Modifying Beer Coolers to Fit Your Needs

Home brewing is a hobby for the crafty. Making your own tools for the production and dispensation of quality beer is the most fun challenge facing home brewers. Bottling is first, but quickly becomes tiresome. Kegging your beer is the next step. After your tasty home is kegged and primed, to really enjoy it you need some kind of beer keg cooler. Many home brewers choose to go the route of the kegerator, a modified refrigerator that keeps ice-cold home brew on tap. But for weekends out and picnics, the modified beer cooler can be a better choice.

Modified Beer Cooler

The modified beer keg cooler is an apparatus, which cools the beer as it comes out of the keg, and before reaching the dispensation spigot. On a hot day, a modified beer cooler is the only way to keep your home brew coming cold out of the tap. The idea is that a beer cooler is modified to have one or more draft spigots. Inside the beer cooler, the lines run into a to either a very long length of tubing or coiled copper pipe. The process of cooling is very similar to that of the cooling coil that many use as a wort chiller. The difference is that the beer is inside the line instead of outside it. Outside the line is ice, which is kept insulated by the beer cooler.

The building of your beer cooler can be accomplished easily in less that an hour once you have the right tools. I recommend using a medium sized beer cooler to start with. This way, you can add a second tap if you wish, and a spill tray. Small beer keg coolers work, but you need to refill the ice fairly often. Even with a medium sized cooler, you may have to refill the ice in the cooler once if it is a hot day. Make sure to keep the actual keg under the shade, or your ice will melt all that much quicker. It is highly recommended that you choose a cooler that has cup holders built into the lid and to make sure they fit a pint glass!

You only need a few tools to accomplish building this simple design: a drill, a 1 inch hole saw blade for your drill, and the proper wrenches to tighten down your draft fittings (which sometime require a special wrench). As far as hardware goes, you will need ten to twelve feet of beer line tubing (aka surgical tubing), a faucet for dispensing, a "shank" for the spigot-tube cooler wall interface, some hose clamps, and another shank for the line that comes from the keg into the cooler. The hardware can be bought all in one package either online (search for "beer cooler conversion kit") or at your local homebrew supply store. The only specialty tools you may need are a faucet wrench, and a fairly large drill bit, called a hole saw blade, in order to drill the mounting holes for your shanks. The faucet wrench is only necessary with some models of draft spigot, and it is recommended to inquire at your local homebrew supply store about acquiring one. The 1" hole saw blades are available at most hardware stores. Once again, either check your parts or ask at the brew store to make sure of the size of hole saw blade you need for your spigot and shank.

The process is quite simple, and I recommend putting two draft spigots on a medium or large sized beer keg cooler in order to maximize the usefulness of the tool (and make the beer flow twice as fast). You can always start with one spigot and then add a second one later, but in this case, remember to mount your first draft spigot either to the right or left side of the front of the cooler. That way, there will be room for another spigot later if you want to have two different beers going for your picnic.

There are other ways to customize your beer keg cooler - such as adding a spill tray, different draft tap handles, and switch out tooling for ball lock, pin lock, or tap style kegs to be attached to your beer cooler.