You can spend many hundreds of dollars on a kegerator but why do that when you can build one for a fraction of the cost? What’s that? Build your own kegerator? Yup. It’s actually a lot easier to do than you imagine. All you need are a few basic components, a little patience, and a can-do attitude.
Oh yeah, and a step by step guide, which is what we’re going to supply in this article. So with that in mind, pop open a bottle of your favorite craft beer, sit back and get ready to learn the affordable way to build your own kegerator.
DIY Kegerator: Equipment and Tools Needed
3 Type of Fridge You Can Get
The process of making a DIY kegerator starts with the fridge. There’s no reason to spend beaucoup bucks on something fancy. Here are the 3 standard options.
- The full sized fridge – While it’s possible to build a kegerator out of a full sized fridge, it’s not really practical either from a conversion standpoint or the standpoint of where you’re going to put it. A full-size fridge with a few taps sticking out the front of the door is also going to look like hell frankly, and you want your kegerator to look like the real thing, not a dorm room reject.
- The chest freezer or keezer – Chest freezers are also an option, especially if you want to offer more than a couple of types of beer simultaneously. The chest freezer is not without its own drawbacks though. Primary among them is that it again looks like amateur hour and you have to lift your kegs up over the top to place them inside the keezer.
- The compact fridge – The compact or mini refrigerator like you see in hotel rooms is perfect for making your own homemade kegerator. Any standard compact refrigerator should do*. They can be had for just over a hundred bucks new or you can buy a second-hand for even shorter money.
Below we’re going to convert a mini fridge to a kegerator.
*The one thing you’ll need to be sure of is that it doesn’t have a freezer, because a freezer will make it impossible to run the lines you’ll need and will interfere with placing the kegs as well.
What Conversion Kit Should I Get?
Once you’ve settled on a fridge, it’s time to pick a conversion kit. There are a bunch of different kits out there and where they vary is:
- The number of taps
- The size of the air tanks involved
- Whether they’re designed with the full-sized fridge, chest fridge or compact fridge in mind.
As stated we’re converting a compact fridge here so that’s the one to pick up if you’d like to follow along.
Keep in mind that the quality of the components that come with the kegerator kit is not going to be high. Essentially you’ll have chrome plated components that aren’t going to stand the long-term test of time. If you want components with more staying power, you’ll need to buy them separately. In either case here’s what you’ll need before you can proceed to convert your compact fridge into a DIY kegerator.
- 5-pound nitrogen or CO2 tank
- Keg coupler
- Air regulator
- Liquid line connector
- Gas line connector
- 3/16 inch liquid hose line
- 5/16 inch gas hose line
- Clamps for both lines
- Draft tower
- Tap handle
- Drip tray
- 3 long (3 or 4 inch) 3/16 inch diameter bolts
- 3 washers and 3 nuts for those bolts
Note: if you want to use multiple kegs you’ll also need a splitter for the air line.
Converting a compact fridge to a homemade kegerator means making physical changes to the fridge, and for that, you’re going to need certain tools. They are:
- Power drill
- Hole saw bits (1” and 3”)
- Both standard and Phillips head screwdrivers
- 1/8 inch drill bit
How to Build a Kegerator: Step by Step Guide
Now that you’ve got the fridge, the parts you’ll need and the tools to do the job it’s time to get on with the business of transforming your compact fridge into a DIY kegerator.
Keep in mind that we’re going to install 2 kegs in our fridge so the tower will have 2 faucets and there will be 2 gas lines and 2 liquid lines.
Okay, let’s get started building a kegerator:
- Step 1 – Using the gasket that comes with the tower as a guide mark out the holes you’ll need to make in the top of the fridge for the beer lines and the tower bolts. Then, using your hole saw cut the appropriate size hole for the beer lines first, then drill the 3 or 4 holes (depending on the needs of the tower you bought) you’ll use to bolt down the tower.
- Step 2 – Run the beer lines through the hole in the top of the fridge and then connect the end of the lines to the gas and beer connectors and use the clamps to seal the connections. Then connect the ends of the lines to the faucet connectors.
- Step 3 – The next step to convert a mini fridge to a kegerator is to drill a hole through the side of the fridge approximately 1 1/4 inches wide to allow for the gas lines to pass through.
- Step 4 – Pass the rubber gasket for the tower over the 2 liquid lines on the top of the fridge and put it in place over the holes you drilled. Chances are your tower came with a liner. Put that in place now. Once it’s in place lower the tower into position, pulling the 2 liquid lines up through the tower and out the top as you do. Then take the 3 bolts and bolt down the tower securely. Once the tower is securely in place, lower the base of the tower down over the bolt heads, concealing them from view.
- Step 5 – Install the faucets through the holes at the top of the beer tower. Each type of faucet will come with its own particular set of washers and concealment ring so make sure you’ve got the right washers and rings on the outside of the tower and the right ones on the inside as well. Secure the faucet to the tower on the inside using the faucet connectors you installed on the end of the beer lines earlier. Use your pliers to hold the connector and screw the faucet in place using your other hand. There will likely be a tightening nut on the exterior side that you’ll use to ensure the faucets are secured properly.
- Step 6 – The next step in making a kegerator is to place any insulator pad that may have come with your tower over the connectors inside the tower and then cover the whole thing with the tower lid.
- Step 7 – Chances are your tower came with decal holders to display what beer is available via which tap. If it did you can attach them now. (Note: if you are dispensing your own home brew you might want to make your own decals on your computer for use on the decal holders.) Don’t forget to place the drip tray under the taps too, in order to catch spillovers and drips from the faucets.
- Step 8 – Connect the liquid lines and the gas lines to the top of each of your corny kegs and place them in the fridge. Close the door, and you’re done! (Just make sure to run some beer through the lines first to clear things out before drinking from it.)
That’s about it. Any time you want to swap out kegs just remove the liquid and gas lines from the keg, remove the keg, hook up the liquid and gas connectors to the new keg, place it in the fridge, close the door and you’re ready to party.
Also, make sure you clean the lines on your kegerator on a regular basis or things will get gnarly and the taste of your brew, and maybe your health as well, will suffer. There are hose cleaning kits available on the net to do just that.
Building a Kegerator: What’s the Total Cost for All This?
The total cost of building this DIY kegerator should be less than $200 (and if you bought the compact fridge second hand, considerably less) while a comparably sized kegerator bought new will likely start at twice that much and go up from there. So why bother dropping 4 or 5 or 600 bucks on a pre-built kegerator if you can build your own for a fraction of that amount?
Just follow the step by step instructions above, and you’ll bowl your friends over at your next get together with your own home brew served from your own homemade DIY kegerator.
The main problem with all of this is that it will take some time to gather all the tools and equipment to build your own homemade kegerator. If time is something you don’t have, check out our buyer’s guide on the best kegerators out on the market.