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How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000

How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000

How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000

How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000

With Oktoberfest season approaching, we needed a way to get dark hops into the wild on a budget. We have a few options.

  1. Buy a portable bar ($2,000+, but you always need power and they are heavy and bulky and hard to move).
  2. Pay someone to build one for us ($2500 was our best offer).
  3. Borrow/rent one as needed (about $50 per day, lots of organization each time)
  4. Make our own (more fun).

We went with option 4. We wanted something that would fit in a kevin (dark hop delivery van), something that was totally portable, good looking, and we wanted to save some cash. It also helped that some of our partners were willing to do anything for beer, so we asked for their help.

 

How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000

In this article, we’ll show you how we went from idea to fully functional racetrack for under $1,000 (as shown in the image above).

What is a jockey box (or wonder box)

To serve draft beer, you need a few things.

  1. Beer (in a keg).
  2. Carbon dioxide gas to push the beer through the pipes.
  3. Something to keep the beer cold.

Bars have complex management systems (glycol coolers), but for portability, a jockey box provides a nice simple solution.

Here’s how it works.

A standard CO2 cylinder provides the gas.

The gas flows to the gas line manifold separator, which controls the flow of gas to the vat.

How To Make A Jockey Box (Portable 4-Tap Bar System) For Under $1,000
  • The manifold includes four gas line outputs with 1/4″ ball valves. This allows you to turn the gas on and off for each keg and prevents the transfer of gas or beer from one keg to another.
  • This means you can easily use 1-4 kegs without changing settings and even connect the manifolds together to increase production later.
  • CO2 enters the keg coupler from there to suit your keg type.
  • The beer flows through pipes to a cast aluminum cooling tray in an Esky box.
  • The flat plate chiller consists of 2 x 5.5m stainless steel beer tubes with a built-in cast aluminum heat block that acts as a very effective heat sink, cooling the beer as it passes through the jockey chamber. Put in the hot beer (although ideally the keg comes from the fridge) and remove the cold beer.
  • This may sound simple, but cooling the beer is no easy task. The laws of thermodynamics come into play; i.e. pressure, heat transfer and convection. The cooling plate is not the only way to achieve this, but the system provides greater surface contact with the surrounding ice slurry for more efficient cooling in a smaller esky.
  • Then it’s time to pour.
How did you build it?

The first step was to order bits and pieces. We used Keg King, they have great prices and service, as well as fast and accurate delivery.

Shopping list

  • Barrel Coupler x 4
  • Brumby type draft tap long shank (100mm) x 4
  • Cast aluminum cooling plate x 2
  • Carbon dioxide cylinder 6kg
  • MKII multi regulator CO2
  • Push-in 8 mm coupling x 24
  • Gas line separator x 2
  • One-way check valve (8mm push-in) x 2
  • Faucet / Faucet Brush x 4
  • Stepless wire clamps x 20
  • Ball lock disconnects (black and grey) x 4 each
  • Balloon locking post ⅝”
  • Liquid ball lock post ⅝”
  • 20 meters of 5 mm beer/gas line
  • We also had to find our own esky. in the end, we decided to use 2 smaller eskimos with 2 taps each, instead of one large esky with 4 taps. The idea was that if we ever needed to use just two taps, we had that option, they were lighter and smaller.
  • We wanted black eskies, but a quick search proved that black eskies are not as common as white or blue eskies, and then bingo, we searched eBay for this listing (which may not work, depending on when you read it).
  • Cheap (check), black (check), boom!
  • Here they are, and they’re perfect (more on that later).
  • So now we have all the pieces, we just need to put them together.