Hacking Your Kegerator: Adds and Mods Edition

With the increase in awareness of high quality craft beer available in your city and being made by local homebrewers, we are seeing a time when many innovative minds are merging leisure and technical know how to produce interesting results. Custom draft towers are being built, new aesthetics are being decorated, efficiency is being improved, and even computers and electronic controllers are being manipulated towards the end of enhancing the draft beer experience at home, at the shop, even on pedal powered mobile bars.

Kegerator computer fan
Computer fans circulate air inside the kegerator and the blower at the bottom blows cold air up a tube to the tower/tap at a remote location

Draft tower mods are a good place to start. Draft towers are pretty easy to modify. They come off and go on quick. In addition to adding draft faucets for the dispensating of multiple kegs and types of beer, features such as copper cooling conductors and a cooling fan for the draft tower are improving efficiency and minimalizing over foaming and waste of beer.

Both modifications have been found to work effectively at keeping the draft tower cool right up to the beer faucet. If you are planning to hack into your kegerator and make some improvements, the draft tower is a good place to start.

The problem is a small problem, but it can add up to a lot of wasted beer over the years: the beer line in the draft tower often is a degree or two warmer than the cooling chamber of the kegerator (or the keg). It is an issue of insulation and conductivity.

There are two approaches to solving this problem:

• Make a cooling fan to blow cold air into the draft tower

• Sheathe the beer line(s) with copper tubing, which conducts the heat out of the draft tower, and then insulate the cooling tower with HVAC insulation tubing.

Both ideas have merit, and take about the same amount of time, effort, and cash to accomplish.

Building custom draft spigot housings is a really fun project, just because there are so many ways you can take it. Vintage lunch box, tool box, violin case, gas can, even an old accordion can be used to mount your beer spigots through. While you are at it, adding extra beer lines is a simple addition to the project which just requires a little more hardware. A couple extra draft spigots, CO2 fittings and splitters, and some hose clamps can turn a regular kegerator into a multi-draft dispensing home draft system that can dispense up to four varieties of beer.

Kegerators are designed and built for practicality, so more and more home draft aficionados are tricking their kegerator our with custom tap handles, lights, and other distinctive additions. When mod'ing your kegerator to fit a certain aesthetic, it is a good idea to settle on a theme early. Will it look vintage or antique? Is portability important? In addition to the practical questions, ask yourself this: What is my theme? Any aesthetic project will flow better if you decide on a theme.

Try this exercise: sit down and write nine words or phrases describing what you want your draft system to emote, or give off a feeling of.

Here's what one of our homebrew staffers came up with: steam punk, super villain, magickal, witchy, circus, devilish, Mad Scientist, industrial, and handcrafted. Now, take these words and associate with them a motif that can manifest that aesthetic. They came up with: brass, black, sigils, ornate, stripes, red, lab glass, pipes, carved wood. Now you have a lot of design elements to choose from. Pick three or more to incorporate into your design.

Here's how they would transform their kegerator into a steam punk super villain magickal elixir sideshow dispenser: First, find some old furniture and harvest the nice turned pieces of wood from it and mount them as a frame onto the kegerator door. Paint the kegerator with red and black stripes inside the panel. Make some wood block prints including little devil goblins, magickal sigils, and wheat paste them onto the sides of the kegerator, with special attention to the door. Rebuild the draft tower with a steel pipe and handmade wooden box (might as well add three extra beer lines). Install a drip tray which funnels the dripped beer into a lab beaker which will be saved for future distillate. That would be their ideal aesthetic kegerator mod.

There is more going on than just mechanical and aesthetic kegerator hacks these days. Geeks at hacker spaces all over are applying their computronic genius to the problems of monitoring the beer left in the keg, maintaining the correct temperature and push for the kegerator's beer, creating beer robots, and many other utilitarian features.

Adafruit monochrome LCD

The hackers and makers at Milwaukee Maker space have invented a micro controller device that works in tandem with their kegerator as a Beer Automated Dispensing And Security System (B.A.D.A.S.S.). The device can keep track of who is dispensing beer and how much beer is dispensed through a RFID reader. The user presents their key fob to the RFID reader, which greets them with an acknowledgement and then suggests that they drink up.

Kegbot is an open source project that utilizes Arduino technology to interconnect a kegerator with internet connectivity.

Kegbot allows one to post to twitter when a new keg is tapped, or even when a beer is being served. Like the B.A.D.A.S.S., Kegbot can utilize an RID reader to track who is drinking your beer and authenticate the beer user, and you can even shut off your taps to prevent serving to those who are not authorized to dispense your beer. Since this is an open-source project, many minds have converged on the project to add their two bits. Kegbot.org has all the lowdown on what you can do with Kegbot, how Kegbot can connect with your smart phone, and the source code that can be used to add to the project.

Wired.com has also invested some of their brilliant minds into a kegerator project called Beer Robot. It utilizes many of the functionality and connectivity features of the B.A.D.A.S.S. and Kegbot, and it looks like a giant smart phone. Wired.com is known to set up the Beer Robot in different random locales for hackers and makers to take advantage of free beer - one of the best promotional tools of the ages.

It worked for the Pharaohs building the pyramids, and it works for tech savvy web blogs today.

Related Kegerator Articles :
Modification Project -- Adding Double or Triple Tap Tower.
Converting Kegerators for Serving Cask Ale -- Project that will convert a kegerator into a cask ale dispenser.
Build A Kegerator Hop Filter -- Add more flavor to your beer.