture, but the gas lines come into the fridge from the side, and each one terminates in a dual-outlet manifold. Each outlet has its own shutoff valve in the manifold. The fridge can hold four 5 gallon soda kegs; this gives me the ability to completely shut off a line to avoid leaks when a keg isn't connected to it (or when we're traveling).

I have the option of putting a full 1/2 barrel keg plus one 5 gallon soda keg in there. 1/2 barrel of anything is a huge amount in my house though, since it's mostly just me drinking it. The stout I have on tap has been in the fridge on draft since January 2008.

The gas lines run to a cabinet behind the fridge, where the two tanks are kept. That way they aren't taking space in the fridge, and they're at room temperature for better pressure delivery.

Once, long ago, before children, I could brew beer. I have a full all-grain half barrel DIY system in the attic ... pumps, heat exchangers, oxygenator, basically everything but automated temperature control. Lots of fun brewing. But for some reason I have difficulty coming up with 8-9 hours of uninterrupted time nowadays for a full brew day cycle.

So, obviously this fridge is old. Real old. I can't find any documentation or identifying marks on it. It is therefore not very efficient. Also, it sits next to both the furnace and the hot water heater. So one might think it's a pretty big electricity hog ... but it's not. It hardly ever runs. The beauty of a beer fridge is that you hardly ever open it. It stays closed so even the inefficient ones are pretty efficient.

Note on the door - the door is hollow. The shanks for the beer faucets need to tighten down on something so they don't rotate freely. If you try to tighten the shank down onto a hollow door, you can guess what happens. What isn't visible in the pictures is the plastic sleeve around the shanks inside the doors. Then the big washers on either end can tighten down against the plastic sleeves and you don't crush your door. Apparently more modern fridges have a much more solid foam-type insulation blown into them and this isn't as big a deal.

There's also a better closeup of the piston tap handle, and the damage to its side skirt. With which it was running with no apparent issues.

Lastly, the quick disconnects on the beer lines are key. Absolutely key. They are not inexpensive (Beer & Gas Line Quick Disconnect - In-line W/ Shut-off Set | MoreBeer) but without them life is hard. The lines need to be flushed out every now and then to keep crap from growing in them. Especially the faucets - the beer will dry in there and make them stick. Also, with the quick disconnects you can switch between a full keg with a sanke tap, a european keg with a "euro-sanke" tap, and a soda keg on the same faucets. So every faucet can be plumbed the same way, and every tap can be plumbed the same way, then you just connect which faucet you want to which beer source you want.
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The Beer Fridge Thread-bf_door1.jpg   The Beer Fridge Thread-bf_interior.jpg   The Beer Fridge Thread-bf_external_lines.jpg   The Beer Fridge Thread-bf_tanks.jpg   The Beer Fridge Thread-bf_piston_closeup.jpeg  

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Old 02-07-2009, 07:35 AM   #2
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Default ghetto rigged as this are still a ******* champ! I love smart people at work!!!
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Old 02-07-2009, 08:01 AM   #3
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I salute you! that sir, is real dedication to the art of beer drinking
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Old 02-07-2009, 08:53 AM   #4
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damn sweet setup, i need t figure out something eventually myself, a couple of my friends come over and before you know it we can drink 3 cases of beer, sometimes run out, then my recycling buckets are overflowing and the neighbors look at me funny. what's the difference/benefits of co2 and nitrogen tanks??
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Old 02-07-2009, 09:00 AM   #5
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mobius stands-up to make #1!!!
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:08 AM   #6
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Wow man thats so awesome! How much to come set me up like that lol, I have an extra fridge layin around.
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Mobius View Post
The internal freezer compartment is just the right size for a pint glass.
uh oh, you do fail at beer fridge. chilled glasses! next thing you know, you'll have color changing mountains on your beer.
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:37 AM   #8
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The two big faucets on either end are what are known as "ale" or "stout" faucets, and you use the nitrogen tanks with them. If you've ever had a Guinness in a pub, that was poured from a stout faucet. They have a restrictor disk in them that forces the flow through tiny holes. This starts the nitrogen coming out of solution, and you get that very cool "hey it's snowing beer in my pint glass" effect. If you use a normal CO2 faucet, the nitrogen won't come of solution properly. Nitrogen is much less soluble than CO2, so the keg is kept under anywhere from 25-45 PSI on nitro, as opposed to 6-12 PSI for CO2.

It's actually not 100% nitrogen, it's a 70/30 mix of nitrogen and CO2.

If you buy Guinness draught (in the can), it has the Ni/CO2 mixture in it. The thing rattling around in the can (the widget) does the same thing as the restrictor plate. It provides a lot of surface area for nucleation points for the nitrogen to start coming out of solution and foaming up properly. Without the widget it doesn't work right. You wouldn't think a thing rattling around in a can of beer was the result of lots of research and development, but it was.

This begs the question, why run beer on a nitro faucet instead of a regular CO2 faucet? It makes it creamier, for lack of a better word, and changes the character a little bit. It's good.

Plumbing a beer fridge is much simpler than plumbing an intercooler. The same principles apply - no sharp edges around your lines, make sure all of your connections are tight (and accessible after installation), and seal off any leaks.

About the only think I have left to do with this fridge is paint it candy apple red. Or maybe that red from Ironman's suit in the movie. It probably won't ever happen, but who knows.

Anybody thinking of doing this with a modern fridge, get one with the freezer on the bottom if you have a choice. Otherwise, with the freezer on the top, the freezer door will interfere with your tap handles and you'll have to mount the faucets lower in the door.
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