If you’re not currently offering beer on draft but are looking to expand your opportunities, the right draft beer dispenser could be the solution.   

Every type of bar has its own unique needs. These include, but aren’t limited to, space and layout, the menu and drink offerings, the demands of the target audience and general customer type. However, it should come as no surprise that beer is a powerful draw. Given the demand, low bulk costs, and right profit margins, it has the power to be a major revenue generator.

Given your specific selection of beers and what your customers typically order, the right equipment could go a long way to ensuring quality experiences. Every demand is different. Some establishments get by just fine solely offering beer by the bottle. However, nothing quenches a beer craving better than cold one poured directly from the tap.

What Are Draft Beer Dispensers?

Draft beer dispensers, sometimes referred to as direct draw beer dispensers, enable the pouring of fresh pints directly from a keg. They provide a simple and cost-effective alternative to larger and longer draw systems, which are ideal for establishments where space is limited and beer isn’t the sole focus. Direct draw beer dispensers allow bars to offer one to four beer selections, preferred mainly for your standard domestic, crowd-pleasing drafts.

If you’re looking to offer dozens of beers on tap, such as many breweries and beer bars tailoring to the craft beer scene, you’ll want a larger tap dispenser that’ll need to be customized and retrofitted directly through the manufacturer (we can help with that!). However, space and expense are the primary concerns with these units, and best reserved for establishments where beer is the immediate selling point.

Many restaurants and bars opt for a draft beer dispenser to offer a few select options on draft and maintain a bottle cooler or back bar refrigerator to house a more diverse assortment of bottles.

The primary advantages of a draft beer dispenser include:

  • Increase profit margins by offering draft beer in addition to bottled beer. Draft beer is extremely cost-effective in the long run. A traditional full-size keg is a half-barrel of beer, which holds up to 15.5 gallons. This equates to 124 pints.
  • Direct draw beer dispensers provide a better-tasting product that lasts longer than non-commercial units without a CO2 tank.
  • Many commercial units boast higher energy efficiencies, saving on utilities.
  • The equipment is housed underneath a work surface that saves space while providing room to prep drinks, display products, etc.

Operating a Draft Beer Dispenser

How does a draft beer dispenser work? They operate based off a CO2 tank (sold separately.) Therefore, after installing a draft beer dispenser, you’ll want to invest in a tank, which can be purchased and refilled at welding supply stores. The size of the tank will determine how many beers it can pour. It works by connecting to the keg which is housed inside the dispensing unit. The CO2 tank forces the beer from the keg through the beer lines that connect to the tap, which then pours into the glass.

If you’re looking to serve a nitro styled beer, like Guinness, you’ll want to invest in a nitrogen tank. CO2 tanks are sold separately from the dispensing system. Nitrogen tanks are rated for higher pressure than traditional CO2 tanks, which offers a smoother pour for certain styles of beer.

Download our How Many Pints in a Keg of Beer Infographic here.

Most major brands include installation and operation manuals to walk you through the setup.

Selecting the Right Direct Draw Beer Dispenser: Common Considerations

There are many considerations to account for when selecting the right beer dispensing system. These ultimately depend on your specific setup and beer offerings.

  • Keg capacity. How many styles of beer are you looking to serve? Our direct draw beer dispensers feature a range between one to five half-barrel keg capacities.
  • Number of doors. The doors make it easier to reach these kegs when they need replaced. Our selection ranges between one and three doors.
  • Number of draft towers. Our direct draw beer dispensers come with either one or two towers. Each tower can hold up to two taps that can connect to two separate kegs.
  • Number of beer taps. How many beers are you looking to offer? Beer taps connect to the draft towers, which connect to the keg underneath. Our draft beer dispensing systems range between one and four taps.
  • Compressor location. Direct draw beer dispensers offer either a side or rear-mounted compressor configuration. The benefits to a rear compressor include a reduced noise output during operation; however, they are harder to reach to clean. Your condenser coils need cleaned regularly to ensure efficiency and longevity. A side-mounted compressor is much easier to access and is therefore recommended.

Bar Beverage Dispensing Solutions

In addition to draft beer dispensers, there are other beverage dispensing solutions uniquely fitted for the bar. These include:

  • Bottle coolers are available in a range of sizes and capacities from 20” to 90” wide, holding anywhere from 60 cases to less than 10, depending on volume. The key feature of bottle coolers are the sliding top doors, which make it easy for staff to load and retrieve beer.
  • Glass door back bar coolers and solid door back bar coolers. The main difference with back bar coolers over bottle coolers is the loading style. Back bar coolers feature front doors that require staff to stock and retrieve by bending over, which can cause physical strain. However, these units usually enable operators to store various kinds of products in addition to bottles of beer, such as wine bottles and cocktail garnishes. Glass door back bar coolers are ideal for displaying products so guests can get a better visual of your entire selection.
  • Glass chillers. These are great for chilling pint glasses prior to pouring beer to ensure it’s as cold and refreshing as possible. These are a great addition to bars even if you don’t offer beer on draft because many guests prefer a cold glass to pour directly from the bottle.
  • Wine merchandisers. If wine service is a prominent feature in your establishment, opting for a wine merchandiser is a great way to keep your wine at ideal serving temperatures while proudly displaying your unique selection. Our assortment offers storage solutions from 150 bottles to less, and there’s a range of installation types, from undercounter, freestanding, or countertop, depending on your specific bar layout.

Don’t Neglect the Extras: Accessories for Your Direct Draw Beer Dispenser

Accessories are available to enhance bar service and efficiency, while ensure appropriate sanitation efforts are met.

  • Beer tap brushes and caps. Beer tap brushes are designed specifically to fit inside the small beer taps to clean out yeast buildup. This will need to be done regularly to prevent clogging, especially when switching out kegs to a new style of beer because you don’t want the different beer flavors mixing during the pour. Beer tap caps fit over the tap to prevent fruit flies from getting in.
  • Beer taps. You’ll need to buy taps to connect to the draft towers in order to pour beer. Taps come in configurations between one and four, depending on how many types of beers you wish to be able to dispense at one time.
  • Keg dollies. Kegs are heavy. Dollies assist greatly with transporting from the walk-in in the kitchen, out to the bar to be hooked up to the draft beer dispensing system. They greatly speed up switch outs to keep the flow moving and the service grand.
  • Beer glassware. We boast a vast assortment of glassware to cover every type of beverage serving need.

The Best Draft Beer Dispensers: Brands to Note

We offer a large assortment of direct draw beer dispensers from some of the most prominent brands in the industry.

True Refrigeration. True is one of the most trusted names in commercial refrigeration – an industry leader since 1945.

Beverage-Air. A leader in innovative refrigeration solutions with a diverse assortment of bar refrigeration, including draft dispensers and back bar storage coolers.

Turbo Air. Featuring refrigeration with innovative energy-efficient technologies to save on utilities and prolong the life of your investment.

Glastender. Specializing in essential bar equipment, Glastender offers custom configurations to outfit your dream bar. Featuring workstations, bar railing, liquor displays, and a vast assortment of bottle coolers and draft dispensers.

Kratos bar refrigeration offers commercial solutions at affordable price points, backed by a one-year parts and labor and five-year compressor warranty.

Central Exclusive. Quality refrigeration solutions available exclusively at Central, with competitive prices and extended warranties, including three-year parts and labor and five-year compressor.