My Twitter friend B_Pat_ recently asked me:
I'm looking to buy a kegerator and all the equipment necessary for kegging my beer. I want a dual tap kegerator. My budget is $800. Advice?
I tweeted him back with my advice. My responses were:
I recommend building one or going on Craigslist. Brand new is great but it's a fridge with a tap – not tough to do yourself.
If you are handy with tools, anyway. I got a 7 cu ft freezer and a temp controller and it works great.
Kegging: Plan on about $250-300 just for your kegging stuff (2 kegs, 5 lbs CO2, all your lines). Then The kegerator or cooler.
Get an extra keg too so you can have one in waiting while you run out of your current brew!
I get asked this question a lot and this is a succinct set of answers I give as a standard rule, but I thought it might deserve a more thorough response. I wrote before about how to get started kegging but I wanted to go into some other practical considerations, especially where a kegerator is concerned.
When I was ready to finally get a kegerator set up, I had to do some serious planning. I live in an apartment complex and am forbidden from having any large appliances in my space other than those furnished in the apartment. This makes sense, I suppose, because they don't want people to have excess weight on the floors, probably, and certainly don't want appliances like freezers or refrigerators, which can leak and damage carpets, not to mention possibly causing water damage for neighbors below. My selection criteria were such:
- Excludes anything made and marketed as a kegerator, at least a new one, at least for my budget
- Small or at least inconspicuous, since I had to move it past the apartment office
- Excludes a full-size refrigerator, which was what I really wanted
- Must be big enough to hold at least two kegs
- Anything smaller would not have been worth the trouble
- Excludes something as small as a regular dorm fridge
- Weight, because I knew I couldn't have something too heavy in my 9th floor apartment
- Excludes older equipment
- Considered a compressor-free chiller, but thermoelectric devices don't go too far in cooling
- Hideable, so it would not be easily spied when we needed service in the apartment
- Could not be too tall
I was concerned about how all these factors would line up, and decided that the form factor would have to determine what I got. I found that there was an electrical outlet on my balcony and decided that a cooler out there would be ideal. The maintenance folks would not go out there very often, and it could be easily hidden, being out of normal sight. I ended up getting a 7-cubic-foot GE chest freezer from Home Depot for about $240, including shipping. I first looked at Craigslist and lots of discount sites, but getting a new one was not much more expensive than used, and it came with a one-year warranty. Andy had given me a temperature controller before he went to Afghanistan, and this has allowed me to use it as a cooler rather than a freezer.
The freezer can easily hold three corny kegs and a five-pound tank of gas. If I built a collar for taps and put the gas outside the freezer, I could wedge in a fourth keg. It would be a tight fit, but I could do it. As it is, I have three kegs in the freezer. Two are beers I am dispensing and one is a pilsner I am lagering. The beers being dispensed have picnic taps and are hooked up to a manifold that distributes the carbon dioxide. It is not pretty or a very sophisticated setup but for now it will do. I will add a collar later, when I have some time and money, but for now it does the trick.
If you have room to get a refrigerator or freezer to turn into a kegerator, do some homework by bringing your kegs with you to see if the cooler you want will fit the number of kegs you want to house. Ball lock corny kegs are 9" in diameter, so another thing you can do is to cut out a few 9" cardboard circles to put in the chiller to see if it will hold what you want. It's a whole lot easier than lugging kegs around. And hopefully you will not have potential landlord problems like I do. They are a great group of people but they would get a little upset if they knew this thing was here.