A draft system for the home-brewer is a must, and makes practical sense for the beer aficionado or party host. Keg beer is fresher and better-preserved, without the chemicals added to bottled or canned beer, at less than half the cost. At the time of publication, commercial systems for a single keg can run between £325 to £520, possibly more depending upon options. Make your own draft system with parts from the hardware store, or by purchasing draft kits.
Beer keg, or the tanks used in home brewing, must remain chilled. A bar-style system can be permanently built in to a kitchen or home bar, or a DIY kegerator. Converting a used refrigerator, full-size or half-size, provides the less-expensive option, compared to purchasing a ready-made kegerator. A half-size fridge allows room to install a tower on the top. Faucets, also called taps, can be fitted to the door, while using the freezer to store glass mugs. When converting any refrigerator, drill holes in a manner that does not puncture cooling lines running through the sides or the door of the refrigerator.
Carbon dioxide provides the pressure that forces the beer from the keg through the taps and gives beer its effervescence. For those who prefer less bubbly beer, purchase a tank of nitrogen instead. A single tank of CO2 or nitrogen can service multiple kegs in a draft system. Tanks and the additional parts, or conversion kits, can be easily purchased online through a number of kegerator suppliers.
Couplers and Tubing
Keg couplers connect the keg to tubing that attaches to the tap and the CO2 or nitrogen tank. The tubing must be food-grade quality, not only because beer is ingested, but because keg beer is not pasteurised like bottled beer. The coupler includes washers, but pick up a few extra, as these wear down with each keg change.
Faucet or Tap
The faucet is the tap used for pouring the beer. Faucets can be fitted directly to a refrigerator door or to a tower. The tower is the tall, vertical pipe seen in bars, topped by the tap. Towers can be purchased from suppliers or made from any metal or PVC piping. Most towers can be fitted with up to four taps, unless an appropriately-sized horizontal shaft is added to the top to accommodate more.
When purchasing parts, purchase a draft-cleaning kit at the same time. Kit contents vary, but may include small bottle brushes, hand-pumped or pressurised cleaning bottle, cleaning solution, tap wrench and washer replacements. The keg coupler, lines and tap need to be cleaned between keg changes or a minimum of every weeks. Micro Matic, a beer equipment supplier, cautions to use only chemicals specifically manufactured for beer line cleaning, to dissolve the build-ups of bacteria, yeast, mould and beer stone that occur with draft beer.