Archive for the Beer Equipment – DIY Category

Bump City Brews on TAP! : Sanyo 4912M Kegerator Conversion

Posted in Beer Equipment - DIY with tags , , , , , , on January 8, 2010 by bumpcitybrews

My Fellow Beer Drinkers!! 2010 is upon us and the only way for one to rightfully start off a new decade is by drinking a nice cold draft homebrew!!  Which is exactly what I did… from my own couch!  That’s right folks; Bump City Brews is now served on draft in Seattle.  My precious wife took it upon herself to convert a fridge into a customized draft system for her beer bellied husband…All you other wives out there should take note at what it takes to keep a husband happy.  Cheers to 2010!

The Story:

On January 1, 2010, I woke up with a moderate hangover from the New Years Eve celebrations that night before.  The wife told me that I was to stay in our bedroom with the door shut for about an hour.  I knew then that it was finally time for the highly anticipated “Second Christmas”.   From the bedroom I heard some rattling and weird buzzing sounds.  Finally, after about an hour, I was allowed to leave the bedroom and walk into the living room where there were several gifts wrapped…one large gift in particular was uniquely wrapped with just a blanket draped over it.  I open the first two smaller wrapped gifts quickly, shoes and a jacket, woohoo. Now let me see whats under the blanket!  Finally,  I am told that I could take the blanket off of this large object.  I didn’t hesitate, I went straight for it and carefully lifted the blanket off the gift…a fully customized dual tap kegerator.  I felt like Ralph did from the Christmas Story when he got his Red Ryder BB Gun.  Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I saw the kegerator with not one, but two taps, two empty corney kegs, a keg cleaning/sanitizing kit, and best of all a homemade tap handle proudly displaying the Bump City Brews logo on it.  Once I was able to think clearly again, immediately it clicked…I have two homebrew batches that are were going to be bottled that weekend, now ready to be kegged!  Immediately started googling “Carbonating Homebrew’s in a Keg”…first thing I did was pressure tested the kegs with a soapy water solution and they both checked out okay, even the one with the lid that wouldn’t seal before. It held pressure after readjusting the lid a little; it just needed to be able to start taking pressure long enough for the lid to seal properly. I had to have a couple friends over to show off my new beer toy and break it in with a “First Pour” party.  After fumbling with instructions and talking over each other for about 15 minutes with how to actually get the keg carbonated and which lines go where, we figured it out.  Even though the beer was still room temperature, we proceeded to attempted the impatient man’s way of force carbonating beer…jacking up the pressure to around 30 PSI and shaking the crap out of it every couple of minutes to help the homebrew dissolve the CO2.  After an hour and a half of using the shake, rattle, and roll method, I let it settle in the fridge for another hour and a half to get cold…in the mean time, we had depleted all the “old fashion” bottled home-brews that were already chilled in the other fridge.  The time was now 8 PM, less than 12 hours after formally receiving my dual faucet customized homebrew beer dispenser.   Force carbonation takes no time at all to do, as opposed to the three weeks of bottle conditioning. Only problem with that is I might get impatient and drink beer before it’s truly ready, which is the case in this instance.  I didn’t really care about the temperature of the beer or if it still tasted a bit raw…this drinking session was about drinking my own homebrewed beer out of a draft system.  I gripped the top of the Bump City Brews tap handle and slowly tilted it forward.  Immediately, beer flowed into my Bump City Brews mug and filled at the perfect rate, creating a nice frothy head at the top of my mug.  It worked!!  I was amazed and feeling as if my life was complete…knowing that forever more my brewing experience has changed.  One day, I may hand this down to my son, perhaps on his 21st birthday (only if I have a 4 tap draft system by then though)…I owe my wife a million thank yous and I want her to know that every time I pour myself a beer it is a symbol of my Thanks to you!  

The Draft System:

 

Sanyo 4912M

Once she had all the components necessary, it was time for her to begin transforming the sleek Sanyo 4912M into the perfect customized homebrew dispensing machine.  Cristina picked out the Sanyo 4912M by herself with my style in mind.  Knowing I wouldn’t want an old beat up fridge, the selection of the fridge itself could have been a make it or break it deal for me.  I’m picky about the devices my homebrew is going to be dispensed from…this is an investment and life changing device we are going to be bringing into our home.  Do you think I would want a fridge that had sat on the side of a road for hours on end?  C’mon.  My wife, knowing my preferences, chose an ideal fridge in the Sanyo 4912M.  The Sanyo has a very nice look to it, being black on the top and sides with a stainless steel door.  The rounded plastic top gives it a smooth rounded appearance compared to the standard boxed shape fridges found in most college dorm rooms or car garages.

The interior of the fridge is nice, being all black, giving it a look far more unique than a standard fridge.

As for the cooling system, I haven’t done any tests as of yet, but have read reviews that imply that it’s a “cooling beast for a fridge, able to drop a gallon of water down to 29° F with the internal thermostat set on maximum”.  That sounds good to me, considering I never want my beer to drop below freezing…I am learning that I prefer my beer to be served around 40-42 degrees to let some of the subtle flavors found in the beer to be easier to distinguish.

Replacing the Inner Door Shelves with a white board

The shelves that come attached to the fridge door protrude out a ways when the door is shut…remember, keg space is valuable.  In order to fit two corney kegs and a 5# CO2 tank, the useless door shelves had to go.  This is a kegerator we’re building, beer kegs only!

Once the door shelves have been removed, the foam core of the door is visible.  Holding the foam core in place was the rubber seal shown lying across the door after removing it from the shelf panel.  Lots of little screws held this in place, which all needed to be removed in order to take out the foam core.

Rather than having foam core be exposed now that the shelf panel was removed, a sheet of dry erase board was purchased, measured, and cut-to-size to fit inside the door panel.  Turned out to be the right thickness to hold the door seal in place as well as give me the opportunity to write which brews are currently on tap along with their relative statistics (ABV, IBUs, Date Tapped, etc). Some other kegerator conversions simply drill holes in the melamine sheet from Home Depot, but my wife instead cut around the actual black shelves with an exacto knife and saved the edge of them with the holes already made. After cutting the melamine board to size, the board fit right in place. That completed the modification of the door and she reattached it to the fridge.  (Questions?  Comment on the Blog and I’ll have the wife explain.)

Making a Shelf for the CO2 tank

Inside the fridge there is a small lip at the back that will prevent you from placing both corny kegs and CO2 tank on the floor of the fridge. In order for them to fit, the CO2 tank needs a stand to sit on at the level of the lip inside. My wife cut two 1”x3” strips out of ½” plywood and slid them into the grooves at the side of the fridge that would normally hold the shelves. She then set a longer piece of wood on top. Another piece cut to 6”x6” (which is around the diameter of a CO2 tank) was placed on top with a groove in the bottom to fit perfectly over the lip.  (Questions?  Comment on the Blog and I’ll have the wife explain.)

 

This removable shelf allows for all components of the kegging system to fit nicely inside the fridge. Note the 1” hole drilled on the right hand side. This is in case we want to add the beer tower cooler hose which is explained later in this post. She also added a bungee cord attached to the cold plate to keep the CO2 tank from tipping.  (Questions?  Comment on the Blog and I’ll have the wife explain.)

Modifying the Top if the fridge to hold the Tower

Before drilling the actual hole, there was still some additional work to do to the plastic top of the fridge that was removed earlier.  There was an 8 inch square in the middle of the top that had plastic support fins radiating into it. Considering that this was where the tower was going to be mounted, it needed to have a stronger support.  The first step was removing the fins to install a support piece. Using a dremmel tool and an exacto knife, the fins were scored and broken off, leaving a flat, square 8”x8” square.  To provide the support, an 8” x 8” square of ½ inch wood was placed into the cleared square, a perfect fit and structurally sound.

Finding the Coolant Lines

Obviously, one of the most significant steps in modifying a fridge into a kegerator is adding a place where the taps can come out of the top.

First you must remove the seven screws holding the plastic top in place.  Once you have removed the top, you must identify where the coolant lines are located.  If you blindly drill into the top of the fridge, there is a good chance you could drill though the coolant line, resulting in an ineffective fridge…not good.  An easy way to check where the coolant lines are located is to combine corn starch and rubbing alcohol into a paste like solution and then smear it on the top of the metal.  Plug the fridge in and allow it to run for a few minutes.  The heat from the coolant will cause the alcohol to evaporate quicker in the areas where the lines are running.

The coolant line was around 7 1/4” from the back of the fridge. After verifying that she wasn’t going to drill any holes though coolant lines, she knew she could drill a 2 1/4 inch hole without incurring any problems.  The hole was drilled slightly off center, about a ½ inch towards the door.

Drilling the Almighty Hole

Now the real fun begins.  The 8×8 wood piece was removed and a pilot hole was drilled in the center of the top. She replaced the wood piece back into the top and screwed the sturdier plastic top back to the fridge.  Time for the make or break part of the project, cutting into the top of the fridge and creating the 2 1/4 inch hole using a hole saw.

According to the wife, cutting the actual hole with the hole saw was like cutting through butter…her nerves might tell you otherwise, but nonetheless, she accomplished this crucial task without breaking a nail. One crucial component is using WD40 to lubricate the hole saw as it is being cut, as the hole saw kept getting stuck when she was going through the metal top of the fridge.  After this part was finished, she told me that she felt like she was homefree…a big relief for her.

After that key accomplishment, it was time for her to remove the top again to expose the freshly cut hole and apply aluminum insulation tape around and through the hole to prevent foam from breaking off and falling inside as well as to protect the beer lines from any potential damage from rubbing against the cut metal.

Next, the mounting hole locations related to the tower were marked on the wood and drilled out. T-nuts were hammered into the wood to provide backing for machine screws. Remember that the sole purpose of the wood is to provide support for the tower.  My wife said she used different T-nuts and machine screws than the ones that came with the tower so that the 4 screws would not puncture the fridge metal top.

Due to the fact that there is now a big hole in the top of the fridge, sealant is necessary to keep cold air from leaking out and warm air from getting in.  This may seem irrelevant, but in fact it is crucial for maintaining consistent temperatures inside of your fridge.  With that said, silicone sealant was applied to the underside of the plastic top (where the wood was added for stability) to provide a seal between the plastic and the wood. Next, silicone was also applied to the wood before the top was reattached to the fridge.  Initially, Cristina had skipped this step, not realizing the importance of insulating this area.  Later, I noticed that the temperature in my fridge was not where I expected it to be on a consistent basis.  Once we went back and applied the sealant in this manner, the temperature dropped about 5 degrees from 40 to 35 without even adjusting the temperature setting on the fridge.

Next, it was time to mount the tower.  Before mounting the tower, I recommend having the beer lines pre-attached to the faucets prior to mounting. When you ordered the tower, it should have come with 4 screws and a thin rubber ring to go below the tower that acts as a sealant between the fridge top and tower to keep cold air in and warm air out.  Once the tower has been mounted follow the instructions provided in your tower kit for attaching the beer dispensing faucets.  Once the faucets are attached, you’re 10 minutes from drinking keg beers…granted it might be under-carbonated and warm beer, but either way, it’s still coming out of your own customized fully functional draft system.  Even better, its in your living room.  (At least mine is since we still live in a condo…we moved our dinner table out of the way in order to make room for this everyday appliance)      

For looks, she also attached metal rails to the back edge of the plastic top before re-mounting it on the fridge.  A very nice modern touch if you ask me…also allows me to place beer mugs on top of the kegerator without the fear of them falling off.  She found them on Home Depot’s website and backed them with small pieces of wood to hold them in place.

Also, more for purpose than looks add a stainless steel drip tray to catch beer that overflows or drips from the faucets.   As for faucets, my wife splurged and bought forward-sealing Perlick faucets.  Forward-sealing faucets are easier to clean and don’t have the sticking and sanitation problems that standard ones tend to have.

 

The kegerator conversion is an easy project that any beer lover can undertake. In the long run it’ll be more expensive than bottling since I have to get CO2 refilled at $17.00 a refill. The guy at the welding supply store who filled by CO2 tank said by 5 lb tank should last for about 5 kegs. Not sure which size kegs he was referring to so we’ll see.  I have had someone tell me that a 5# CO2 tank will last me 10-15 corney kegs too…pretty big difference, so I’ll track it and let you know.   The convenience is much better than bottles, though – fill one container and you’re done.  No measuring and boiling priming sugar, less cleaning and sanitizing, etc, etc…also you get the convenience of variable serving sizes depending on your mug size…Portability is not lost either, I could grab one of my many growlers, fill it from the tap and take beer with me to be available after a long hike or a BBQ with some friends. Check out the sweet custom made tap handle my wife made with the Bump City Brews logo on it. I’m still debating what to get for the other tap handle.

Filling the Corny Kegs with Homebrew

 

Sanyo 4912M Kegerator Conversion Parts

$130    (1) Sanyo 4912M mini-fridge purchased almost new from Craigslist

$380    2 faucet stainless tower homebrew kit with Perlick faucets http://stores.kegconnection.com/Detail.bok?no=55

$26      (1) sheet of melamine board from Home Depot (HD)

            (1) roll of aluminum insulating tape from HD

            (1) pack of mini bungee cords to keep the CO2 tank in place from HD

            (4) machine screws and t nuts from HD

$31      (1) Stainless Steel Pull: 19 inches: Model  SS-400-P from HD online

            (2) Stainless Steel Pull: 10 inches: Model  SS-176 from HD online

$44      Stainless Steel Drip Tray from Maurer Supply in Seattle

$28      Square Top Oak Stock Medium Tap Handle from http://www.basscustom.com/

$17      CO2 filled at Praxair Welding Supply in Seattle

Free     Wood for CO2 tank shelf and 8”x8” support square and tools

Additional Steps

Bonus Step #1:  Beer Tower Cooler

$35      Beer Tower Cooler http://www.kegkits.com

Great Addition: We bought it from Kegkits.com and it took FOREVER to arrive but once it did, it helped out the foaming problem by keeping the tower cool. You can make a homemade version: we researched the parts individually and found it would cost about the same to make it than to just have it premade and shipped to us.

Bonus Step #2:  Temperature Controller

I will probably add this on in the near future. Watch for future posts.

Comments or Questions about this post?  Just comment on the blog!

Cheers and I hope you too have a modified kegerator like me one day!  Happy Beer Drinking!