26 October 2007

Project: Draft Box

For some time now I've been wanting to build a draft box for parties and what not. For probably 3 years now I've been grabbing gear here and there for it, starting with a cooler that my neighbor offered to me. Then, about 15 months ago I scored a 3-circuit cold plate on eBay for about $85, which is very cheap by comparison. After stopping by the store to grab two shanks and some tubing, it was time to get to work.

First, I measured and drilled the 7/8" holes for the shanks. I spaced them 6" apart and left a space in the middle where I will add a third shank and tap sometime soon. Unfortunately my local homebrew store (LHBS in homebrewing forum-speak) only had 2 3" shanks. If you plan to follow my lead, know that once you get past the outer plastic layer and hit the insulation inside, it gets very messy. Drop the cold plate in only after all holes are drilled, shanks are installed and the cooler is cleaned out. Insulation in your cold plate is bad.

Once that was complete and the fittings were installed on the cold plate, in it went. I also wrapped each fitting's threads with Teflon tape, as the cold plate is aluminum and the fittings are steel. I heated some water in the microwave and soaked the ends of the 3/16" tubing in it before pushing them onto the nipples.

The 3/16" fittings on the liquid disconnects and cold plate were no problem; the shanks I bought had two 1/4" nipples welded on. No problem, as long as the tubing is nice and soft. And don't forget to put two Oetiker clamps on the tubing before putting both ends on the nipples.

For the rear, I just drilled two holes the size of the outer diameter of the tubing. Many commercial draft boxes use pass-through shanks, which work well but add to the cost, assembly and disassembly.

After all fittings were finished, it was time to flush the cold plate with OxyClean and sanitize with StarSan before giving it a test-run. It worked well, however it got pretty foamy at serving pressure of 8 psi...give that it was just flushed with 60°F sanitizer. Once the cold plate is chilled with ice water, it should be a different story.

Which means more testing. And more beer to drink! Cheers!