The 5 liter kegs can be obtained in one of two ways You can order new kegs with no graphics online fora price of $10 – $12 a keg plus shipping (keg on left), or if you can buy the kegs with beer in them at a cost of $20 to $22, drink the beer, and then wash and reuse the kegs (keg on right).
Do not get the pressurized Heineken or Newcastle kegs. These cannot be reused. The keg in the photo was put out by Bell’s. Most of what I have seen in the stores is beer from Germany.
Both of these kegs have the red tap that can be seen on the lower side of the keg. If you buy new kegs you will need to order a bung for the hole on tap. The kegs with beer will have a bung already installed and this can be reused.
These are 5 liter kegs so they hold a about 1.3 gallons. If you are brewing 1 gallon batches, one keg will hold an entire brew. I do 5 gallon brews and 4 kegs will hold the 5 gallons. Kegs should be primed with no more than 1/3 cup of priming sugar per 5 gallons (4 teaspoons for one gallon). This will seem like a small amount, but trust me, it works and any more risks over-carbonating and bulging kegs.
There are a couple of ways to serve the beer from these kegs. The first and simplest is to use the tap built into the keg. The tap on the side is designed to be pulled out:
And then turned to dispense the beer:
After dispensing the amount of beer desired, the tap can be turned back and pushed back into place.The initial dispensing will be very carbonated. Some pressure can be released by pulling up on the tab on the bung and rotating it. This will release the pressure from inside the keg.
When enough pressure has been released the bung can be rotated back into place and the tab pushed back down. The one thing to know in using this method is if all the pressure is released from the keg, the beer will go flat in a matter of 24 hours or maybe less, this makes the built in tap for occasions where you know the entire keg will be consumed in one sitting. If this is not the case and you want to keep the beer carbonized for an extended period, there are several devices that will allow you to do this. All these devices work basically the same. First, the bung is made up of three parts: the rubber gasket, the pressure release tab and the inside plug.
To use the CO2 dispensers, the pressure release tab is removed and the stem from the dispenser is pushed through the center hole of the rubber gasket forcing the center plug into the keg (the device shown is a PartyStar tap):
and the dispenser is attached to the top of the keg. Most of these dispensers use CO2 cartridges to provide the pressure:
I strongly recommend using keg lube on the dispenser stem to help create a good seal.
To reuse the kegs, the pressure release tab must be removed and the inside plug pushed in the keg. The rubber gasket can then be pulled off of the keg and the keg filled with water for cleaning. Note: the inside plug must be pushed in before the rubber gasket can be removed. You will not be able to remove the gasket with damaging it or the keg if the inside plug is still installed.
The inside plug needs to be retrieved and saved. I have had good luck filling the keg with water and then turning it over to let the water drain out as fast as possible. Hold one hand in the stream of water draining from the keg and, in most cases, the inside plug will drain out with the water.
This will give you the bung in three parts and it simply needs to reassembled to use again.
I then clean the inside of the keg by putting 1 tsp of BLC in the keg, fill it with hot water and let it sit at least an hour if not overnight. The inside of the keg and all parts of the bung need to be sanitized before reusing.
While not perfect, these 5 liter kegs can provide an alternative to bottles for the home brewer who brews small batches, or the 5 gal. Brewer who can’t yet afford a kegging system. A keg should last for 10 12 uses.