Did you get a kegerator as a gift or buy one at a price you just couldn't resist? You may find that you have one or more common kegerator problems.
While these units are great to have there's no question. However, in most cases a store bought kegerator (as opposed to a commercial model) will be endowed with certain limitations and flaws when it comes to serving beer.
You see these devices are simply mini-refrigerators designed for a different purpose and modified, often poorly, to serve draft beer.
Don't despair, there are some simple changes that you can make to supercharge your kegerator into a grade A draft beer machine.
There are as many models of kegerator as there are refrigerator brands and manufacturers. Kenmore, Whirlpool, Haier, Viking, and many others share a price range that makes them affordable and accessible from major retailers. However, each of these devices has some limitations as to the equipment and actual functioning of the device that will require some attention from you in order to get the best performance from the device.
Most of these kegerators operate in the same way. They all use a cold plate to circulate refrigerant into the interior of the machine and absorb heat out of the box. The absorbed heat is returned to the external heat exchanger and compressor. The operation of this circulating refrigerant is control by a thermostat that starts up the cycle when the temperature inside the box exceed a pre-set maximum temperature.
Among the problems or inadequacies you'll find are the following:
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Beer must be kept cold. Most of these kegerator units are built for food storage and thermostats are set for that use (usually between 40 and 45 degrees). Those temperatures are not cold enough for beer. A lot of models have an easily adjustable thermostat, but you can't rely on the calibrated numbers on the dial. Others have statically pre-set thermostats that require tools to reset.
Because these units rely on a cold plate for cooling the box and you require colder temperatures than the unit was manufactured for - you experience problems with the defrost cycle. Often this leads to ice build-up on the cold plate which inhibits the cooling capacity. It pays to periodically defrost the unit manually.
Your beer has to stay cold all the way to your glass. That means the beer line in the draft tower needs to be chilled in some manner or you'll pour foam into every glass. Home Kegerator units are not equipped with any means to cool the beer line in the draft tower. To further exasperate the problem, most units do not have a hole in the top of the box leading to the tower that is large enough to implement a solution. There are a couple of methods to overcome this inadequacy.
To meet the price points demanded by mass merchants such as Home Depot, manufacturers have had to cut corners on the quality of the draft equipment included with a kegerator. Keg Couplers made with cast aluminum instead of stainless steel, draft faucets with plastic internal parts and feeble lever assemblies can break at any time, but most likely during your next party. If your not equiped to replace a broken part at the time - party over.
Often kegerators come with tools and parts for cleaning and maintaining the draft equipment, but there are no instructions provided on how to use the equipment. There is also no information on where to get replacement parts and refills on cleaning chemicals. You're on your own to figure it out.
For the time and money that you will need to upgrade one of these store bought kegerators, you are better off purchasing a commercial unit that is built for draft beer despensing. Let's look at the numbers:
Commercial Kegerator complete with two faucets, accompanying beer hoses and keg couplers and three inch air-cooled tower = $1200
Store bought kegerator as usually equiped (inadequately) = $550 (market average)
Installation of tower cooling fan = $35
Replacement 3 inch draft tower to two faucets = $85
Replacement couplers (2) = $80
Through mounted drip tray and drain bottle = $85
Independent temperature controller = $75
That's $875 dollars in equipment plus your time and shipping on each of the items.
If you already have a kegerator and just want to upgrade it, click the active links above to learn about each improvement.
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