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How to Build a Kegerator

Ever wanted to know how to build a kegerator using an old refrigerator? Follow the instructions below to install a refrigerator conversion kit into a standard refrigerator to make the perfect home draft beer system.

How to Build a Kegerator

There are a few basic styles you can go with if you want build your own kegerator at home, upright refrigerator, compact fridge or chest freezer style. The upright kegerator allows for the most accessories out of the designs. With an upright kegerator, you can have up to four taps flowing, each producing a different variety of beer, plus an ice maker, and room for glassware and chilled bottles. With the compact fridge, you have the advantage of a smaller unit, but at most two or three taps. The chest freezer (keezer) style can store multiple kegs and practically unlimited taps. The draw back for some on the keezer style is that you must be able to lift the kegs up and into the freezer.

You should pick which one to create depending on your draft beer dispensing needs and the amount of space available for your home draft kegerator. [See our buy or build decision tool]

Once you have decided which type of kegerator you wish to build, you can select an appropriate kegerator conversion kit. There are a number of brands available, varying in number of taps, optional spill tray, and tooling. Depending on what you have already (maybe a CO2 tank and kegs?) you should choose the right kit for you.

You will need certain hardware and tools to build a kegerator.

  • CO2 tank with regulator
  • Keg coupler
  • Tubing for beer and CO2 lines
  • 1-4 beer faucets
  • Wall flange
  • Flanged jam nut
  • Beer shank
  • Tail piece and hex nut
  • Draft tap handle
  • Drip tray
  • Tower (necessary for mini-fridge conversions)

These items can be bought separately, but it is usually more expedient to purchase a kegerator conversion kit that contains all of them. The kits are not very expensive and we have a large selection of conversion kits available on Kegerators.com.

It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you purchase a beer line cleaning kit at the same time you purchase your kegerator conversion kit. It is wise to clean your beer lines thoroughly before firing up your kegerator in earnest.

After ordering a kegerator conversion kit, start looking for the refrigerator that you will transform into your home draft beer system. Refurbished refrigerators are recommended. They come cheap, they are clean, and (usually) guaranteed to be in working order. While you may come across cheaper deals at the flea market or estate sale, the kind of units available there are as likely to fail in a week as work properly. You may have some luck searching for cheap kegerators on local online community portals like Craigslist.org. Don't use rented appliances to make a kegerator, as drilling holes into them will no doubt break the terms of your lease contract.

    THE SPECIFICATIONS FOR COMMON KEG TYPES:

    Common Keg Sizes

  • Home Brew: Bev.Keg.(Cornelius keg):
    5 gal., 640oz, 53x12oz glasses, 25"tall, 8.5"dia, 49 lbs full

  • Sixth (1/6th) barrel
    5.23 gal, 669oz, 55x12oz glasses, 23.3"tall, 9.25"dia, 56 lbs full

  • Short Quarter (1/4) barrel aka "Pony Keg"
    7.75 gal, 992oz, 82x12oz glasses, 14.8"tall, 17"dia, 81 lbs full

  • Slim, ( Tall ) Quarter (1/4) barrel
    7.75 gal, 992oz, 82x12oz glasses, 23.3"tall, 11"dia, 81 lbs full

  • Half (1/2) barrel
    15.5gal, 1984oz, 165x12oz glasses, 23.3"tall, 17"dia, 161 lbs full

It is probably a good idea to consider what manner of keg is going to be used to dispense beer from your kegerator. You will have to ensure there is room for one Cornelius sized keg per spigot plus, at the very smallest, a five pound CO2 tank. It is possible to mount the CO2 tank externally to make more room for kegs on the inside, but it involves a bit of a hassle, requiring additional drilling into your fridge in areas where Freon lines may pass. The only real danger is when making a mini-fridge style of kegerator - many models are simply too small to build into kegerators, and you will find yourself running out of room quickly. The kind you want to get is basically half the size of a regular fridge, no smaller.

There are a few specialty tools needed to make your kegerator conversion, which are also available with most homemade kegerator conversion kits, at your local homebrew supply store, or online. It is un-escapable that you will need to drill holes into your fridge in order to mount your draft spigots or tower. A drill attachment called the hole saw can drill through fridge materials quite easily, and is available at most hardware stores. All in all, you will likely need the following list of tools:

  • Electric drill
  • 1 inch hole saw
  • 3 inch hole saw
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • 1/8 inch drill bit
  • Long nose pliers
  • Level
  • Rotary saw or hand saw

Once your kegerator conversion kit arrives in the mail, it is time to begin!!! The first step is thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the fridge that you are converting. Remove the shelves, if there are any, and if the floor of the fridge is not flat and level, you should build an elevated floor that is flat and even.

Now, if you are building an upright kegerator conversion, drill a 1/8" pilot hole for the Shank Holes. Make sure that this hole goes all the way through the door, that the spigots will be elevated sufficiently to clear the keg, and that they are centered. Now, you will drill a 1 inch Shank Hole in the outside of the door for the Faucet, using your drill and the 1 inch hole saw. Drill a larger 2 inch, then 3 inch hole on the inside of the door, using the larger bore hole saw. Into this hole fit your shank into the door with the flange against the outside and the nut tightened onto the inside of the outer panel of the door. The larger hole on the inside will facilitate the tightening of the shank nut.

If you are building a tower style mini-fridge kegerator, you must consider the design of your mini-fridge. A top opening mini-fridge or freezer is a good option, because the lid will be free of coolant lines, and easy to drill into. Be sure that you have enough room for keg and beer lines. You can add an intermediate wooden collar if there is not enough room, however.

If the mini-fridge is a swinging door style, you will be better off mounting your spigots on the door, as a regular sized fridge. It is possible to install a draft tower, but you will need to be exceedingly careful of coolant lines. Should the coolant lines be ruptured, you will need to start over with a new mini-fridge, so it is better to remove whichever panel you can so that you can see the coolant lines before drilling.

Installing the drip tray in either kegerator style is relatively simple. For a regular size kegerator, use the drip tray mounting bracket to mark out the mounting holes and drill them. Most styles of drip tray are mounted with Phillip's head screws. For a tower style mini-fridge, I recommend a self contained spill tray that is manually emptied. Now, after installing the drip tray, all you have to do is hook up the beer and gas lines, flush them and sanitize them. Make sure that all hose clamps are tightened and that the CO2 tank is secured and the regulator set to 7-12 PSI.

If you have elected to keep your CO2 tank outside of your kegerator, you will need to drill an additional hole through that back and seal around the CO2 line with silicone sealant, or find a correctly sized rubber sleeve. Once again, you will need to be exceedingly careful not to rupture any coolant lines during this process. For a top opening design, you may have room to facilitate the exit of the CO2 line in a relatively undetectable fashion from the rear side of the lid. If utilizing a collared design, you can drill through the collar at the exact size of your CO2 line.

Now, hook up the keg, call up some friends, and let the beer flow!


Published On: Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For additional information on kegerators or draft beer topics please visit our kegerator article center.

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