Building a Kegerator

I started out dispensing my home brews from plastic pressure barrels, as it seemed the easiest and cheapest way to turn that very first kit brew I made into a readily drinkable beer. I hadn’t yet got the equipment to start bottling (i.e. a supply of bottles) and didn’t yet understand how carbonation volumes worked. Throwing some sugar into a plastic barrel and letting it carbonate up as a single volume seemed very straightforward. And it was, for a while…

Those plastic barrels actually served me well for a long time, but after a while they need some TLC to keep working properly, not to mention the difficulty in cleaning and drying them out for next use. If I didn’t brew for a while, I would be faced with mould in the bottom of the barrels where I just couldn’t get all of the water out. Bleaching, rinsing and sanitising did the trick, but then there was the problem of the seals. They seemed to hold pressure just fine at first, but you’d pour that first beer after conditioning and it just wouldn’t stop leaking from the tap. Or you’d have a massive foam explosion. Or sometimes no pressure at all, and flat beer. Being one who loves to stay in control, I figured there had to be a better way.

I’d seen a few people showing off their home made kegerators on Youtube videos and home brewing forums, and I figured I’d give it a go. It’s not a particularly cheap option, but having used one for over a year now I’m so glad to have taken the plunge. I still bottle from time to time, but usually from the keg. Only for beers I’ve brewed that are considered better for bottle conditioning have I ran to the bottling bucket.

Build list

This is actually the second kegerator I’ve built. The first used a fridge so small I could only get one keg in. So I decided to upgrade to a two tap system and sourced some slightly slimmer and taller kegs to make sure they both fit. For this build you’ll need:

1x undercounter fridge. It’ll need to be 55cm wide to hold both kegs
2x single handled Cornelius kegs. These are thinner than the Pepsi style
2x liquid out (black) keg disconnect (threaded)
2x gas in (grey) keg disconnect (threaded)
1x CO2 regulator
1x 2-way gas manifold
2x 4″ faucet shanks
2x stainless steel Intertap faucets and handles
1x drip tray
4x John Guest 3/8 to 3/16 reducers
5x John Guest 3/8 disconnect fittings
5x 10mm Oetiker clips
1x CO2 gas bottle
2-3m 3/8 beer/gas line
2m 3/16 beer line
1x faucet wrench
1x 23mm rotary drill bit and drill
Small spirit level
Tape measure
Adjustable wrench
Screwdrivers
Inkbird or STC-1000 temperature controller

Build steps

Preparation

First thing to do before making and changes to the fridge is to check that both kegs fit comfortably, (you’ll need some extra room around them for the beer line, manifold, disconnects etc) and that it works!!!

I didn’t want to take the risk of drilling a hole through the side of the fridge, in case I hit one of the refrigeration lines. So to get the gas line in from the CO2 bottle, I decided to go up through the drain tap at the back. This will mean condensation won’t have anywhere to go, but just remember that’s the case and mop up anything collecting at the back periodically.

Locating the drain tap
Pull the tap out and insert 1m of 3/8 gas line

I like to start planning where everything is going to be positioned before making any holes in the door, so I started with the drip tray. Work out where the middle of the door is, then line the centre hole of the drip try on this at the height you want. Drill a pilot hole, then pop in a screw and hang the drip tray off so that you can get it level for the other two screws.

Hanging the drip tray into position

Mark the other two holes, take down the tray and pilot drill them also. Now you should have a level drip try with which you can start to measure the right place for the faucets. I wanted the faucets to be placed directly half way between the drip tray screws, so I measured the drip tray width (250mm) and divided by 4. Then I measured the distance from the side edge of the fridge door to the drip tray (140mm). Add the two together, and that’s how far in from the door edge the first faucet hole needs to be (203mm).

Marking up the first faucet hole

The second hole needs to be half the width of the drip tray away from the first hole. I calculated this to be 125mm, so I marked 328mm from the door edge. Checking from the other side, I was pretty much on the 203mm mark. With the spirit level, I checked the marks were level, and then proceeded to drill some pilot holes for the rotary bit.

Pilot holes drilled

Installing the faucets

Switching the drill bit to the 23mm rotary bit, drill the pilot holes out. I actually used a 22mm bit, and while it was big enough, those faucets are never coming out again!! 23mm should allow a bit of wiggle room to take them out at a later date.

Clean out the insulation, then push the shanks through the holes until flush with the front of the door. Tighten them up with the nut at the back, but be careful not to over tighten and split the inside door plastic. I had a 4″ and a 3″ shank, and the 3″ is only just long enough.

4″ shank compared to 3″

The faucets themselves just screw on to the shanks. Use a faucet wrench to tighten the ring up so there won’t be any leaks.

Front build complete

Connecting up the gas

Time to attach the manifold to the gas bottle. I want the manifold to be as high up as I can get it, so that the individual gas on/off levers are accessible above the kegs. Before locking it in place, hook up all the gas lines and check for leaks. An Oetiker clip on each barb will help prevent them.

Hooking it all up for a leak test

I actually had a leak on one of the kegs, which turned out to be a split o-ring on the post. I had a spare fortunately, always good to carry stock of perishables like o-rings and washers!

With the leak test done, it’s time to hook up the manifold to the inside of the fridge. Mark out where the holes need to go, then drill some small pilot holes. Careful here, as you may hit a refrigeration line if you go to far. You only need to get into the plastic for it to hold. Attach the manifold to the fridge with some short screws. If you feel any resistance at any point, stop!!

Manifold as high as it’ll go

Finishing up

All that’s left now is to attach the kegs to the faucets. Cut some short sections of 3/8 beer line to attach to the disconnect and shank barb. On the other ends, I used 3/8 to 3/16 reducers. The reason for this is to help balance the lines without masses of coiled up beer line. More on that in a future post.

It should go like this: Black disconnect -> John Guest 3/8 connector -> 3/8 beer line -> reducer -> 3/16 beer line -> reducer -> 3/8 beer line -> shank barb. I’ve used about 1m of 3/16 beer line on each keg. You can use barbed disconnects, but I prefer threaded as they are easier to dismantle and clean.

Liquid out hooked up

The last step is to hook up the temperature controller and probe. I’m using an STC-1000, but an Inkbird works just the same. The STC needs some wiring done before it’s ready, whereas the Inkbird is ready out of the box, albeit at 3 times the price. There are plenty of guides on how to hook up an STC, like this one.

To make sure the temperature probe is reading the actual beer temp and not the fridge or air, I’ve hooked up some polystyrene, with a small channel to house the probe, and strapped it as far down the keg as it’ll reach. It’s important to get it as low as possible, as when the beer gets lower than the probe it starts reading warm too quickly. This is usually my cue to drink up and get a new beer on!!!

All hooked up, STC top left, probe bottom on left keg

It took about 3 hours in total to do, including the time to test the fridge to make sure I wasn’t going to drill through any refrigerant lines. Really can’t wait now to test it out with the Red Rye IPA sat in the fermentor!!

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