There is something about having beer taps that makes your homebrew experience so much more satisfying, and I was very excited to install my very first faucets to my fridge. My experience came with some challenges however: I have a stainless steel fridge; and if you’ve never tried to drill a hole through stainless steel, you’re in for a surprise. It’s a real pain in the ass trying to drill a hole through it. But, with the right drill bits, it is easy enough.
Beer Tap Parts List
The following are the items that I gathered per tap.
|1||1/4″ Tail Piece|
|2||Stainless Steel Tap Handle|
|3||4 1/8″ Stainless Steel Beer Shank 304 by Taprite|
|4||Perlick Stainless Steel 630SS Perl Faucet|
|5||Stainless Steel Hose Clamp|
|6||Hex Beer Nut|
Shanks are fairly universal, except that they come in different lengths. I found that 4 1/8 inches was long enough to go through my door. Most faucets don’t come with a handle, so you can choose the kind you want. I chose these because they are sexy. I also liked that they weren’t very tall, allowing them to be placed high enough that I don’t have to bend down to pour a pint, but low enough to clear the swinging freezer door right above it.
You’ll notice that I don’t have the hoses or the connecting ball lock listed above. If you’re already kegging, you’re probably like me and started off with simple cobra taps. Now, as I’m a cheap bastard, I harvested those hoses and cut off the plastic cobra tap piece. It was difficult getting the 1/4″ tail piece into the hose (man.. it was tighter than a nuns arse), but with a little effort and some soothing, gently whispered words, the piece reluctantly slid in. Before putting that tail piece into the hose, don’t forget to slide the hose clamp and beer nut on the hose first!
These are the specialty tools that you will need that may not be found in your tool collection. I used a carbide tool bit only because I’m drilling through stainless steel, but if you’re not, you can probably get away with a drill bit that is for other types of metals. Shanks are just under 7/8 diameter, so a stepped drill bit of that size fit my application perfectly. Finally, the faucet wrench is nice because it allows you to tighten your faucet without risking any damage to it. I highly recommend getting one of those.
You’re also going to need a powerful drill, some kind of lubricant (like grease; I used WD-40), some hose cutters, flat-head screw driver, etc.
|1||Deluxe Faucet Wrench|
|2||Carbide Drill Bit|
|3||7/8 stepped drill bit|
Remember that planning is everything. You’ll note that I’m drilling through the fridge door, and not out the sides. I’m not an expert on fridges, but I’m pretty sure that most fridge doors don’t have any refrigerant lines running in them, but some may have wires. Make sure that you know the schematics of your fridge before you start drilling.
My fridge is quite old; and it’s a simple fridge. I felt confident that I had nothing to worry about going through the front door.
Mark out the areas where you want to drill the holes so that you know exactly where to start, and remember to leave enough room above the faucet so that you can open your freezer door (I almost made the mistake of drilling too high; I didn’t think of the tap handle right away). It would be a real shame if you realized –after drilling– that your installed beer tap is too high to open a door above because the tap handle gets in the way.
I started by finding the centre of the fridge door (really a bit off centre because I measured from the fridge handle to the edge on the other side of the door). I then measured exactly 7 cm (2 3/4 inches) from both sides of that centre point. This marked the vertical point of my drill target. Next, taking into account the height of both the tap handle and the faucet itself, I marked out the horizontal axis exactly 7 cm from the top of the door, and made my mark right on the vertical lines.
Once I was confident that I identified the right place to drill, I used the carbide bit to drill a pilot hole. Pilot holes are great for ensuring that you drill straight and where you intend on making your opening, without the bit sliding unexpectedly and scratching the fridge. Once you’ve made your pilot holes, you can use the stepped drill bit to make that pilot hole large enough for the shank.
When using the stepped drill bit, use lubricant, apply plenty of pressure, but go slowly. If you go to fast, the bit will heat up quickly and won’t cut through the steel. You’ll notice that the bit makes short work of the steel as long as you take your time. You may find, like I did, that the bit wasn’t long enough to make a 7/8″ hole all the way through the door. I didn’t have an extender, so once I went as far as I could through the front of the door, I did the same from inside the door to ensure that I made the right sized hole right through.
Once I made the holes, the rest was easy. I slipped the shank through the door (it was a wee-bit tight), and tightened the brass beer nut on the shank so that it fit tightly into the door. I used a wrench to tighten it enough so that the shank wouldn’t move. I then screwed on the faucet for the first time and then installed the handle just to reassure myself that I installed the beer tap low enough to clear the freezer door. I used the faucet wrench until the faucet didn’t move easily. I then put on the hose with the beer nut, added the neoprene washer, and screwed it on to the shank until tight, and voilà, I was done installing my first beer tap.