If you’re shopping for a new kegerator, reading customer reviews can be a scarey experience. There isn’t a kegerator on the market that has been left untouched by a salty purchaser with one horror story or another.
It’s sad to say, but when it comes to these little machines, you get what you pay for. While most kegerator owners are happy and don’t have any problems with their unit, there are many who complain – and complain very loudly – about how they were let down by their $300+ machines.
The problem is that many jump into a kegerator purchase with both feet and very little research. Beer needs to be treated very carefully. All conditions need to be just right to get it to pour the right way. If one factor is just a little bit off, it can lead to a glass of foamy beer – or worse – no beer at all.
My opinion is that if you plan on spending less than $1200 on a kegerator, be prepared to work with it to get the right results. If that’s too much time and effort for you, consider a more expensive option, such as a Perlick or . Perlick primarily produces commercial draft systems, but also has a line of indoor and outdoor kegerators for your home. They are the best in the business, so if you want no-fuss right out of the box, that’s the way to go.
If Perlick is too much for you, then get a cheaper kegerator, but be prepared to deal with the consequences. Read through these common problems, and you will know what to expect when your shiny new kegerator arrives at your door.
All Too Common Problems With Cheap Kegerators
The following is a list of the three biggest complaints that I see about virtually every home kegerator. No brand has been left untouched, including Danby, Keggermiester, and even the mighty (and more expensive) Sanyo line.
Don’t be afraid of these problems – just know that they aren’t difficult to overcome, even if you read a dozen people screaming about them online. Think of them more as fine-tuning to get your perfect glass of beer.
Problem #1 – My Kegerator Doesn’t Get Cold Enough
This is probably the biggest complaint I see about any cheap kegerator. If your kegerator doesn’t get cold enough, there are ways to fix it, but it might take a call from your appliance technician.
The problem starts with the design of your kegerator. Face it – you’re using a mini-fridge as your cooling unit, and then throwing in a huge keg of beer that takes up most of the space in it, which it really isn’t designed to do in the first place.
Mini-fridges, like your big fridge, depend on air being able to flow through and circulate. When there isn’t much room for movement, your circulation stops.
The easiest and cheapest remedy is to buy a small fan and put it in the fridge with your keg. This will cool down your beer by at least a couple of degrees.
If you’re still seeing poor results after the addition of a fan, your thermostat might not be calibrated right. Again, you’re attempting to cool down a huge keg with a mini-fridge. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that when your fridge leaves the factory, it’s set to cool food – and not freeze it. They naturally set the thermostat to deal with food – and not with a big keg of beer.
If you need to have your thermostat calibrated, you need to have an appliance tech deal with it. Check with your manufacturer to see if they’ll send someone out free of charge, but be prepared to pay $50-$100 if the don’t.
Problem #2 – My Beer is Too Foamy
This is another all-too-common problem associated with virtually every cheap kegerator, but this has nothing to do with your fridge. It has everything to do with the amount of CO2 you’re pumping into your keg – and if it’s foamy, it’s probably way too much.
Kegged beer flows properly with CO2 line pressure at around 14 psi for most styles of beer. Many of these kegerators only come with a regulator that only gauge the pressure in the CO2 bottle, and not the pressure in the line. Many first-time kegerator owners don’t understand this, crank open the CO2, and then whine when the gauge says 45 psi and is spraying foam out of the tap.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem – don’t open the CO2 tank open all the way! Start out very small. Barely crack your tank open, then see if beer is coming out of the tap. Open it a very small amount at a time until you have your beer pouring the way you want.
Problem #3 – The First Beer I Pour is Foamy, But the Rest are Fine.
This is all about circulation again. I have no idea why, but the majority of beer towers that come with these cheap kegerators are not insulated, leaving the beer in the tower’s section of the line pretty much exposed. When beer sits in the tower, it gets warm, making your first pour of the day foamy.
Easy fix – insulate your tower! This is easiest to do when you’re setting up your kegerator for the first time, but isn’t difficult to do after the fact either.
It is also a good idea to add a small fan as well, if you haven’t already.
Should you shy away from a cheap kegerator? I don’t think so. If you can’t afford a commercial-grade kegerator for your home, I highly recommend getting one of these units. Just be prepared to spend a little extra money to get it going right, and you and your kegerator will have a long and happy relationship.