Draft Beer 101

What is a Jockey Box? Your Guide to Draft Beer On the Go

If you’re on the lookout for ultimate portability and ice cold draft beer in even the warmest weather, you’ll get it all with a jockey box.

Jockey Box on Picnic Table

This on-the-go draft beer option fills the large void between the simplicity of the keg party pump and the convenience of a kegerator. It combines many of the qualities of each, while allowing you to bring it anywhere. It’s truly unique, like an outdoor kegerator that you can take to any party or event. It can also be more than just a tailgate or camping option. By building a jockey box cover, it can also make for functional decor at weddings or formal events.

Table of Contents

    What is a Jockey Box?

    A jockey box is a mobile draft beer system built into a standard, insulated ice cooler. It relies solely on ice for refrigeration, so it doesn’t require any electrical power to operate. Beer travels from a keg (which must be cooled) into one end of the cooler, through the jockey box coils to a draft faucet at the other end of the cooler, and into your waiting cup. Offered in full or conversion kits, they can be set up from scratch or built into an old cooler.

    A jockey box kit is a step up from a standard party pump keg. Its patented design does a much better job at keeping your beer at the perfect temperature helping to reduce foaming, it uses CO2 to push the beer out properly (fresher beer with no more pumping!), and it stands up better to high-pour situations.

    Parts of a Jockey Box

    A. Blue cooler with drain
    B. Stainless steel coil
    C. Steel shank
    D. Cooler coupling
    E. Chrome faucet
    F. Black faucet handle
    G. Beer line jumper
    H. US Sankey coupler
    I. Double gauge CO2 regulator
    J. Air line jumper
    K. New aluminum CO2 tank (empty)


    The Classic Conundrum: Jockey Box vs Kegerator

    A kegerator is a fixed setup. For someone who enjoys draft beer at home from a sturdy unit, the kegerator is a great choice. There are also a variety of outdoor kegerators for your backyard entertainment. Choose kegerators if you like to entertain at your house. They can be transported, but they’re not ideal for lugging around every time you go to a party.

    Jockey boxes derive their name from the phrase “jockey around”, which means they’re easy to move from place to place. Ideal for outdoor events where cold beer and quick pouring is key, jockey box coils cool the beer as it travels through them. This gives you a perfectly chilled beer every time the tap is pulled. There are many places where a kegerator simply isn’t feasible, such as tailgate parties, festivals, for commercial bars that want to bring their beer to an event, or camping. That’s where the jockey box comes racing in upon its trusty steed.

    Which Jockey Box Coil Size & Shape To Choose?

    Stainless-steel jockey box coils can be all kinds of shapes and sizes. It depends on your event or situation as to which to go with.

    jockey box coil types

    Jockey Box Coil Lengths

    50-Foot Jockey Box Coils

    The 50-foot coil is best used for smaller parties or events, where the beer will not be continuously poured throughout.

    70-Foot Jockey Box Coils

    The 70-foot coil offers more surface area giving you more cooling power, which is useful in busier events where the beer is flowing a little faster.

    120-Foot Jockey Box Coils

    These extra-long coils are perfect for brewers working offsite events where continuous pouring is a necessity, such as a beer festival or huge party.

    Jockey Box Coil Shapes

    Circular Jockey Box Coils

    For the majority of setups, you’ll be just fine using a standard-sized circular coil.  If you’re planning to serve 3 or more beers, you’ll need a larger 60-quart cooler or multiple coolers to accommodate standard coils.

    Square Jockey Box Coils

    High efficiency square coils include a spacer between each coil for a more uniform cool. The spacer keeps the 304 stainless steel coils slightly elevated so that each and every inch is in contact with the ice bath, keeping your beer extra cold.

    Mini Jockey Box Coils

    Mini circular coils are a great option for smaller, 9-quart coolers or multi-tap jockey boxes. You can fit up to 4 taps in a 48-quart cooler using mini jockey box coils, which makes transportation much easier. In addition to maximizing space, the extra compact design provides some extra cooling power, as you will have more space to pack in ice water.

    How to Set Up a Jockey Box: Step-By-Step Instructions

    For the easiest installation, a full jockey box setup with all the amenities included will likely cause the least headaches.

    Coils set up in a jockey box

    Parts You’ll Need

    Tools You’ll Need

    Both the hex nut wrench and spanner wrench will prove useful for attaching your beer faucet and the jockey box coils to the shank and cooler coupling. Rubber washers should be used in any location where two pieces of metal are coming into contact with one another throughout any draft beer system to prevent leaks. A CO2 tank wrench will fasten the regulator to the CO2 air tank. You’ll also need a flathead screwdriver to adjust the PSI level on your CO2 regulator and secure screw clamps.

    Step 1: Chill your keg!

    While the jockey box coils will cool your beer as it travels through the cooler, you definitely need to keep your keg on ice the entire time you’re using the jockey box. Otherwise, you’ll have foamy beer. A Super Cooler offers full insulation, a colorful look, and will keep your keg cold all weekend with just three bags of ice. An insulated keg sleeve works great too. If you don’t have either of those options, an old fashioned ice and bucket will work, but continue to add ice throughout the day and be sure to keep your keg out of the sun.

    Step 2: Connect beer line jumper from cooler coupling to keg coupler.

    Connect one end of the beer line jumper to the cooler coupling located on the back of the cooler, opposite of the shank and faucet. Tighten the connection with the hex nut wrench. Connect the other end of the beer line jumper to your coupler. Be sure to consult a keg coupler list to be sure you’re using the right coupler type for your beer.

    Step 3: Attach air line jumper to both CO2 regulator and keg coupler.

    Attach one end of the air line jumper to the CO2 regulator, and the opposite end to the hose barb of the keg coupler. Use the flathead screwdriver to tighten each connection to avoid leaks.

    Step 4: Attach regulator to CO2 tank by CO2 inlet nut.

    Use the CO2 air tank wrench to connect the regulator to the CO2 tank by the inlet nut.

    Step 5: Attach coupler to keg.

    Begin with the coupler’s handle in a closed position, or facing diagonally and upright. After screwing the coupler into the keg, creating a firm seal, push the coupler handler downwards, so that it is lowered and facing more straight out than diagonal. Some beer should enter the vinyl beer line at this point.

    Step 6: Open up the air tank.

    Turn the hand wheel to engage your compressed air tank, and move the shut-off valve at the bottom of the regulator to the ON position, which will mean it is facing downwards, or parallel to the regulator output barb and the air line attached to it. You will hear air entering the draft system when it’s turned on.

    Step 7: Adjust the regulator to the proper PSI level.

    Depending on your setup, the PSI level of your jockey box could be anywhere between 20-60(!) PSI. Start at around 25-30 PSI and see how the beer is pouring. Gradually adjust upwards to eliminate large bubbles in your beer or excess foam, until the beer is pouring out with a proper head. The warmer the keg gets as the day goes on, the higher you may need to increase the pressure you’re pouring it at.

    Step 8: Run some beer through the system to the faucet, then give the coils an ice bath.

    Run your beer through the jockey box coils up to the faucet prior to submerging in ice water. Otherwise, any water left inside the coils from a previous use can freeze up. Once beer is flowing through the coils, submerge in a combination of water and ice. Use cubed or crushed ice to fill the cooler and then add water until the coils are completely covered.

    Step 9: Enjoy.

    Cheers! But after the party, don’t forget that keeping your jockey box clean is a necessity.

    How to Make a DIY Jockey Box

    If you have an old cooler lying around and collecting dust, you can use a jockey box conversion kit to turn it into a DIY jockey box. Or, if you’re someone who has a few extra draft beer items, you might just want to purchase a few jockey box parts to complete your system.

    Step 1: Install the cooler coupling and shank.

    Start by drilling a hole on either side of the cooler large enough to fit both your cooler coupling (back of the unit) and beer shank (front of the unit). Firmly attach both the cooler coupling and shank to the jockey box with the lock nut and rubber washers sealing each part in place.

    Step 2: Attach draft beer faucet.

    Attach your faucet with the spanner wrench. The tap handle will screw on atop the faucet.

    Step 3: Connect the coils.

    Slide the hex nut onto either end of the coil, followed by the metal ferrule, and finally the rubber grommet. Connect the jockey box coil to each side with the hex nut wrench. To complete your DIY jockey box kit, follow the remaining steps above.

    Check out our How To Make Your Own Jockey Box post for more detailed instructions and to watch our how-to video on building a DIY jockey box

    Download the Jockey Box Setup Instructions (pdf)

    How to Clean Jockey Box Coils

    As with any other draft beer system, regular beer line cleaning of your jockey box coils is necessary. This should be performed after each and every use. Otherwise, disgusting gunk and residue will build up, ruining your precious new jockey box beer dispenser in a hurry.

    Step 1: Flush out remaining beer.

    Use a standard beer line cleaning kit to flush all the remaining beer out of the lines after use.

    Step 2: Clean faucet.

    Remove your faucet with a spanner wrench and clean thoroughly in beer line cleaning solution.

    Step 3: Rinse system well.

    Rinse the entire system with water.

    Step 4: Clean the coils.

    Clean the outside of the stainless steel coils with mild soap, rinse, and wipe dry.

    How to Save Leftover Beer From a Jockey Box

    Leaving your beer pressurized at 30+ PSI overnight will over-carbonate it, ruining its flavor. When shutting it down for the night, pull the pressure relief valve (PRV) on your keg coupler to release excess pressure. Then, repressurize the beer to 12-14 PSI. Immediately place the keg in refrigerated storage to maintain its quality.

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