Buying Guide: Kegerators

Commercial Kegerators Buying Guide

silver two spout kegerator

Whether you own a bar or a restaurant that serves beer, you may have considered adding a kegerator to the mix. These units can be costly so you may have been holding off on this investment, but there are benefits that far outweigh the initial cost. Here’s what you need to know regarding commercial kegerators to make this purchase with confidence.

Benefits of a Kegerator

beer on bar top
  • Improved Taste

Bottled beer will never taste the same as on tap beer. The reason for this is because tap beer is moved through the faucet by way of CO2 lines and this, as well as the fact that the beer is refrigerated in the keg, leads to the perfect pour every time. Beer just tastes crisper and more inviting from a keg instead of a bottle.

  • Easier to Use

Your staff will appreciate the ease of use found in most units. Whether you choose an option with a tap lever operation or a newer, hands-free model, there is no denying pouring beer from this piece of equipment is often faster than grabbing the beer from a refrigeration unit under the counter or in the back. While under counter units are still utilized in many businesses, commercial kegerators truly are easier to access for your staff. A kegerator also requires less work since kegs last longer than bottles in terms of restocking product.

  • Saves Money

Alcohol is usually a pretty big ticket item for any restaurant’s bottom line. When you buy beer in kegs, you save money over buying bottles. It can also save money in terms of the fact that bottles are much easier to break compared to kegs.

  • Reduces Waste

Another benefit of using a kegerator system is that it reduces waste. Since kegs hold more alcohol without the need for bottles, you will have less trash at the end of night.

Different Types

There are a few different types of commercial kegerators on the market. The two main categories are built in and freestanding. There are also smaller countertop units, but those are more commonly seen in homes or in very small-scale operations. Most large-scale operations set up in a bar style setting will opt for the standalone unit and then place a countertop over that area. This allows you to have your restaurant kegerators while still maximizing on tabletop space for customers. In the back-house areas without a bar area, the choice is up to the location setup and preference for choosing between the two types.

Regardless of whether you choose freestanding or built in, there are a few features to consider which can help you narrow down which option is best suited to your needs. The first matter to look at is the size. A kegerator can have as few as one keg or up to five housed within the unit. The number of tap levers tends to run between 1-4 on most units which allows you to keep the most popular beers on tap for fast service.

The next matter to look at is the cooling method. No one wants warm or room temperature beer. The two main types of kegerator cooling systems are a manual thermostat and digital LCD temperature controls. With manual, you will need to monitor and adjust the temperature as you go to ensure the right temperature for the beer whereas a digital option allows you to set a temperature which the unit will maintain without any adjustments. It should be noted that regardless of which type of control you choose, there are certain factors which will influence this aspect of your unit. The thickness of the walls, insulation thickness, cooling technology, and other features will determine how cold a unit can get while maintaining that level of refrigeration. There are also units which are designed to offer two levels of cooling at a time which can be handy for certain locations.

Special Ratings

Many units come with a variety of special ratings worth understating before you purchase. Here are a few ratings most commonly seen on restaurant kegerators.

  • Energy Star Rating

If you see this rating, you may be looking at a product designed for a residential location over a commercial one. This is a good indicator that this is not the right unit for your business, but less experienced business owners may be confused by this factor and assume that it is perfectly acceptable, and in some ways preferred because of this rating. However, if you use a residential unit in a professional capacity, you will not only run down the machine faster since it isn’t meant to keep up with high volume operation, but you may also void the manufacturer warranty on the product.

  • UL Rated

The organization called Underwriter's Laboratory regulates products to make sure it meets certain industry safety guidelines. These ratings are only given out on products which meet UL's published and nationally recognized Standards for Safety. These ratings can cover safety issues such as electrical wiring, resistance to fire hazards, and other components to keep the public safe.

  • ETL Listed

Similar to a UL Rating, products which bear the mark of an ETL Listing have been tested to meet the Standards for Safety published by relevant NRTLs. This means the products will meet codes and inspections which is important when operating any type of commercial business.

  • NSF Certified

A non-profit organization aiming to create national standards in regard to food safety. An NSF certification ensures the equipment has been tested to ensure it will meet the needs of food safety procedures to keep the public safe from foodborne illness. The matters tested can range from how much bacteria the material absorbs to cooling failure creating food born illness conducive environments.

Tower Configurations

The two main types of tower shapes are elbow shanks and tower mounts. An elbow shank is most commonly seen as a separate piece of the unit instead of a built-in tower. They are connected by way of a gasket. While this is a more affordable solution, it will require more upkeep. The better solution is to opt for tower mounted which is typically designed in a twist configuration. The shape of the tower should also be taken into consideration. For example, if you use tall glasses, the tower and accompanying faucet need to be the right height to easily fit the glass underneath the spout for proper usage.

Construction

black kegerator

When looking for a durable solution that will last for years of dependable use, the materials used for the unit should be carefully considered. The first thing to look at is the housing to determine the quality of the product. The housing should be constructed out of durable materials such as stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and vinyl elements with galvanized interiors. This will ensure the unit will be easy to care for and won’t be as susceptible to rust, mildew, scratches, or other issues. Any type of refrigeration unit is prone to dampness which can lead to mildew and mold, but stainless steel is resistant to this nuisance. The tap materials are also important since they will be visible to your customers and can help set the tone of your establishment. You should look for tap levers made with stainless steel over options that are brass coated in chrome. While brass faucets and taps are the more affordable solution, they usually do not last as long as the stainless steel models.