GE Clean Steel 4.3 Kegerator Conversion

Update: Full writeup available

Picked up a counter-high refrigerator today for a kegerator project.  I would have preferred one of the all-refrigerator units such as the Sanyo 4912 or Danby 4.4, but I absolutely could not find one of them in Milwaukee.  Wal-mart has the Danby available for free drop-ship but it’s $240.  The Sears outlet center did have a  Sanyo  but it was really beat to hell and cost $190 on top of that.

I eventually decided upon the GE Clean Steel 4.3 (model number SMR04DASCS) as Sam’s Club had it for $140.  The drawback to this fridge is that the freezer unit / evaporator needs to be bent down in order to make way for the kegs and draft tower lines.  However I figured that because it was cheap it wouldn’t be such a huge deal if I screwed up that part.  I did read an account online of someone cracking the refrigerant line while bending the freezer down.

However it turned out that bending the freezer wasn’t too hard.  The weakest part of the assembly is the union between the evaporator and the line,  so as you’re bending you’ll feel that part want to give first.  I focused the bend on the line and avoided kinks or cracks.

The freezer bent all the way down
The freezer bent all the way down
Bent Refrigerant Line
Bent Refrigerant Line

Next up was replacing the door insert.  I used big rectangles of HVAC panning primarily because I couldn’t find the whiteboard material that everyone else uses for this project, and because it looks kind of cool.

Replacement Door Panel
Replacement Door Panel

One piece wasn’t quite big enough so I riveted two of them together.

The last part was making a hole for the gas line.  I used a 1/2″ drill bit to make a hole for my 9/16″ OD gas line in order to get a snug fit.  I positioned it in the upper-right part of the back wall.

Gas Line from the Outside
Gas Line from the Outside
Moved Temperature Control and Gas Line
Moved Temperature Control and Gas Line

Without any trimming of the shelf supports two cornies just barely fit.  The second one tends to stick out some but thanks to the removal of the door insert the door closes just fine.

Tight Fit
Tight Fit

Pumpkin Beer

Today in preparation for a Halloween party I brewed a 1.050 pumpkin beer.   I followed the recipe and pumpkin cooking instructions in Brewing Classic Styles and it turned out very well.

The pumpkin I bought was about twelve pounds, as each quarter weighed about three pounds.   Jamil’s recipe calls for five pounds of pumpkin pulp so I baked three of them figuring I’d have extra.  Surprisingly enough the three quarters only produced four and three-quarters pounds of pulp.  Certainly close enough for the recipe but it was instructive to see how much gets lost to the skin and perhaps water loss.

Before Cooking
Before Cooking

I baked the quarters at 330F until they were nice and soft, and the juice had a nice caramelized sweetness to it.   This took about 2 hours and 10 minutes.  330 really does seem to be an appropriate temperature.  After brewing I baked the remaining quarter at 350 and it seemed a bit overdone as the juices had a very slight burnt taste.

Outsides After Baking
Outsides After Baking
Insides After Baking
Insides After Baking
Empty Skins
Empty Skins

I used a potato masher to get the flesh into a thin pulp, and added it right in the mash.  I didn’t adjust my strike water calculations for the pumpkin and still hit my strike temp just fine.  I suppose five pounds isn’t that much material, and besides it was still pretty warm.

Pulp Ready for the Mash
Pulp Ready for the Mash

In the book Jamil talks about some people having issues with stuck sparges with pumpkin but him not having any problems.  Well I’m in Jamil’s camp, this mash behaved no differently that any other beer I’ve done.  I did noticed that the pumpkin tended to float to the surface of the mash (as seen in the photo) so maybe that helped keep it out of the way of the seeping sparge water.    Who knows?  This is the first time I’d ever put something other than grain or hops into the mash so it was pretty neat being able to taste the pumpkin in the wort.

Spent Grains & Pumpkin
Spent Grains & Pumpkin

Another bit of advice Jamil gives is to use 2/3 of the spice blend in the boil and to reserve the rest for optional spicing in secondary.  Well I threw in the whole amount at flameout and it tastes great.  The amounts given in BCS are not at all assertive merely providing a pleasant spice backing.