Going from bottling to kegging your beers is a big step for most home brewers. No more stock piles of bottles in your closet, having to worry about rinsing your bottle every time you drink one, and sanitizing 40+ bottles on bottling day. Not to mention waiting a couple of weeks to crack open that first beer you worked so hard to make!
Kegging your brews can save you time, space, and energy. Almost anybody you ask will agree that it is worth the initial investment. But, getting into kegging can be a lot to wrap your head around when you decide to make the switch. We’ve created this guide to make your leap a little easier.
Types of Kegs
There are 2 main types of kegs that you will see being used today. This section will break down each keg and will let you decide which is best for you.
Sanke Kegs are most commonly used in commercial breweries. If you order a keg of beer from your local brewery, you will most likely receive your beer in a sanke keg. They can also be used for homebrew however, they require a little more work and elbow grease.
These kegs use a different coupler style fitting to dispense beer and carbonate which can be a bit costlier than other kegs. To re-use these kegs, you need to remove a ring sealing the top of the of the keg where the coupler attaches, then clean, fill and reattach the sealing ring (which can be very stubborn) to the keg. You can usually find Sanke kegs cheap on the internet or from a local brewery.
Cornelius (Corny) Kegs
This type of keg is the most popular among homebrewers because of simplicity. If you have worked in the food service industry, you may be familiar with these kegs. Most soft drinks are served from these kegs and make perfect companions for homebrewers. These kegs have a removable lid that makes them very easy to clean and fill. There are 2 different styles of corny kegs, most popular is the Pepsi (ball lock) keg. Pepsi kegs are the most common keg used by homebrewers because they are slightly taller and skinnier than a Coke (pin lock) keg, which makes them slightly more space efficient in most cases.
The main difference between these two kegs, other than their shape, is the fittings. Ball lock fittings simply to snap on to the keg. Pin lock kegs have to be pushed on and twisted to be locked in. Both corny kegs are great for home brewers and are cost effective.
How Kegs Work
All kegs work the same way: CO2 is forced into the top of the keg creating pressure and force carbonation into the beer. This forces the beer up of the dip tube that is at the bottom of the keg and out whatever you are dispensing out of.
While most people use the standard dip tube setup, you can easily use a Keg Float. This addition pulls beer from the top of the keg, instead of the bottom where you may have secondary sediment. They are inexpensive and easy to set up in a corny keg.
What You Need
This might come as a surprise to some of you, but in order to keg your beer you actually need a keg. You will also need a CO2 tank. Most people are fine with a 5 lb CO2 tank, unless you’re running a brewery. Along with the CO2 tank, you need a CO2 regulator to control the pressure inside your keg. Most regulars come with two gauges on it: One gauge measures the amount of pressure going into the keg, and the other displays the amount of CO2 left in the tank itself. Our BrewHQ Kegging Starter Kits are a great way to start with all the equipment you need.
To get the CO2 into the keg you need hose. Most people use braided hose because it can handle high pressure. For ball lock kegs there are two connectors: the black connector connects to your “out” port on the keg (where the beer comes out), and the grey connector attaches to the “in” side of your keg (where the CO2 goes in). It’s simple just remember grey for gas, black for beer! Now you need something to dispense the beer.
The most common dispenser is a picnic tap or thumb tap, which is a hose that connects to a small hand held tap. Another option is to use a tap tower which can be mounted on a mini fridge. Or you can use a tap that can be mounted onto a full sized fridge.
This can be the most challenging part about kegging for some people, but it’s very simple! Just the thought of using compressed gas can be unsettling, but kegging is very safe and there's almost no way you you’re going to cause any harm.
Here is the easiest way to carbonate:
- Fill your keg up with beer
- Put the lid on the keg
- Connect your CO2 and set your regulator to 15-20 psi
- Purge all the oxygen out of the keg by pulling on the pressure release valve a couple times
- Chill the beer and let sit at 15-20 psi for about a week
- Adjust your regulator to around 6 psi (adjust until you get your desired pour) and enjoy!
Here is the fastest way to carbonate:
- Put your beer into your keg
- Put the kid on the keg
- Chill your beer overnight
- Add your CO2 to the keg and purge the oxygen by pulling the pressure release valve a couple times
- Set your regulator to 30 psi
- Lay your keg on its side and roll back and forth constantly for 2-3 minutes.
- Put back in the fridge, let sit for an hour
- Adjust your regulator to around 6 psi (adjust until you get your desired pour)
- Pour off a pint and enjoy!
This method risks your beer leaking into your gas line and into your CO2 tank. Do at your own risk.