The first-time homebrewer usually finds the entire beer-making process new and enjoyable. The second time around, bottling is usually seen as tedious, yet still rewarding. Every time after that scraping labels and sanitizing all those bottles is seen as the chore it truly is. A few years ago a beat-up old refrigerator fell into my lap. Converting it into a kegerator was the only logical thing to do.
For the first iteration of my kegerator I just pulled all the shelves out of the spare fridge and put three kegs and a 5-lb. CO2 tank in the fridge with picnic taps attached — you would open the fridge, find the tap line you wanted, pour your beverage of choice, then close the fridge.
After looking around at other projects on homebrewing forums and mailing lists, I realized that I could have a fully functional kegerator with only minimal equipment and a few hours work. Since I already had the draft system built, all I needed were the shanks (the metal piece that goes through the fridge door), the faucets, and a few yards of tubing. And while I was at it, I figured it was a good time to do some cosmetic work on the rusty old icebox.
A few notes on the draft system itself: Everyone’s fridge is a little different, as is everyone’s draft system. My setup allowed me to fit three kegs and a gas tank with only slight modification to the fridge. I used ball-lock kegs, which are taller and skinnier than pin-lock kegs. The bottom backside of my fridge has space taken up by the refrigeration system that prevents kegs from sitting directly on the bottom. I’m by no means skilled at woodworking, but I was able to hack together a platform in about 30 minutes by nailing some plywood on 2x4s cut to length, then spray painting and applying a coat of polyurethane to keep it dry. This platform allowed me to fit three kegs and a gas tank, with room for a few 22 oz. (650 mL) bottles underneath. Each fridge is different. You’ll have to measure yours to figure out how many kegs you can fit and what kind of platform (if any) you’ll need. There’s one gas tank in the fridge with a dual-gauge regulator. One gauge I keep at 10 PSI, and I split that with a tee to pressurize two kegs of beer. The second regulator is set to 12 PSI and is dedicated to a cider.
Assuming you already have a spare fridge and a functioning draft system, the entire project should set you back around $250. You can save money by getting cheaper chrome-plated components instead of stainless steel, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You should set aside a weekend for the entire project. However, most of that time is spent watching paint dry (while sipping a homebrew, of course). If you’re skipping the paint, the entire conversion should only take a couple of hours.
Materials & Tools:
30 feet (9 m) of 3⁄16-inch I.D. beverage tubing (plus more tubing for CO2 distribution)
Worm gear clamps
3 faucet/shank combo kits
Painting supplies: Sandpaper, masking tape, paintbrushes, small paint roller and rolling pan, 1 quart plain latex primer, 1–2 quarts blackboard paint.
Shelf-building materials (optional): plywood, 10 feet (3 m) of 2×4, nails, paint, polyurethane.
15⁄16-inch hole saw bit