HOW TO BUILD YOUR VERY OWN KEG FRIDGE
If you’re serious about beer, you’re eventually going to get serious about kegs. When you do, you’ll find yourself yearning for a place to keep them cold. A low-end commercial keg fridge will run you $400 or more, while a nice one will be over $600. But if you’ve got a spare refrigerator, you can build a keg fridge for around $200.
- •What You'll Need1. Refrigerator 2. Conversion kit 3. CO2 cylinder 4. CO2 gas (inside the canister) 5. Screwdrivers 6. Power drill 7. 1⅜-inch and ⅞-inch hole saws 8. Measuring tape 9. Hacksaw 10. A keg of your favorite beer
- •A Word on Conversion KitsConversion kits are cheaper than buying the components separately and are easy to find online. Conversion kits come in two styles: door-mounted taps for upright fridges and towers for chest freezers and compact fridges. We used a basic single-tap door-mounted kit and a five-pound aluminum CO2 cylinder from the folks at BeverageFactory.com. Homebrewers’ supply stores usually carry conversion kits. They’ll also be able to answer questions you have about the building process.
- •Step 1: Find a FridgeWhen you go to check out a fridge, bring measuring tape. A full sized keg is 16 1/8 inches in diameter, and with the CO2 canister inside, you will need an interior cavity of 28 inches by 18 inches. Compact fridges that can fit a keg are harder to find, so we opted for a free and functional upright fridge. While an upright fridge takes up more space, it has the advantage of being able to fit two 5-gallon kegs. Pro tip: if it has a freezer compartment, use it to chill your steins.
- •Step 2: Drill a HoleBesides drinking the beer, this part is the most fun. Place the tap low enough so the freezer door doesn’t hit the tap handle when it’s opened. Mark the spot with a pen on both sides of the door. Drill a ¼-inch pilot hole through the door. Then, drill a hole with the 1 ⅜-inch hole saw, just through the outer layer of the door, and drill the ⅞-inch hole saw just through the inner layer. Measure the thickness between the holes, then saw your PVC pipe to that length so it inserts into the hole.
- •Step 3: Install the TapConnect the faucet to the shank and moderately tighten with a wrench. Insert the shank into the PVC pipe and fasten with the shank nut. Push the beer hose onto the other end of the shank and fasten with a clamp. Put the loose clamp onto the hose before attaching it to the shank. At the other end of the hose, insert a rubber washer into the nut and then screw the nut onto the top of the keg coupler. Tighten with a wrench. Install the drip tray a foot below the tap by putting screws into the door.
- •Step 4: Connect the CO2Add a clamp to the gas hose, then fasten it to the thin end of the keg coupler and clamp it down. Then add a clamp to the other end, fasten it to the thin end of the CO2 regulator and tighten the clamp. Attach the end of the regulator with a nut on it to the CO2 cylinder. Tighten it with a wrench. Be careful not to over-tighten it, because you’ll need to remove it to refill the canister. (📷s Jon Snyder/WIRED)
- •Step 5: Tap that KegInsert the coupler into the keg (handle pointing up). Rotate it until it stops. Pull out the handle and push it down until it snaps below the catch. Next, open the regulator valve near the hose on the gauge by pointing it along the hose. Open the valve on top of the tank. Turn the regulator clockwise until the gauge reads 10 psi. In a double gauge regulator, the second gauge shows how much pressure is in the keg. It will drop as the beer gets lower and help predict when you will need a new keg.
- •Tips & TricksThe first two beers will probably be mostly foam. But by the third, it should be close to the right gas pressure. Fiddle with the regulator until it is. Most American beer kegs use a Sankey coupler, so most conversion kits come with one. But you may want to check your favorite brew to see if you need a different style coupler to serve it. You can swap your empty CO2 cylinder at most homebrew or gas suppliers. Also, some welding suppliers will fill your existing tank, which is cheaper.