I started using Cornelius Kegs (or cornies, as they’re commonly known) almost two years ago. I’ve been really happy with them, as they’re far easier and more reliable to use than pressure barrels; you just syphon your beer into them, pressurise them with CO2 to carbonate them, and serve. No messing around with those CO2 bulbs, and the beer lasts far longer and has virtually no risk of going off.
At first I was just using a picnic tap with the kegs, but about 18 months ago I decided that I’d get myself some bar taps and a shelf chiller. I found them on eBay, being sold by a pub that was closing down. I got myself a Maxi 310 chiller that could cool four different beers, which came with a (rather tatty!) bar font of four taps.
This has been great, allowing me to have four beers running all the time, and the chiller has meant that even in summer I can have a cool glass of beer. The disadvantage of this set-up is that the kegs are kept at room temperature, which obviously varies through the year. And, as we all know (well, I didn’t before I got my kegs!), the solubility of CO2 is dependent upon temperature. The consequence of this is that as the temperature changes, I need to adjust the CO2 pressure I’m using to serve my beers. If I’m not keeping on top of it, sometimes I end up with beer that’s too flat, and sometimes I end up with a glass of foam.
There’s got to be a better way, hasn’t there? And, indeed, there is: the keggorator. This horrible word is an American invention, and refers to a refrigerator containing one or more kegs (a freezer containing kegs is, with depressing inevitability, a “keezer”. Ugh.)
We have just remodelled our kitchen, and bought a shiny new American-style fridge freezer. Our previous fridge was therefore going spare. I could have put it on eBay or Freecycle, but I decided that a better use was to make a keggorator out of it. I ordered four taps, 4″ shanks, and connectors from KegWorks in the USA. Within a week they had arrived, and last weekend I attacked the old fridge with a 25mm hole-saw I picked up in Clas Ohlson.
We decided where and how we wanted the taps to be positioned, and I marked the positions on the outside of the fridge door. I then drilled the first hole, then poked a tap and shank through to check it looked ok.
After drilling the next three holes, I took a piece of wood (kickboard from the old kitchen, actually!), had Vicky hold it against the inside of the fridge door, centered over the holes, and I drew a circle for each hole on the wood. With the same hole-saw, I drilled four matching holes in the wood. The purpose of the wood is to distribute the pressure from the back-nuts on the shanks – if all four were just screwed against the plastic of the fridge door I would get too much flex. I then fitted the four taps to the door, and tightened everything up.
Rather than risking lots of mess, I attached one keg at a time to the shanks, and ensured that nothing was leaking. For each tap, I had worked out that around 4 feet of 3/16″ beer line should be about right if I was keeping the kegs at 12C and with 12PSI to give myself 2 volumes of CO2. If this all sounds complex, it needn’t be: there are tables available on-line to work this stuff out. For example, I copied a forced carbonation for pressure vs temperature to Google Docs so I could change it from Fahrenheit to Celcius.
For the gas line, I used another length of 3/16″ to go though the door seal, then splitters to distribute the gas to all four kegs. They’re all on the same regulator, so all the at the same pressure. At some point I’ll rig it up against my gas board so I can have different pressures, but that can wait for a while!
I have the fridge plugged in to a temperature controller unit (the STC-1000, like this one on eBay), set to maintain the fridge at 12C. Since it’s in the house, I don’t have anything plugged into the heating side of the STC.
I’m extremely happy with how it’s all worked out. Beer pours perfectly, with just the right amount of carbonation, and it even looks tidier than the old set up! I just need to find some drip-trays to stop the floor from getting sticky drips all over it, and that’ll be it. I can even fit more bottles on the shelves of the keggorator door than I could fit in my previous beer fridge, so I’m winning in all respects!