Keezer – Plumbing

Throughout the keezer I have elected to minimise the number of barbed fittings and instead use John Guest-style push fittings.  Unlike barbs these fittings can have the hose lines easily removed and generally terminate to a 1/4″ flare thread (MFL/FFL).  For this reason I chose a gas manifold and liquid/gas disconnects that terminate to 1/4″ MFL for every connection.  Easy disconnection has distinct advantages for cleaning and system adaptability.

The drawback of this plan is that an awful lot of FFL to hose connectors are required and this pushes the price up.  The standard line used in home beer dispensing is 5/16″ OD (3/16″ ID).  The internal diameter is important because appropriate flow resistance is critical for ensuring that carbonation stays in suspension while the beer is in the lines.  Failure to do so causes a foamy pour.

5/16″ connectors in Australia (like everything niche) are very expensive.  A $2.30 connector in the US is $7 here in a brew shop (who are pretty much the only people that stock this size).  Yet 1/4″ line is extensively used for water filter systems here and is very reasonably priced ($3-4 a connector).  1/4″ hose is obviously narrower causing higher resistance, lower flow rate and be harder to fit to flared fittings.  So basically I have a couple of options:

  1. Buy all in 5/16″ locally and pay 2-3 times as much [aka The Chump’s Option]
  2. Buy all in the US, pay international shipping and wait for 2 weeks for it to arrive (and this option leaves no room for finding out I’m short by one connector) [aka The Trader’s Option]
  3. Buy all in 1/4″ and run the risk of flow issues [aka The Pioneer’s Option]
  4. Buy all the gas, where resistance doesn’t matter  and most of the fittings are used, in 1/4″ and only do the liquid side in 5/16″ [aka The Heath Robinson Option]
  5. Try and talk a water filter shop into ordering in the 5/16″ gear from their supplier and not charge me massive brew-shop prices [aka The Wheeler-Dealer Option]

The two approaches that appeal to me are 4 and 5 – I would prefer to have the liquid lines in proper 5/16″ but I would like to avoid where possible giving my money to the graspy brew-shop owners that know they have their customers over a barrel.

So the option that I finally went with was the local water filter shop.  Chris at truwater got the bits ordered in – while not as cheap as an overseas order, still pretty good.  For comparison, a $7 John Guest 1/4″FFL fitting at a brew shop was $4.50.  I estimate that I saved at least 35% by buying through him.  And didn’t have to wait for anything.

Once all the bits arrived it was all pretty much plug and play thanks to all the John Guest fittings I was using.  After getting truwater to price up the bits I went the extra mile and ordered in some JG fittings for my tap shanks.  This made installation a breeze and will allow greater disassembly should I need to.

One of the challenges was working out how to make the connection between the keezer and an external gas cylinder (so that I can run the full complement of 4 kegs).  My solution was to use 5/16″ grommets and some spare plastic (old ipod box, I believe!).  I have this arrangement sealing both the inside and outside walls of the collar.

And finally, here’s a look at the inside of the keezer. You can see my JG shank fittings at the top; the black is a sheet of coreflute with yoga mat behind it for lid insulation; and on the left is my 4-way gas manifold.

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