Purchasing a brand new kegerator can be quite expensive, but with a little time and elbow grease one can enjoy the benefits of a draught beer at home for a bargain price. Building a D.I.Y. kegerator can be accomplished in a weekend, if all the right parts are acquired beforehand. The first item you will need is a the right refrigerator...
Used fridges can be found on your local craigslist.org for anywhere from free to $200 for a better model, and at refurbished appliance stores as well. Consider the kind of investment you want to make into your kegerator. Do you need to be able to accommodate full sized kegs? Do you want to be able to store cask ales in the unit, or private reserve bottled home brew? Take all this into account and get a fridge that will be the right size for your needs.
The home brewer has the most to benefit from the use of a kegerator. For non-pasteurized ales, temperature is very important, and souring can happen quite quickly if proper sanitation practices are not followed. All of this attention to detail pays off in the end, when a fresh, natural beer results. As mentioned earlier, home brewers dispensing from kegerators are in the unique position of having the richer taste of non-pasteurized ale with the ease of dispensation of pressurized ales.
There are a number of parts that you will need to acquire before starting the project. Once you know what kind of kegerator you want to make, order the parts online. It will save you a lot of trouble rooting around hardware stores in your area, and many companies offer kegerator conversion kits that will contain all the hardware that you will need. The only things you might have to get at the hardware store are some essential tools for modifying your refrigerator: you will certainly need a drill, screwdrivers, maybe a hammer and nails, depending on whether you wish to build additional shelves inside the kegerator, and a 3/4" or 1" hole saw bit for your drill.
It is of utmost importance that you do not drill into or otherwise break the coolant lines of your kegerator-to-be. Plug the unit in and feel along the outside for areas that are hotter than others - coolant lines may be running there. When you're able to look in past the outside shell of the fridge, always double check to see if there is a coolant line there. If you have bought the unit at a local appliance dealer, you may wish to ask the technician's advice on where coolant lines may lay. If you do decide to purchase a new refrigerator and convert it, remember that by making alterations to the refrigerator you are most likely voiding any warranty that the refrigerator came with.
When building your own D.I.Y. kegerator, there are some differences between making a regular and "shorty" fridge style, which you should pay attention to. The main difference of construction is that you may install a tower for your draft spigots in the "shorty" variety. You can even get special "draft tower" kegerator conversion kits. Building a D.I.Y. kegerator with a tower can give your home draught unit a sense of bar-like authenticity. Another difference when you make a D.I.Y. kegerator of the "shorty" variety is that if you do not use a tower, you will need to build a collar through which your draught spigots are mounted. If you build a collar, or any shelf inside your homemade kegerator, make sure that it is coated and resistant against mold and water.
The best advice I can give for building a home made kegerator is to really think it out beforehand and read our How to Build a Kegerator article. Make sure you have everything you need, hardware, fridge unit, tools, and cleaning supplies. Once your keg beer is flowing through a kegerator built with your own hands, you will want to keep the beer tasting fresh. Use a beer line cleaning kit between each keg, or at east every six weeks to ensure that your lines remain free of bacterial contamination.
And remember how far the art of brewing, transporting, cooling, and serving beer has come so that we may finally enjoy a true draught style ale in the comfort of our own homes. Drink it in health!
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