beer fresh from the kegerator

Buyer be Smart: Common Kegerator Problems

beer fresh from the kegeratorIf 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.

An insulated kegerator tower
example of an insulated tower

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

7 thoughts on “Buyer be Smart: Common Kegerator Problems”

  1. Thanks for using the time and effort to write something so thoroughly. It amazes me how little information there is on home kegerators. Thanks for taking the time to clear it up.

  2. I just purchased a brand new Keger Meister, and have no idea why it don’t work. I have had it for 8 days and have goten nothing but stail foamy beer. Is there anyone in jacksonville fl. that I can pay to come and hook it up wright. The instructions I got with it suck, nothing matches what washers I got and you can’t see them in the drawings enclosed in the kit. Please help. I live in N Jax by the airport.
    My wife isn’t very happy with me. I bought it to get my friends to help me build my 28 model A pickup hotrod. Cost me alot. NEED HELP PLEASE. Thanks

    1. Hey Coy,

      Sorry to hear things aren’t going so well with the wife.

      Can you tell me which model you bought? It sounds like you have beer and CO2 going through the lines, I’d guess you’re good to go. If you don’t have it set up right, you’re not far off.

      If you have it set up right, your beer will be foamy for two reasons – you have too much CO2 in your keg, or it’s not cold enough.

      Assuming that it’s cold enough – you didn’t mention temperature – you need to shut your CO2 off, drain your keg of all the extra pressure, and then repressurize the keg by turning on the CO2 tank a little a very small amount at a time, checking to see how the beer is pouring. Do this very gradually, like a quarter turn at a time.

      Otherwise, if you think that you don’t have the kegerator together right, you can try calling around to home brew supply stores in your area. They may have someone on staff who has experience with setting them up, or at least they should be able to put you in touch with someone who does.

      Ron

  3. OK…I BIT THE BULLET AND BOUGHT A KEGGERMEISTER KM2800. I CAN GET BEER BUT SEEM TO RUN OUT OF CO2 AFTER ONE KEG. DOES ANYONE HAVE AN IDEA WHY? WE HAVE GOTTEN THE CONNECTIONS AS TIGHT AS WE CAN WITHOUT STRIPPING…

    1. Sounds like you have a leak somewhere. Even a 2.5lb cylinder should last you for at least 2 kegs.

      With your system set up and running:

      Get a bowl of water with some dish detergent (10:1) and apply a few drops to every connection in the CO2 line that could possibly be leaking. If it’s leaking, it’ll bubble and you’ll need to replace that connection. If none of the connections bubble, start checking the lines.

      If you need to replace anything, head down to your local home brew shop or restaurant/bar supply stores with your fittings and line. You’ll need food grade replacements. Fortunately, it’s not too expensive.

      WARNING: DON’T GET ANY SOAP INSIDE BEER LINES OR CONNECTIONS.

      It tastes bad. And it kills the suds.

      Good Luck,
      Ron

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