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Uncover the secrets of How To Kegerator in our comprehensive guide. Boost your home brewing skills to a new level – fix, maintain, and enjoy!
By: Henry Campbell • 100 Best Kitchen Furniture To Make Your Cooking Hassle-Free
By: Isabella Mitchell • 100 Best Kitchen Furniture To Make Your Cooking Hassle-Free
By: William Harrison • 100 Best Kitchen Furniture To Make Your Cooking Hassle-Free
For lovers of draft beer, nothing beats the taste and freshness of a glass right from the tap. More often than not, it requires a trip to the local pub or brewery, but what if you could bring the pub experience into your living room? Yes, it’s possible, with the help of a kegerator. A kegerator is a refrigerator-like appliance designed explicitly for storing and dispensing beer. The main advantage of this ingenious system is that it keeps your beer fresh, cold, and carbonated for a much longer period, making every glass served taste like it’s just been brewed.
Building your own kegerator might sound like a daunting task but with proper equipment and guidance, it can be a fun, satisfying, and worthwhile DIY project. This guide will walk you through the process, ensuring that you understand every phase of the build thoroughly. You’ll gain rich insights into the various types of kegerators, how they work, and why building one at home could be beneficial for you.
- Proper sensor placement is crucial for accurate temperature control and optimal kegerator performance. Whether inside or outside the unit, avoid common mistakes to ensure precise temperature readings and maintain beer quality.
- Placing the sensor on the beer keg, in the air, or in a bottle of water inside the kegerator, or taping it to the side of the unit, using a thermowell, or in a cooling chamber outside the kegerator are recommended locations. Avoiding common mistakes such as proximity to heat sources and overcrowding the sensor location is essential for accurate temperature control.
Understanding what Kegerators are
Kegerators, in their simplest form, are modified refrigerators designed to keep a keg cold and serve beer through a tap. They come in many configurations, styles, and sizes depending on their intended place of use and the profile of the beer they’re meant to serve. There’s the mini kegerator, typically for home and small office use, the full size or commercial kegerator for pubs and large social gathering places, and outdoor kegerators designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Each kegerator has a set of essential components that work together to provide a great tasting beer experience. These components include a fridge, a draft beer tower, beer and air lines, a CO2 tank and regulator, and of course the keg itself, which houses the beer. The key role of the kegerator is to maintain your beer at an optimum temperature, usually between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep it fresh and carbonated over an extended period, at times up to 6 months or more. Having a clear understanding of what a kegerator is will facilitate a smooth and successful DIY project.
Why choose a DIY Kegerator
While there are several ready-made kegerators in the market today, building one yourself offers numerous benefits. First, cost savings. Off the shelf kegerators, especially the high-end models, can be quite costly. By sourcing your own parts and doing the assembly yourself, you can create a high-quality kegerator at a fraction of the cost.
Secondly, building a kegerator yourself allows you to design and customize it to fit your unique needs. You can choose the type of fridge, the number and style of taps, and even the design and finish of the draft beer tower. When you build your own kegerator, you have control over every detail, enabling you to create something that best reflects your style and personal preferences.
Finally, the satisfaction that comes with completing a DIY project is second to none. Even with no previous experience, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from successfully building your kegerator, and pouring your first glass of draft beer from it, is worth every minute spent on the project.
Tools and Materials Needed
As with any handyman project, you’ll need a selection of tools and materials to build your kegerator. Essential tools for this build include a drill with hole saw attachments of varying sizes, screwdrivers, a wrench set, pliers, a tape measure, and some safety gear such as gloves and safety glasses. These tools will to help you drill holes, tighten bolts, and carry out other related tasks during the assembly process.
The materials you’ll require depend on your preferred design and whether you’re converting an existing refrigerator or using a ready-made conversion kit. Typically, these materials include a refrigerator, a kegerator conversion kit (that contains a CO2 tank, regulator, beer and air lines, couplers, and a draft beer tower), a drip tray, a CO2 monitoring system, a temperature controller and adequate insulation for the fridge.
Before you begin, ensure you have organized your workspace and have all the necessary tools and materials at hand. This will not only speed up the building process but also prevent mistakes that could potentially damage your components.
Choosing the Best Fridge
Choosing the right fridge for your kegerator is crucial and depends on a few factors. First, you will need to take into consideration the size and the type of the fridge. The size of your fridge will certainly be determined by the size of the keg or number of kegs you intend to store. For example, for a full sized keg, you would need a larger fridge or freezer, while a mini-fridge might suffice for a Mini Keg. This guide on what size of fridge for kegerator could help you make an informed decision.
The type of fridge you choose should also be able to maintain the ideal temperature to keep your beer fresh. You might also want to consider factors such as power efficiency, cost, and even aesthetics. Do you prefer a pin up vintage style, a modern stainless steel look or perhaps a fun and unconventional design? The choice is yours!
Buying the Right Keg
Kegs come in different sizes and varieties, and choosing the right one for your kegerator involves considering several factors. The size of the keg is definitely one of them. Kegs commonly range from the full-sized Keg, which holds 15.5 gallons, to the mini or Cornelius Keg, used mainly by homebrewers and holds 5 gallons. Before making your purchase, you need to ensure that the size of the keg will fit adequately in your chosen fridge.
Another essential consideration to make is the type of beer that you enjoy. Different beers could require unique keg types; hence you need to confirm that your favorite beer is available in your preferred keg type. The availability of beer refills in your area might also be a deciding factor when choosing your keg. This article on where to get beer for your kegerator offers insightful tips on where you could find beer refills for your keg.
Finally, remember that maintaining your keg clean is vital to avoid bad-tasting beer or damage to your kegerator. Therefore, buying a keg for which cleaning and maintenance items are readily available is a wise move.
Selecting the Tap and Tower
Choosing your tap and tower is another vital decision in your kegerator building journey. The tap and tower combo plays a major role in dispensing your beer, and it is crucial you select those that meet your needs for the best pouring experience.
Firstly, decide on the number of taps necessary. This is based on the variety of beers or drinks you wish to serve simultaneously. You may want a single, double, or even a triple faucet tower depending on your need.
Next, consider the material, quality, and design of the tower. A stainless steel tower is often a great choice because it is durable, easy to clean, and has excellent thermal conductivity which helps maintain the beer’s temperature. You might also wish to choose a design that complements your kegerator’s aesthetic.
The type of tap handle you select can add personality and fun to your kegerator. As well as being functional, tap handles are available in various styles and themes, so go ahead and add your personal touch!
Installing the CO2 system
Regulating CO2 in your kegerator is fundamental in preserving the quality, flavor and carbonation level of your beer. The installation process involves mounting the CO2 tank, connecting it with the regulator and hooking up to the keg with the air line.
The CO2 tank is often mounted at the back of the fridge or inside it depending on the space and temperature control. Your choice of CO2 tank size depends on the amount of beer you plan on serving. More detailed information regarding CO2 systems can be found on this useful guide.
After connecting the CO2 tank to the regulator, ensure that the CO2 pressure is set correctly (usually between 10 to 12 PSI for most ales and lagers) to maintain the beer’s natural level of carbonation. Once the system is all set, make sure to check for any leaks as it could affect the beer taste and waste CO2.
Installation of Temperature Controllers
Maintaining the correct and consistent temperature is key to serving and preserving your beer. This is where a good quality temperature controller comes in handy.
An essential aspect when installing a temperature controller is choosing the right placement for the sensor. Often, the sensor is attached directly to the keg as this will provide the most accurate reading of the beer temperature. You can find more about optimal sensor placement here.
A common method used when installing the temperature controller involves placing the controller outside the fridge and running the sensor into the fridge, ensuring that the door seals correctly. When properly configured, the temperature controller should turn the fridge on and off as needed to maintain the desired temperature.
Furthermore, consider getting a temperature controller with a digital readout for easier programming and reading. A dual-stage controller can also be useful if you wish to prevent the fridge from getting too cold, as it can control a heating element as well.
Preparing the Fridge
The first step in creating a DIY kegerator is transforming a regular fridge into a beer-safe space. This begins with thoroughly cleaning the fridge using warm, soapy water and a mild abrasive to scrub off any residue or dirt. You can find more helpful tips in this guide.
Once cleaned, you will need to install insulation to maintain the perfect temperature for your beer. Insulation can be placed on the fridge walls and the door. Many DIY enthusiasts use easy-to-cut and install foam board insulation.
The next step is to determine where to place the frame or collar. This wooden frame, usually made from a 2×4 cut to the fridge’s width, should sit firmly on top of your fridge. Securing it with screws and applying a food-safe caulk sealant will ensure a sturdy and efficient kegerator.
Place the STC-1000 kegerator sensor in the center of the fridge, away from the walls and any direct airflow. This will ensure an accurate temperature reading for your kegerator.
Installing the Keg
Depending on your fridge’s size, you can install either one or multiple kegs inside your kegerator. Make sure to choose a keg that caters to your beer consumption and fits neatly within your fridge. This helpful guide on how to choose the right keg size will provide you with the information you need.
Positioning your keg inside the kegerator correctly is crucial. It should rest flat on the bottom of the fridge and there should be enough space around it for good ventilation and easy installation and removal. If possible, secure the keg to prevent it from moving and causing any damage to your kegerator.
Once situated, the next step is connecting your CO2 system to the keg with a beer line. The right pressure is essential in the safe delivery of your beer. You can learn more about this aspect here.
Installing the Tap System
Next, turn your focus to installing your tap system. This is an essential part of the process as it’s your source of beer. Decide where to place your tap. Most commonly, it is located on the door or on top of the fridge.
Once you’ve chosen your tap location, it’s time to drill. Mark a spot where you want your tap to be, making sure to avoid any electrical components or coolant lines. A hole saw bit on a power drill can make this job simpler. Check out this guide for more information on the correct size to drill.
After the hole is made, you can feed your beer lines through it and secure your tap. Screw the flange onto the shank to attach the tap to the fridge’s exterior securely. Ensure that everything is tightly secured and that there are no leaks. Once everything is set up, the finishing touch is to screw your tap handle into place.
Connecting Fridge and the Keg System
Once you have installed your keg and tap system, it’s time to connect everything. Start by attaching the beer lines to your keg. Using a coupler, connect the gas line from your CO2 tank to your keg. Next, connect the beer line from your tap to the keg. The entire system needs to be hermetically sealed to prevent any gas leak or air entry that could spoil the beer. You can learn more here about how to properly connect your CO2 tank to your keg for a successful kegerator operation.
Remember to organize your system neatly inside the fridge. Ensure the CO2 tank is properly mounted and the beer lines are not kinked or overly twisted. This will allow easy access for routine cleaning or inspection and prevents any mechanical problems.
Testing the System
After setting up your DIY kegerator, the next step is to test the system. Begin by checking for leaks. You can do this by lightly spraying soapy water around the CO2 regulator, keg couplers, and beer faucet. Any leak will result in bubbles at the leaking point. If there are no leaks, your system is well-sealed.
Next, pour a beer to check the quality of the draft. It should pour smoothly without excess foam. The temperature should be cool, usually around 38°F (3.3°C). A thermometer can be used to check the temperature inside your kegerator.
If the beer is not pouring correctly or if the pressure is incorrect, adjust the CO2 pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. More on how to adjust CO2 pressure can be found here. Remember keeping all the connections tight and beer lines clean will ensure the best quality of draft beer.
Maintenance and cleaning
Your DIY kegerator, like any other appliance, requires regular maintenance and cleaning for prime operation and durability. Develop a routine to clean the lines, faucets, kegs, and fridge every two to three weeks or every time you change the keg. This article provides an in-depth look at how to clean your kegerator lines.
A special kegerator cleaning solution should be used for cleaning. This solution is typically pushed through the system using CO2, mimicking the beer pouring process but instead cleaning the entire system from keg coupler to the faucet.
Regular cleaning prevents bacterial build-up that can alter the taste and quality of the beer. Also, being a food-related appliance, it’s crucial to keep it sanitized for health and safety. Consider investing in a kegerator cleaning kit as it would come with all the necessary tools for a thorough cleaning process, you can find more about it here.
Additionally, check for any wear and tear. Things like seals, gaskets, and o-rings can wear down over time and may require replacement. Regular maintenance, to ensure all parts are working properly, helps ensure the longevity and efficiency of your kegerator.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Like any DIY project, you might encounter some issues with your kegerator. Common problems include excessive foaming, flat-tasting beer, varying serving temperatures, and slow pouring. For instance, if your kegerator is pouring out too much foam, it could be due to temperature inconsistencies, over-carbonation, or a simple case of a dirty beer line.
Every problem has a solution. It’s crucial to learn the basics of troubleshooting, to be able to diagnose and fix common issues. A comprehensive guide on how to fix some of the most common problems with kegerators can be found in this article. However, if the problem persists, it may be best to contact a professional for help.
Cost Comparison: DIY Kegerator vs. Buying One
Building a DIY kegerator offers several cost benefits over buying one. For one, you can create a custom-built kegerator tailored to your specific needs and preferences at a fraction of the cost of a commercial one. Based on the components and materials needed, the cost can be substantially lower than purchasing a pre-made kegerator.
The cost of purchasing a new kegerator varies greatly, depending on its features, the brand, and where you buy it from. On average, it can range anywhere from $400 to over $1000. Here’s a detailed cost breakdown of buying a new kegerator. In contrast, building your own kegerator requires an old fridge, a conversion kit, and a few accessories, bringing the cost down to approximately $200-$300.
However, it’s also essential to note the long-term savings. A well-built, well-maintained DIY kegerator can last for several years, providing you with a steady supply of cold beer without the need for costly repairs or replacements.
Health and Safety Considerations
When building and maintaining a DIY kegerator, health and safety are of utmost importance. Here are a few precautions you must remember:
-Use tools with care: Some parts of the DIY process like drilling holes for taps, handling CO2 tanks require the usage of power tools and cautious handling. Make sure to follow all safety guidelines while using these tools.
-CO2 safety: CO2 can be hazardous if mishandled. Make sure to store and use the tank properly. Remember to keep it secured to avoid it falling over. More on how to handle a CO2 tank is outlined here.
-Food safety: As kegerators are used to store and dispense food product (beer), it’s essential to use food-safe materials and routinely clean the kegerator to prevent any bacteria or mold buildup which can negatively impact the taste and safety of your beer.
-Proper keg storage: Kegs must be handled and stored correctly. They must be kept cold and out of sunlight. For more information, look at this guide on how to properly remove a keg from a kegerator.
Enhancing User Experience
The user experience with a DIY kegerator isn’t limited to its primary functionality of serving cold draft beer. You have the liberty to add in several customizations to cater to your preferences. For example, consider adding a drip tray. A drip tray helps in catching beer spills, hence aiding in cleanliness. Learn how to incorporate a drip tray in the kegerator here.
You can also explore other usability options like adding a glass rinser to wash your beer glasses or installing a dual tap system to serve two different types of beer simultaneously. A digital temperature display on the outside of your kegerator can also enhance the sophistication of your kegerator. Don’t hesitate to add those personalized trims and finishes. After all, the kegerator will be a reflection of your craftsmanship and style.
Regular upkeep and upgrades are also an essential part of improving user experience. Ensuring the kegerator is cleaned regularly and switching the CO2 tanks on time can substantially enhance the beer quality and longevity of the kegerator. Modifications, as your requirements evolve, can be incorporated without the need to invest in a new kegerator.
Incorporating a kegerator in your home has numerous advantages. It allows you to serve chilled draft beer, increases the longevity of your beer, saves costs, and can be a great talking point at gatherings. Above all, building a kegerator at home provides an unmatched sense of satisfaction of creating something on your own.
While building a DIY Kegerator involves some understanding of tools, materials, and patience, it is a project well worth undertaking for all home improvement enthusiasts and DIYers. With proper knowledge and regular upkeep, your DIY kegerator will enrich your home brewing experience for many years to come.
We hope that this comprehensive guide gives you the confidence to build your own kegerator. So, grab a toolbox and start crafting your custom kegerator right away. Good luck!