By Christopher Jennings
Once we’ve become experienced home brewers it is time to step up our game. Bottling is a great way to share beers but kegging is a much faster and easier process. There is less risk of infection and a better chance that every pint will taste just as good as the last. Though you may already have a beer fridge, building a kegerator is a rewarding and exciting experience that will impress your friends and neighbors by pouring your tasty homebrew into a frosty mug fresh off the tap.
Selecting a refrigeration device can be a time- consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive process. Start by choosing what style of keg you are going to use: Will it be a Cornelius (“Corny”) keg, a pin-lock, ball-lock or a sanke? How many taps do you want to have pouring? These decisions will help you to select the best fridge for your situation. The various kegs are all a little different in size, so thinking about how much space you have to work with should give you an answer to how many taps you want to have. If you have a place to put it, getting a large top-loading chest freezer that can hold 10 or more kegs will give you lots of flexibility. You don’t have to have all 10 taps pouring — you can run three, but you now will have cold storage for beer that you want to condition or age longer. If you have space constraints or you want to put a small kegerator in the living room or kitchen, selecting a nice small refrigerator that holds maybe one or two kegs would be the best option.
Going with the smaller home model of kegerator is the least work as far as building or modifying required. you can purchase a used or new single- tap kegerator that is usually big enough to only
hold one full-size keg. This means that you may be able to fit two to three 5-gallon kegs in it. Once you determine how many kegs you want to have on tap — or can have on tap — you can upgrade the tap tower or add on to it by visiting your local home brew shop. After you have the new or modified tower you just need to split your gas line. you can do this inexpensively with plastic “Ts” or by using a manifold system.
The other option — a chest freezer — requires a bit more construction and equipment to get operational. First of all, it is a freezer and we don’t want our beer to freeze so we need to get a temperature controller; this will allow us to regulate the temp inside the freezer to within a few degrees. They come in analog or digital which you can get at your local homebrew supply shop. Once you have the temp controller the next step is to get taps put on the cooler and gas run to the keg. The least expensive and best way to add taps is to remove the lid of the chest freezer and build a “collar” out of 2x6’s. This collar is then secured to the cooler itself and the freezer lid is then attached to the collar. This gives you a blank easy-to-manipulate surface that you can cut holes in with a 1-inch hole saw.
You can paint or stain it for aesthetics and add the shanks and faucets to it. How much beer line to use can be argued about until the end of time. Using 4-foot lengths will leave less clutter in the kegerator. If the beer pours foamy, turn down the gas. There is no reason to pour at 15 psi if you’re only pushing it through four feet. If you want longer lines, go longer. There really is no right or wrong answer.
For the gas — if you have space outside of the cooler, it would be best if you drill a hole to run
the gas line from the CO2 tank into the cooler and hook it up to a manifold. This will give you complete control over each individual keg.
Building a kegerator can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Never forget that there is no one-brew system or kegerator that is the same, so make sure to add your own touch to make it just as unique as each of the tasty homebrews that will be poured from it.
Download the Recipes:
Horse Pale (AG)
Horse Pale (Extract)
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.