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Beer Fridge Conversion

I got tired enough of bottling all of my brew to finally spring for a kegging system. This was in 1999. Aside from my wort chiller and my all-grain system, this was the smartest buy of my brewing career. It's quicker, easier, tastes better (in my opinion), and generally speaking, produces a cleaner looking beer.

I'd done quite a bit of reading on how to convert a fridge to a "kegerator", it looked like something I could handle, so I pried the bucks out of my wallet. I purchased the components on the internet. You can find components at Beer, Beer and More Beer, Kegman, as well as a number of other sources.

The following documents my Odyssey in converting my old fridge that simply housed my kegs, to a 3-tap kegerator! If you want to see how to convert a chest freezer, click here.

NOTE: Each of the pictures can be expanded for a more detailed view. Clicking the image will open a separate window with the enlarged photo.

This is where I started. My beer fridge is relegated to a back corner of our family room (when we bought our home, the garage had been converted to a family room. This little alcove is where all of my brewing, fishing and golfing equipment is stored). It's a crowded area that can make it difficult to open the fridge when all of my stuff is not stored away. It has a curtain that draws in front to cover my "mess" when guests come over.

Here's the inside of the fridge. It's a mess. It'll hold 3 corny kegs, the CO2 cannister (on the top shelf - on it's side), some bottles on a little shelf in the bottom of the main body, and some bottles in the door. Here lies my problem. The door goes a good 6" inside the main body. It crowds the kegs, and gets pushed open (warming everything inside) quite a bit if the kegs aren't situated "just right". My idea was to remove the shelving from the door, replace it with something else, and basically clean-up the interior of the fridge.

I removed the inside of the door by locating the sheet metal screws around the perimeter of the door frame - they were right underneath the door gasket. They came out very easily. Be sure you save the door gasket and the screws, as you'll most likely need them to attach your new door interior. I was a little shocked to see how little there is in a fridge door. It's basically a metal shell stuffed with insulation.

I decided to use 3/8 inch particle board for the interior. I took the inside of the door and used it as a template for the new interior. Be sure to mark the screw openings, too. You can really see from this picture how deep the door shelves were. Note: Dog chew not included in plans!

I followed the template, cut the particle board to size, and noted it was now 9pm. I knew I had some work to do on the table saw, didn't want to piss off my neighbors, so I decided to quit for the night and pour one of my Christmas Stouts.

The next morning, I pre-drilled all of the holes and milled a 1.5" rabbet around the perimeter of the new door. I went to a depth of 1/4", leaving only 1/8". This photo is after the first pass I made, removing 1/8". I had to get it this thin because the original door was about this thick, and it wouldn't close with it any thicker. The rabbet was also used to re-attach the gasket. It slid very nicely around the new perimeter.

I then temporarily held the gasket in place with duct tape and hung the new door. It fit like a glove! The door opened and closed perfectly, giving a tight seal. One thing: The door used to turn off the interior bulb when the door was closed. With the original interior now removed, I had to unscrew the bulb. It's left in place in case I ever need light in there.

I now layed out where I wanted the taps to be placed. I went 6" from the top of the door. Be sure you don't have anything in the way on the inside when you're determining how far down to place your taps. My coolness controls are at the top of the main compartment, so I had to make sure I went down far enough to miss them. I then found my center mark and put the other two taps 4" to either side. I started with a 1/8" pilot hole through the front (it want all of the way through the interior panel). I followed that with a 1/4" pilot hole, and finally with the 1" hole saw. With this, I did the front (sheet metal) first - all 3 - then followed up on the inside. Do it this way, as the blade did lose its edge near the end, and may not have made it through the metal if I had started on the interior.

It now dawned on me that the particle board would most likely swell up like a sponge with any accumulation of moisture in the fridge (duh!). I applied 3 coats of varnish to the interior. I also sealed the gasket to the door using silicone caulk. Time will tell if this is enough....

I now inserted the shanks into the holes, and they fit perfectly.

Here's the interior view...

I now had some work to do on the interior. Using sheet metal screws, I attached a length of chain (in two places for strength) to the side interior to hold the CO2 tank. I just opened up one of the links to act as a hook to hold the end of the chain in place. I also attached my gas manifold to the back of the interior, again using sheet metal screws. Note: I pre-drilled 1/8" holes. Now, I have no idea how the inside of a refrigerator works. I have no idea if I just got lucky and missed coolant lines, or if they're all located elsewhere. It would probably make sense find this out before the pilot holes are drilled...

I now attached the taps to the outside and the nipples to the inside. Be sure you have the taps closed, because if you have any pressure in your keg, when you attach the beer lines, the beer will come gushing out (yep, I learned this the hard way on my first one!).

Here's the view from the inside...

And (drum roll please.....) the finished product!

I'm pretty happy with the results. If I get motivated, I may drill a hole in the bottom of the drip pan, and run a tube into a drool bucket. Think I'll have a home-brew and dream of the possibilities.....JMS


 

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