A kegerator may sound like a kitchen appliance that’s either working with or against Sarah Connor, but we promise Skynet doesn’t make any kegerators. Thankfully, kegerators are much more benevolent innovations: They’re draft beer dispensers that combine a keg and a refrigerator that are made for home use. They keep your beer cold without the need to lug around ice.
Kegerator makers are as wide and diverse as the types of beers at a brewery. Whether you’re planning to host the ultimate Super Bowl party, looking for a new way to keep your beer cold, or just want to switch from bottled beer to draft beer at home, one of the best kegerators can be a great addition to your kitchen or bar.
Your kitchen is probably already packed with appliances like a dishwasher, and, of course, a refrigerator, so you might be wondering where you’re going to put it. Most beer dispensers, whether built-in or portable, are very compact, between 15 and 30 inches wide. They aren’t tall like a full-size refrigerator because they just need to accommodate one or two full-size kegs side by side. Mini kegerators are even smaller, since they hold about a quarter of a keg barrel or a pony keg.
The anatomy of a beer dispenser varies from model to model. Whether you’re interested in a mini kegerator, one that’s built into your countertop, or an outdoor beer dispenser, this appliance’s construction is pretty simple. From the outside, kegerators look like mini fridges with a beverage faucet on top. The system has tubing and a CO2 tank on the inside. They use CO2 to pressurize and carbonate your beer. All kegerators come with some type of CO2 regulator that controls the amount of CO2 pressure that’s released, and it lets you know how much CO2 is left in the tank.
Sure, you could just continue to buy kegs for parties and tailgates, but beer dispensers have a few nifty advances over regular kegs. The CO2 regulator we were just talking about keeps your draft beer from going stale for longer. They also can have other fun and useful features, like color-changing LED lights and drip trays.
Like any appliance, kegerators have their perks and downsides. That’s why we’ve crafted this brief guide about these dispensers to help you figure out if a kegerator is worth the investment and who makes the best kegerator on the market.
Who Are Kegerator Beer Dispensers for?
Beer dispensers are perfect for a wide variety of people. If you brew your own beer, prefer the taste of a pint on tap, host a lot of parties, or love to tailgate, then you might benefit from a kegerator.
If you brew your own beer or have always wanted to try, a kegerator is the easiest way to keep your homemade concoction from going flat. Bottling beer, especially by yourself, is a tricky science. If your beer isn’t bottled perfectly, then it can go flat in half a day in your fridge. However, a kegerator can keep your home brew immune to that dreaded staleness for six to eight weeks. Since kegerators rely on C02 tanks, your draft beer doesn’t get the chance to oxidize. Dodging oxidation means you get to keep your beer longer than you would in a manually tapped keg.
Kegerators can cost a few hundred dollars, but if you really enjoy draft beer, you can save quite a bit on your bar tab.
They’re also versatile appliances. Despite having beer in its name, you can store a few other CO2-carbonated drinks in it, like kombucha. Just keep in mind that dispensing kombucha in a beer dispenser requires a few extra parts and tinkering including barrier tubing, according to EdgeStar. Sparkling wines such as prosecco, cava, and Champagne can also be stored in a beer dispenser. We know: It probably seems strange to keep any type of wine in a beer dispenser. However, a lot of keg distributors sell more than just beer kegs. Many liquor stores sell kegs of sparkling wine that can fit in your full-sized dispenser or mini kegerator.
Inline flow compensator
As with kombucha, it requires a little tinkering: You’ll need a special piece of equipment called an in-line flow control compensator to help sustain the pressure from the sparkling wines as you dispense your drink of choice. You’ll also need a special kind of regulator to dispense the wine. Once again, if you’re a homebrewer, you’ll benefit quite a bit from dispensing wine on tap.
Because draft beer dispensers are compact, they’re best for people who live in smaller apartments or who have small kitchens that can’t accommodate large commercial-sized kegerators.
Who Are Kegerators NOT For?
Kegerators probably aren’t a match for you if you don’t want another appliance that requires some maintenance. Like your refrigerator and microwave, a kegerator requires regular cleaning. Because beer has yeast in it, you’ll need to flush the lines in your kegerator whenever you switch out your kegs. This prevents harmful bacteria from building up and contaminating your drinks. Plus, it makes sure to remove any lingering flavors when you switch to a different brew. If you’re looking for something with less upkeep, consider a reusable growler you can refill at your beer shop or grocery store instead.
They’re also not for you if you’re hoping to dispense cold-brew coffee. Maybe you want a dual-barrel kegerator to dispense your favorite beer and homebrew cold-brew coffee blend. Unfortunately, cold-brew coffee needs a nitro-based dispensing system. But don’t worry because there are a few coffee-specific dispensing systems on the market.
Beer dispensers aren’t for people who want to store and chill bottled beer brands. After all, it’s a lot of work to tap dozens of beer bottles and pour them into a homemade keg just to dispense them from your kegerator.
What Are the Different Types of Kegerators?
There are quite a few different types of kegerators for different keg sizes: freestanding kegerators, built-in kegerators, full-size kegerators, mini kegerators, outdoor kegerators, and dual tap dispensers. They can have a single tap or a double tap. Some people have even tapped into their creative side to transform an old mini fridge or cooler into a homemade kegerator using a DIY kit. Beyond the realm of homemade vs. storebought beer dispensers, the main differences come down to size and functionality.
Regardless of the type, many freestanding kegerators have caster wheels built in so you can move them around to clean them more efficiently. This also makes it easier to move it around whenever you decide to revamp your home layout. Freestanding kegerators are self-explanatory. You can move them to the side of your couch or next to your kitchen cabinets. However, you cannot retrofit them underneath your countertops since they don’t have the proper vents. Because freestanding models have vents on the back, they can overheat if you place them under your counters. Not to mention all that condensation can damage your countertops.
If you want a model that can fit perfectly under your counters, a built-in kegerator would be your best option. These are specifically designed to be built into your countertop. The portion of the appliance that holds the keg, tubing, and CO2 fits under your countertop, while the tap sits on top. Built-in kegerators are ideal for people who are in the midst of or are planning to remodel their kitchens. After all, you do need to plan a space for your built-in beer dispenser and drill a hole in your counter for the tap.
Having wheels doesn’t automatically make every freestanding kegerator ready to use outdoors. Outdoor kegerators have slightly different temperature regulators that prevent the appliance from overheating when it’s hot. These types of beer dispensers also make sure your draft beer stays cool regardless of the temperature outside.
Dual tap kegerators are another unique type. As the name suggests, you can stock a dual tap kegerator with two or more different beers. One of our favorite dual tap models is the EdgeStar, which can hold two sixth kegs and dispense them simultaneously.
There are also some crossovers in the world of kegerators. For example, there are select models of dual tap outdoor kegerators.
What Makes a Good Kegerator?
The primary component that makes a good kegerator, well, good is if it’s compatible with your living space. If your kitchen is a bit tight, then an outdoor kegerator might be a better option. Regardless of the size and type of dispenser, there are a few features you should look for:
1. A high-quality cooling system
It needs to be able to keep the beer cold and dispense it at the right temperature. The best kegerators use glycol chillers as opposed to water chillers. Glycol cooling systems are of higher quality because they can keep large volumes of liquid cold.
2. Cabinet insulation
The cabinet should be well insulated to ensure that it can hold the temperature of your kegs for as long as possible. After all, finding the perfect temperature always makes your beer taste a little bit better.
3. Temperature control display and external controls
This is especially useful if you need to set a specific temperature, like with homebrewing. Temperature control displays also make sure your beer doesn’t get too cold. If your beer falls below its ideal temperature, it can lose a lot of its body and flavor. Granted, the ideal temperature for your favorite beer depends on the beer type. If you’re a stout person then 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect, whereas a kolsch needs to sit at around 40 to 45 degrees F.
4. A large cold plate or cooling coil system
This is where the keg sits while cooling, and it should be spacious enough to accommodate a commercial beer keg. Having a large cold plate makes sure the beer inside the cabinet is consistently the same temperature. When you’re particular about your beer’s taste, an inconsistently chilled cabinet can compromise your draft’s flavor.
5. A protective guard rail around the inside of the door
If you’re putting your beer in through a window on top of an existing cabinet or fridge, this will prevent scratches whenever someone opens or closes the door.
6. An airtight seal around the kegerator
This is to ensure that no outside air gets in or out of the cabinet while you’re storing a commercial keg inside. This is an extra measure to ensure your draft beer stays temperature-controlled and oxidation-free.
The 5 Best Home Kegerators
The best kegerator beer dispensers have something in common: They make it really easy to keep your favorite draft cold and fresh.
1. Best Built-In Kegerator: True Residential Beverage Dispenser
True Residential Beverage Dispenser
True refrigerators are the gold standard of the appliance industry. Consider this undercounter dispenser the Cadillac of home kegs. It keeps a quarter keg precisely as cold as you want it to be, and it can be installed indoors or outdoors—wherever you do your entertaining. There’s a digital display to keep tabs on the temperature. You can choose a sleek stainless steel finish or cover it with custom cabinetry to match the rest of your kitchen, and you can customize the LED lighting to one of 14 settings. It’s also flexible: You can convert into to a beverage center or undercounter mini fridge in the future, thanks to the wire shelving system inside.
2. Best Freestanding Beer Dispenser: EdgeStar KC2000 Full-Size Kegerator
EdgeStar KC2000 Full-Size Kegerator
Although you have to wait 24 hours for any kegerator to acclimate before use, this unit comes ready to go right out of the box. The EdgeStar KC2000 even includes an extra CO2 canister. Since the EdgeStar KC2000 is a larger unit, you can dispense and store more beer, so you’ll have to deal with less hassle switching out barrel kegs. It’s ideal for a garage or basement.
3. Best Mini Kegerator: Pyle NutriChef Pressurized Mini Keg Dispenser
NutriChef Pressurized Mini Keg Dispenser
The Pyle NutriChef is the perfect solution for people who want to drink a pint on the go without compromising quality. The NutriChef Mini Beer Dispenser is the perfect size and shape to carry around, and it’s durable. The stainless steel has a protective coating on it to protect it from scratches and scuffs.
4. Most Versatile Kegerator: Kegco K199B-1 Keg Dispenser
Kegco K199B-1 Keg Dispenser
The Kegco K199B-1 kegerator is the perfect way to enjoy your favorite craft brews because it has a wide temperature range that can be set from 34 degrees F up to 45 degrees F. Its removable drip tray also makes it easier to clean off any extra foam that spills over from glasses. The most unique detail about the Kegco K199B-1 is that you can convert it into a regular refrigerator. When you’ve finished the keg inside, you can slide the shelves in place and use it as a mini fridge.
5. Best Portable Kegerator: Coldbreak 1T-RRR Jockey Box, 1 Tap, Roto Molded
Coldbreak 1T-RRR Jockey Box
Because the Coldbreak Jockey Box doesn’t use batteries or electricity, it’s super portable. Plus, it has handles so you can easily carry it to a tailgate, the beach, or out into your backyard. It’s also one of the most affordable kegerator options. The only downsides? It can’t hold as much beer, and it doesn’t have casters for rolling it around.
We’ve gone over the basics of beer dispensers, but there are a lot of details we didn’t get a chance to explore in this guide. From mini kegerators, stand-alone kegerators, built-in kegerators, and even mobile beer dispensing carts, there are a plethora of options on the market. There are even tutorials about DIYing custom draft beer dispensers. The best beer dispenser is the one that fits your lifestyle, your home, and your needs. After all, maintaining a kegerator shouldn’t cut into your relaxation time.
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