When it comes to drinking beer, there is no better way than straight out of the tap. But for most people, this is a pleasure that is reserved for when you are out at a bar or restaurant. However, over the last 10 years of so there has been a huge resurgence in craft beers, and with it more and more people brewing beer at home and also making space for a kegerator so they can enjoy ice cold draft beer at any time.
If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, you can always check out our guide to find the best kegerator on the market and be done with it, but if you have that build your own kind of spirit, read on. With less than $400 in materials, you can convert your own modified compact refrigerator or chest freezer to accommodate a keg of any size and serve draft beer at home with a kegerator from scratch.
Choosing the Right Refrigerator to Convert
There is no one best model on mini fridge for converting to a kegerator and there are plenty on the market that will work perfectly. You can check out Amazon, Best Buy or even Craigslist, all of which regularly have great deals on small refrigerators.
In terms of size, you want a model that is between 4 ½ to 5 feet. A refrigerator of this size is going to be able to hold one or two kegs, depending on whether or not you install a dual tap. When in doubt, research the keg size ahead of time and make sure whatever model you are buying is going to be large enough. This handy chart goes over most major keg dimensions for you to reference. You’ll also want a fridge that either does not have a freezer compartment built into it, or the compartment is relatively easy to take out. Remember, if the cooling lines happen to run through the freezer, you wont be able to get rid of it and would be useless for converting.
Picking the Right Conversion Kit for Your Kegerators
Luckily for us, there is no shortage of vendors for these kits on the Internet. Again, Amazon is a great please to look and learn about the different styles of kits, but expect to spend anywhere between $150-$300 depending on whether you go with a single or double tap system.
The kit should include a commercial regulator, a 5-pound CO2 tank, a drip tray, a ball lock keg coupler for tapping different kinds of kegs, beer faucets with levers, a beer wrench, as well as gas and beer lines. When making a kegerator from scratch, most kits found online will be suitable.
Take Apart the Fridge
Simply unscrew the hinges that attach the door to the fridge and remove all of the shelving. You will need to make as much space as you can for the keg and CO2 tank.
Take off the Top of the Fridge
To remove the top of the fridge either unscrew it or peel it off. Depending on the model, it may be either glued on or screwed on. If it’s glued, use a spatula to work your way around the seam of the joint to work the lid off. This can take a little time but we found that once you get it partially off, the rest follows pretty easily.
Locate the Cooling Line on the Fridge
You can usually find the cooling lined on the side of the fridge but in some cases they will be run across the top or the bottom. This can take a bit of poking around and make sure not to sever them because as soon as they are cut the refrigerator is no longer able to cool itself and is therefore useless.
Drilling Through the Bottom
Using a drill, drill a hole in the bottom of the fridge between the cooling lines making sure not to damage them in the process. Make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate two liquid lines and a cooling line that will come later in the process.
Reinforce the Refrigerator Lid
The tap component of the conversion kit is not light, so it’s important to reinforce the lid with wood so it doesn’t collapse in when supporting its weight. There are likely to be ridges on the inside of the lid that you will have to sad down either by hand of with a sander so that the wood can lay right up against the lid and actually provide support. Choose the spot where you want to tap to be and drill a hole there. With most fridges there is going to be a layer of insulation running up to the top of the lid. So once you have your wood square measured out, you need to cut a ditch in the insulation to accommodate it so it can sit flush against the lid and provide support.
Install the Wood and Prepare to Drill
After you install the wood in the insulation mark a pilot hole where the main hole will be drilled. Using a holesaw, make a 3-inch hole where the pilot hole is. It’s important the hole is exactly in the center of the wood. It’s a good idea to do this drilling while the lid is off of the fridge so you don’t do any damage to the parts.
Find a piece of 2.5 inch PVC piping which is going to run from the bottom of the fridge where the hole is up to the top hole where the tower and tap are. Seal the pipe with moisture resistant tape.
Installing the Tap and Rails
Here is where the kegerator starts to take its form. The tower is going to screw right into the top of the fridge with screws. Make sure to drill all the way through to the wood and fasten the screws from the bottom.
Move the Light and Thermostat
If you are tight on space, consider moving around both the light and the thermostat. If you are just going for a single keg, this step may be unnecessary.
Building A Fan Box
It’s important to keep the air within the fridge moving or else your temperatures will be off and the beer will foam up and not pour properly. You can either buy a fan, or simply repurpose one from an old computer. Just install the fan into a piece of Tupperware that will fit it, cut holes for the tube that direct the air and the power cord, hide it behind the keg and you’re done.
Put the Door Back On
Once you have all of the pieces in place and everything fitted properly, all you need to do is screw the door back on. Don’t forget to fill up the CO2 keg at a local store and you’re draft beer will be ready to go.
There you have it! When we said making a kegerator from scratch was easy we weren’t lying. If you have any questions just let us know.