The Ultimate Guide to Beer Dispensers

The Ultimate Guide to Beer Dispensers

Draft Beer Dispensers/Coolers

For lovers of draft beer, a refrigerated beer dispenser—often called a kegerator—is a practical and economical appliance. A built-in or stand-alone beer dispenser is an indispensable appliance for a home bar, but is equally at home in the kitchen, recreation room, or outside patio (UL approved for exterior use only).

Beer dispensers typically hold half or quarter kegs, can be free-standing or installed in standard cabinetry without added clearance, and include draft tower, drip tray, CO2 (carbon dioxide) tank and a regulator.

Marvel makes models that will accommodate either half or quarter kegs. The Draft Beer Dispenser line hides kegs from sight while keeping them cold and includes all parts necessary to connect the keg, including draft arm, hoses, CO2 tank and regulator, drip tray, and interior floor shield. These models are available with easy-roll casters, mug rail, and built-in drain.

Why buy a kegerator?

Beer does not go bad, but it will change flavor depending on the level of oxygen, temperature and bacteria levels. Beer dispensers help regulate these factors.
Oxygen provides fuel for bacteria growth and it oxidizes the beer, changing the flavor and making it flat. The bacteria present in beer is not the kind that makes you sick! Once oxygen (air) is introduced into the keg, it takes only days to change the flavor substantially.
Temperature will inhibit or accelerate the growth of bacteria. The colder the beer, the slower the growth. The hotter the beer, the faster the growth.

Because draft beer is not pasteurized it must be kept cold. Beer dispensers typically feature adjustable thermostats that range from 33 degrees to 52 degrees, according to individual preference. Optimum temperatures for serving cold beer are 34°-38° F, preferably at 38°F. Temperatures above 45°F may cause the beer to become wild, turning sour and cloudy. Beer can freeze at 28°F, so it is important to select and maintain proper operating temperatures inside the refrigerator cabinet.

If beer is kept cold, it should last 4 months or more with minimal or no noticeable flavor change when CO2 is used in place of air. Warmer beer should last a couple of months before a noticeable difference in taste occurs. However, for the best taste, draft beer should be consumed within 30 days; since it’s not pasteurized, it loses more and more of its original brewery-fresh taste and aroma the older it gets.

By the Numbers

Would you get use out of a beer dispenser? It depends on how much you drink or how much you entertain.

A keg is a barrel or small cask with the capacity to hold about 30 gallons (114 liters)

1 Keg = approx. 31 gallons
1/2 Keg = approx. 15.5 gallons
1/4 Keg = approx. 7.75 gallons

There are 128 oz. in 1 gallon

A 1/4 keg = 992 ounces or
3 cases (12 oz bottles/cans)
62 16-oz. glasses
82 12-oz. glasses
99 10-oz. glasses

A 1/2 keg = 1984 ounces or
7 cases (12 oz bottles/cans)
124 16-oz. glasses
165 12-oz. glasses
198 10-oz. glasses

How much beer will a CO2 cylinder dispense?
CO2 Size 1/2 Keg 1/4 Keg
1/2 lbs 1 2
2 1/2 lbs 4-5 8-10
5 lbs 8-10 18-20

The CO2 regulator should be monitored to ensure applied operating pressures remain constant, usually 10-12 pounds per square inch. Be sure to check the owner’s manual for your particular unit.


Dirty lines and/or unsanitary conditions will adversely affect the taste of draft beer and must be cleaned regularly.

Beer contains calcium which is present in the grains used in the brewing process.

In draft systems, the calcium oxidizes and coats the internal parts of the beer lines and equipment, helping to prevent the beer from picking up strong metallic or plastic flavors as it passes through the system. This coating is called “beerstone.”

If the equipment is not cleaned regularly, the oxidation process begins to build up, forming a scale which will impart a dark brown color to the beer, the lines and the faucet. The “beerstone” will also flake off and produce tobacco-like flakes in the beer.

Bacteria and yeast build-up are also problems associated with improperly maintained equipment.

Line cleaning should be done on a regular scheduled basis. Scheduled line cleanings with a standard cleaning kit will keep your system at peak performance. A good rule of thumb is to clean your lines every time you switch out a keg.

Other tips:
Use beer glasses only for beer. Dairy and other food products leave a residue on glassware that can affect the quality/taste of the beer.
Clean with a beer friendly detergent. Cleaning glassware with regular liquid household dish washing detergents will leave a slight oily film on the glass. Since these detergents are fat based they cause beer to go flat quickly. Use a detergent designed specifically for beer glass cleaning … low-suds, odor-free and non-fat.
Wash glassware separately. Glassware should be washed separately from utensils or dishes used to serve food. Food particles and/or residue can effect the quality/taste of draft beer.
Dry with lint-free toweling.

Want to learn more? Stop by our Cincinnati showroom and speak to one of our beer dispenser experts!