A kegerator is a fantastic addition to any home, allowing you to enjoy draft beer whenever you please!
Building your own kegerator can be a rewarding project that combines your love for beer with a bit of DIY craftsmanship. Yes, you could go out and buy one of the dozens of models of ready-made kegerators if you have a thousand bucks or so to spare, but why not build your own and save your cash?
An amalgamation of the words “keg” and “refrigerator,” a kegerator is basically a refrigerator for your beer kegs and is the best way to ensure your beer is kept cool on those hot summer days. It certainly beats the old corny in a bin full of ice we used to do in college days.
But what sort of kegerator do you want to build? Which one is going to be large enough to hold your keg or even several kegs of beer? And how much space do you have to spare for your kegerator project?
Let’s take a look at some simple DIY projects to enable you to convert almost any basic refrigerator or freezer into a kegerator. Before you know it, you’ll be serving that crisp new Pilsener or hoppy IPA you just brewed at your next backyard party!
Before You Begin
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing what type of kegerator you want to build is what size keg you’ll want to use.
Understanding the different keg sizes can help you choose between a basic household refrigerator/freezer combo, a more compact under-counter mini fridge, or a chest freezer, more commonly referred to as a “keezer” when converted.
Common Keg Sizes
|Homebrew (Cornelius Keg)||Sixth (1/6th barrel)||Short Quarter (1/4 barrel) "Pony Keg"||Slim Quarter (1/4 Barrel)||Half (1/2 barrel)|
|Capacity||5 Gallons||5.23 Gallons||7.75 Gallons||7.75 Gallons||15.5 Gallons|
|No of 12oz Glasses||53||55||82||82||165|
|Weight (Full)||49 lbs||56 lbs||81 lbs||81 lbs||161 lbs|
Three Different Types of Refrigerators to Use
Most home refrigerators with a freezer compartment will fit all styles of kegs with double-door (French door) refrigerators able to accommodate several kegs at once.
The more compact mini-bar fridges may struggle with larger corny kegs but a “keeper” chest freezer can be adapted to fit any height of keg with an extra collar (more on that later).
That extra refrigerator you may have hiding in the garage for holding spillover frozen foods or drinks can be an ideal fridge to modify for use as a kegerator.
Usually, a full-size refrigerator will have a top freezer compartment or side-by-side doors. Either can be used as a kegerator, even leaving the freezer compartment in tact for storing ice or frosted beer mugs.
Conversion kits (which can be bought from online retailers like Amazon) will provide all the parts and instructions you need to mount taps on the side of the fridge or straight through the front door, allowing you to use the refrigerator as normal when you have no beer to serve.
BACOENG Double Faucet Door Mount Kegerator Refrigerator Conversion Kit
- 1. DUAL GAUGE REGULATOR: It comes with an appropriate pressure dial that features the style of a knob for regulating pressure. With a weight of 3 pounds, the unit comes with rubber covers for protective purposes. You can use the gauge to know the pressure outside and inside the CO2 tank –you will not have to be worried that your gas might run out. It also has a shutoff valve that features a built-in spring for preventing the backflow of beer. Pressure Relief Valve Releases at 45PSI.
- 2. LEVER HANDLE KEG COUPLER: This refers to a D System Keg Coupler that has a strong construction made of nickel-plated forged brass. The probe, on the other hand, is made of stainless steel. The unit can be used alongside any domestic brand American D system Sankey kegs. It features an easy-to-use design, where you only need to pull the lever handle out and down, in that order, to couple the keg. The coupling of the keg is quite convenient with the availability of a 55-psi pressure relief valve
- 3. CHROME BEER FAUCET WITH BRASS LEVER: Featuring a forged brass body and highly polished chrome finish, this beer faucet puts a stylish finishing touch on your kegerator at a price you'll love.The brass shaft assembly and lever includes a non-stick ball washer for smooth operation, and the lever has standard threading that is compatible with most branded tap handles. This 4-1/8" long beer shank with nipple assembly is constructed from chrome-plated brass and can be mounted through a 1" hole.
Most DIY kegerator builds will benefit from a temperature control device that can bypass the built-in thermostat temperature controller of the refrigerator. A large LCD display that shows the current temperature can also be a bonus. Larger full-size refrigerators can also be painted with black chalkboard paint for a ready-made beer list/menu board.
The biggest advantage of a full-sized convertible fridge is the space it offers. Although you may have to level out the floor of some full-size refrigerator designs with a wooden baseboard, once it is level, you can store kegs, bottled or canned beer, and even use the kegerator as a fermenting chamber.
Pros: Full Sized refrigerators are much larger than compact mini-bar refrigerators and will hold more kegs, a larger CO2 tank, and even space for chilled glasses.
Cons: More difficult to move around, even when empty and too tall to install a beer tower system or use under a counter.
Compact Style Refrigerators
- Compact Mini Fridge: This Danby Designer counter high mini fridge is the ideal mini fridge for additional refrigerator space in the kitchen, basement, family room, dorm or office.Fresh Food Capacity: 4.4 cubic_feet.Lock Type:Electronic
- 4.4 Cubic Feet (124 Liters) Capacity: The All refrigerator unit is roomy with 4.4 cu. ft. of fridge space
- Integrated Door Shelving: Tall bottle storage is ideal for large pop, water, juice, or other drink bottles
Maybe you picked up a great deal on a minibar refrigerator when in your younger days, or perhaps your local hardware store has some on special offer.
However, mini refrigerators can make great under-counter or back-bar kegerators. Just ensure it’s a compact refrigerator without an ice box, as the freezer tray you see in so many of these compact units can get in the way of your beer keg.
Fridges like the Danby Compact Mini All Refrigerator make an ideal choice for kegerator conversion. (Look out at the end of term time for students selling their dorm room mini fridges).
Unless you plan on using only short quarter kegs, you will need a height of about 30″ to guarantee enough clearance for your keg and coupling fittings.
You may need to modify the door frame a little if you want to fit two kegs inside, but this is as simple as removing the gasket, sawing out the plastic shelves of the door, and then replacing the gasket.
With a compact fridge, you can install the faucets through the door as you would with a regular full-size refrigerator. The only issue may be how far the faucet shank mechanism protrudes inside and if it hit the keg or prevented you from fully closing the door.
A much more convenient and smarter-looking option is to mount a draft tower either on top of the fridge or on the counter where you place your new kegerator underneath.
Again, conversion kits including a draft tower can be bought from local hardware or brew stores or online retailers.
Kegco BF STCK-5T Standard Tower Kegerator Conversion Kit with 5 lb Co2 Tank
- PRO SERIES DUAL GAUGE REGULATOR: Easily measure PSI and CO2 volume and adjust CO2 output pressure using this Kegco 542 Pro Series Double Gauge Regulator packed with premium features. The top gauge indicates output pressure, while the side gauge tells you what's left in the CO2 tank, so you don't run out of gas during a party. The Standard plated brass body has a large pressure adjustment knob for easy use and includes a manual pressure release valve.
- LEVER HANDLE KEG COUPLER: This NSF-approved Kegco KT85D-L "D" System Keg Coupler features a sturdy nickel-plated forged brass body with a stainless steel probe, and is designed for use with all domestic brand American D system Sankey kegs. The lever-handle design is easy to use; simply pull out and then down on the handle to couple the keg. A 55-psi pressure relief valve makes this coupler even more convenient to use, allowing over-pressurized gas to escape before it enters your keg.
- SINGLE FAUCET DRAFT BEER TOWER: Featuring a beautiful Standard-plated metal finish and a matching Standard-plated faucet with metal lever, this 3" diameter air-cooled draft beer tower is the same stylish tower used on most commercial grade kegerators. This tower conveniently includes 5 feet of clear beer tubing ending in a nozzle and hex nut assembly for quick connection to all standard keg couplers, as well as a gasket and four screws for easy mounting.
Pros: A compact mini refrigerator has a much smaller footprint and can be more easily moved around. Storing 2-3 slim kegs depending on the size, a mini refrigerator can be placed under the counter and has the option for both door mount faucets or a draft tower.
Cons: The capacity of a mini refrigerator can be limited by inside fittings. Ensure you don’t get a compact fridge with a freezer compartment and be ready to make modifications to any inside shelving, especially on the door panel. Doort taps may often leave less space for kegs inside.
Chest Freezer or Refrigerator (Keezer)
Perhaps the holy grail in beer nerd circles for building their own kegerator is the keezer, or chest freezer kegerator. If you want to have four or more beers on tap at once, then a keezer is the way to go (I’ve even known some of my more avid beer-drinking buddies to have 10 beers on tap using this method).
With more space inside the keezer to hold your air tank and regulators, most homebrewers take advantage and install both primary and secondary gas manifold regulators to the flow control of a keezer.
This enables you to control the global pressure with the secondary regulator, allowing you to individually turn the gas connections down on each line depending on the style of beer being served.
The number of tap handles you can install with a keezer is limited only by the size of the freezer and how many kegs you can fit inside.
A wooden collar can be built between the base of the freezer and the lid to accommodate the extra height of the kegs or beer gas tanks. Taps can then either be mounted in the collar attachment or fitted to the lid of the freezer as a beer tower.
Personally, I prefer a 4-tap tower system as any more can make the lid difficult to lift and remove.
RSTJ-Sjef 4 Tap Draft Beer Tower, Adjustable Faucet Stainless Steel Kegerator Tower
- ●Four-Tower Beer Tower: The universal four-tower beer tower can be used anywhere, for example, to provide drinks at festivals, picnics, parties or at home. Elegant and shiny appearance, the most suitable accessories for your kitchen, please enjoy your home.
- ●Easy to assemble: quick installation and use. You can drill a hole in the bar counter, pass the hose through the hole, insert it into the refrigeration unit, and then screw the faucet onto the counter or directly onto the existing bucket dispenser.
- ●Suitable for a variety of beverages: directly connect the tap with beer, juice or soda cans, in the hot summer, drink cold beer after dinner with family or friends, not only can provide rich food for beer lovers, but also can be used Make soda or other beverages.
Another option would be to mount taps on a long backboard or piece of timber, which could then run along the back wall of your bar area. A thermostat controller can be fitted to the keezer to bypass the factory freezer thermostat and regulate normal beer serving temperatures.
Pros: Larger space for multiple kegs and CO2 tanks. More space for regulators on each line, allowing for beers to be served at different pressures.
Cons: It can be hard to lift larger or heavier kegs up over the collar and into the keezer. Not very portable.
Although most kegerator conversion kits will come with complete detailed instructions on how to fit the faucets, gas lines, gas disconnects, beer lines, and beer dispenser taps, when making a keezer collar, you are pretty much by yourself.
Why Should I Bother Making a Kegerator Collar?
I’m assuming most of you reading this post are aware of the value of a kegerator collar, but just to cover all bases, a kegerator collar has two primary benefits:
- It saves you from drilling through the fridge/freezer— Not only is this quite tricky to do, but it demands accuracy, and once complete, there’s no going back… that fridge/freezer can never be used for its original purpose ever again. It is a kegerator forever more!
- It allows you to fit larger kegs— A kegerator collar increases the dimensions of your cooling unit, allowing you to install taps higher up and store larger kegs in the cooler. Kegs in your fridge/freezer.
But enough chit-chat – the sooner we get started, the sooner you can enjoy a frosty jar!
Building a Kegerator Collar: a Step-By-Step Guide
Thankfully, a kegerator collar is an incredibly simple component, so even if you’re a DIY newbie, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Here’s what you’ll need.
- A chest freezer– Enough timber to collar the perimeter of your base freezer unit — Do yourself a favor and choose some nice wood, as it will improve the aesthetic and longevity of your creation.
- A pencil
- A drill — I use the DeWalt DCD771C2
- A tape measure
- A desk clamp
- A circular saw, or if you’re trying to save a few bucks or just aren’t comfortable using heavy machinery, a hand saw will do just fine if you’re precise.
- Some rubber sealant tape
- A pocket hole jig system
- A pocket hole jig clamp
- Some 120-grit sandpaper
- Some wood stain(optional)
Step 1: Removing Your Cooler Lid
You’ll be mounting the lid of your cooler on the collar, so our first step is to remove the lid by removing the screws holding it in place on the freezer.
Usually, there are only four screws securing the brackets, so it’s an easy job with a drill.
Once you’ve removed the lid (with brackets attached), set it safely to one side and move on to the next step.
Step 2: Measuring the Perimeter of Your Cooler
Your collar surface needs to sit flush with the rim of your freezer, so before we can cut our wood down to size, we need to measure the rim’s outer perimeter.
Don’t measure the inner perimeter, as you’ll end up with a collar that only just sits on the rim, which will look scruffy and provide less of a barrier to keep in the cold.
Step 3: Cutting Your Timber
Mark the length and width of your cooler’s rim on your wood, clamp it down, then get to chopping.
A circular saw will provide the quickest, most accurate results, but a few careful passes with a handsaw can be just as effective.
For mine, I cut the long planks to span the entire side of the rim, while the shorter planks were trimmed to the length of the shorter side of the rim, minus the width of my longer planks.
This means that the longer planks are boxed in the shorter planks, which saves you from cutting complex diagonal edges.
To put it into woodworking terms, your edges should come together to form what looks like a butt joint, to save you the hassle of cutting mitered butts.
Step 4: Assess Your Cuts
Before we move on to the next practical step, prop your timber up on your cooler and see if it’s a good fit. If all seems well, proceed to step 5.
Step 5: Drilling Pocket Holes
Grab your pocket hole jig and clamp and use them as a guide to drill 3 equidistant pocket holes at both ends of your shorter boards.
These will allow you to attach the four boards of your collar. But don’t screw them in just yet – you still have to use the jig to drill 3 equidistant holes facing downwards along the bottom edge of your shorter boards.
These are the holes you’ll use to attach the collar to the cooler.
Step 6: Screwing the Collar Together
Now you can use those lateral pocket holes to screw your finished collar together. Check that it’s stable once you’re done.
Step 7: Sanding
With a fully assembled collar, it’s time to give it some TLC with the 120-grit sandpaper.
When you’re happy with the surface, you can apply some stain if you’d like to add some custom flair to your kegerator.
Step 8: Sealing
Before you can secure your collar onto the cooler, lay down some rubber sealant tape around the cooler rim.
This is going to sit directly beneath your collar, keeping the cold in and the heat out.
Step 9: Attaching the Collar to the Cooler
For this step, simply set the collar in place on top of the cooler and sealant tape, then use your downward-facing pocket holes to screw the collar to the rim.
Step 10: Attaching the Cooler Lid
The penultimate step is to secure the cooler lid on the kegerator, which couldn’t be easier. Just line up the brackets with the original screw holes on the cooler, then use your drill to screw the brackets into place — Job done!
Step 11: Drilling Your Tap Holes
This final step has some wiggle room. You can do this however you see fit.
Just make sure that the holes are as airtight as possible when installing your taps, otherwise, you’ll end up with some warm brewskies — Boo!
That’s really all there is to it. Granted, the upfront cost of materials and tools is a little steep if you don’t already own them, but by DIY-ing your own minibar, you end up saving overall.
Now, what are you waiting for? Tap that frosty keg, pour a cold one, kick back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!