You know how awesome my wife is? She got me the makings for a kegerator for Christmas last year. At the time, I had a secondhand fridge I kept out in the garage, but only plugged in for parties as I was afraid of the heat it generated causing a fire, and its effect on my power bill was equally worrisome. While walking the dog one day, I passed an Energy Trust truck advertising a $30 bounty paid for old, but working fridges, all the incentive I needed to upgrade. That was in June, but a new baby kept my priorities, and my wallet, focused on non-refrigerator purchases.
Thankfully, Labor Day reminded me of my priorities, celebrating the American worker by capturing a piece of his paycheck, this time in the form of a new, energy efficient fridge, one whose warranty I immediately began to contemplate voiding.
Here’s how I tackled fridge to kegerator conversion. It really couldn’t have been more simple, but there was a nagging voice inside that kept asking, “You’re going to drill holes in a new fridge?” Yep, and it was totally worth it. Hopefully, you’ll see how easy and worthwhile this conversion is, and shut your inner nag up.
1. Mark holes for the taps. Have the taps before you do this, and ideally the tap handles, too. You want the taps high enough that you’re not kneeling to dispense beer, but not so high that opening the freezer door causes you to spill beer all over the floor by activating the tap handles. I suggest marking the inside, where the contours are the most divergent. The nuts that hold the taps in place need to be on a flat part of the door’s interior, so look for a flat area on the interior of the fridge.
2. Drill pilot holes. Most hardware stores carry extra-long (8-10″ long) drill bits for less than $10, but in retrospect, I think a four or five-inch long quarter-inch diameter bit would have been sufficient to go through the interior plastic, the insulation, and the sheet metal exterior of the fridge door. The important thing is that the diameter of your pilot hole bit is the same, or slightly smaller than, the bit that guides your hole saw.
3. Drill Final Holes Start by using a 1″ hole saw (just a hair larger than the diameter of the taps) to drill the plastic interior lining on the door, using your pilot hole from step 2 as a guide. Don’t drill through the metal from the inside, though – it will leave a very ragged hole. Instead, drill a little more than halfway through the door from the inside, then finish the hole from the outside. This way, both holes will be nice and neat. I thought drilling the metal would be difficult, but it’s fairly thin metal, and a sharp, new bit made very short work of it.
4. Insert the Taps. If you fail on this step, you don’t have the brain cells to lose, and I suggest you abandon alcohol consumption, starting immediately.
5. Secure the Taps. Use the nuts that came with your taps to secure the taps to the refrigerator door by tightening them from the inside. A large crescent wrench is necessary to get the nuts sufficiently tight.
6. Connect Beer Lines to Taps. Connect the beer lines to the taps using the nut-end of the beer hoses. Make sure there’s a rubber washer inside the nut; tightening the nut will compress this washer, providing a good seal on the taps (no leaks!).
7. Connect Beer Lines to Kegs. There are two places you can fail in this step, probably because you’re getting thirsty after all the man work. Do as I say, not as I did. Firstly, make sure the taps are turned off when you connect them to the kegs. Most taps pull forward to dispense, so you’ll want them pushed BACK, in the OFF position. Secondly, the Cornelius kegs (aka “Corny” kegs) used by homebrewers generally have two valves, an “in” and an “out.” The latter refers to the liquid contents, and you want the “out” valve connected to the taps. It is possible to mash the beer lines onto the “in” valve, but you will not be happy with this decision.
Remember where I said to turn OFF the taps before connecting the beer lines to the kegs? This is what happens when you ignore that advice: your precious beer all over the floor.
8. Connect CO2 to Kegs. After hooking up the beer lines, there should be only one valve left on each keg. Hook your CO2 up to these valves (marked “IN”), and turn on the pressure at the tank. I adjusted my regulator to provide 10 lbs. of outward pressure, a little higher than I would do for just one keg, but pushing 2 kegs’ worth of beer out seemed to require a little more.
9. Attach Drip Tray I’d say a drip tray is optional, but it was really nice of your wife to agree to this kegerator thing, and a clean, unsticky floor is something she probably values. So get the drip tray, and keep your wife happy. It looks cool, too. I attached mine with Velcro so I could remove it for cleaning easily.
- In Portland: Let’s Brew seems to have the best stock of parts, and has very helpful and knowledgeable staff.
- Online: Amazon has cheap parts, but are mostly for standard San-Key style kegs (most pro brewers supply bars in this format). If you’ve already got Corny kegs, I suggest something like this kit from MoreBeer.
- Screw It, I Don’t Have Time to Build One: May I suggest this fine pre-made Kegerator?
- 1-Inch hole saw and mandrel (you’ll need both if you don’t already own the mandrel that holds the saw part).
- 8″ Crescent Wrench