Build a keg cooler

How to create your own keg cooler.

While there are a great many options for purchasing a keg cooler or draft beer refrigerator, sometimes we find ourselves on a budget and in need of a creative work around to high priced commercial models.  So if you are on a shoestring, but would really like to serve cold beer at your next backyard picnic, consider building your own beer cooler with some inexpensive parts available at any hardware store and your beer faucet.

The premise of a beer cooler is instead of keeping the entire keg cold, beer is chilled quickly on its way to the faucet.  By passing warm beer though a metal tube or plate immersed in ice water, you can quickly ensure the product will reach your pint glass in perfect condition.  And you can do this without the hassle of barrels and large bags of ice melting on your feet.

Essentially the main components of a keg cooler are the cooler that holds ice to chill the beer, a faucet for serving beer, and a long copper tube the beer passes through.  If you have an existing beer faucet you will be able to remove it from your refrigerator for use, if you do not have one consider purchasing since it will have all the parts you need, minus the cooler.

The parts list for the project is pretty simple:

  • 48 quart plastic cooler (or similar size)
  • Beer faucet
  • 5 inch shank
  • Fittings for your faucet
  • 5 feet of beer hose
  • 25 feet of 1/4 copper tubing
  • 2 hose clamps

Start by drilling the appropriate size hole (between 7/8-1″) in one of the shorter ends of the cooler for the faucet.  Insert the shank, slide on the washers, and screw on the hex nuts to hold it in place.  At the other end of the cooler drill a 5/16″ hole that an end of the copper tubing will exit.  If you do not have a beer faucet, you can use a simple picnic tap.  In that case just drill a hole large enough for the hose to extend through and clamp it to the copper coil made in the next step.  Now comes the trickiest part, bend the copper tubing into a continuous spiral that will span from one end of the cooler to the other.  Leave a straight section at one end to push through the hole you have drilled, and make sure the completed coil will fit comfortably in the cooler.  The easiest technique is to wrap the copper around a suitable sized bucket, glass carboy, or any round object for support.  Be very careful and take your time so as to prevent kinking the tubing.  Any pinches in the coil will cause excessive foaming in your beer.

When you have completed the coil, attach a short length of beer hose to one end of the copper tube securing with a hose clamp.  Attach the other end to your faucet.  Leave enough hose to allow you to move the coil around and then insert the bare end of the coil through the 5/16 hole you drilled through the cooler.  Now attach beer hose with a hose clamp outside of the cooler to the tubing.  This will help hold the assembly in place when you are completed, which you almost are now.  Finish by attaching the one loose end of beer hose to the keg coupler.

The finishing touches are to fill the cooler with ice and water, attach the handle to the faucet, and tap a keg.  Carefully examine every hose clamp for leaks, over the course of an afternoon even a small leak can lose a lot of beer. When you fill the cooler with ice and a little water, swish it around with your hand to make sure the coolant touches every part of the copper tubing.

It may not be the prettiest cooler made, but it will chill beer down on even the hottest afternoon with less ice than trying to keep the entire keg cold.