When I started brewing a year ago, there were nearly a half dozen 5 gallon kegs needed to keep cold and also for me to use to dispense. I bought a chest freezer with a thermocouple to keep it above freezing. I was able to fit about 6-5 gallon kegs max – though it was very tight. I dispensed from one of them from a tap directly on the the active keg. It dripped as you can imagine. I lined the floor with a towel that I changed monthly too.
I planned to put a tower on the top but realized that if I opened it too far (or someone else), it would hit the window. So I just dispensed directly from a keg tap and moved the tap to another brew if I wanted a new flavor.
Over time mold hit. I cleaned it all out with bleach solution. But every-time the mold came back stronger coating everything in a few days. It’s a freezer and the freeze/thaw cycle from being on the thermocouple to keep it above freezing would just capture condensate inside…perpetual moistness on top of small amounts of beer spillage equaled mold.
I had to do something out of necessity.
Craigslist has become a favorite of mine the past year. I was able to find a 69″ long bar kegerator with two towers and drip trays already installed. The price ended up being great as I got lot’s of bonus stuff. This thing would easily hold nearly 10-12 5 gallon kegs. I won’t tell you how heavy the compressor side was (I had it!). I cleaned it up, polished the SS with steel wool and plugged it in. After fixing some compressor noise, it worked perfectly. Though the brew room is starting to get a little tight!
Initially I tried to get the temp to the industry standard 38 deg F. After drinking the beer, it was waaaay to cold. This temperature is most suited for the American mass-produced beers from mega breweries that we are so against (tastewise). The industry is calibrated to serve beer at the temps for THOSE beers. It’s too cold for a good micro. I now have the cooler at 45 deg and the beer (wheat and pale ale) taste a lot better with more flavor.
After some research, I turned the dispensing CO2 up to 12 psi…on the old system I ran a low 4-5 psi. I am trying to approximate the pour time at real bars. It actually worked well. I figured I would have only beer foam. It dispensed great beer with perfect head and balance with the carbonation I started with (20psi).
Now, instead of needing this out of necessity, it will be part of an experiment to replicate a working bar system to get the perfect match of CO2, dispensing speed and temperature per beer style. I want to eventually have a ‘brewpub’ – so this is important research. This will also serve to see how well the beer ages at certain dispensing temps.
I plan to get at least 4 taps working so I can have 4 beers on tap. With 4, it won’t get emptied none to quick, but will serve to see how it ages.