11 Kegerator Upgrades

Draft beer components that you should eventually upgrade.

When you purchase your first kegerator there is a high level of excitement and pride of ownership. Sometimes, this can blind the first time buyer to some of the mediocre equipment and cheap hidden parts snuck in for beer dispensing by the manufacturers. Sure, the draft extracting equipment included does the job, but once you serve a few kegs through it a cloud lifts to expose some of the ways the kegerator manufacturers will cut corners in order to get the price down as low as possible for the consumer. In reality, they do this to maximize profit margins. As a consumer you should be aware of these sub-par parts and hidden areas where issues may arise after a few kegs have been dispensed. These are 11 areas where you can upgrade to make your kegerator a hot-rod.

1. Antimicrobial and PVC Free Gas & Beer Line
Brew Ultra Line Kit

PVC Vinyl tubing is the standard for almost every kegerator and kegerator conversion kit on the market. Vinyl is a brewery approved material and it remains flexible and durable at recommended temperatures and pressures. It will not rot, swell, or dry out and is unaffected by normal cleaning compounds.

That being said, research suggests that all plastics may leach chemicals (synthetic estrogen hormone disruptors) if they're scratched, heated or with long term exposure. Research also strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in these products, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may cause cancer in people.[1]

Beer in a home kegerator usually moves quickly the first few days with help from friends and family. After the party is over, sometimes beer sits in the beer lines for long periods of time which is where the concern of chemical leeching from the PVC lines gets real.

The solution is a new product from EJ Beverage called Ultra Barrier Silver Antimicrobial and PVC Free Gas & Beer Tubing. The tubing is PVC free, BPA free and contains no DEHP phthalates or other plasticizers. This is one of those situations that makes you think, why not? There may not be enough proven fact to justify the "plastic is bad" theory, but it really can't hurt to remove it from the equation altogether, right?




2. Turnkey Hose clamps
Key Clamps

Most kegerators are fitted with ear clamps which are permanently sealed and not reusable. You will find these clamps on tubing connecting to shanks in draft beer towers and wall mount kits. These style clamps are also commonly used on gas line tubing connecting couplers and regulators. The clamps work, but are not ideal. When the time comes for tube replacement or cleaning you will see why.

Your best replacement option is a Turn Key Hose Clamp. These durable steel hose clamps are reusable and can save time. They have a built-in key that stays in place and doesn't require any additional tools to tighten or loosen. These clamps won't crack or break like cheap plastic clamps.




3. Check Valves
Check Valves

Getting beer in your gas lines is no fun. This issue is mostly an issue for homebrewers using ball lock or pin lock kegs. The connectors used to connect the beer and gas don't have any type of check valve, allowing gas and beer to flow in either direction.

Inline CO2 check valves are available to install between these connectors and the line to prevent this back flow during uneven pressures of gas and beer. We've also seen versions of these disconnect connectors that include built-in check valves, so you have a few options. The final solution is an air distributor with built-in check valves. Check valves save you from having to clean or replace your gas lines.




4. Keg Floor Plates

Not usually mentioned in any kegerator manual is the floor plate. If you have a kegerator in the style of a compact refrigerator with a draft tower, then you most likely have a floor plate (sometimes called a chill plate or skid plate) to protect the inside of the kegerator from the keg. Did you know these plates can be removed and need to be cleaned? It's good practice to take the plate out and clean and sanitize the entire inside of the kegerator monthly to keep spilled beer from growing bacteria and mold.




5. Stainless Steel Tower Shank Elbow Fittings
Faucet Wrench Tool

Draft beer towers can sometimes be a gauntlet of nuts, bolts, clamps and hoses. Getting the draft beer tower disassembled for cleaning and hose replacement takes a few specialty tools including a spanner wrench and a tower nut wrench. Luckily there is faucet tower wrench tool that does both!

The tower shank elbow fittings are tricky pieces of draft beer equipment that should be upgraded to a solid stainless steel elbow shank. Most towers will come with a chrome plated brass version that will eventually break down and start to chip away. For cleaning, soak the elbow fitting in cleaner and use a small pipe cleaner to scrub the inside thoroughly.




6. Spare Coupler Checkball
Check Ball

Make sure the sanke coupler is cleaned completely before every keg. A common problem is a check ball sticking when covered in old sticky beer from a previous keg. The check ball prevents exiting beer from reentry. Get the check ball lifter tool for better cleaning. The check ball is also a small part that gets easily lost, so having a spare is not a bad idea.




7. CO2 Tank Leak Stopper
co2 leak stopper

Have you ever lost an entire tank of CO2 right after you filled it? It's probably a faulty or misaligned CO2 washer. These washers are not very tough and easily scrape leaving small gaps for gas to escape. Spend a few bucks and get the CO2 tank leak stopper. This device makes more of a permanent seal between your regulator and gas tank.




8. Regulator with Tank Level Gauge
Dual gauge regulator

A single gauge regulator is usually what is included in a basic kegerator package. A single gauge only tells pressure, but not tank level. Knowing how much gas you have in the tank might be just as important as what pressure is set. Have you ever run out of gas during the middle of dispensing a keg? The solution is to either always have a backup tank of gas on hand or upgrade to a dual gauge regulator. No brainer.




9. Dehumidifier to Prevent Ice Buildup
Dehumidifier

Some kegerators include an auto defrost feature to melt off any ice that accumulates to the cooling plate or coils. During this defrost ice melts off and usually out into collection pan sitting above the compressor. Depending on how much water you get, you might have water spill over the pan and into the inner electrical components of the unit. We recommend unplugging the unit during any defrost and adding a fridge dehumidifier to limit the amount of ice buildup in the future.




10. Drip Tray with a Ported Drain
Drip trays

Tower and door mount kegerators need a drip tray, so most are included in the bundle of equipment used to setup the kegerator. The problem is that most are cheap plastic with no type of drainage option. Upgrade to a stainless steel drip tray with a drain valve. You can then run a drain hose to a bucket or permanently to a sink drain.




11. Tower Cooling Fan
draft tower cooling fans

Most draft beer kegerators do not come with any type of tower cooling device, but some of the more expensive units do. If the tower and draft beer lines aren't cooled to the same temperature as the keg down below you will get a quick change in temperature when you pull a beer. This is one of the main causes of the dreaded FOAM. Luckily there are single tower cooling fans and dual tap tower blowers available to install in any standard tower style kegerator.