If you can’t make up your mind about the cold plate vs coil jockey box question, this article is here to help you.
The confusion is explainable and somewhat expected, since both these varieties of a jockey box do exactly the same job with pretty much the same results – but with a slight difference. That difference is what we’re going to talk about, finally solving the jockey box cold plate vs. coil problem!
How Does a Jockey Box Work?
Jockey boxes are used for dispensing beer in situations when electricity is not readily available and, therefore, the standard scheme with a kegerator in a walk-in cooler does not work. These situations include (but are not limited to) outdoor parties, picnics, sports events, tailgate parties, and so on.
So how does a beer jockey box work? It’s rather simple: you fill it with ice and connect it to a keg via a beer line and shank, while the keg itself is connected to a CO2 tank via an airlineair line. Using the regulator on the CO2 tank, you set the proper pressure and then tap the keg using the tap handle on the jockey box. The beer runs through the coils (or cold plate), getting chilled as it reaches the tap.
Pros & Cons of Jockey Box With Cold Plate
A jockey box with an integrated cold plate is like the younger brother of the two: it is simpler in design and has somewhat limited capabilities, but still great for what it is.
These boxes feature solid refrigeration cold plates on the bottom with barbs that connect to the beer lines. On top of the plate is ice, filling the whole box from all the way up from the bottom. The beer has to pass through the cold plate before it reaches the tap, which is how it gets chilled.
Now, let’s take a look at the jockey box with a cold plate's pros and cons.
Advantages of Cold Plates
- Easier to use and maintain
- Ideal for small events where beer is poured once every 10–15 minutes
Disadvantages of Cold Plates
- Can’t cool large amounts of beer quickly enough
- Requires constant ice breaking and water draining
Pros & Cons of Jockey Boxes With Cooling Coil
Jockey boxes with a cooling coil are a bit more sophisticated in terms of design and, as a result, a bit more versatile in terms of how and where you can use them. The basic principle is the same – the beer has to go through a jockey box coil that is covered with ice mixed with water, thus getting chilled before it reaches the tap.
Now, let’s take a look at the jockey box with a cooling coil's pros and cons.
Advantages of Cooling Coils
- Faster, more efficient cooling
- Ideal for medium to large events where beer is poured every 15–20 seconds
Disadvantages of Cooling Coils
- More expensive
- Due to the jockey box coil length, adding ice from time to time to keep the coils fully covered is required.
Does Jockey Box Coil Size Matter?
It actually does! Depending on the size of the box, you can serve more than just one product through the same jockey box. Also, a bigger set of coils means more reliable and faster cooling, which is a must at big events where beer needs to be poured almost non-stop.
How Well Does a Tower Work with a Jockey Box?
Jockey boxes are designed to be used as is, with minimal additions or changes to the original design, which does not suggest using a tower. However, pre-assembled kits will hardly surprise anyone and might not meet your exact requirements.
Using a jockey box kit allows you to unleash your creativity and build the jockey box that’s right for you. Plus, sometimes you just need a little upgrade (like swapping a faucet or coils), and buying a new jockey box is certainly not worth it.
How to Maintain and Clean a Jockey Box?
Like every other beer dispensing unit, jockey boxes should be cleaned on a regular basis, ideally after each use. The cleaning process is simple and requires just a jockey box cleaning kit, with four steps that shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes.
Here they are:
- Flush all the remaining beer out of the system using a beer line cleaner (should be done right after you’ve finished using the jockey box)
- Using a wrench, remove the faucets and clean them
- Rinse the whole system with plenty of water
- Clean the outside surface if needed, then rinse with water and wipe it dry.
To learn more about jockey box cleaning, please see this article from our blog.