Why You Should Build A Jockey Box

I’ve been talking about how to making a Jockey Box for a while.  I still haven’t made one because I’ve been looking for some good directions.  I think I found them.  All of this information can be found here, I just tried to condense it a bit better but the general directions and the pictures remain the same.

First thing is, what is a, “Jockey Box” you might ask yourself?  A jockey box is  pretty much a portable kegerator. A lot of people use them for tailgating or if there is a party or a bbq.   While technically you could just stick your keg in a bucket of ice, this seems to work a little bit better with keeping it cool, using less ice, as well as appearance.

I’m not fond of the idea of buying one for myself because the truth is, I’m probably only going to use it a few times in a year.  So building one is a better option for me because I like to build things as well as I would rather save money on hardware so I can brew more beer.  Any ways let’s get right into it.

Step 1 Assembly 

Assemble parts and yer tools!
It’s best to get all of the materials and tools first then start working.  So what you need is:
  • A medium sized cooler, 30 quart
  • At least 20′ of copper tubing.   1/4″ ID.
  • Tap w/ 4″ shank. The shank just needs to fit through the wall of the cooler.
  • A short length of think-walled vinyl tubing to go from the fitting on the back of the tap to the copper tubing.
  • Fittings to adapt the vinyl tubing to the copper tubing.
  • Pipe seal (Teflon) tape.
  • Wrenches for tightening the fittings together.
  • Adapter from garden hose to nipple, same size as all the others.
  • Cheap vinyl tube to fit the nipples from garden hose to inlet, for leak-testing and cleaning.
  • Step drill bits, or standard drill bits, in the sizes you’ll need to put the holes in the cooler.
  • Sharpie.
  • Zip ties.
Step 2 Drill Out Cooler For The Tap
Drill out the cooler for the tap.

Some taps come with a plastic ring in the front.  If yours does, just trace it and drill out the hole.

Drill out the hole  and then  drill again from the inside of the cooler to make the diameter the same all the way through.

Do a quick test fit to make sure that the holes are the right size.  Remember to measure twice so you only cut once!

Step 3 Drill Out Hole In Back

Drill out the cooler for the inlet.
Same as the last step, only this time on the back of the cooler, using the tubing adapters for copper tubing on the inside, and vinyl tubing on the outside.Once you get it drilled, do a quick test fit to make sure it fits in nice and easy.

Step 4 Form the coil.

Form the coil.
If you have ever made a wort chiller, this is going to be oddly familiar.  One of the easiest ways to copper coil into a nice tight coil is, wrap it around a coffee can.    Make sure that you leave several inches of un-coiled tube on both ends.  These will be used.
When you get your tube all wound up, attach your Zip-ties to every turn or so that you have a little more space in between your coils.  More surface area is going to mean a colder beer.  It is optional, but it makes sense to do it.
Step 5 Dry Run & Shape Test

Now it’s going to start looking like a jockey box! Put the coil in the cooler, and then bend the tubing around to fit the inlet and to a convenient place to attach the vinyl tubing from the tap.  When you end up bending the copper tubing at this part, make sure to use something like a hairspray can for the forming because you don’t want to kink the copper tubing.
Step 6 Fitting and sealing it all together.

Fitting and sealing it all together.
Now is the time to put together the plumbing and make sure nothing leaks.  First off, take the pieces that are going to go through the back of the cooler for the inlet.   Use the pipe sealing tape, on the all plumbing threads to insure it doesn’t leak.   Then tighten all the pieces.  When you get it tight, make sure that it’s really tight.  Push the vinyl tubing on to the nipple of the adapter and the tap, making sure to get them on as far as possible, at least past the third rib on both.
What you’ll need next is compression fittings, and you’ll tighten all tubing up with compression sleeves.
Step 7 – Leak Testing 

Leak testing.
Now that all the tubing is well sealed, we need to make sure that nothing leaks. Hook your garden hose up to the the back of the jokey box and open up the tap.  You only want the water on just a little, all you are going to do is look for any leaks.  If you have leaks just tighten down the compression fittings.
Next you want to test to make sure it can deal with a bit of pressure.  Close the tap and count to 5 so some pressure builds up from the hose water and look for leaks.  No leaks? Open the tap.  Still no leaks? You’re good!

Now you’re done, just pack it full of ice and hook your keg up to it.

Also make sure that you clean out the lines before and after all uses.  So use sanitizer as well as rinse with hot water.  You want this jockey box to last a while!

Hope these directions help, and a great piece of hardware for the summer time!


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2 Comments on “Why You Should Build A Jockey Box”

  1. snailman22030 Says:

    I’ve been thinking of building a Jockey Box but I’m thinking of using about 50′ (or as much as is feasable) of thin walled tubing instead of copper. I’m not so worried about the effects of beer on the copper tubing as for the cost of the copper.

    Considering the rare occasions that I would actually use a Jockey Box (party at a friend’s house) to serve my homebrew I wonder if it’d the vinyl tubing will work for a low-cost alternative…



  1. How To Build A Randal – The Ultimate Brewing Hardware | Jay's Brewing Blog - January 24, 2013

    […] How To Build A Jockey Box […]

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