A couple months ago, I got my personal draft beer setup started with the most versatile piece of equipment, a jockey box. While this is useful for any situation you might encounter, this jack-of-all-trades is really only the master of portable draft service. For serving at home, the way to go is the kegerator.
There are two ways to go when installing your own kegerator. The first question to ask yourself is how permanent will this installation be? If you already have a jockey box setup as shown in the previous article, some minor tweaks can make your jockey box and kegerator work together nicely so that expensive couplers, regulators and CO2 tanks can be shared. If this keggerator will be installed to serve beer at all times with no interruption, then a full kit from Micromatic is the way to go.
For the purpose of this article, I will focus on a permanent installation. For those who want to share equipment with a jockey box, faucets, shanks and drip trays can be purchased to fit your refrigerator as needed. With that in mind, the installation will be the same as you will see below, just replace a nipple shank for a standard shank that fits your equipment.
Before starting, be sure your refrigerator can fit the kegs you plan on using. This includes sufficient room for the coupler and hoses. A flat bottomed refrigerator will work best, but a little creativity can make any refrigerator work.
The first step to installing your kegerator is to identify where on the door you will be attaching your faucets. Consider your tap handle height when making this decision, as refrigerators with freezers on top can present challenges in accessing the freezer when a large tap handle is in place.
With your location picked out, it’s time to drill your hole in the door. Following the instructions that came with the kegerator kit made installation a breeze as I simply toom the instructions to the hardware store, bought the items I needed as called out, and came back home. two holes spaced appropriately were drilled in less than 5 minutes and I was ready to install the equipment.
Prior to placing the shank, I inserted the included door spacers, PVC tubing which I cut specifically to the size of the hole to prevent crushing when tightening the shank. While this seems like common sense, I would have likely not taken this step had the materials not been included in the kit. This step will save your refrigerator door, so I thank Micromatic for including this in the instructions and equipment.
You may be surprised, but the work to install a kegerator is essentially done at this point. Insert the shank into the hole, making sure to attach the drip tray to the outside of the door, tighten the nut and your faucets on the door are now secure and ready to pour beer. Inside the refrigerator you simply need to hook up your coupler to the CO2 tank as shown in the jockey box installation.
While I don’t condone such behavior, the installation of the drain is a key feature on the kegerator. As I have mine outside, I kept the drain out of the refrigerator and allowed it to drain into the provided plastic jar (plastic wall mounts purchased separately . Other setups can drill an additional hole back into the refrigerator where the jar can be store or can lead the drain directly into a floor drain.
With the door work done and couplers put together, the last step is connecting the two together. For the permanent installation, the hose on the coupler simply slides onto the nipple shank. Be sure to clamp this down to ensure there is no leakage. If you’re connecting with a jockey box rig, you will simply screw the hose to the shank for a secure fit.
Within less than 20 minutes total, I was enjoying my first beer from my new kegerator. While delivering the beer from the keg to glass is the main function of the kegerator, I was impressed by a few included goodies in the Micromatic kit. The first was the inclusion of the cleaning kit and a pair of SmartStrips. The cleaning kit is self explanatory, no one wants dirty lines at home, but the SmartStrip really amazed me.
Similar to the temperature gauge found on an aquarium, the SmartStrip sticks to the side of you kegs to provide temperature and volume information. Temperature is constantly shown, just as it is on the aquarium thermometers, but the fun starts when checking a keg’s volume. Wet a towel with hot water and wipe the Smart Strip from top to bottom. The vertical line will change from red to white until the top level of the beer is reached. Properly aligned and this SmartStrip can tell you hw much beer is left in your keg without having to resort to the old lift and shake.
In all, the kegerator is a simple installation and one that rewards you with fresh draft beer everyday. Putting one together is a simple task and Micromatic makes that even easier with their complete conversion kits. Personally, I like the equipment included in the Micromatic kits as there is a sturdy quality to it all that has me confident that my investment will continue to pay dividends for years to come.