The other day I posted about a great deal on a 7 cu. ft. chest freezer that Home Depot was running. I had seen a similar deal about a year ago and picked one up myself, and it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in homebrewing. The best part about a chest freezer is that it can be dual-purpose; both a kegerator and a fermentation controller. However, in order for the freezer to be either one, you need to make a few mods to it. Most people call this type of converted chest freezer a “keezer”, and I’ll show you some pics of mine and describe how I converted it.
Controlling fermentation temperatures
My primary goal with getting the chest freezer was to manage fermentation temperature control. However, most chest freezers just have a single knob to control the temperature, marked low, medium and high… basically useless. That knob also has a temperature range of about 25 – 40 degrees, and there’s nothing that tells you exactly what the internal temperature is. To get a full range of temperature control, you need [wait for it] a temperature controller. Some people really enjoy soldering together electronic parts and stuff to build one, but for something that I’m plugging into the wall and letting run 24/7 (including when I’m not at home) I want none of that. My electronics skills would result in a call to the fire department, I’m sure. I use a digital Johnson temperature controller. This gadget hooks up inline with the power cord of the chest freezer, and then you simply put a probe into the chest freezer. It tells you the exact temperature inside the freezer and lets you set a range that you want to keep it within. I stuck it to the outside of the chest freezer and, viola, instant fermentation temperature control. If I want to ferment an ale at 68 degrees, I can do that in the middle of the summer. If I want to lager at 45 degrees, I can do that too. It’s really a fantastic little device and hooks up in about 30 seconds.
Converting to a kegerator
To make the chest freezer into a kegerator as well, I needed to build what they call a “collar” for it. This is a simple box of 2×6 or 2×8 wood that goes between the top edge of the freezer and the lid. I first removed the lid, did some quick measurements and cut the wood to size. A miter saw helps here a lot because if your angles are off, it won’t sit flat. Next, I drilled 7/8 inch holes for the two shanks in the wood where the tap handles would be going. I then added some 1/4 inch weather stripping to the top edge of the freezer to make a nice seal. I assembled the collar and placed it on top of the weather stripping. The top was then re-attached by screwing the lid hinges into the collar. The collar gives the kegs and the couplers enough headspace and it allowed me to attach the tap handles without having to drill into the chest freezer at all.
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with it. Kegging and controlling fermentation temperatures were really important to me, and this solves both of those issues and was pretty easy to do. Aside from the kegging equipment, the whole thing cost about $250 and that’s with brand new stuff. Normal kegerators are nice, but I love having something that does both things in one unit. I’d still like to stain and varnish it, make it look professional, and maybe move the CO2 tank out of the freezer itself, but for now I’m pretty happy with it.