If you’re serious about beer, you’re eventually going to get serious about kegs. When you do, you’ll find yourself yearning for a place to keep them cold.
A keg refrigerator is the perfect home for a lonely keg, but finding a dedicated keg fridge for cheap is difficult. This leaves two options: buy a new one, or build your own.
A low-end commercial keg fridge will run you $400 or more, while a nice one will be over $600. But if you’ve got a spare refrigerator, you can build a keg fridge for around $200. It’s easy to do, and well worth it.
What You’ll Need
2. Conversion kit
3. CO2 cylinder
4. CO2 gas (inside the canister)
6. Power drill
7. 1⅜-inch and ⅞-inch hole saws
8. Measuring tape
10. A keg of your favorite beer
Conversion kits are a great start to building your keg fridge. They are cheaper than buying the components separately and are easy to find online. Conversion kits come in two styles: door-mounted taps for upright fridges and towers for chest freezers and compact fridges. For this project, we used a basic single-tap door-mounted kit and a five-pound aluminum CO2 cylinder from the folks at BeverageFactory.com.
You’re in luck if you live near a homebrewer’s supply store, as they usually carry conversion kits. They’ll also be able to answer questions you have about the building process.
Step 1: Find a Fridge
If you don’t have an old fridge rotting in your garage or basement, you’re bound to find somebody else who does. We found many, many options on Craigslist, including several freebies.
When you go to check out a fridge, take some measuring tape to make sure a keg will fit inside. A full sized keg is 16 1/8 inches in diameter, and with the CO2 canister inside, you will need an interior cavity of 28 inches by 18 inches. Compact fridges that can fit a keg are harder to find, so we opted for a free and functional upright fridge. While an upright fridge takes up more space than a compact fridge would, it has the advantage of being able to fit two 5-gallon kegs.
Pro tip: if your fridge has a freezer compartment, you can use it to chill your steins.
Step 2: Drill a Hole Jon Snyder/WIREDBesides actually drinking the beer, this part is the most fun. Just keep in mind that this is also the only step with any real risk of messing up (we found that out ourselves).Find a place to put the tap, and make sure you put it low enough so the freezer door doesn’t hit the tap handle when it’s opened (you can raise the tap handle much higher if you screw the fridge door to the freezer door using a small piece of metal). Mark the spot with a pen, then draw a mark on the other side of the door in the same spot. Drill a ¼-inch pilot hole all the way through the door. Then, drill a hole with the 1 ⅜-inch hole saw, just through the outer layer of the door, and drill the ⅞-inch hole saw just through the inner layer of the door. Measure the thickness of the door between the holes, then saw your PVC pipe to that length so it inserts into the hole.We made the mistake of starting by drilling the smaller hole through the outer layer. This wasn’t the end of the world, but we no longer had the pilot hole to hold the drill in place while we sawed the larger hole. To fix this, we ended up fitting a broom handle into the hole, and drilling a pilot hole in the end of it to guide the saw.Step 3: Install the TapConnect the faucet to the shank and moderately tighten with a wrench (some kits come with a special wrench for this purpose). Insert the shank into the PVC pipe and fasten it with the shank nut.Push the beer hose onto the other end of the shank and fasten with a clamp. You will need to put the loose clamp onto the hose before attaching it to the shank. At the other end of the beer hose, insert a rubber washer into the nut and then screw the nut onto the top of the keg coupler. Tighten with a wrench.Install the drip tray about a foot below the tap by putting screws into the door for the tray to hang on.Step 4: Connect the CO2 Jon Snyder/WIREDAdd a clamp to the gas hose, then fasten it to the thin end of the keg coupler and clamp it down. Then add a clamp to the other end, fasten it to the thin end of the CO2 regulator and tighten the clamp. Attach the end of the regulator with a nut on it to the CO2 cylinder. Tighten it with a wrench. Be careful not to over-tighten it, because you’ll need to remove it to refill the canister.Step 5: Tap that KegIf you read our previous how-to on keg tapping, you should be an expert by now. Insert the coupler into the keg with the handle pointing up. Rotate the coupler until it stops. Pull out the handle and push it down until it snaps below the catch.Next, open the regulator valve near the hose on the gauge by pointing it along the hose. Open the valve on the top of the tank. Turn the regulator clockwise until the gauge reads around 10 psi. You may need to adjust this to get the right amount of gas for each keg of beer. In a double gauge regulator, the second gauge shows how much pressure is in the keg. It will drop as the beer gets lower and help you predict when you will need a new keg.The first beer will probably be mostly foam, as will the second. But by the third beer, it should be close to the right gas pressure. If it’s not right, fiddle with the regulator until it is.Tips & TricksMost American beer kegs use a Sankey coupler, and consequently most conversion kits come with one. But you may want to check your favorite brew to see if you need a different style coupler to serve it.You can swap your empty CO2 cylinder at most homebrew supply stores, or at gas suppliers. Also, some welding suppliers will fill your existing tank, which is cheaper.Learn to pour a proper brewski!Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.