Thursday, May 25, 2006

Upgrading Draft Tower

The draft tower for the Sanyo is a 2.5" chromed plastic tower. Seeing that I have room for multiple kegs I thought it best to upgrade the tower to spray out two kinds of beer. I want all the parts in contact with the beer to be stainless steel. Most mid- and low-range kegerators use brass, which will break down from the acidity of the beer. So I also need to upgrade the shanks, faucets, keg coupler, and hose connections.
This post will only deal with the draft tower, shanks, and faucets.

Here are the Items I had to buy and where I got them:
Stainless 3" diameter dual port draft tower 12" high
Part #0802-12

ACU Metal Fab
ACU typically has these in stock. The tower is 3" compared to the stock Sanyo tower. I got the brushed stainless to match the BBQ grill. The big picture baby! ACU is significantly cheaper than other vendors for the draft towers.

I got the shanks from Micromatic (as well as most of my other keg stuff).
You can replace the internal parts of the US Standard faucet with stainless steel ones if you so choose. Micromatic has faucets also, but I am awaiting faucets from Ventmatic which are stainless steel so I didn't bother. I had an extra I got off ebay cheap.

Stainless Steel Elbow Shanks Catalog #
Elbow Shanks

Be sure to get elbow shanks, I don't think two straight shanks will fit in the tower.

You will also need 10-12 feet of vinyl beverage tubing, small hose clamps, and four 1" stainless steel screws.
I got the items from from HomeDepot.

Assembling the new tower
1)Remove the cap on the new tower. Dissamble the shanks. You should have all the parts for each shank like below:

2) Cut 2 lengths of 5-6 feet of the vinyl tubing. Heat some water on the stove.

3) Feed one length of tubing in to one of the ports. Be careful not to scratch the tower with the clamp.
Put the pieces in order on the tubing, and put the shank in the port. Tighten the nut but not all the way. Leave the nipple end of the elbow facing up.

4)Dip the end of the tubing in the hot water for 10 seconds or so. Now place the hot tubing on the nipple of one of the shank elbows. Put a clamp on and tighten.
Turn the elbow downwards and away from the middle of the tower.

5) Repeat with the other length of tubing and shank.
6) Tighten each collar nut on each shank.
7) Replace the end cap.

Installing the Tower
1) Feed the other ends of the tubing thru the hole in the insulating gasket, then the top of the kegerator.
2) Place the black insulating gasket so it is spaced properly around the hole, then place the tower on top aligning the holes.
3) I used stainless steel screws to fasten the tower to the top, using a power driver.
4) Attach your faucets and tap handles, couplers,and have a beer!

Finding the proper kegerator

I recently got back in to homebrewing after a several year sabbatical. I wanted to be able to do it right, kegs and all. My girlfriend and I were at BestBuy and saw a Kegerator with a stainless steel door for $450. I was impressed. My girlfriend gave me the a-ok to pick up a kegerator as long as it is built in to the deck. Good enough for me!

I did a lot of research before I made my purchase. Turns out the Haier at BestBuy looked good, but struggles to keep large kegs cold. In addition the reviews of Customer Service were absolutely terrible across the board. I looked in to converting dorm style fridges and mini freezers, but that route seemed poor. The dorm fridges can only fit homebrew kegs, one or two tops. I wanted to be able to fit 2-3 corny kegs, as well as 1/4 and 1/2 barrel kegs. The freezer kegerator mods just seemed like a pain: trying to life a 1/2 barrel in and out of a freezer wouldn't be fun. Finally, the cost of buying a mini fridge and the keg kits wasn't much (if at all) cheaper than than a new mid-price kegerator.

I found a kegerator that was perfect:
Sanyo BC-1206  **link dead**
Quick aside, the Summit 500 series is identical.

***updated in 2013 - The 1206 series is no longer available.   The comparitive model is still the Summit 500 series, but it appears the cooling plate is now smaller.   Perhaps it is more efficient?
****end update

These kegerators fit up to a 1/2, and are engery efficient. They are super quiet and have a large cooling plate inside (the Haier's plate is about half the size).

I watched craigslist for a while and found a used one at a good price in great shape.

With the kegerator chosen and foolishly hauled up the stairs by myself, I went to work upgrading it to a two tapper. The next Post will have detailed pictures on how to do this.