Dispensing from small kegs in style

Many of us small batch brewers have decided to package our beers in something other than bottles. In a previous post I discussed different options and they all work but what about dispensing? Up till now we usually use a picnic tap with our corny kegs or just open a growler and pour a beer. Problems with that is picnic taps should have at least a 5 foot hose to offer resistance to provide a nice pour and opening a growler immediately starts to degrade the beer so you have to consume it quickly. Most us small batch brewers are also brewing/living in small spaces that don’t allow us the luxury of having a kegerator so we stick our small corny keg in our refrigerator and try to put the picnic tap and it’s hose somewhere out of the way.

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New from taproom.club

Now there is something new for us. I usually don’t review many products unless they are geared towards small batch brewing and I actually get to us one. Enter the tap taproom.club dispensing system. As you may know I have a PicoBrew Pico brewing appliance I use on occasion when I just want to brew something quick without much interaction in the process and have been happy with it. I follow a Facebook group for PicoBrew users and one day something popped up on the group…the taproom.club system. It was created by a Pico user in the Seattle area that wanted a better dispensing solution for the small kegs and even the 5L mini kegs that Pico users use. I immediately saw it as a great concept for, not only Pico users, but for small batch brewers. I had a couple online discussions with the taproom.club creator, Kechu Trevino, and was going to get one but he was selling them so quickly I kept missing the opportunity. After being notified that I was presenting at Homebrew Con I thought now is the time to get one. I got ahold of Kechu again and told him I would like to have something to take with to HomeBrew Con and he had a new production run and I was able to buy one. It drew a lot of attention at Homebrew Con but I didn’t really have a chance to use it because I was so busy with the preparation for the conference.

After the conference things slowed down and the vanilla porter I had fermenting was ready to keg so I tried it out.

One thing that impressed me was the flexibility of the system. It can dispense from small corny kegs (I use the 1.75 gallon ones), 5L mini kegs, keg style stainless steel growlers with screw on caps and even standard 64 oz glass growlers.

The biggest selling point to me was that it keeps everything together and sit nicely in the fridge. With the flow control beer faucet long lines aren’t required to get a nice pour. It has a built-in paintball tank CO2 regulator and uses 3.75 ounce paintball tanks (comes with two) that can be refilled at most sporting goods stores. The lines are connected to system with valved quick disconnects that allow you to switch lines easily without losing beer or CO2. Since they are connected with disconnects you can switch lines and use the included carbonating line. This connects the CO2 to the liquid out post on the corny keg and bubble the CO2 up through the beer to force carbonate it.

With different adapters you can dispense from 5L mini kegs (this accessory includes adapter cap for glass growlers), mini keg style growlers and glass growlers so the growler of craft beer you picked up from the local brewery or taproom will stay fresh and carbonated.

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5L Mini Keg and standard growler adapter.

I tried it out and was impressed with it’s simplicity and well thought out design. I used it first to force carb my porter, and then switching lines, to dispense it and using the flow control faucet got a nice pour. This all while taking up not much space in my fridge. Beer on tap and still room in the fridge for food.

They recently released a kit that allows you to attach the unit to the top of a bucket so you can place you small corny in the bucket with ice and take it with you to the park, camping or share with others where there isn’t a fridge. It is also available in two finishes now and they have a nice drip mat and line cleaning setup available.

If you need longer beer and gas lines for say a taller 2.5 gallon corny of if you want to set your keg to the side instead of having strapped in the back (I had to do this because my tiny fridge wasn’t as deep as a normal fridge), just contact them and they can help you.

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Excited to see new things made for us that brew small batches and I think this is a great product and made by a home brewer/entrepreneur.

Check it out at taproom.club

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Cheers!

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Beginning the kegerator build and its completion!

After looking over many forums on building a kegerator from a mini refrigerator I finally found a candidate for the kegerator. Oddly the mini refrigerator I decided on is the same one that I got to use as a fermentation chamber, the Sanyo 4910. I like it because it is very quiet, has an accurate thermostat, is dressed up with a black plastic overlay on the top and easily fits two 5 gallon cornys with no real modifications. Big problem is the Sanyo 4910/4912 is no longer made but fortunately I found another on Craigslist for $100. The one I found for my kegerator conversion was sold by Sears under the Kenmore label but is identical to the Sanyo and a nice benefit is that Sears still has basically all the parts available if needed.Image

After wiping it down I began going back over all the forums on converting this model and the consensus is that is perfectly safe to drill the hole for the beer lines directly through the center of the top. Being cautious and not wanting to turn my great Craigslist find into a big $100 box by hitting the one refrigerant line running across the top I did the alcohol and corn starch trick to locate that refrigerant line. It was exactly where everyone prior to me said it would be but the moment when you start drilling is still nerve racking. The drilling of the hole was successful and after cleaning up the metal shaving and styrofoam mess I lined the hole with foil tape to protect the foam core from moisture damage. One thing I have used before is those plastic cable grommets that you find on computer desks to finish the outside and interior hole edges. ImageImage

The next step was to provide an entry point for the CO2 line. While this fridge is roomy and one could squeeze a CO2 tank inside I opted to leave my CO2 tank outside and run the line through the wall of the fridge. For me this was a decision based on convenience so I can swap CO2 tanks without removing cornys or to be able to easily use the tank for other things like purging a fermenter or pressure transferring from fermenter to keg. From my experience with this same fridge for my fermentation chamber build I knew you could safely drill through the upper left corner of the back wall so that is where the CO2 line will come through. I decided not to just stick the CO2 hose through a hole but instead opted to install a 1/4″ male flare bulk head up in the corner to make it easier to connect and disconnect CO2 lines and to have a cleaner looking kegerator build…plus I had purchased the bulkhead sometime ago and wasn’t sure what else I’d use it for.ImageImage

Now I am waiting on the draft tower so the kegerator build will be continued…

Well I got the tower from homebrewstuff.com and as always great service and prices. I decided on a stainless 3″ tower with stainless faucet shanks and no faucets as I already have two great Perlick 525SS faucets. Now I am waiting for the stainless steel cabinet pulls I have decided to use as rails for the kegerator top. While waiting for the railing I decided to make the necessary modifications to the plastic overlay top of the refrigerator. Many folks have modified the same refrigerator and what they did has worked over and over so I decided to follow their lead. In order to provide ample support for the tower I cut out the ribs in the center of the bottom side of the plastic top. The center section is exactly 8″ X 8″ so I then cut a scrap piece of 1/2″ plywood to the same 8″ X 8″ square. Then using the indentation that is molded into the center of the top I drilled a 2″ hole through the top and the plywood piece. Once I am ready to secure the tower I will mark and drill the holes and attach the tower to the top by bolting it through the top, wood and into t-nuts I will push into the plywood. By using t-nuts in the plywood it eliminates having to drill more holes into the top and avoiding the possibility of hitting that nearby refrigerant line. The plywood backing piece spreads out the load of the tower and adds additional support.

 

Well the rails arrived today so I couldn’t wait and started the assembly process. First thing was to mark the position of the rails and the tower itself and drill the holes. After drilling the holes I installed the railing and I think it adds a nice touch. Kinda takes away from the dorm fridge look. Next was the tower. With the holes drilled, I hammered the t-nuts into the plywood piece but immediately noticed that they don’t sit flush to the board. Hmmm, what to do? Not a problem. I popped them out and using a spade bit, cut a slight relief for the shoulder of the t-nut and did the same around the large hole so the piece of plywood will sit flush against the top of the refrigerator and the plastic grommet I used to finish the hole through the metal fridge top. That was it, everything fit and lined up nicely.

 

So far I am very pleased with my kegerator build. What started as a $100 Craigslist refrigerator is quickly becoming a very nice home brew kegerator. Next step is figuring out where and how to mount the secondary regulators and finish up CO2 and beer lines.

Another day passed and I was looking at different ways that I could mount the secondary regulator without drilling through the fridge any more than I have to. Not many options then it hit me, the Sanyo/Danby and Kenmore models have adjustable shelf bracket rails on each side of the back wall. These bracket rails are almost identical to adjustable shelving for the home. I picked up a shelf bracket from the hardware store and drilled a couple holes in the bracket that correspond with the threaded holes on the back of the regulator. I removed the factory brackets off the regulators and using some nylon spacers and slightly longer bolts I bolted the regulator assembly to the bracket.

With a simple snap the bracket pops into any position along the rail, holding the regulator assembly securely. I did decide to replace the Tap-Rite 0-100 psi low pressure gauges with o-30 psi gauges that show pressure settings at a higher resolution, down to 1/2 psi, which makes accurate pressure adjustments easier for dispensing or force carbonating. While installing the new gauges I went ahead and tightened them in a position so they would be turned a little and easier to view when mounted inside the refrigerator.

 

Now just some beverage and CO2 lines to finish and it’s time for a draft beer…well I need a drip tray but still looking for a great deal on one.

Drip tray arrived!

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