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Using a mini-fridge as a keezer FAIL

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

In an attempt to save money, space, and time, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a mini-fridge online for use as a keezer or fermentation chamber. Turned out there was not enough room.

mini fridge home brewing fail

mini fridge home brewing too small

All mini-fridges have a hump inside them where the compressor and fan are located. This eats up some of the usable internal space. The shelves on the door further constrain the internal space. The lesson: going online to buy a fridge/freezer for use as keezer is a bad idea. Sometimes the product description will list internal dimensions, but that’s not enough to go on since the floor might be sloped or the shelves might be in the wrong spot.

 

The best thing to do is make cardboard cut outs representing the foot print of what you want to put in the fridge. Also note the heights of the containers, leaving room for airlock, hoses, couplers, etc. For example, a corny keg needs 27″ of vertical space to leave clearance for the couplings and is 8-1/2″ – 9″ diameter. Take the cutouts with you to the store and bring a tape measure. Then you can be sure what you are buying will work out.

The humps inside mini-fridges and chest freezers are a real drag. In my keezer, the CO2 tank sits on the hump along with a moisture absorption tray. One trick is to build a 4” collar around the top of the keezer. The hatch will have to be removed and then re-installed when the collar is in place. Often this is enough to take the hump out of the equation so 1 or 2 more corny kegs can be placed inside.

Towards the middle of my project todo list is a fermentation chamber. This is done by removing the door from a mini-fridge and building an insulated box that extends the conditioned space. With a temperature controller, a mini-fridge in this setup can be used for precise temperature control during fermentation. What I’m not sure about is how to safely heat the chamber, in the event it gets too cold in the shed (let’s say I want to keep it at 65F, but outside it is 40F). More on that when I get there.

  1. 13 Responses to “Using a mini-fridge as a keezer FAIL”

  2. I’ve heard of people building out the box and insulating as you’ve, actually I have been wanting to do this myself. You need a dual temp control box/thermostat to control both the fridge temp and the temp for your heating element. In addition most of the people I’ve head of doing this use either a high watt iridescent bulb or a terrarium heating bulb to heat their fridge. I think this book describes part of the process as well: http://www.amazon.com/Brew-Ware-Adapt-Homebrewing-Equipment/dp/0882669265/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326082305&sr=1-10

    By eric on Jan 8, 2012

  3. You might be able to get some extra space like I did in my kegarator by removing the plastic stuff on the door. There are screws UNDER the gasket. Just unscrew it all and then take the plastic part off. Then I cut a piece of whiteboard to the same size adn re-fitted the gasket.

    Now i can make notes on the inside of my kegarator door with a dry erase marker!

    By Mark on Jan 9, 2012

  4. It’s kind of tough to tell from the pictures, but it looks like you might have juuuuust enough space if you didn’t have to contend with the shelves on the door? If that’s the case, it should be fairly easy to remove the entire shelving structure (it’s all one big molded plastic sheet). Usually there are rivets/screws under the weatherstripping along the edge of the door. If you’re careful, it should be possible to remove the stripping, pop off the shelving (probably want to put foam/cardboard in its place to seal things up a bit), then re-affix the stripping.

    Just an idea!

    By justin on Jan 9, 2012

  5. I took a mini-fridge and replaced the inside of the door panel with a solid piece of plastic. This gave me just enough room to house a 7.8 gallon fermentation bucket without extending the door. It looks that might give you just enough room for the keg shown above

    By Chris on Jan 9, 2012

  6. I use a couple of those “FermWrap” heater elements glued to the inside of my freezer in conjunction with a dual controller. It works really well. Also, while that fridge does look a little small, you can take the plastic shelving unit off the door and get a piece of aluminum to replace it (you need something to pin the gasket down). That gives you a lot of extra room. I can send you a picture of my setup if you’d like. Good luck!

    By Marc on Jan 9, 2012

  7. Thanks guys! I did not think about taking the door apart. Good info here.

    By Larry on Jan 9, 2012

  8. You can also make room in the fridge by CAREFULLY!!! moving the freezer tray out of the way. Look on you tube for a video on converting a fridge to a keggerator.
    Look in the latest BYO magazine for the dual temp controller, I just built it and looks like it will work great for controlling heat and cool. I’m going to try a heating pad to start with and if things work well then I’ll get the FermWrap.

    By Rob on Jan 12, 2012

  9. Minifridges that do not have the little quasi-freezer thing at the top are the most ideal for converting into kegerators/keezers.

    The Sanyo 49xx series is the most sought after model for this reason. The cooling coil is already flush with the very back of the unit, so all of the space is usable, right to the very top. Enough space for two corny kegs and a 5 lb CO2. No bending required.

    By Matt J on Jan 13, 2012

  10. Also, if you have enough vertical space, you can use a cinder block or wood shelf to “lift” your carboy to the level of that back hump. Now you can scoot the carboy all the way to the back of the fridge, on the top of that hump and close the door normally.

    By Matt J on Jan 13, 2012

  11. I built a kegerator out of a fridge just like this. I put the tap right through the front door instead of doing the tower thing. As far as the front door, you better hope you have the one that screws down, if you have the one that is not only glued down, but the insulation is shot in and then solidifies, your are in big trouble, ask me how I know. The portion of the fridge that does the cooling and separates the fridge from the tiny freezer up top just needs to be bent down at a 90* angle and forced to the back of the fridge, it free’s up all the room you would ever want above where it originally sat. These fridges are actually the perfect candidate for homebrewer’s who want to start small and only have one beer at a time on tap. They are super economical compared to anything else out there. Good luck, it can be done. If you had the option here I would post a pic of the one I built?

    By Jon H. on Jan 29, 2012

  12. Thanks for sharing Jon!

    You could upload the picture somewhere else, like flickr, and then link it with a hyperlink. Comments system doesn’t support uploads unfortunately.

    By Larry on Jan 29, 2012

  13. Hi Guys,
    I also wanted to get a mini fridge as a fermenter what i found out is that you have to tell the dealers you want a flat back or a flush back design fridge and your problem is solved. there is no hump in these types of mini fridges.
    Thanks

    By Larry on Jan 30, 2012

  14. I’ve done some similar work myself and you can strip off the majority of the internal plastic (inc shelving) which should give you quite a bit more internal space – but I agree that if size is an issue its best to scope out the exact design in person.

    By Melissa on Jun 13, 2012

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