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Advice on beginners iKegger system

Discussion in 'Gear and Equipment' started by Matto-FNQ, 8/1/18.

 

  1. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 8/1/18
    Hi everyone,

    New member here, so apologies if these are dumb questions. I've been lurking for ages, searching and reading as much as I can, so hopefully what follows are sensible questions :) .

    I've been bottling with PET bottles for a while, but to be honest I've been having some pretty ordinary results. So I figure it's time to invest in a more capable setup. This is my plan, and I'm hoping that the experts here might be able to chime in with some advice that might save me from making any newbie mistakes. I'm completely new to kegging, so keen to learn from those who've gone before.

    #1 - Fermenting fridge. I suspect the main issue I've been having with the quality of my beer is the high temps that we get up here in FNQ. I've kept my fermenter in a dark, cool room - but I suspect it's still been high 20's. Mates of mine are into their homebrew, and they each have an old fridge converted as a fermenting fridge. Their beer is excellent, so I feel it's time for me to follow their lead. Hopefully I'll pick up something off facebook/gumtree within the next week or so. Looking for all-fridge (vs fridge+ freezer) so I can fit 2 x fermenters down the track.

    #2 - Kegs. As touched on above, I've been having some challenges with the PET bottles. Way back when we were in Bris, I used glass tallies. But being young and dumb, we ended up with more than our fair share of grenades. I sold the glass when we moved up to Cairns, and switched to the PET bottles. I had 24 bottles from when we arrived here, and I recently bought 2 cases of brand new PET bottles to go with them. However it seems the new bottles are nowhere near as good - I've had 4 or 5 now split, or simply leak out everywhere with no visible faults. Frustrating, plus I'm sorta over the sludge in the bottom of each bottle.

    Here's what I'm thinking in terms of an entry-level keg system:
    • iKegger Budget 23L setup. Includes a 19L corny keg, a mini keg, hose to connect them together, mini-reg and basic tap. I'm hoping they'll be able to swap out the normal 4L mini keg ("Johnson") for the shorter/fatter 5L version ("Choad")
    • Maybe an additional 5L mini keg, giving me 10L of cold beer. It'll all be the same brew, so no need for additional taps, etc.
    • Picnic tap & hose
    • Sodastream bottle adapter for dispensing (already have an old sodastream cartridge).

    My rational for this setup is:
    • I don't have space for a kegerator or keezer. As much as I'd like one, it's just not going to happen. As it stands, my fermenting fridge will be out the front in our carport (much to the mrs' chagrin).
    • I *DO* already have a drinks fridge on the back patio, and if I take out the top shelf I can fit two of the fat 5L mini kegs in it. The 4L tall ones don't fit, and they just don't fit in the door either unfortunately.
    • I want to stay away from using the little CO2 capsules for dispensing, just because I suspect it'll end up too expensive as well as not providing an even pressure. Hence the Sodastream cartridge for dispensing. Means no drilling holes through the fridge for gas lines, etc.
    • We do a fair bit of camping, so hopefully when we go away I'll be able to fill up the mini kegs and drop them into the ice box with the sodastream cartridge and the picnic tap. Remote beers on tap. Can't wait.
    This way, I can brew in the fermenter at a constant 20 degrees, and then rack into the 19L keg and put another brew on. I'll transfer the finished beer into the mini kegs and chill them down in the fridge. With the two mini kegs I'll always have at least one full and cold while I drink from the other.

    ...And this is about where my plan starts to peter out.

    A mate of mine runs a fire service business, and he's going to sort me out with an old 5Kg extinguisher for CO2. I figure I can use that to force-carb the beer. Should work out much cheaper in the long run.

    But I don't know whether I should carb the beer in the 19L keg and then transfer that into the mini kegs? Or should I keep the flat beer in the 19L and only carb it when it gets into the mini kegs? I'd love to be able to "top up" a mini keg from the 19L, which leads me to carbing the big 19L keg. But the big keg will be sitting at room temp, which probably isn't the greatest.

    As you can see, this is all pretty much a big mystery for me, but hopefully you'll all have some advice that reduces the amount of mistakes I need to make on my own. I know a lot of people here use the mini kegs which gives me good hope that maybe such a setup isn't as weird as I first thought.

    Anyway - that's the plan for now - fire away and let me know whether you think I'm barking up the wrong tree, or whether I'm on the right track.

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
  2. mtb

    Beer Bod

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    Posted 8/1/18
    I'm not an expert - but I'll chime in anyway because I'm an arrogant knob.

    You can carb in the big keg at room temp, it just means you'll want to set your pressure a fair bit higher since CO2 absorbs slower at warmer temps. Storing finished beer warm will degrade it quicker than if it were stored cold, the rate of deterioration I can't be sure of.

    Your best option here is to try find a cheap bar fridge (sub $30 on Gumtree if you look hard / wait a while) and store your keg in that. It'll carb faster and the beer will retain quality for longer. Then, as you say, top up your minikegs as needed.
     
    Gmoney likes this.
  3. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 8/1/18
    Hi mtb,

    That's good advice, even from an arrogant knob like myself.

    There just happens to be a bloke on facebook that's selling a bunch of bar fridges for $30 ea at the moment (hotel refurb) - maybe I should look into them. If a keg would fit inside, then I might even do away with the idea of the mini kegs altogether and I'll just set it up as a kegerator. I didn't originally want to run another fridge, but it might make sense.

    I might message this bloke about the bar fridges, see if he's got any left and what the internal sizes are. Might borrow a keg and see if it'll fit.

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
    mtb likes this.
  4. EalingDrop

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    Posted 8/1/18
    Sounds fine to me.

    It'll be easier to get yourself another spear head for the second keg, if you decide to carbonate in the corny, then you can fill both using keg to keg transfer.
     
  5. earle

    Choc wheat fiend

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    Posted 9/1/18
    You'll find with bar fridges that the freezer section is often in the way of fitting anything of a good size in them. With care some guys have had success bending the freezer plate back out of the way. This comes with a caution - if you break the gas line doing this the fridge is then pretty much useless. There's probably some threads around with guys who have done it fine.
     
  6. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 9/1/18
    Thanks EalingDrop. I've read up on the pressurised keg-to-keg transfer and it sounds like a really neat way to transfer without wasting gas.

    Thanks earle - that's good advice. The cheapie bar fridges I mentioned above had the freezer section, but they had all sold. I've found a bar fridge on FB that's all-fridge, no freezer. It's a bit more than I wanted to spend, but at $80 it's not exactly going to break the bank. Waiting on the person to write back to me about it, but at this stage I'll probably grab it. Hopefully it'll fit two kegs inside it.

    After thinking about it some more overnight, I think this is the way I'm going to go. Give up on the mini keg idea for now, and get a little bar fridge and 2 normal 19L corny kegs. Should come out cheaper and less hassle - I'll just use the fire extinguisher for CO2 and not worry about any bulbs or sodastream, etc. I can always pick up a mini keg later on to take camping.

    Going to pick up the fermenting fridge this afternoon, and I ordered a temp controller (Inkbird ITC-308) on eBay this morning. The wheels are in motion...

    Thanks all for your advice.

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
    mtb likes this.
  7. EalingDrop

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    Posted 9/1/18
    Bar fridge freezer mod - The hardest part is getting the freezer plate off the slots very slowly as the sudden jerk is what breaks it. Bending the plate down into the walls is a slightly easier part. Have done that with 2 fridges and it's dead easy.

    A 'converted' bar fridge can hold 4 x 5L kegs stacked with room for 2 x 4L ones in the back on top of the compressor shelf and a few 330ml bottles in between the 5L kegs. All up you're looking at around 30L of beer in there.
     
  8. EalingDrop

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    Posted 9/1/18
    You can totally go just Corny, but Mini Kegs have a different function. Lots of people here have both.
    As you mentioned earlier about camping you really can't beat a mini keg for volume, robustness and portability. :)
     
    Last edited: 9/1/18
    Matto-FNQ likes this.
  9. mattyh77

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    Posted 9/1/18
  10. mtb

    Beer Bod

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    Posted 9/1/18
    A bit pricey at $105 compared to alternatives. Consider that a 9.5L stainless steel corny keg from Cheeky Peak Brewery is $118 w/ free postage - https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Premium...g-home-brew-Robobrew-Grainfather/263365989029
     
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  11. mattyh77

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    Posted 9/1/18
    Yeah I have seen those.
    Just wanted something a little smaller so I can take two different styles of beer when I go away.
    Still pondering the different ideas though.
     
  12. aussiebrewer

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    Posted 9/1/18
    Any advice you need on mini kegs give the fellas at The Beer Can a holla. They have been in the industry forever and full of helpful info.

    In any case you will always get a better system when you build it yourself. As hard as it is try and lean toward quality for anything you will rely on, beer line, regulators and disconnects etc. a keg is a keg as long as it seals and you can clean it. So hunt around for some second hand bargains.

    I would not use a fire extinguisher for gas. That might be just me. But a fire doesn't need clean food grade gas to get put out so why would they put the best stuff in. Go for food grade gas like my kegs on legs etc. or buy a cheap no name bottle and take it to one of the places on their website that refills

    We always use the guys at All Things Homebrew for our bulk buys and they always accommodate. If you need anything or just advice give them a call.
     
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  13. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 10/1/18
    Thanks everyone for your advice.

    A bit of an update for you all. Yesterday, thanks for the wonder of the Facebook marketplace, I became the proud owner of:
    • 1 x 250L upright fridge (no freezer) - this will be the fermenting fridge and can fit two fermenters.
    • 1 x Westinghouse WRM1300WC bar fridge - cute little thing that hopefully will fit 2 x 19L kegs inside + the gas bottle. No freezer section on this one, so hopefully will be a bit easier to set up. Thanks for the tips about bending the freezer plate out of the way though Ealingdrop.

    Probably going to grab a couple of used 19L corny's from Cheeky Peak today. I hadn't seen that mini 9L one they do - that's spot on. I'll probably grab one of them down the track to sort out the camping situation. Should fit in the icebox perfectly. I was very tempted to get it now, but need to spread out the investment a bit, so I've put it on the backburner. I'll focus on the main home setup for now.

    Trying to sort out what other gear I need. I *think* the list looks something like this:
    • Kegs - 2 x 19L ball-lock corny's
    • CO2 - your concerns re: fire extinguisher are noted aussiebrewer - will have a think about it
    • Gas regulator - probably the keg king one that everyone seems to sell online
    • Gas and liquid disconnects - are some better than others? 1/4MFL or barbed fittings?
    • Gas & beer line - 4mm ID / 8mm OD seems to be the standard, and allows for using John Guest fittings? Hard line or soft line?
    • Double tap font - just a cheapie stainless one for now. Can switch it out later for something nicer.
    • Tap & shank - probably just one tap to start with, and I can put another on when I want to do two different kegs. Trying to decide between Intertap FC SS and the more expensive Perlink. Opinions seem to be evenly split on them. No one seems to have the Intertap's in stock though. Would rather invest in a single good tap now, vs buying two cheaper ones.

    Can't wait for the Inkbird controller to arrive so I can get a brew cracking in the fridge.

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
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  14. mattyh77

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    How's are you mounting taps?
    Through door or on font on top?
     
  15. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 10/1/18
    At this stage, thinking of one of the cheap stainless fonts.

    I’m concerned though that it’ll leak too much cold, since the fridge is sitting on my back patio here in Cairns. Don’t want it to make the fridge run 24/7.

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
  16. mtb

    Beer Bod

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    Posted 10/1/18
    A pool noodle works well to insulate a font. Cut it to length, cut it to circumference, it'll sit nice and snug.
    You're right to be concerned though, they allow plenty of heat in. Consider maybe mounting it off the floor and installing taps in the front door.
     
  17. Grott

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    Posted 10/1/18
    Patio, Cairns? I’d do definitely through the door with soft beer lines as the hard ones do make it awkward in opening/closing the door and can put side pressure on the disconnect/post connection which can cause beer to leak.
     
  18. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 10/1/18
    Hmmm. Maybe you're both right.

    I didn't want to do the door thing because:
    • I'm 6'6, and have to bend down for enough things as it is.
    • There's a 6yr old terrorist running around here, who's sure to knock herself or the taps flying
    • There's a pair of boofheaded dogs, and I wouldn't put it past the malamute to work out how to turn the tap on and have a drink.
    That said, it might be the lesser of two evils.

    Hmmm. More thinking is needed. Wish I had draught beer to drink to help the thinking...

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
  19. Grott

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    Posted 10/1/18
    Could put the fridge on a stand/table to raise the height? Then taps ok, access to fridge better.
     
  20. Matto-FNQ

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    Posted 10/1/18
    Possibly.

    This is the area:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Excuse the chair in the middle - it was evicted from where the bar fridge is now sitting, and I've yet to find a home for it.

    It might have to go on a stand/table.

    A mate of mine around the corner has the Mangrove Jack 2-keg kegerator with the font, but he probably doesn't really care how much power it uses.

    Hmmmmmmmm.

    Cheers,
    Matt
     

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