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I previously worked on Virtual Reality and other hardware at Valve.  I currently work at Google[x].

Prior to starting at Valve, I built computer peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and joysticks that were designed to be used inside MRI machines.  My company, Mag Design and Engineering, sold these devices directly to researchers at academic institutions who used them to publish scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.

After work, I spend time on many different types of projects that usually involve circuit design, machining, material selection, and general fabrication/hacking.  My favorite place to be is my home workshop.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Installing beer taps in my house

Since moving into my new house, I have been planning to install beer taps into a dining room wall. Tonight, I have completed my goal and drank the first beer from the new taps.

The faucet on the right is frosty since I just poured a victory beer. I haven't found/made any handles yet.
In this photo at the bottom left, you can see the white keg refrigerator under the counter in the kitchen, which is adjacent to the dining room. I chose this location for the fridge, since the beer lines could be kept short, and would lessen the need for beer line cooling.

Here's the view from the kitchen.


There is a foam-insulated bundle of hoses running from inside the fridge into the wall between the kitchen and dining room.


The fridge holds two of my beer fire extinguishers ("thirst extinguisher"), a CO2 tank, regulator, all kinds of different tubing and a cooling fan that blows cold air from the refrigerator up to the space behind the beer taps.


This fan is coupled to a 5/16" ID hose that travels up the foam insulated tube to the chamber behind the beer taps. The air returns to the fridge through the space between the beer lines and foam tube.

I later sealed the back of this styrofoam chamber with another panel of styrofoam so that any air blown into the chamber would build up a small amount of pressure and be expelled through the foam tube. I wrapped the foam tube in duct tape to provide an additional moisture barrier.


Notes:

I used 1/4" ID hose between the kegs and the taps. This was not a good choice. For short runs, 3/16" is better since you can keep the keg pressure at 10-12 psi at around 40*F, and open the tap wide open without the beer exiting too quickly. The 3/16" hose provides substantially more backpressure than 1/4" hose. I will experiment with in-line restrictors since I am NOT taking all of this apart to change the hose size. There is a lot of vague/wrong/incomplete information on the internet about dispensing beer, so that doesn't help either.








22 comments:

  1. You should add a picture of a frosty, perfect pour beer to this post :)

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  2. Awesome. The thought of circulating cool air along the conduit is great, but fans (even blowers like that) don't move much air against any sort of restriction. My vote -- A very small pond pump in a water reservoir in the fridge and a closed loop of tubing that goes up the conduit, circulates in the box and returns.

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  3. This is great. What kind of fan is that? Thanks.

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  4. So I you have decided to become an Alcoholic!
    There are some thing you should know...

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  5. Hi all, thanks for the comments. Ben, I originally planned to run a liquid coolant system, and put the fridge 10-15 ft away from the taps. After thinking about it, I decided to move the fridge very close to the taps, and just try air cooling. So far, it has worked very well. I am still adjusting the restriction in the beer line to prevent fast pouring, but the beer is very cold.

    Anonymous, the fan is a mini squirrel cage blower from eBay. Search for "blower" then sort by price to find the small/cheap ones.

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  6. How did you get on with your inline restrictors? I had a go but found the 3/16" hose was the only way I could avoid a pint of froth.
    I have one long hose with a few metres coiled up at the keg end to provide additional backpressure for higher carbonation ciders/lagers. I use a shorter run for ales, for which I set the regulator lower (helps having multi-stage regulator).
    I love the shield mount, mine are just through the fridge door.

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  7. Rich, I haven't had time to try clamp-on restrictors yet. The system almost works well enough as-is, so I think just a small restriction may be all that is needed. It's true that using a length of tubing to create backpressure will function differently than a simple pinch-valve. The beer can decompress slowly through the length of the tube rather than suddenly after going through a restriction. This probably helps keep more CO2 in the beer.

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  8. Thanks for sharing the info. Can you give any more detail about the install with regards to the drywall and wall cavity? I'm doing something similar with a long run and liquid cooling. I'm looking at stainless facing with drip tray and glass rinser. Its in a bar, so this is more fitting than a dining room :) Do you have trouble with sticky faucets? If so, try a forward sealing Perlick design like the 525 or, if you prefer large taphandles and can find them, the 425.

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  9. Matt, the wall installation was unusually difficult in my house because of non-standard size studs and diagonal blocking that is common in older houses. In most modern construction, it will be much easier to navigate inside the wall cavity. I also liked having the fridge on the opposite side of the same wall, so that I did not have to drill a huge (2.5") hole in the plate at the bottom or top of the wall. If you have a long run, you'll probably want to travel most of the distance in the crawlspace or attic, then come down (or up) into the wall between studs.

    My faucets do stick a little, but it hasn't been much of a problem. Yes, the Perlicks are apparently top-of-the-line, but they are very pricey.

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  10. I would be interested in seeing a closer photo and a wright up of how setup the fire extinguisher as a keg. (not the "thirst extinguisher" wright up) GREAT IDEA! 2.5 gallon kegs cost a arm and a leg. This is a great idea to build one for cheap!

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  11. Joe, I am not sure what you mean. My thirst extinguisher article and comments section pretty much cover what I did -- just cleaned the fire extinguisher, adding an air quick-connect fitting to the top, and filled it with beer. Do you have a specific question?

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  12. My problem is that the keg keeps "spitting" and foaming. Since the CO2 enters the same line the beer goes up, it seems that when i try to tap the beer out the regulator is pushing CO2 in mixing it and creating havoc. How did you get around this problem?

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  13. Awesome job! When I finished my basement I kept a closet next to my bar area for such a thing. I was told by many that it couldn't be done since insulating the hose wouldn't suffice. You've reinspired me! Cheers!

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  14. Joe, it sounds like you may have a leak in the pickup tube. In my extinguisher, the CO2 enters the top of the tank, it does not enter the same line that the beer goes up, so the whole system works like a normal keg.

    Jason, cooling will not be much of a problem for a short run. I found out that the fan I used to push cold air into the tap box is not totally necessary either, so I turned it off. The very first beer of an evening might be slightly warmer than subsequent beers, but this does not cause foaming problems, and the beer is still an enjoyable temperature. Good luck!

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  15. I must have a different setup than you then. My system most definitely pushes the CO2 in the same tube as the beer. I think i might put a bung on the side of the tank to counter the effect. I guess the Amerex tanks need a bit more modifications.

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  16. Joe, yeah drill a new hole and attach a fitting so you can add CO2 to the space above the beer in the tank. The metal lid of the tank may be thick enough to drill and tap with a pipe thread (it is on mine).

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  17. Looks great. Did you make the shield shaped faucet-side wall mount? I want to do something similar, but I'm not skilled with woodworking... any other suggestions on where to acquire a nice looking back mount?

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  18. Anonymous, yes I built the wooden backing panel. It's a relatively straight-forward woodworking project. You would only need a saw (table saw would be the best) and a sander. Other tools are helpful, but not essential. The woods are walnut and maple. If you wanted to still have the shield shape without gluing together pieces of wood, you could buy a small panel of hardwood plywood, and cut out the shield shape with a jigsaw, then seal/dye/stain/paint the panel to look how you want. Good luck!

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  19. How did you attach the shield? Did you cut a hole almost as big as it in the sheetrock?

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  20. Todd, I cut a rectangular hole large enough to fit the styrofoam cold box on the back of the wooden shield. It's about 8" x 5" or so. I used plastic expanding fasteners to attach the shield to the plaster wall, then put some wood caps over the screw holes (not shown in these photos).

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  21. I don't normally leave comments but this is the best thing I have ever seen. quality

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