Author Topic: Building a Jockey Box  (Read 3362 times)

Offline Joe Sr.

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Building a Jockey Box
« on: October 08, 2010, 02:17:17 PM »
I'm thinking of building a jockey box and have a couple of questions.

Most of what I've read, people are using copper (sometimes stainless) coils.  If I'm doing it on the cheap, is there a significant downside to using vinyl tubing for the coils?  I'm assuming metal gives you a better thermal transfer, but beyond that?

I've also noticed that the recommended lengths of the coils vary from 20-25 feet to as much as 120 ft.  Anyone have experience with a shorter coil?  Can it work or are you pouring mostly foam?  I assume another benefit of the longer coil is more cold beer available at any one time.  Anything I'm missing?  Again, doing it on the cheap, a 20 ft copper coil is pretty darn cheap.  A 100ft coil would seem to take up a ton of space.

The cold plates I've looked at have very short coils.  Something like 18 feet or so.  Is the thermal transfer that much better?

Any pros and cons to a particular set up?

I'd love to hear feedback from people who've built their own.  Anything you'd do different, etc.

Thanks,

JOE
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2010, 02:29:02 PM »
Don't use plastic, you won't get enough heat transfer to chill the beer fast enough.

Don't use copper, it will give you off flavors in your beer.

If you can't afford a stainless coil or a plate chiller, don't build a jockey box.   :(

Instead go with something like my setup.   :)

For portable beer dispensing, a corny keg fits really well in a 5-gallon bucket from homedepot, with room around the outside for ice.  Instead of a cobra tap I wanted to use a real faucet, so I drilled a one in a 1x6 and ran a shank through it.  The 1x6 conveniently fits in front of the keg in the bucket (and there's still room for ice).  The hose and faucet and gas and everything gets attached as normal.  It's not the prettiest setup in the world, but I've seen worse and it gets the job done as long as you start with cold beer and the ambient temp isn't too high.  I use this setup and drag a keg of Irish stout on nitro in a little red wagon to my neighbors house every year when his dad comes to visit from Dublin.   ;D

I have visions of something nicer and jockey box-ish, but it's low on the priority list for me.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2010, 02:40:01 PM »
I've done the bucket thing.  Several times.  It works well, but the pre-chilling of the keg has been a PITA at times.

I haven't really looked into the cost of SS coils, but I've looked at the cold plates.  They're not a deal breaker, but for something that'll only get used a couple of times a year I'm not sure I want to make the investment.

Hadn't thought about off flavors from copper.  I assume it's related to the ph the beer, since copper is standard for water piping.

It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline MrNate

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2010, 09:05:15 PM »
cold plates can be had pretty cheap on ebay.
“If one's actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception.”

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2010, 10:46:33 PM »
I've done the bucket thing.  Several times.  It works well, but the pre-chilling of the keg has been a PITA at times.

I haven't really looked into the cost of SS coils, but I've looked at the cold plates.  They're not a deal breaker, but for something that'll only get used a couple of times a year I'm not sure I want to make the investment.

Hadn't thought about off flavors from copper.  I assume it's related to the ph the beer, since copper is standard for water piping.
I totally understand, it's a judgment call.  I would use a jockey box so rarely it's a really low priority.

And yes, AFAIK it's the pH of the beer that makes the beer taste coppery after less than a minute exposed to copper. :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline dcbc

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2010, 07:53:21 AM »
cold plates can be had pretty cheap on ebay.

I got a single channel cold plate for about $10 plus shipping on ebay.  Worked fine.  But for homebrew , if you don't mind spending the extra money, I'd recommend using the 3 gallon kegs in a 70 qt Igloo ice cube.  I did this and the setup is much easier to transport because it is entirely self contained.  Also, if you are going to dispense over a course of days, you may run into issues keeping the beer carbonated in the keg that is sitting outside the cold box versus the amount of CO2 pressure needed to push beer through long lengths of coils.  

With a pair of 3 gallon cornies in an ice cube, you can dispense for as long as you like at your normal serving pressure or lower because the beer is kept so cold in the cooler.  



I still have the first jockey box I built with the cold plate, but reserve its use for parties where I am serving from a commercial keg that we don't plan on having around for more than one evening.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2010, 07:56:09 AM by dcbc »
I've consumed all of my home brew and still can't relax!  Now what!

Offline MrNate

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2010, 03:09:06 PM »
See "pimp my system" thread, towards the end. I run a 6-pass chiller. Got it for something like $80. It's 1/4" tubing, so you're not really running any more pressure than in your home system. In fact, I think I need more restriction in mine. Next time I use it I'm going to double each run through 2 passes of the chiler.
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Offline Kit B

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2010, 02:25:53 PM »
If you are ever too relaxed on cleaning, I don't recommend the plates.
I built a jockey box with a friend of mine.
The last time it got used, he didn't clean out the chiller plate.
There's nothing making it through those lines, ever again.

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Offline beerocd

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2010, 04:10:42 PM »
I think you can BAKE it - blow it out - sanitize and then dispense beer again.
Sounds like you have nothing to lose.
The moral majority, is neither.

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2010, 01:55:16 PM »
And yes, AFAIK it's the pH of the beer that makes the beer taste coppery after less than a minute exposed to copper. :)

Tom,

Something that occurred to me (though it's taken me forever to get back here and post) is that if it's the pH of the beer, should we not also get off flavors from using a copper immersion chiller?  I've never gotten any that I'm aware of, and copper is the common material for an immersion chiller.

So perhaps it's the alcohol? 

Chemistry is not my thing.

Maybe this is a topic for another thread...

JOE
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2010, 02:10:10 PM »
The pH of unfermented wort is typically ~5.0-5.2.  The pH of beer is typically ~4.0-4.7, depending on a lot of factors.  Keep in mind this is a log scale, so pH 4.0 is 10 times more acidic than pH 5.0.  Even at the high end, pH 4.7 is roughly twice as acidic as pH 5.0.

Does that makes sense?
Tom Schmidlin

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2010, 02:21:03 PM »
Does that makes sense?

Very much.  Changing pH from fermentation is obviously something that had not occurred to me.

Regardless, the jockey box is shelved for the time being.  For Halloween I'll just fill growlers or pitchers and run back and forth to the basement.
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2010, 02:23:26 PM »
Regardless, the jockey box is shelved for the time being.  For Halloween I'll just fill growlers or pitchers and run back and forth to the basement.
Hopefully you can have someone else do some of the running :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2010, 02:27:57 PM »
I'd rather let them deal with the locusts who come to our door.  Local news has come by the last few years due to the crowds we get.

You'd be amazed at how much candy you can go through in two hours.  And they keep coming...

Once we're out of candy, we need to kill all the lights and go hide in the back yard or the bell will ring until past 9pm.
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Online jeffy

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Re: Building a Jockey Box
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2010, 03:25:43 PM »
I'd rather let them deal with the locusts who come to our door.  Local news has come by the last few years due to the crowds we get.

You'd be amazed at how much candy you can go through in two hours.  And they keep coming...

Once we're out of candy, we need to kill all the lights and go hide in the back yard or the bell will ring until past 9pm.
Hmmmmm.  It sounds like you may be giving away trick-or-treat beer with all those crowds and reporters.  Last year our house had ZERO trick-or-treaters.  I guess all the families are going to a better neighborhood.  We had to eat all the candy ouselves.  Fortunately I picked Reece's Peanut Butter Cups.
(Sorry I don't know much about Jockey Boxes)
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
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