Getting Your Kegerator Cold - And Keeping it Cold
Getting and keeping your kegerator cold enough for beer storage and draft service is often a challenge. As I've mentioned, store bought kegerators suffer from at least
5 common problems . Some of them are directly related to beer temperature.
One of the most perplexing of these is dealing with an inadequate thermostat and/or the lack of circulation of cold air. Many units have adjustable thermostats that are not calibrated for temperatures as low as is needed for beer (34 to 38 degrees). That coupled with the static nature of the Cold Plate cooling apparatus can cause inadequate or spotty cooling capabilities. These problems in turn cause foamy beer.
Using a immersion style thermometer it is possible to check the temperatures inside your kegerator over a period of time in order to determine how your unit is performing at this important task.
Follow the instructions for taking your beer's temperature. Also, take temperatures of the inside of the kegerator using these instructions. Try to determine whether your unit is getting cold enough. It is a good idea to do this with a keg in the unit.
A full keg represents a lot of mass and will affect the cooling capabilities of the unit. Usually once it’s cold a keg can help keep the box cold, but if it’s warm it can slow or prevent proper cooling. (See how to bring a keg home).
Do not pay attention to any calibration measures on the dial of the thermostat, they are likely to be unreliable (so if the dial says "normal" disregard this).
Start at the middle of the range and work your way up or down as needed. This entire examination should be conducted over several days to allow the subtle changes in temperature to go into effect. It’s fine to drink the beer throughout your testing, but you may find that it is foamy, or possibly frozen.
You are likely to find one of the following situations.
1. The beer is not getting cold enough at any time, even at the lowest thermostat setting. For this you'll need to recalibrate or override the thermostat.
2. The beer is frozen at the lowest setting. Reset the thermostat to a higher temperature setting or override the thermostat.
3. The beer appears cold enough, but becomes foamy part way through a keg. There can be a large temperature differential between the top of the keg and the bottom allowing the beer to become over or under carbonated because of the variations of temperature inside the box. (See the explanation of carbonation in beer).
4. The beer is too cold some of the time and too warm some of the time. Paradoxically, both can be apparent over time. The temperature variations inside the keg box need to be corrected by creating circulation of the inside air.
5. The beer comes out of the faucet as foam that subsides as the pouring continues with subsequent pours. An initial burst of foam that subsides immediately allowing a second pour to be acceptable means the beer in the hose is too warm.
Here are the most common fixes for the above events:
Also be sure to check for these common issues:
Cabinet door not closing and sealing properly – Sometimes the door seal needs repair. Furthermore, not all kegs fit in all kegerators – Coors and Miller kegs can have size issues that prevent the cabinet door from closing all the way.
Opening the cabinet door frequently – wait several hours between door openings even when checking temperatures. Also, don’t store other items in the kegerator that will need to be retrieved – even a quick opening of the door allows lots of warm air in.
Be sure that there is no damage to the insulation of the cabinet. Warm air can creep in through dents, cuts and other damage. You can repair some damage with spray in foam insulation.
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