5 Tips for Buying the Perfect Outdoor Kegerator

outdoor kegerator

Summit Professional Outdoor Kegerator

Buying the perfect outdoor kegerator isn’t as simple as it seems.  There are a variety of factors many people overlook, which can cause problems in the long run.  At the same time, if you know what to look for, the right outdoor kegerator will quickly reveal itself.  The key is having a general idea of how you will be using it before making the purchase.

What Makes an Outdoor Kegerator Unique?

The most important fact to understand is there are unique characteristics which separate outdoor kegerators from the rest.  In general, kegerators can be separated into four categories – mini, indoor, commercial, and outdoor.  Outdoor kegerators are engineered with the ability to keep beer frosty and cold, regardless of the surrounding temperature.  Most are rated to operate within a range of 45 degrees to 100 degrees.  Indoor and commercial kegerators should be used only within a moderate temperature range.  Outdoor kegerators are also typically designed to provide some additional mobility, whereas indoor kegerators are often designed to be setup in one place and never moved.

Decide What Type of Keg You Will Be Using

If you are new to home brewing or rarely buy kegs from liquor stores or breweries, then you may not know that there are multiple keg designs.  For example, most home brewers use a 5 gallon Cornelius keg.  This type of keg is more narrow with ball lock or pin lock gas and beer posts.  At a glance, it is immediately distinguishable from the kegs purchased from breweries.  As a result, the coupler for the gas and the beverage lines are different.  Make sure you buy a kegerator capable of handling the type of keg you use most often.

Stick with Stainless Steel

In order to save money, many people turn to outdoor kegerators with chrome-plated brass faucets and shanks.  While this is a great way to save money initially, it is actually more expensive over time.  Chrome-plated brass wears out quickly and can alter the flavor of your beer.  The best material is stainless steel.  If you really need to cut costs during your initial purchase, choose plastic fixtures and plan on upgrading to stainless steel in the future.

Check the Thermostat

When you buy an outdoor kegerator, getting a precision thermostat is essential.  External thermostats are ideal for outdoor kegerators because they allow you to continually monitor the temperature of your kegerator without needing to continually open the door and letting all of the cold air out.  Few indoor kegerators include an external thermostat, whereas a majority of outdoor kegerators do.

Think About What Type of Beer You Drink

Most beer can share the same type of outdoor kegerator system with no problems, but there are exceptions.  For example, if you drink stout beer then your kegerator will need a stout-style faucet.  Plus, stout beers are carbonated with a CO2/Nitrogen blend.  Most other beers rely only on CO2.

Buying the perfect kegerator doesn’t have to be a difficult or overwhelming process.  All you need to do is take your time and think about how you will be using it.  Consider where it will be stored, what type of kegs it needs to handle, what type of beers it needs to support, and the specific fixtures you will need (and the materials they are made out of).

Circle Brewery Tour

Circle Brewery Kegs

A few weeks ago, Groupon offered a deal for a brewery tour at Circle Brewing here in Austin. For $15, you got a brewery tour package for two, which included two Circle pint glasses with koozies and a self-guided tour. It also technically came with 6 drink tickets (3 each), but Groupon advertises that alcohol isn’t included in the cost of the package.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the day of the tour came around. The website said we could arrive any time between 1 and 5 pm to take the tour. My friend and I showed up around 2 pm and the place looked packed. They had marked off a huge area in front of the brewery for people to hang out and eat food (available from two local food trucks) and there were quite a few groups of people just standing around. It looked like a carnival that had forgotten all of their rides and games. There wasn’t much of a line though to get in, so we showed our IDs, got our drink tickets and picked out which color koozie we wanted for our pint glass.

Circle Brewing

The Crowd at Circle Brewing

We decided our best bet would be to grab a pint before starting the self-guided tour. Luckily, the line for beer wasn’t very long and the people were pouring pretty quickly. I opted to try the Envy, an amber beer they offer year round, and my friend got the winter brew, Nameless, a winter amber. I definitely preferred Nameless to Envy, though both were very tasty.

Outdoor Beer Station     Pouring the Envy

Once we had our beer, we ventured inside the warehouse to start our tour. There was actually a line for the self-guided tour, which we thought was a little strange, but we jumped in line and waited. At the start of the tour, there were some Self-Guided Tour handouts to explain what you were seeing as you walked by the equipment. The handout included the line:

Please DO NOT TOUCH any tanks, pipes, valves, hoses, etc. Bad things could happen.

An appropriate warning, but just in case you missed it, all of the equipment was also blocked off with yellow tape. It seemed overly cautious to me at first, but I was still on beer #1; who knows what I would have been capable of after beer #3.

Turned out the tour line was completely pointless and only forming because some people had decided to stand and talk in front of the equipment. We stepped out of the line and walked next to it to get glimpses of the equipment. Honestly though, if you’ve been on one brewery tour, you’ve been on them all. What really makes a brewery tour interesting and unique is getting to talk to the actual brewer, ask questions and learn unique things about the brewery. All of that was stripped away on the self-guided tour, which was disappointing, but getting to try the beers made up for it. It turned into more of an afternoon happy hour, which is never a bad thing.

I will say I learned one interesting fact from the tour handout:

It takes us about 2 minutes and 35 seconds to wash a keg, and about 2 minutes and 15 seconds to fill one.

Checkout the gallery for the rest of my pictures from Circle Brewing (Please forgive any blurriness. It isn’t really easy to hold a beer in one hand and take steady pictures with your iPhone in the other.):

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Black Star Co-op Brewery Tour

Black Star Co-op is a fairly new brewery and pub in Austin, TX, and the first co-op brewery in town. Being a co-operative means that the business is owned by the people (or members, in the case of Black Star) and the employees. We decided to check them out by scheduling a brewery tour for Kegerator.com employees that were interested.

One of the first things I learned about Black Star when I arrived is that the employees at the bar don’t accept tips. I ordered my first beer (a Thirsty Goat Amber) and looked around for a tip jar with no luck. I asked the girl who took my order where I could leave a tip, and she informed me that the employees of Black Star all receive living wages. So no tip jars on the bar and no tip line on the receipt. Awesome.

    

A few of us in the group enjoyed a beer as we waited for everyone to arrive and the tour to begin. It’s definitely a nice setup for hanging out with friends, inside or out on the patio.

The tour began with us climbing a ladder to a loft in the brewery room where the grains and mill are stored. We tasted some of the grains on hand and got a quick overview of Black Star’s process. The next part of the tour included two mash tuns where the grains are steeped and 4 fermenters, which each can hold 20 half barrels of beer. The final stop was the cold room where the beer being served at the bar is stored and kept cool.

         

We learned that Black Star never makes the same beer twice; they’re constantly tweaking and improving the recipes, so while the beer might have the same name, there could be subtle changes in the taste.

After the tour, some of us hung around to drink some more, chat, play darts and try some food. The place got fairly crowded in the evening, so there was a bit of a line to order beer or food, but the atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable.

I look forward to going back soon and possibly becoming a member. Do you have any co-op breweries near you? Plug them in the comments!

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Homebrew Competition

In an effort to learn (even) more about our products and customers, Kegerator.com employees will be attending two “How to Brew Beer” classes hosted by Austin Homebrew Supply in the next few weeks. But since we are a competitive bunch, we just had to turn this learning experience into a contest. So we will also be hosting our first Employee Brewing Contest!

Here is how it works:

  1. Interested employees have been placed in teams of 4-5 people. We have four teams.
  2. Choose what type of beer the team wants to brew.
  3. Team members will attend the first “How to Brew Beer” class.
  4. Teams get together to start brewing within one week of the first class.
  5. Team members will attend the second “How to Brew Beer” class.
  6. Teams complete phase 2 of beer brewing within one week of the second class.
  7. Beer must be ready for tasting by Monday, December 5, and the winners will be announced at our holiday party on Friday, December 9.

Lucky for us, the company will be supplying all of the equipment and ingredients necessary to brew our beer. Aside from attending the classes and actually brewing the beers, the teams are also tasked with documenting the entire experience, so expect to see lots of pictures, videos and posts in the coming weeks updating you on how the competition is going so far. May the best team win!

How to Clean a Kegerator

After actually getting your kegerator set up and dispensing, keeping it clean would be the next important step. It is recommended that you clean your kegerator beer lines after every keg. If you don’t, you could end up with bad tasting beer and what a waste that would be. To help you keep your beer tasting great, we’ve put together the following video to show you exactly how to clean your beer lines.

Don’t have kegerator cleaning materials? Well, we’ve got you covered. Check out our awesome kegerator cleaning kit for everything you need.

 

Video Transcript

Hi, this is Darin with Kegerator.com and today we’re going to show you how to clean your kegerator.

Why Cleaning Your Kegerator is Important

Now the reason you should clean after every use is to take the beer residue from the beer line and the beer faucet to make sure it doesn’t taint your other beers. So what we’re going to do today is clean the faucet area to the line that runs all the way down into your kegerator right here.

Your Kegerator Cleaning Kit

Okay, so, here are all of the accessories you will need to clean your kegerator. First of all, you’ll have the instruction booklet with you so you’ll know what to do. Then we’ll have the powdered beer line cleaning compound, which will help you clean the beer line more successfully and it’ll get rid of all of the residue. The bottle here is where we’re going to mix the solution and then pour it into the kegerator. The cleaning hose goes with the bottle and you’ll just screw it on like that and pump it into the kegerator.

The faucet brush will help you clean all those hard to reach spots on the faucet. The faucet wrench is going to help you take the faucet off of the beer line and the beer tower so you can easily clean your keg. The black rubber gasket will connect to the hose so it won’t leak out. The ball pin helps to relieve the pressure on the coupler so you can clean the line a lot easier.

Now I’m going to teach you how to take off the faucet so you can easily clean your kegerator.

Step 1: Remove Beer Faucet

So what you want to remember here is that the general rule for lefty-loosey, righty-tighty is the exact opposite on kegerators. So it’s going to be lefty-tighty, righty-loosey. What we’re going to do it take the faucet wrench, put it in the holes and take it off just like this. Once it gets loose enough, you can just take it off with your hands.

Step 2: Ready Keg Coupler

Next, you want to go down to the coupler inside the kegerator, and make sure you have the ball pin, and you’re going to put it into where the keg is tapped by the coupler. You want to make sure you pinch it so it goes in, apply the pressure and it should go in like that. Then, make sure you take out the gas line because you don’t want any water to get into it and just keep it up here.

Step 3: Prepare Beer Line Cleaner

You’ll need a tablespoon of beer line cleaner for every gallon of water to make sure you get the right amount of solution. Pour a little in here. You need to mix it with pretty hot water; I’d say almost scalding hot to make sure the solution does work. So make sure it’s super-hot, then fill up the bottle like so to the top line on the bottle. You’ll see the lines on the side. And then, you’ll want to put the hose on, and now, you’re ready to clean your kegerator.

Step 4: Flush Beer Line

One thing to remember when you clean out your kegerator is you’ll need to have a bucket handy so you can put your keg coupler into there to make sure it leaks out correctly. You don’t want it to go all over the floor and make a mess.

You’ll want to take the bottle with the solution in it, take the hose and put it on the faucet head where you took off the faucet that will connect to the beer tower. This will run directly to the line all the way to the keg coupler. When you’re ready, all you have to do is tilt it over and let it go. To make it go faster, you can also just squeeze it and make sure it comes out.

So what you’re going to see at the keg coupler is the water and probably some beer come out. It’s just going to empty into the bucket and this is going to ensure your line is becoming clean as it’s emptying.

For a deeper clean, you can flush the line twice this way or you can take the ball pin out from the coupler and just lit it sit in there for an hour or so and it should clean it.

Step 5: Rinse Beer Line

Now what you want to do after flushing the line the recommended two times is fill the bottle up with just hot water, no solution, and then flush it just like you did before. The hot water will take away all the residue of the solution and you’re line will be cleaner for that. We also recommend doing this at least two times as well.

Step 6: Clean Beer Faucet

So for cleaning the faucet, you want to make sure you have the faucet, a bowl to set all the parts in and your faucet brush. Make sure you also have the solution so you’re ready to clean with that.

What you’re going to do is you’re going to take the faucet apart. Take the faucet handle out, screw out this part here, then screw that out and make sure these two washers come out like so, because you want to clean them as thoroughly as possible. And then, for the faucet, you want to make sure you push this part out so it comes out like so.

You want to put about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of beer line cleaner in the bowl, add scalding hot water (make sure it’s a good temperature) and you want to fill the bowl with the water. Then you want to make sure the powder is all dissolved into the water, so I’m going to stir it a bit.

And then, you’re going to set the faucet in the bowl along with all the parts. Don’t forget the washers; they’re important too. You want to make sure they’re all sitting there and you probably want to keep it there for 30 minutes to an hour. Just to make sure it soaks and gets all of the beer residue out from the faucet.

About 30 minutes to an hour later, you’re going to take the faucet itself and take the brush and just clean it through like that. Get all of the residue out so do it thoroughly. Then do it down here as well to make sure you clean the whole faucet through. And just one more go around to make sure. And then, you want to empty the water from the parts. Make sure you do not flush any of the parts down the sink.

Step 7: Reassemble Your Kegerator

What you want to do is make sure this hole is lined up to go right here, so you’ll push it all the way through like so and you’ll see the hole right in there. And then, you’ll take the handle and stick that piece into the hole you put just in there. Make sure the white washer goes down like so, followed by the black washer. Then you’ll screw the handle on to the faucet itself. Make sure to not tighten it all the way because you want the handle to be a little loose when you pour the beer. Then screw the second part on and make sure also this is a little loose. Not too loose, but not too tight either. And then the tap handle, and you have your faucet.

So when you’re ready to put all of the accessories back on you want to make sure the bottle and hose are removed from the beer tower. And then also make sure that the ball pin is out of the coupler. And you’re ready to assemble it back together.

When you put the faucet back on make sure that lefty is tighty – remember that. Then take the faucet wrench and make sure you tighten it on correctly. You can do this one of two ways: you can either put the faucet at an angle so you can get an even pour or you can put it up the traditional way, just straight up. You want to make sure it’s tightened, so the beer doesn’t come out.

So after you clean your kegerator, you are now ready to enjoy a new keg of fresh draft beer.

Where to Buy a Kegerator

Question: Where can I buy a home kegerator?

Home Kegerator

So you’re ready to make the leap into the draft beer world. Congratulations! Chances are, there are probably a few places near you that sell full-size kegerators. Check out your local home improvement store, but don’t expect them to have any actually in stock. There might be a display model for you to look at, but they will probably have to place the order for you and then have the unit delivered to your home.

Also, don’t expect them to have a wide selection of kegerators available. At best, the home improvement store will have maybe 2 models. You’re better off shopping online for the best home kegerator. You’ll have a larger selection to browse, you’ll be able to read reviews and, depending on where you purchase from, you will be able to have your questions answered by a kegerator expert. Also, the kegerator won’t take any longer to arrive than it would if you ordered it at the home improvement store.

Your local homebrew shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is a great place to visit and ask questions about what kind of kegerator you should purchase, but they probably don’t sell any pre-built kegerators in store. If you want to build your own kegerator though, then you should be able to find kegerator parts there.

Here is some additional reading to help you get started with your kegerator shopping: