Kristen Hicks on October 12, 2016 0 Comments Table of Contents: Why Buy a Kegerator? Types of Kegerators Factors to Consider While Shopping Reviews of Popular Brands You love beer. We love beer. You appreciate the complicated flavors of a really good beer. You like trying out different types of draft beers. Maybe you’ve even started brewing beer yourself. If you love beer enough that the idea of always having a delicious glass on tap in your own home is basically your version of paradise, then you have definitely reached the point where it’s time to take your love to the next level and buy a kegerator. 5 Reasons You Should Buy a Kegerator If you’ve made your way to this page, then you already know you want one. Maybe you’re still struggling to justify the expense to yourself though. After all, a good beer dispenser is a significant investment. Don’t worry. We can help you out with some good, solid justifications for why the cost is worth it: Click Here to Find the Best Kegerator For You 1. Save You Money Depending on how much beer you usually drink and the types of beer you buy when you do, buying a keg of beer could save you quite a bit of money. Like most items that you buy in bulk, the upfront cost of a beer keg may seem a bit steep, but once you breakdown how much it costs per pint, you’ll quickly see the savings add up. And after a few kegs, you’ll have saved enough to offset the initial cost of the kegerator itself. It’s more of an investment, with beer. 2. They’re Better For The Environment When your beer gets stored in cans or bottles, drinking it produces more trash and just winds up in a landfill, or the ocean. Not to mention, all of those cans and bottles take resources to create. A keg is reusable, as are the glasses you pour your beer into. When you have your own kegerator, your beer drinking will come with less waste. 3. You’ll Save On Fridge Space If you currently keep your refrigerator well stocked with enough beer for you and any friends that come over, then you’ve probably faced the issue of limited fridge space. Your fridge needs to fit all the food and all the other beverages you need to keep chilled. There’s only so much space to go around. If you move all your beer-chilling needs elsewhere, you’ll alleviate your space issues instantly. A dedicated beer fridge is always a good solution, but if you’re going to buy a new appliance specifically for your beer, why not go draft? 4. Temperature Control = Quality Control When stored at the right temperature, a keg of beer can keep for months. If you’re concerned that you just won’t drink a whole keg fast enough for your own beer dispenser to make sense, think again. If you store it in the right conditions, a keg of beer will generally last at least three or four months. 5. You’ll Always Have Good Beer On Hand This is the real reason you’re considering a keg to begin with, isn’t it? Whether you prefer to buy kegs of your favorite big brand, get kegs of craft beer from a local brewery, or make your own beer, a kegerator gives you the opportunity to have your favorite draft beer at the ready to serve at the precise temperature you want it at. Let’s just be honest with each other, all the other stuff is really just a nice extra. If all that’s got you convinced, then here’s what you need to know to find the best kegerator for your home or man cave. Types of Kegerators Before you rush out and buy the first unit you come across, it would be wise to have a general understanding of the different types of kegerators you have to choose from. Once you decide on the type you want, you’ll be able to confidently narrow down the models that will work best for your specific situation. Mini Kegerator Shop for a Mini Kegerator If you’re not ready to make a huge financial investment, or you just don’t have much space in your home, then a mini kegerator is a suitable alternative. As the name implies, this dispenser acts much like its full-size counterpart, but are only designed to fit 5L kegs. They can sit right on your countertop or be taken with you on-the-go, as well as be stored out of sight when not in use. A mini kegerator gives you the draft beer experience you seek, without taking up much space or costing you a lot of money. Mini kegerators usually fall in the price range of $150-$350, so they can be a good starting point for someone interested in owning their own dispenser, but not quite ready to shell out the cash for a full size kegerator. Most of these smaller dispensers are made to work with pressurized kegs, but you can find some that will also work with non-pressurized kegs. The downside of this type of device, is that you will have a difficult time finding a diverse selection of beers available in the 5L keg. Heineken, Coors Light and Newcastle Brown Ale are the only ones that are widely available. If you like to try a variety of beers, you’ll want to avoid the mini kegerator and aim for a larger unit that fits a sixth barrel keg. In Summary: Affordable. Don’t take up much space. Hold 5L kegs, which is about 10 pints of beer. Beer selection is extremely limited and hard to find. Freestanding & Built-In Kegerators In order to have access to a wide selection of beers, you will need a dispenser that is capable of fitting at least a sixth or quarter barrel keg. Most kegerators will be able to easily fit this size keg, with many units able to fit two or three, allowing you to keep multiple beers on tap at all times. These larger units are going to be found in two styles — Freestanding and Built-in. Shop for a Freestanding Kegerator Freestanding This is going to be the most common unit available. You can pretty much keep them anywhere inside your house where you can fit them. They often come with casters attached at the bottom, allowing you to easily roll them from one spot to another. It is, however, recommended that you allow at least 2-3 inches between the back of the device and the wall for proper ventilation. A freestanding kegerator is going to be a bit more expensive than the mini version, but also more affordable than outdoor and built-in units. The price is going to vary due to many features, but generally fall somewhere in the $350-$900 price range. But overall, this is likely going to be the best kegerator for the majority of people. As the price range suggests, you’ll find quite a bit of variety in the indoor units available. Some kegerators will come with extra features, like digital displays or multiple taps. While others are going to be barebones, yet still functional for what you want. You will also find units available in various sizes, shapes and finishes. It is important to mention that you should not install a freestanding kegerator into your countertops. It needs to be properly ventilated, otherwise, you will likely just shorten its lifespan. In Summary: Popular and affordable. Can be put virtually anywhere indoors. Cost less than outdoor and built-in kegerators. Fits most keg sizes and shapes. Shop for a Built-In Kegerator Built-in Kegerator If you’re going to buy one and want to make it a seamless part of your home, then you should consider going with a built-in kegerator. Built-in kegerators are installed directly into your countertops, just like a dishwasher or oven would be. The installation is going to be more complicated than a freestanding model, which only needs to be plugged in. If you’re DIY savvy, then you may be able to handle it, but it is possible that you will need to hire a professional contractor. This type of dispenser will also cost a little more than your average freestanding model. This higher cost is primarily due to its unique design. The vents are discretely located in the front of a built-in unit, allowing the unit to operate as it should and not overheat. This same design also allows you to use a built-in unit as a freestanding, if you’d like. In Summary: Seamlessly blend into your home. Can be installed directly into your countertops. Undercounter installation can be difficult, you might want to call in a professional. Likely cost more than comparable freestanding models. Available in both indoor and outdoor models. Outdoor Kegerator Shop For An Outdoor Kegerator Perhaps you want to keep a kegerator out in your garage or on your back patio, if this is the situation you find yourself in, then we would strongly recommend you buy a kegerator that is specifically engineered to withstand the ever-changing elements of the environment they will reside within. As the seasons roll by and the temperatures start to change, it’s important that your kegerator, or any appliance you are using outdoors, can operate within its surrounding environment. If it is unable to operate under those conditions, it’s not only going to have shorter lifespan, but it may affect the overall freshness of the beer inside. You can find outdoor units available in both freestanding or built-in. An outdoor kegerator is going to cost a little more than their indoor counterparts, but they’ll continue to keep your beer cold during the hot summer and keep working in the face of winter’s coldest months. In Summary: Can use anywhere. Cost more than indoor units. Can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations. Available in both freestanding or built-in. Commercial Kegerators Shop For A Commercial Kegerator Commercial direct draw kegerators are the large units you often see at a bar or restaurant. Oftentimes, these will be significantly larger and more expensive than the average beer dispenser you’ll find in residential homes. Many of these units are designed to be more than just a kegerator. They all generally have space for the kegs below, but also are engineered to have extra refrigeration space for bottles, cans and other items a bartender may need during the course of their shift. Due to how these will be primarily used, you can expect these dispensers to have all the bells and whistles, as well as be suitable for indoor or outdoor use. As you can imagine, some of these commercial dispensers can get quite large, as well as pretty costly. In Summary: Designed for bars and restaurants. More expensive than residential units. Lots of options, sizes and features to choose from. DIY Kegerators Build Your Own Kegerator Why buy a kegerator when you can build one? If you have an old fridge or freezer sitting around or out in the garage, you can convert it into a kegerator. It’s actually pretty easy to do. Aside from the refrigerator, all you need is a conversion kit, a few tools and a little bit of elbow grease. There are a variety of different conversion kits available, giving you plenty of opportunities to let your creativity go wild. Depending on the conversion kit you buy, and how much you spend on a fridge, this route will likely cost less than buying a brand new kegerator. To help you find a fridge for cheap, we would recommend shopping for a scratch and dent unit or, if you’re brave enough, buying one off of Craigslist. Every kit will come with installation instructions, but that won’t alleviate the usual frustrations that tend to come with most DIY projects. You may also need to buy a few tools to help you install it, quite possibly a hole saw that matches the diameter of the shank in your kit. In Summary: You will need a conversion kit. You will need a fridge or freezer. The conversion kits will cost less than a kegerator. You get to use your hands and, possibly, buy new tools. Factors to Consider When Buying a Kegerator Trying to decide on the right type of kegerator is just the beginning of your journey. You’ve got a number of different factors to consider in order to make sure you buy the best kegerator for your specific needs. Size The biggest decision to make in terms of size is one we’ve already addressed: do you want a mini kegerator or a full-sized one? That decision should be based on how much space you have available for your kegerator, how much beer you’d like it to hold at any given time, and what you’re willing to spend. Unless you just really like Heineken, I would be hesitant to go with a mini kegerator, simply due to the lack of options you will have available. It is an incredibly frustrating feeling to get a new kegerator, only to discover that your favorite brewery — or really, the vast majority of breweries — doesn’t fill the only size keg that works with the unit. When it comes to larger kegerators, you still have a few different sizes and dimensions to consider. Exterior — The exterior dimensions are an important consideration, as you want it to comfortably fit into your space. A freestanding unit that can be rolled from one area to the next can easily adapt to many environments. However, the exterior dimensions will play a significant role if you plan on buying a built-in kegerator. This is where you will need to be precise. Interior — The dimensions of the interior is the often forgotten about consideration. The vast majority of kegerators will be able to fit a full-barrel keg, or even multiple sixth or quarter barrel kegs. However, there are some breweries, namely Coors and Miller Brewing, that are known for distributing their beers in a slightly larger full-size barrel that is too wide to fit into some kegerators. You may also experience this problem with some imports or rubberized kegs. This is not always the case, and is becoming more rare, however it is something you should keep in mind while shopping for a beer dispenser. Before making any actual purchases, do some research into the keg sizes of the beers you’re most likely to buy. Also consider whether you’ll want to have more than one beer on tap at any given time. Once you have a general understanding of how you intend to use it, you’ll then be in a better position to buy the best kegerator to accommodate your unique lifestyle. Cost Now on to everyone’s favorite subject — how much do they cost? The range of prices for a kegerator is pretty wide. Mini kegerators can go for as little as $150, while the high-end home kegerators can routinely go for over $1,500. (Some even go for over $4,000!) There are quite a few variables that can play a role in the price, but for the most part, you can find some good units for around $400 or $500. These dispensers will suffice for the casual beer drinker. But, if you’re a homebrewer or a craft beer aficionado, then we would recommend splurging for something a little more high-end. There are many features and benefits that come with these higher-end units, including digital displays, multiple taps, precise temperature control and air-cooled towers. However, if you have some DIY skills and like the idea of building your own kegerator, then perhaps a more affordable base model is the best choice for you. You would then have the opportunity to tinker and mold the unit to meet your particular preferences. If you are just looking for something easy and works right out of the box, yet still offers all the bells and whistles to keep you satisfied for years to come, then you’ll want to go with one that is a little higher in cost. Other Possible Costs: You should also factor in the additional costs of using a kegerator before you make your final decision. Naturally, they’ll use energy in order to keep your beer cold, so you can expect a slight bump in energy usage. You’ll also need to buy the beer itself in order to make use of your kegerator, of course. Depending on which model you buy, you may have to buy extra parts in order for the unit to work properly. This could include parts such as C02 tanks, couplers or regulators. If you’re buying a new kegerator, this likely won’t be an issue, but still worth looking closely at. But, if you’re buying a used one, then you may want to familiarize yourself with the required parts to ensure that you’re not surprised by the need to make additional purchases. Functionality To work effectively, your kegerator needs to hold pressure well and keep the interior at a consistent temperature. For your beer to stay fresh for as long as possible, you will want your kegerator to keep the temperature inside at 38°F, give or take. Keep in mind, the storage or serving temperature may vary depending on the type of beer within. Ideally, you’ll want to buy a kegerator that includes a digital display. This will allow you to easily see where the temperature is currently at, as well as allow you to quickly adjust it to meet your preferred serving temperature for that specific style. For kegs containing non-pressurized beer, your regulator will help you set the right pressure ensuring that your beer is properly carbonated without being too foamy. Depending on the model you buy and the type of beer you are dispensing, you may need to play with the regulator settings to get it just right. The vast majority of kegerators will come with all the necessary parts included, but you may come across a few models that leave out an essential component. Besides the kegerator itself, here is a full list of items you’ll need: Coupler Regulator Co2 Tank Hoses for Air & Beer Beer Tower Spanner Wrench Tap Configuration Think about how many beers you may want to keep on tap. Home kegerators are available with a multitude of tap configurations. While they are available with three taps, the dual-tap option is the most popular choice among consumers. If you have a tried-and-true beer that you love, and you likely won’t be buying anything other than that particular beer, then a single tap kegerator is probably going to suit you just fine. However, we have found that many people prefer to have multiple beers on tap and ready to serve at all times. No matter what tap configuration you initially buy, be it single or double, it is very easy to upgrade or add taps at a later date. It will require you to buy a few extra parts, but it is very easy to accomplish. Placement & Ventilation Requirements Even mini kegerators take up some space, so before you buy, it would be wise to have a general idea of where you plan on placing or installing your kegerator. Most people will want to go with a freestanding kegerator for their home, as they are easier to move around or take with them if they move. However, this type of dispenser does require a couple of inches between the back of the unit and the wall. This tiny sliver of space is necessary for the unit to operate properly. Without the proper ventilation, your kegerator will have a hard time keeping the interior temperature consistent. This will cause it to work harder than it should and, ultimately, shorten its lifespan. If you want a kegerator that you can push right up against the wall or install alongside your kitchen cabinets, then you will need to go with a built-in kegerator that features ventilation in the front of the unit. It will cost a bit more, but if you’re short on space or just want the seamless built-in look, the convenience could make the extra cost worth it. If the only place you have room for your kegerator is in the garage or the backyard, then an outdoor model is strongly recommended. As the seasons roll by, you will want a unit that can withstand the constant change of temperatures without overworking itself. Depending on the climate in which you reside and how extreme the temperatures get, you may be able to use an indoor unit out in the extreme elements. But, we would advise against it. Ease of Assembly No matter what model or brand you buy, there is always going to be a small amount of assembly required as you unbox your kegerator. Putting it together is a relatively simple process, and we’ve found that most people can do so without experiencing any difficulty. However, if you’re worried about the assembly process, be sure to read over the reviews for the specific model you are considering to see if other customers experienced any issues. Additionally, most manufacturers will provide an online manual with step-by-step instructions included. These will also give you a better idea of what to expect from the process. Keep in mind, every kegerator includes step-by-step instructions to help walk you through the process. But, if you have any issues, please give us a call. We’ve assembled a few of these over the years. Click Here to View All Cleaning Kits & Supplies Ease of Use & Cleaning Once they have been assembled and all the lines have been connected, all kegerators will be relatively simple to use. However, you will encounter problems. Everyone does, so don’t feel bad. The most common problems tend to be cloudy or flat beer and excessive foam after you pour. To help you resolve these issues, please check out our troubleshooting guide or give us a call. You should also make a careful point of cleaning your kegerator on a regular basis. From your beer lines to individual components, any part of your kegerator that comes in contact with your beer needs to be cleaned often. Cleanliness is not only an important issue to properly maintaining your kegerator, but it also ensures that your beer tastes the way it should. There are a number of cleaning supplies and kits available to help you properly maintain your kegerator. Stock up on an alkaline-based cleanser that can help remove and prevent mineral deposits, mold and bacteria. It would be wise to clean out your beer lines in between each keg. While it may seem like a bit of a pain the first time around, it’s easy to do, takes about ten minutes to complete and will help prevent your beer from tasting terrible. Temperature Control & Displays As you browse your options, be sure to keep an eye on the temperature range each model has listed within the product specs. The best temperature to serve beer is largely dependent on the type of beer and your personal preferences, but in a general sense, you will want a kegerator that can keep a steady 38°F to 40°F. You should have no problem finding a kegerator designed to meet those temperatures. Many kegerators come with digital displays that give you an easy way to check the current temperature inside the unit. Alongside these displays, you will typically find an easy way to adjust the temperature to better accommodate your preferred taste. You do want to keep an eye on that temperature so that if a problem does arise, you can troubleshoot and resolve quickly. Durability Like most large appliances, a kegerator is the kind of purchase you should only have to buy once and then get continual use out it for years. Obviously, you want to end up with one that’s made to last. You may upgrade parts over time, but the kegerator should go strong for a long time to come. A lot of manufacturers provide warranties for their products, so if you don’t want to deal with repairs or risk expensive problems, you should aim to find a brand that offers a strong warranty. Be careful if you choose to go with a direct-draw dispenser meant for commercial use. While commercial kegerators are often well made, residential use usually voids the warranty and you may have a hard time getting service. Noise Since kegerators are a form of refrigerator, they typically make noise like refrigerators sometimes tend to do. And some will be louder than others. If you plan on keeping your kegerator in a space where you spend a lot of time, then you may want to search for one with a reputation of being on the quiet side. Unfortunately, decibel ratings are not a common spec listed for kegerators, but as you read over customer reviews it becomes easier to spot the models that tend to generate a flood of complaints about noise. If this is a concern for you, prepare to spend some time perusing the reviews of the model you’re considering before making your purchase. Features & Accessories: Handles & Casters — If you’ll ever need to move your kegerator from one place to another, you’ll be glad it has handles to make the move easier. Casters make it even more portable, as you can roll it from place to place. Digital Temperature Display — A digital temperature display makes it easy to check on the current temperature within your kegerator, as well as make it easy to adjust to meet the suggested serving temperature for that style. Dual Pressure Regulator — If your kegerator holds two kegs that you’d like to keep at different pressure levels, a dual gas regulator is the solution to make this possible. This is well worth the investment, if you find yourself keeping multiple beers on tap. Multiple Taps — Multiple taps give you the ability to have different beers available at all times. Home kegerators are widely available with two or three tap configurations. Kegerator Cleaning Kit — It’s important to keep your kegerator and beer lines clean. Finding an alkaline-based cleansing solution is easy and affordable, but you should also consider buying a hand pump or pressurized cleaning kit. This makes the cleaning process easier and more effective. Portable Battery Pack or Power Converter — If you go with a mini kegerator, a battery pack or power converter will make it easier for you to take it with you wherever you go. Fan — With some kegerators, buying an extra fan can help you keep the temperature down. What Customers Are Saying About Popular Brands As a final consideration, it would be wise to look into the reputation of the manufacturer you’re considering on buying. A strong brand reputation usually translates to more reliable products. To give you a better idea of what to expect from each brand, we have analyzed the reviews left by customers and summarized what people are saying about their purchase. It would behoove you to look closely at the reviews for the specific model you are considering. Avanti Avanti makes a portable kegerator that fits two mini kegs. Reviewers like that it will fit any type of 5L keg, whether commercially produced or homebrew, and that the ability to fit two kegs means you always have a backup when one runs out. They also say installation is easy and the keg looks great. The critical reviews seemed to be mainly about the pour flow being slow, the unit being a little loud or having problems finding their favorite beers in the 5L keg. However, the majority of the reviews were positive, with customers being happy with their purchase. On the whole, Avanti’s portable kegerator has a reputation for being easy to use, having some neat features, and doing its job well. If you’re thinking of going with a mini, this may be the best kegerator for you. Danby Danby’s line of kegerators earn satisfied reviews from customers who say they’re great for the price, look good, and hold the cold temperature well. A couple mentioned being pleased that their products are American made, as well. Some reviewers did mention that it can be tricky getting the C02 levels on their kegerators just right to avoid getting too much foam, but once you have it down it works great. There was also a striking amount of reviews that complained about poor assembly instructions. All in all, this is a pretty good brand and one that you should definitely consider. View All EdgeStar Kegerators EdgeStar EdgeStar sells a wide range of kegerators that consistently get positive marks from customers. Reviewers praise their kegerators for being easy to assemble, working quietly, and keeping the beer at a steady temperature. Many are quick to use words like “excellent” and “love” in their reviews. Critical reviews for this brand tended to be about the interior space being a tight fit for three kegs and the location of the CO2 tank, both of which are dependent on the model you buy. Perhaps the true leader for home kegerators, EdgeStar is one manufacturer that continues to receive positive feedback, has a strong reputation and offers a large lineup of kegerators. This is where you should start your search. Marvel Marvel offers some high-end built-in kegerators for those wanting a kegerator that fits seamlessly into their kitchen or bar space. We didn’t find as many reviews of their models as with the other brands included here, but the talk we did find about them was consistently positive. This is likely due to them being more on the pricey side. Customers say Marvel’s kegerators are beautiful and functional. If you want a built-in kegerator that looks good and works well, this is definitely a brand worth considering. Nostalgia Nostalgia’s affordable kegerators get some pretty mixed reviews. Many customers say their dispenser is great for the price. Out of all the brands listed here, this was the one that seemed to be the most controversial. Critical reviews were all over the board, from issues with regulating pressure, poor assembly instructions, and issues with temperature control were the most common. Although, many recent reviewers suggest that many of the negative reviewers are referring to problems that have been fixed in recent models, so you may not have to worry about them with a purchase you make today. With only a few models available and a history of not-so-great reviews, this may not be the best place to start your search. Perhaps, it would be different if you were looking for a hot dog roller or cotton candy machine. Perlick Perlick makes a range of kegerators that are more on the expensive end of the price spectrum, but they also have a reputation for providing some of the highest-quality units on the market. If you want something that will deliver perfectly poured glasses of beer with little effort, then this may be a great place for you to start. Customers also say their kegerators look great and run quietly. Based on how customers talk about them, they have one of the strongest reputations of any kegerator brand out there. If you’re willing to spend the money for a Perlick kegerator, you’ll be in good hands. Summit Summit’s line of kegerators are backed with a decent amount of positive reviews from customers who praise the units for working well, looking great, and lasting a long time. Many customers mentioned liking some of the extra features that came with their beer dispenser. Critical reviews were contained to having problems that required getting new parts or doing repairs. As a whole, this is a well-made brand with a long history of manufacturing refrigeration products. True True has a line of direct-draw dispensers that are primarily meant for commercial use. The majority of reviews are stellar with customers saying that they work great, are dependable and extremely well-made. The main complaints came from those that bought a True kegerator for home use and were disappointed that the warranty only covers commercial use, so be careful going with this brand if you plan to keep the kegerator in your home. That said, some customers went in knowing about the warranty issue and are pleased with the quality of their True kegerator anyway – in one case, a customer said the kegerator had been running for three decades without problem. The units are loud, but the quality is solid. If you want something reliable and aren’t too concerned about not being able to lean on the warranty if there’s a problem, they’re a good choice. UBC UBC is another brand that makes commercial-grade kegerators. Customers across the board praise their units for doing their job – they keep beer cold and look good while they do it. The one complaint that comes up a lot is that their units are loud. If you’re planning to keep your kegerator in a spot where the noise will be a problem, then a UBC model might not be the best choice for you. If your kegerator will go somewhere out of the way, like a garage or loud sports bar, then this may be a good brand for you to consider. Conclusion A cold glass of freshly-poured draft beer is one of the great pleasures in life. Especially after you’ve had one of those days and you just want to relax in the comfort of your own home. With the right kegerator, you can finally start enjoying draft beer on your couch at home, instead of just at the bar. TL;DR — Love Your Beer.