Modern kegerators can be either regular refrigerators that have been enhanced to accommodate kegs, or specialized appliances built solely for the purpose of dispensing beer. Probably the most efficient aspect of owning a kegerator is that it will extend the life of the beer you store in it and will do so more efficiently than opening the fridge every time you want a beer. Beer stored in a kegerator is usually good for up to 4 months, but usually a keg of beer in a beer drinker's home won't last for even two weeks!
Kegs that aren't refrigerated can turn sour as quickly as a few days after tapping if exposed to the atmosphere. If you are using a CO2 system without a kegerator the beer will last a little longer before souring, and if you remove and sanitize the spigot lines after every use, you can extend this time frame to weeks.
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.
These days anyone with the cash can buy a kegerator online in a variety of styles. Towers, front pouring, long, short, and even custom models. They are often available for rent locally as well. The sad thing is, is that many of the brands coming out at the lower price bracket are very cheaply made. Many a home brewer has had problems with these sweatshop factory produced models, so it is wise to do some research before buying - expect to get what you pay for.
Almost all modern kegerators come with a thermostat allowing for varying degrees of temperature. Draught beer is usually kept refrigerated between 2°C (35°F) and 4°C (40°F). When entering temperature ranges above 6°C (44°F), a beer may, within a matter of two days sour and cloudy. Below 6°C (44°F), a keg of draft beer should last about 4-5 weeks before losing any of its freshness. Subtle changes to the kegerator's cooling temperature are usually applied when serving differing types of beer, at least, by an experienced kegerator operator.
Many kegerators are being produced now with features never seen before. A model from Fire Magic is designed to be used with their BBQ grill system - the "Grill Island Beer Dispenser". Nitrogen systems are available for a smoother, less bubbly beer, and there are even custom kegerators and kegerator kits made for serving Guinness. There are multi-tap kegerators and conversion kits as well, for those who wish to have a variety of beers at their fingertips...
With modern kegerators, we have reached the pinnacle of this technology. Kegerators are currently being produced for indoor and outdoor use, in a variety of sizes, with custom temperature controls, and even with wheels. There area variety of cleaning products that work well for keeping your kegerator in tip-top shape, and companies that make fashionable "skins" to customize one's kegerator. Of course, the ultimate in customization is building your own.
Continue to Part Ten: The D.I.Y. Kegerator