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How Many (& What Sort) Of Fridges Would Work Best?

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Giddo

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Hi all,

I am new to brewing, with my only experience being a trip to the Beer Factory (in Seven Hills NSW) and an as-yet-untasted trio of fresh wort kit brews which are bottled and ready to drink from Christmas Eve, hopefully!

I am setting up a brewing rig with a mate. Current plan is to start with BIAB and see how it all works out from there.

Unfortunately for me, the FWK brews were done a bit on the spur of the moment, with minimal planning/reading of this forum. The beer fermented sitting in a spare bedroom where the temp fluctuated a reasonable amount (I would say between 18 and 26 degrees). Having read some more, I now know the beer wont be as good as it could have been if Id fermented it in more stable (& cooler) conditions. Ah well, you live and learn!!


So, the point of the post is: before I start the next brew, I want to have a fermenting fridge setup. We also intend to keg from the off (bottling the 50-60 litres of FWK was way too much like hard work!), so I need to think about a kegerator/keezer setup. I have done some reading around about kegerators (pre-assembled/home made), but I wanted to just get some thoughts on my plan if thats possible.

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1. Fermenting fridge. Initially I had intended to just get a small bar fridge (ie no freezer section) that will fit a single fermenter. I have found a cheap-ish one on Gumtree, and already have an STC-1000 winging its way to me for temp control. This fridge is intended to be the lagering fridge (ie fermenting at lower temps).

Having read some more, I now realise I should really be fermenting ales in a fridge as well (at a higher temp than the lager). I expect well end up doing two brews in a day (on the basis its easier to get one whole day hall pass from SWMBO once per month than two half days!!). So that would mean needing space for at least two fermenters (the lagering one mentioned above, plus another one for the second brew).

The initial plan was to do 60L wort at a time. No-chill 15L into a cube for a rainy/lazy day, ferment the remaining 45L(ish) in a 20L+25L fermenter (allowing us to try different hop additions later in the fermentation with each one). Once fermented/conditioned, split across 2 x 19L kegs, leaving probably 5L or so to bottle up for samplers/BBQs etc. The issue here is that I would then need two fermenting fridges, as presumably I am unlikely to find a cheapo fridge that will fit two fermenters (Gumtree seems to have plenty of fridge-freezers but hardly any fridge-only units)

So I guess I will have to bite the bullet and get a second bar fridge to sit at a slightly higher temp than the lagering fridge. Or is there a sneaky alternative somewhere out there that I havent thought about? I have read about ice blocks / heat pad, but if I can just let the STC-1000 look after it then thats my preference


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2. Kegging

I am tossing up between a small (150L) chest freezer, a standard oldish fridge-freezer upright (Gumtree special, $50 ish), or the pre-built kegerators. Pretty much ruled the kegerators out, as I get the feeling Id be paying a fair premium for looks and ease of setup at the expense of quality materials. I am not keen on replacing the reg, taps etc in 4 months time! Buy once and all that.

I think I am leaning toward the chest freezer with an STC-1000 at the moment. I would think a chest freezer should be better insulated, and would use less electricity as a result.

I would expect to need to fit 4 19L kegs in there at a time 2 for drinking & 2 that are carbonating does that sound reasonable & pretty standard?

I was looking at a 160L Fisher&Paykel that I think will do the job based on external dimensions and some guesswork. But then I read a post on here where someone said that a 200L Centrex will only fit 3 x 19L kegs AND a collar needed to be fitted. *Confused me*. So I guess I may need to actually go to Bing Lee / Seconds World and measure up the insides.

I prefer the idea of the top opening chest freezer (over the fonts on the front of the fridge) as I can clad it with some nice wood at some point so that it stands out slightly less. I would be looking to get some nice Perlicks on there (another reason Im not as keen on the pre-fab kegerators).

If there is anything I should be aware of before making the call and heading out with my hard earned cash, Id be very grateful for someone to point it out! I dont mind learning stuff the hard way with some things (eg the brew that is conditioning!), but chucking a decent wedge of cash at a freezer and then finding out Ive messed up would be hard to take!

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Thanks for reading my rambling post, and thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

Cheers,
giddo
 

Logman

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The issue here is that I would then need two fermenting fridges, as presumably I am unlikely to find a cheapo fridge that will fit two fermenters (Gumtree seems to have plenty of fridge-freezers but hardly any fridge-only units)
An all fridge or all freezer is what you want, 300 litres or so. I have a 266 litre all fridge and it fits 2 25 litre fermenters fine. There is usually a heap of these around...
 

Arghonaut

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I picked up an upright freezer off gumtree for free, fits two fermenters with a shelf spare at the top and a tray spare at the bottom. Allows me to drop the temp to -1 easily for crash chilling, much prefer it to the fridge i used to use. They only got rid of it because it needed defrosting every few months, not an issue when you plan on running it at fridge temps!

I like chest freezers for kegs, i currently have a 150L (F&P $50 2nd hand) one that squeezes four pin-lock kegs into it, but you need to put a collar on to fit disconnects on the two kegs that sit on the compresser hump. Havent got around to doing it yet, i just naturally carb and use a bronco tap that sits inside the chesty, and hook up beer and gas to the kegs on the compressor hump when i want to pour a beer from them, then take them off again.
 

J.T

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2. Kegging

I am tossing up between a small (150L) chest freezer, a standard oldish fridge-freezer upright (Gumtree special, $50 ish), or the pre-built kegerators. Pretty much ruled the kegerators out, as I get the feeling Id be paying a fair premium for looks and ease of setup at the expense of quality materials. I am not keen on replacing the reg, taps etc in 4 months time! Buy once and all that.

I think I am leaning toward the chest freezer with an STC-1000 at the moment. I would think a chest freezer should be better insulated, and would use less electricity as a result.

I would expect to need to fit 4 19L kegs in there at a time 2 for drinking & 2 that are carbonating does that sound reasonable & pretty standard?

I was looking at a 160L Fisher&Paykel that I think will do the job based on external dimensions and some guesswork. But then I read a post on here where someone said that a 200L Centrex will only fit 3 x 19L kegs AND a collar needed to be fitted. *Confused me*. So I guess I may need to actually go to Bing Lee / Seconds World and measure up the insides.

I prefer the idea of the top opening chest freezer (over the fonts on the front of the fridge) as I can clad it with some nice wood at some point so that it stands out slightly less. I would be looking to get some nice Perlicks on there (another reason Im not as keen on the pre-fab kegerators).

If there is anything I should be aware of before making the call and heading out with my hard earned cash, Id be very grateful for someone to point it out! I dont mind learning stuff the hard way with some things (eg the brew that is conditioning!), but chucking a decent wedge of cash at a freezer and then finding out Ive messed up would be hard to take!
I've been debating the chest freezer vs fridge of late; I have decided to go down the fridge path and upgrade my 4 keg fridge to a newer one that can maybe fit 5 kegs (plus a 9L or two).
A couple guys on another forum have said that lifting kegs in and out can be troublesome at times, as well as a build up of condensation in the bottom of the freezer.
With a late model fridge, theres no need to muck around with thermostats and they are fan forced to give more even temp and the taps can be mounted at a better height - and you get a freezer for hop storage.

Just my 2c though.
 

stux

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I like all-fridge, freezers for fermenting. You want 300L plus I think. Another great alternative would be to stack two bar-fridges, tehn you could really control the temps

For keg fridges, I'm a fan of upside down 420L or so fridges (freezer on teh bottom), you can often fit 5 kegs in the fridge section, some beers in the top shelf and yeast etc in the fridge door, as well as hops/vodka in the bottom section. You can then mount the taps and drip tray on the door at the perfect height :)

Trick is finding one ;)

It may be easier to get a freezer on the top model too, but then you have to bend down a bit to get the perfect pour... oh dear :)

chest freezers run at fridge temps seem to fail fairly often, anecdotally, but when was the last time a fridge run at fridge temps died on you?

Custom shaped base-board
06_base_board_and_disconnects.jpg

5 kegs (full size will fit too)
08_5_kegs.jpg

Perlick's... only have 4 because I only realised I could get 5 kegs in after drilling the holes! I use a picnic tap inside for the 5th keg, which is normally soda water.
01_perlicks_w_flow_controllers.jpg


If space was an issue, i'd seriously consider going with one of the pre-built kegerators you can get with a tower font
 

Bribie G

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What does your budget run to? The thing about kitchen fridges and freezers is that they are not manufactured with beer in mind, unfortunately :p
Fridges in particular are made tall and thin so you don't do your back looking for the butter, but can only hold a couple of kegs at most unless you start going over $1000.
This is why keezers are a good option. Personally I'd never buy a second hand fridge, although I've inherited some from trusted sources.
New equipment will pay for itself in power bill savings etc over their life.

Walk into an electrical store with $400 and they'll laugh at you but for that sort of money you can pick up a brand new, energy efficient Kegmate style fridge.



My two fridges are amazingly flexible. Using a fridgemate I can do fermenting, lagering etc in one and the other one fits 3 kegs. Of course you would need a font tower but then you're going to have to buy taps anyway.

Being short and "square" they are quite roomy for fitting a couple of jerry cans, or two square cubes on top of each other, or a fermenter and a jerry, etc etc.
 

mikec

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What's your budget?
For fermenting I have two of these stacked one on top of the other.
I can fit a 30L fermenter in each, or two 20L jerries in each.
Each hooked up to an STC1000.

By having two fridges I can have two brews going at once, at different temps.
 

Bribie G

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I was actually considering those exact models when I was going into kegging but I won a fridgemate so didn't go down that track. I believe they also hold 2 kegs?

Worth a look.
 

edschache

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It's worth noting that this setup only works if you have a batz brewery sticker on at least one of your fridges :p

I currently have an old bar freezer to ferment in and it works great as it can reach colder temps (I recently froze a full fermenter while I had builders at my place and couldn't get to my kegs/bottles). I also have an old fridge for my kegs but I am hoping to get one of the kegmate jobbies for my new deck when the budget allows. Several small bars in Brisbane now use them without issue which has to be a good sign.

Ed
 

Giddo

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Thanks for the responses so far.

Got me thinking now about the risk of running a freezer at fridge temps. The main reason I was heading that way was to have the taps fitted on top (or on a shelf attached to the back of the unit/wall behind).

Buying a kegerator on its own and attaching better quality taps etc is worth some thought - I had only seen them sold as complete units though.

Budget is a tricky one. We're still early on in brewing, so the wife is a bit suspicious of the longevity & is putting the brake on spending a bit. I was thinking Gumtree specials to start with if for no other reason than for an easy life! There's a small chest freezer near me (which seems may be a bit small without a collar, but I don't mind having a crack at making one), and a 100L Westinghouse/F&P bar fridge which I reckon I could grab for less than $100 (need to measure that up and check that a fermenter will fit). If I grab those two now, I'll be off and running and then I could just keep my eye out for another bar fridge as a second (different temp) fermenting space - or alternatively a fridge only 250-300 litre for two fermenters. (We will be making more ales than lagers)

At the rate I'm going I should try to get my own bulk buy going on STC-1000s!!


I'll give some more thought and keep hunting around. I'm all ears though if anyone else has any advice.

Thanks again.
 

Batz

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It's worth noting that this setup only works if you have a batz brewery sticker on at least one of your fridges :p

Ed

Hey there's a fridge there without a Batz Brewery sticker :angry: How did I miss that?

Oh well better hook up the van and tell the wife we're heading south for a day or two. :lol:
 

Amber Fluid

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I have up right fridges to ferment in and a chesty to dispense.

It was previously mentioned that some people have trouble lifting full kegs into the chesty. I don't have this problem as I have a hoist. Nevertheless, I found previously the offset to this with regards to using a fridge is I got real sick of having to swap the kegs in and out of my old fridge. For me it was a real PITA when a keg at the back blew and I'd have to take the front ones out to get at it.

If you decide to go a chesty and think it is going to be a bugger lifting the kegs then just invest in the right equipment to help you. With the right planning and the right equipment, I don't think you can go wrong with a nice chesty.
 

Giddo

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I have up right fridges to ferment in and a chesty to dispense.

It was previously mentioned that some people have trouble lifting full kegs into the chesty. I don't have this problem as I have a hoist. Nevertheless, I found previously the offset to this with regards to using a fridge is I got real sick of having to swap the kegs in and out of my old fridge. For me it was a real PITA when a keg at the back blew and I'd have to take the front ones out to get at it.

If you decide to go a chesty and think it is going to be a bugger lifting the kegs then just invest in the right equipment to help you. With the right planning and the right equipment, I don't think you can go wrong with a nice chesty.
Thanks Amber. Still leaning towards a chesty for the kegs. But still struggling to make a decision on what size etc to go for! Still hoping to stumble across someone on here to give up brewing & have the perfect setup going at a reasonable price. The holy grail I guess...


Thanks again all for the advice.
 

Giddo

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Hi all.

Sorry to liven this back up. I've decided to go a chest freezer. I like the idea of the taps on a tower on top as per the kegerators, partly because I don't really have time to make a collar.

Question is, is there any reason the lid shouldn't be drilled? I will either attach the tower directly to the lid, or attach a nice piece of wood for visual appeal.

I'm thinking that it should be fine because nothing runs inside the lid (in the same way as it's ok to attach taps to the front of a fridge), but thought I would check.

I guess the downside to this is making the lid heavier, but I can live with that.


Thanks again for any help.
 

glenwal

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Hi all.

Sorry to liven this back up. I've decided to go a chest freezer. I like the idea of the taps on a tower on top as per the kegerators, partly because I don't really have time to make a collar.

Question is, is there any reason the lid shouldn't be drilled? I will either attach the tower directly to the lid, or attach a nice piece of wood for visual appeal.

I'm thinking that it should be fine because nothing runs inside the lid (in the same way as it's ok to attach taps to the front of a fridge), but thought I would check.

I guess the downside to this is making the lid heavier, but I can live with that.


Thanks again for any help.
Just make there isn't a light in the lid. And make sure you will have room to open the lid with a font attached.
 

QldKev

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As Glen W mentioned, if there is a light make sure you don't drill through the wires.

As you mentioned about the weight, it may be enough to prevent the lid staying opened by itself. Also if the font is solidly mounted to the lid you will need space behind the freezer to get the lid fully open.

Have you used a font setup vs taps through a collar. I have a font in the house, and through the fridge door taps in the carport. I thinks fonts look nice for bling factor, but I don't like them as they heat up the beer to much, unless you go flooded and then you need some decent cooling capacity to handle it. If I set up a freezer I would go a collar.

QldKev
 

Giddo

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As Glen W mentioned, if there is a light make sure you don't drill through the wires.

As you mentioned about the weight, it may be enough to prevent the lid staying opened by itself. Also if the font is solidly mounted to the lid you will need space behind the freezer to get the lid fully open.

Have you used a font setup vs taps through a collar. I have a font in the house, and through the fridge door taps in the carport. I thinks fonts look nice for bling factor, but I don't like them as they heat up the beer to much, unless you go flooded and then you need some decent cooling capacity to handle it. If I set up a freezer I would go a collar.

QldKev
Thanks Kev. No I've never used any kegging setup. I did think about the collar thing, but the wife is keen on the bling factor. She's even talking about a slab of marble on the lid with a recessed drip tray! I've got my eye on a SS Perlick tower with dual 545s - all in the name of bling for her of course :)

I was intending to mount the font at 90 degrees, which would mean the lid swings up left-right rather than up and back towards a wall.

The keezer will be inside, in a basement man cave that doesn't often get too warm (I would say max 25 degrees). So I was hoping that I wouldn't need to worry about font cooling. Do I need to rethink do you reckon?
 

QldKev

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Prior to getting the font fridge I used a normal kegerator with a couple of taps through the door. I used it for years. It only had cheap US taps on it, and worked like a dream. The brewer who got it from me still uses the same taps etc, exactly the same today.

My font setup in the house is the pre-built kegerator from Craftbrewer, it came with the upgraded font and taps. It worked but compared to my old fridge the beers were not as cold, and either not as gassy or I ended up with a glass of foam which results in flat beer anyway. I've tried everything to make it better, from extending the lines to a flow adjuster. Most recent mod is replace the taps using perlick flow adjustable taps. While this helps with the flow, the beer in the glass is still a lot warmer than the kegs. My problem is often I may sip away on 1 to 2 beers an hour, and the font is warm again everytime.

I've now also got another kegerator in the carport with a cheap Dorado tap through the door. I find I pour most of my beers using this one when I don't have a house full of drinkers, as you get cold lively beer from the first glass. The font setup in the house only really gets used for show and when I'm entertaining. When you've got a few drinkers around the font cools off and stays that way. Don't get me wrong the font still pours an acceptable beer, it just the other setup pours better when your only pouring a couple an hour.

In your case if you want the font for the bling factor and talking about marble tops I would look at separating the bar top from the freezer. You leave the freezer alone and put it under/next to/through the wall of the serving bar and mount the font to the bar top. Then you just run the beer line in a shortest path as possible to the font. Cover all the beer line from the time it leaves the freezer to the font and up into the font with insulation. The idea is keep the line and it's path as shortest as possible from the freezer. Then set the freezer to say 0 degrees as it will easily do it. That way by the time the beer has gone through the font it may be at a good temperature. You could consider a flooded font. I've never had one but people do comment they suck a lot of cooling out of the system. The final thing if the budget stretches far enough is Celli taps. Have a search on Craftbrewer, they are the best taps I have ever used.

Also have a search on here about kegerators setups, there are some really nice bars out there. Maybe find some pics of what you like and send the users a pm to find out more detail on their setups.

QldKev
 

Giddo

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Prior to getting the font fridge I used a normal kegerator with a couple of taps through the door. I used it for years. It only had cheap US taps on it, and worked like a dream. The brewer who got it from me still uses the same taps etc, exactly the same today.

My font setup in the house is the pre-built kegerator from Craftbrewer, it came with the upgraded font and taps. It worked but compared to my old fridge the beers were not as cold, and either not as gassy or I ended up with a glass of foam which results in flat beer anyway. I've tried everything to make it better, from extending the lines to a flow adjuster. Most recent mod is replace the taps using perlick flow adjustable taps. While this helps with the flow, the beer in the glass is still a lot warmer than the kegs. My problem is often I may sip away on 1 to 2 beers an hour, and the font is warm again everytime.

I've now also got another kegerator in the carport with a cheap Dorado tap through the door. I find I pour most of my beers using this one when I don't have a house full of drinkers, as you get cold lively beer from the first glass. The font setup in the house only really gets used for show and when I'm entertaining. When you've got a few drinkers around the font cools off and stays that way. Don't get me wrong the font still pours an acceptable beer, it just the other setup pours better when your only pouring a couple an hour.

In your case if you want the font for the bling factor and talking about marble tops I would look at separating the bar top from the freezer. You leave the freezer alone and put it under/next to/through the wall of the serving bar and mount the font to the bar top. Then you just run the beer line in a shortest path as possible to the font. Cover all the beer line from the time it leaves the freezer to the font and up into the font with insulation. The idea is keep the line and it's path as shortest as possible from the freezer. Then set the freezer to say 0 degrees as it will easily do it. That way by the time the beer has gone through the font it may be at a good temperature. You could consider a flooded font. I've never had one but people do comment they suck a lot of cooling out of the system. The final thing if the budget stretches far enough is Celli taps. Have a search on Craftbrewer, they are the best taps I have ever used.

Also have a search on here about kegerators setups, there are some really nice bars out there. Maybe find some pics of what you like and send the users a pm to find out more detail on their setups.

QldKev
Thanks again Kev.

Hmmm, got me thinking now (which is good)! A freezer located through a wall isn't an option due to house layout unfortunately. A standalone bar is possible if tricky $$$ and space-wise. When you suggested a standalone bar was that purely for the bling factor? Or would it have some impact on font temps? (I'm guessing it was just the looks)

Celli taps are out of reach at this stage.

I'm now thinking I will go with the font on top of the freezer, with lines insulated once outside the freezer. If I'm still getting warm beers then I'll look to retro-fit some sort of font cooling. Maybe put it on a timer so that it is only keeping the font cool in the evenings (& weekends!) to reduce power usage. I'll get some searching done on here on that front.


If the ambient temperature in the pub is usually say no higher than 20 degrees, do you think that will cause enough of a problem to need fixing? Hard to quantify what someone else calls a problem I know, let's just say I don't want warm beer or too much froth.

Cheers again for the help, I really appreciate it.
 

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