If you value a pub-style draft, chilled to perfection with a smooth head, then the only way to get that is with a beer machine.
The larger machines are great for entertaining, removing the customary post-party sea of beer cans. If you’re not serving a crowd, then kegs will stay fresh for around 30 days but this does mean you’ll need to keep the machine running to get a chilled pint.
There are also basic no-tech drinks dispensers which make a great party centrepiece, getting the good times flowing with the tipple of your choice, or a non-alcoholic cocktail if you prefer. They can offer convenience and a fun factor but rarely add much to the experience of the drink itself. Plus, if you know a beer fan and are stuck for a gift, these would make the ultimate beer present for someone with space to store it.
For more like this, visit our reviews section and find round-ups of the best gluten-free beer and best beer subscriptions and beer making kits. Find more great gift ideas for wine lovers, gin lovers, cheese fans, and coffee enthusiasts.
Best beer dispensers at a glance
- Best for sleek technology: Salter Universal chilled draught beer dispenser, £159.99
- Best high-spec beer dispenser: PerfectDraft Pro beer machine, from £350
- Best beer for solo and small group drinking: Fizzics DraftPour beer dispenser, £129.99
- Best budget novelty drinks dispenser: Hi Beer Tower transparent 3 litre, £57.99
- Best novelty drinks dispenser: Stribling 2.5-litre drinks dispenser, £80.24
- Best for brewing your own beer: Pinter, £129
What are the different types of beer dispenser?
Beer dispensers can fit kegs of varying sizes – a 5 or 6-litre keg is sufficient for home drinking. These work best if you chill the keg first (which requires a big enough fridge to do so), but you don’t have to.
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There are also dispensers into which you insert a can or bottle, like the Fizzics below. This type is a halfway house – allowing you a pub-style pour using whatever you have in the fridge, little forward planning or additional energy costs required.
Alternatively, there are a whole host of dispensers on the market, which simply offer storage for your beverage of choice with a tap to serve it. These are available in plastic and glass. Eco-credentials, the inclusion of an ice compartment and portability are all further features you might want to consider.
Best beer dispensers to buy 2022
Salter Universal chilled draught beer dispenser
Best for sleek technology
- Sleek design and economical footprint
- Fits large 5l keg
- Easy to use and clean
- Useful YouTube user guides
- Great value for money
- 3-year warranty
- Audible fan
- Instruction booklet could be clearer
This beer dispenser initially caught our eye for its stylish appearance. The sleek black finish with silver metallic details makes for an attractive addition to your countertop.
The machine itself is comparatively lightweight before adding the keg. The footprint – at under 30cm in width and just over 45cm in depth with removable drip-tray attached – is economical for a 5-litre keg machine.
The set up is easy, although we used the handy online video guides to see how to insert both a pre-carbonated keg and a non-carbonated keg. The process is slightly different for each but not complicated. The written instructions proved harder to follow. Cleaning is a breeze, with a cleaning bottle included, so all you need to do is flush out the tap with warm water, wipe the machine and wash the removable parts.
The simplicity of this device is also a draw. The only adjustable feature is the pressure, otherwise it’s simply a question of plug in, switch on, add your keg and in due course, pour that perfect pint.
The fan is audible (although less so than an extractor fan) which we don’t think is a problem in a party situation but you may not want that as an ongoing background noise. The cooling system worked well, providing the chilled pint we were after, but if you’re a purist who wants to set and check your own temperature, that isn’t an option.
Overall, this is a high-quality, visually appealing and well-designed product that’s good value for the price tag.
PerfectDraft Pro beer machine
Best high-spec beer dispenser
- Easy set-up
- Temperature control functionality
- Useful app and clear instruction booklet
- Quiet (except when pouring)
- Re-usable, recyclable kegs
- Large footprint
- Only uses PerfectDraft specific kegs (although there is a wide choice)
- High price
This machine may have a higher price tag than others we tested, but for that you get additional features which set it apart.
Getting started was easy, despite there being more to contend with than the other machines. The instruction booklet gets full marks for clarity and has some nice touches including advice on how to pour the perfect pint.
There’s also an associated app which is optional but we found it helpful. Again, it’s simple to use. You can enter which keg you’ve loaded in (it will give you the option to automatically set the recommended temperature), the date you loaded it (it counts down 30 days for you to consume the beer fresh) and the amount of beer you have poured (so you can plan when to refill).
You can order your kegs from the app and filter 40+ beers by country, brewery, style, price and alcohol content. It’s all very convenient.
The machine is large and heavy so you’ll want to find a more or less permanent home for it.
On to the most important feature, the beer itself. The 6-litre kegs for this machine give you a few more pints than smaller machines, which is convenient if you’re hosting a bunch of friends. The drink itself did not disappoint; you’ll get a great pint but we can’t say it’s noticeably different in texture from other similar machines. However, you can set your ideal temperature or the one recommended by the brewer, which does give it the edge.
BeerHawk, from £350
Fizzics DraftPour beer dispenser
Best beer for solo and small group drinking
- Great value
- Small footprint
- Fits the majority of bottles and cans
- Battery or USB operated – fully portable
- Clear instruction booklet
- Only serves one before refill needed
The convenience makes this an ideal gift or purchase for a true beer lover.
The design is super simple – twist and insert the chilled can or bottle of your choice (up to 650ml) and then use the tap to deliver a perfect pint.
The product boasts ‘microfoam technology’ which in effect means that once you’ve poured most of your beer with the tap towards you, you can push it away to deliver a smooth, fine foam, creating a creamy head. We found the perfect head a little tricky to master on the first few attempts. This resulted in some spillage but once we’d got the hang of it, it worked like a dream.
The dispenser is small and stylish, one that could comfortably stay out or tuck into a cupboard, even if kitchen space is limited.
It’s fully portable, fitting into a neat carry bag, lightweight and with an option to run on batteries. The alternative power source is USB. This means you could take it out into the garden for al fresco drinking.
The dispenser serves one, or two if you’re using a 650ml bottle and smaller glasses. However, it’s very easy to switch cans or bottles so you can serve a round without too much trouble and this also provides the opportunity to offer a selection of beers or cider, which a larger keg does not.
Hi Beer Tower transparent 3 litre
Best budget novelty drinks dispenser
- Budget option
- Fun for a party
- Low footprint and easy to store away
- No chilling ability
- Basic quality
This dispenser fits within the novelty category and as such is a fun piece of kit for a party. With the tall transparent tube, it’s a focal point with a very low countertop footprint.
Our initial assessment was that it was lightweight plastic and of basic quality, plus the limited instructions don’t seem especially applicable to the actual product. However, using it is so straightforward you don’t need instructions – a win for fans of simplicity.
It also works surprisingly well. If you pour your cans or bottles of beer down the side of the tube, you can get the liquid in there without too much frothing. It then poured a good pint with a head – it’s no different to pouring it straight out of the can though. It’s not designed to keep beer carbonated and doesn’t have any way of chilling so these are aspects to bear in mind.
We think this would come into its own is as a dispenser for cocktails at a barbecue or drinks party. You’ll need to chill all your ingredients first.
We failed to take the dispenser apart – it did not appear to unscrew as the instructions stated. It was possible to hold the top end under the tap and clean out by rinsing through which was simple enough.
Stribling 2.5 litre drinks dispenser
Best novelty drinks dispenser
- Compartment for keeping drinks chilled
- Easy to use
- Expensive for what it is
- Not very eco-friendly
Another dispenser to add to the novelty category. This one has the added feature of a central cooling tube which you can fill with ice, keeping your drinks chilled for longer.
Again this is lightweight plastic and it came with instructions that weren’t specific to the product but it was easy to glean the necessary information.
The tap worked well and we were able to pour a drink without spillage.
It has more aesthetic appeal than other novelty dispensers and being able to keep drinks chilled is a real plus, especially if you’re using it on a hot day outside. Cocktails and juices, sangria and white wine (but not your expensive bottles) would be our recommendation for this product. It could add a bit of a fun to a drinks or kids party (filled with soft drinks, of course).
Best for brewing your own beer
The Pinter is a radically different option from the rest of the beer dispensers in our list. This does much more than just dispense beer: you brew the from scratch, too. We originally tested the Pinter as one of our best beer making and home brew kits, but we thought it was worth including here too if you are really dedicated to your beer.
Pinter argue that freshness is fundamental to beer’s flavour, and you can’t get much fresher than brewing your own and pouring as soon as it is ready to enjoy. The Pinter is an all-in-one, no-mess system that enables you to drink homemade beer in a week, plus it’s unique in look and method. The Pinter unit itself is available in a range of colours and comes with Pinter ‘Fresh Press’ packs that contain everything you need to get started. There’s a wide variety of ‘Fresh Press’ packs, so you can try different styles of beers, lager, IPA, stouts and even cider.
The functionality of the Pinter is easy to follow as a beginner and is a simple system. It comes with a comprehensive step-by-step video guide that you can watch on your smartphone or tablet as you go, and includes all instructions as well as safety information – we feel in capable hands every step of the way. Once underway, you can be drinking beer from your Pinter in a week: four days brewing time and three days conditioning. A different way to impress when you serve beer at your next party!
Tips for using beer dispensers
- Chill the beer beforehand. Although beer dispensers can chill a keg from room temperature, this takes a lot more time and energy so if you do have the space, pop your keg in the fridge. You’re likely to want to chill it further in the machine. If you’re having a party you may need to chill more than one keg. Avoid trying to try serve the beer before it’s properly chilled as it will froth more.
- Let the beer settle. If you’ve had your keg delivered it may have been shaken about and that can make for a big old glass of froth. Let the keg settle for as long as you have time and when you’re popping it in the dispenser, do so smoothly to minimise shaking it up again.
- Turn the tap on and off fully. Flip the tap decisively when turning on and off so the beer can flow as intended and you don’t get excess froth.
Where to buy the beer
If you’ve chosen a keg machine, we’d recommend heading online for your supplies. Before you buy, check the range available for your product. Two websites that offer kegs are Beerwulf (suitable for Salter) and Beerhawk (PerfectDraft).
Beerhawk recycle their kegs, which are reused around eight times, and you get a £5 voucher for the small effort of taking them to your local drop-off point.
How to pour the perfect beer
- Chill your glass. Run it under cold water before using it.
- Start by holding the glass at 45 degrees, flip the tap towards you and let the beer flow down the side of the glass.
- Keep the spout out of the beer, gradually bringing the glass to a more upright position.
- When you’ve filled the glass around 2/3rds full, it’s time to focus on the head. Lower the glass further from the spout or if using the Fizzics machine, flip the tap away from you for the final foamy flourish.
How we tested beer dispensers
- Ease of use: we judged the products on the clarity of their set-up instructions and how easy it was to carry them out. We were also looking for products that were going to require minimum effort on an ongoing basis.
- Performance: we tested the quality of the pint from each of the dispensers. If there was additional functionality or uses we tested these ,too.
- Value for money: we assessed whether the performance, ease of use and additional functionality justified the price. We also tested beer dispensers at a variety of prices to see if it was necessary to spend more money.
- Ease of cleaning: we looked for products that were easy to clean. No one wants their house smelling like a tired pub carpet!
- Overall quality of materials: we looked for a sturdy base, firm fixtures and well-designed moving parts. Quality that was deemed unlikely to stand the test of frequent use and time was marked down.