The Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser takes 5-litre kegs of the type you find at supermarkets and lets you pour them as a pub would. It’s a bit of a faff to get it working, fiddly to adjust, and the cooling system is only rated to run for up to 21 hours. However, for parties it could be a good choice; but the PerfectDraft system is better.
- Works with all 5-litre kegs
- Integrated chiller
- Fiddly to set up
- Only cools for 21 hours
- Integrated coolerKeeps your beer cold for up to 21 hours
- Keg compatibilityWorks with any 5-litre keg
Who doesn’t want pub-style beer, poured fresh, at home? While the Philips PerfectDraft may be the go-to machine for such instances, it requires you to purchase specific kegs built for the system. The Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser aims to make life easier, using standard 5-litre kegs that can be picked up from supermarkets.
So it’s easier to get hold of the beer to use Salter’s system; however, it’s more of a faff to use than PerfectDraft and it will cool your beer for only up to 21 hours.
Design and Features
- Works with 5-litre kegs
- CO2 holder for non-carbonated kegs
- Integrated cooling system
Pop into any major supermarket and you’ll find a fair number of 5-litre kegs for sale. The choice covers everything from the bigger names, such as Heineken, to others including Krombacher, Paulaner and Adnams. Order online and you’ll find that a lot of microbreweries do their own kegs, too.
Rather than having to order your beer online and having to wait for it to arrive, as you will have to for use with Philips’ PerfectDraft, for the Salter Dispenser, getting hold of your beer is as easy as popping down to your local supermarket. I’d say that the selection of beer on offer is slightly better with PerfectDraft, plus there’s the advantage that you get £5 of credit for each keg you return. The standard 5-litre kegs can just be recycled curbside or at your local recycling centre.
The real difference between PerfectDraft and universal 5-litre kegs is the purpose for which they’re designed. PerfectDraft kegs are for use specifically with said machine, so fit it perfectly, with very little hassle. Beer from universal 5-litre kegs is designed to dispense directly from the keg itself, using the integrated tap.
There are two types of keg: carbonated and uncarbonated. Uncarbonated kegs have a vent at the top and tap at the bottom; carbonated kegs have a tap at the top.
The difficulty with the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser is that it needs to cater for both types of keg, neither of which has been specifically designed for machine use. To fit a keg, I had to position the long adaptor. This has to be pushed through the hole on top of the keg (vent or tap), but it isn’t as easy a process as I had first thought.
With my Paulaner keg, for example, I needed to remove the vent entirely, then bash the adaptor until it slid all of the way into the keg, clipping into the side. That’s step one done.
Next, before the keg can be placed into the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser, I needed to fill it with water to the marked line. Water is necessary to help the cooling system to work.
Once done, the keg can be lowered into place and the lines connected: one for CO2; one for the spout at the front.
A 16g threaded CO2 cartridge has to be installed for kegs that aren’t carbonated. Three are included in the box, and replacements can be picked up for around £8 for five. The cartridge fits into the screw-in adaptor, after which you need to tighten it by hand until you hear it click – that’s the seal broken. If you have a carbonated keg, you can skip this step; but make sure the dial at the back is set to the “+” position.
It gets easier to change kegs with practice, but the process still proved more difficult than with the PerfectDraft machine.
Turn on the Salter machine and its cooler kicks into action, although the manual says that the cooling system should only be used for a maximum of 21 hours. This is because the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser doesn’t use refrigerant, so the cooling system has to work harder. Use it for longer than 21 hours and you could damage the motor. At an ambient temperature of 22-24ºC, the cooling system will chill a keg to between 3ºC and 6ºC, and note that there’s no temperature selection.
Salter recommends that you pre-chill your kegs to help. That sounds fine in practice, but since kegs are designed to last for up to 30 days, there’s a fairly short window in which to drink the contents of the keg – unless you’re having a party, that is. The PerfectDraft system will cool your beer to 3ºC for the full life of the keg.
Once a keg is empty, you have to remove the old one, empty out the water using the tap at the front of the dispenser, and clean out the lines. All of this is a bit of a faff – in particular cleaning the lines using the squeezy bottle, which I had to fill with soapy water. Again, the PerfectDraft system proved easier to clean.
Note that the old CO2 cartridge should be removed, too. Over time, the rubber seal around the cartridge and the pin that punctures can show signs of wear and fall out. There are spares in the box, so put them somewhere safe.
- Fun to use
- Needs some adjustment during pouring
Using the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser with an uncarbonated keg requires fiddling with the CO2 tap at the rear. This adjusts the pressure release valve – to pour beer I had to move from the “-” position towards the “+” position. Getting the right setting is vital: not enough gas and beer was dispensed as a dribble; too much resulted in a lot of froth. With carbonated kegs, I didn’t have to worry about this.
I have to say that the PerfectDraft system proved much easier to use overall. There’s no messing about with pressure release valves, and the machine automatically adjusts the bags inside the kegs to maintain the perfect pressure all the way to the bottom.
When the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser is set correctly, however, it’s possible to pour a nice pint with a fluffy head, similar in style to what you’d get at a pub.
Should you buy it?
If you want a party piece, then this a neat machine into which you can pop a regular keg for that pub-style experience.
If you want to keep your beer for longer, then the PerfectDraft machine is easier to use and can cool for the life of a keg.
Working with 5-litre kegs, the Salter Universal Chilled Draught Beer Dispenser is a fun bit of kit that delivers a pub-style beer pump for pouring beer. It’s fiddly to set up and the cooling system only works for 21 hours. Overall, then, the Philips PerfectDraft is a superior system that’s far easier to use.
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It will work with any standard 5-litre keg.
It uses 16g threaded CO2 cartridges.