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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Bottling/Kegging > Balancing Beer (liquid) lines
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Old 10-06-2012, 09:39 PM   #1
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Default Balancing Beer (liquid) lines

Hi all. I'm sure that the longtime members are going to be peeved to go through this AGAIN. Sorry. I've done the research. Using a line balancing calculator I come up with around a foot and a 1/2 of 3/16 liquid tubing. This seems way too short, and would make it near impossible to open my fridge door with 2 kegs in the back of the fridge. The LBS says no no no, 6' MINIMUM of 3/16. Right now, my lines are about 5' long, and I'm getting a bit more foam than I'd desire, about 1/3 of a pint glass. Based on my symptoms I'm thinking that it is a dispensing (low pressure) issue vs. a over-carbonation issue. (I never overpressurize to quick carb)

SO where do most people stand on this issue? I'm assuming that I do need to shorten my lines, but with completely conflicting information, I'd like to be a bit more certain before I go hacking my system up. Thanks.

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Old 10-06-2012, 09:44 PM   #2
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Ha- like most women, I'd say "bigger is better".

I use 10' of 3/16" line, and that's just about right for beers up to about 12 psi at 40 degrees. 12' would NOT be too long.

The worst that can happen if it's too long is it takes a few seconds longer to pour a beer, so if in doubt, go longer.

I started with 6' lines (came with my kit) and got too much foam at times. So I went to 8' lines. I finally changed out to 10' lines, and it's pretty good almost all of the time. But there is almost no rise from the kegs to the faucets, so if I had to raise a few inches, I'd be happier with 12'. As it is, when I put new line on my kegerator, I'm going with 12' at least. I know that is not scientific, but it works.

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Old 10-06-2012, 09:53 PM   #3
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I just cut all my 10' lines to 8 ft because i run my keezer at 37 degrees and found ive been overcarbonating my beers. Dropped from 13 to 9 psi and now my beers are perfect but my poor sucked. Cut lines to 8 ft and poor is pretty good.

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Old 10-06-2012, 11:02 PM   #4
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I've looked into this quite a bit, and there is quite a lot to it if you want it to be perfect! I think i have it figured out pretty well, so sorry for the wall of text that follows here!

The factors in balancing your beer lines:

1. Temperature
2. Carbonation Level
3. PSI (Determined 1&2 Above)
4. Line Resistance
5. Line Length
6. Height (Vertical distance from center of keg to tap)

Most of the calculators and instructions don't take into account numbers 1 & 2 there, but these are very important as if you don't have your temperature/co2/PSI balanced to maintain your carbonation then balancing the rest of the system is pointless, as chances are you are going to have you adjust your PSI, which means you will need to recalculate to balance the rest of the system all over again!

Now, once you have balanced your system, the only variables that will be adjustable are temperature & PSI. So when you are initially balancing your system, try to pick values that are typical for the style of beer you are drinking most. Me personally I like to shoot for a co2 volume of 2.4, and a temperature of about 42F. Based on the numerous Co2 charts out there, I need 12 PSI at 42F to maintain carbonation.

Now that I have my typical PSI, i can balance the rest of my system around that. I use this calculator here: http://www.iancrockett.com/brewing/i...gbalance.shtml

You should enter:

1. Your desired PSI (12 in my case)
2. Your line resistance (for 3/16 line, 2 is a safe/typical value)
3. The height from center of keg to the tap (2 feet in my case)

This will tell you the line length you need. In my case, this is 5.5 feet.

After you have your system balanced, you may need to adjust temperate/psi for different beer styles. Keep in mind, the farther you go from your initial psi value (12 psi) that was used to determine your line lengths, the more unbalanced your system becomes and the more foaming you might get, so I try to adjust temperature as much as possible to maintain co2 volumes rather than adjusting PSI.

For example after balancing my system above, i want to serve beer with a higher carbonation such as a Wheat beer at 2.7 co2 volumes, but I don't want to adjust my PSI and have an unbalanced system. I would have to turn my temperature down all the way to 35-36F to maintain 2.7 carbonation at 12PSI.

If you do not want to adjust your serving temperature, your only other option to maintain balance is to adjust your PSI for serving. When you are serving from your Keg, put it to the PSI you balanced the system at (in this case 12). After you are done serving, you will want to return the PSI to the level that will maintain carbonation (in this case 15-16PSI will maintain 2.7 co2 at 42F) so that your carbonation level does not fall.

It can be difficult after you are done serving from your keg to remember to adjust the PSI back

Maybe I give this too much thought, but I hate wasting beer to foam (and hate even more drinking flat beer after the foam settles!)

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Old 10-07-2012, 09:48 AM   #5
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Very nice write up bduane.

To the OP... I run 12' lines. The pour is slightly slower than I would prefer, but I can futz with the temp a bit and the range of what I call balanced is much wider. I never get excessive foam. Ever.

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Old 10-07-2012, 08:53 PM   #6
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The line balancing calculators are seriously flawed for a number of reasons, but the main two being that they don't account for temperature, and they assume that thr line resistance for any given line is a fixed constant (it's not). The simple solution is to follow Yoppers advice, and just get some extra long 3/16" ID lines. As she mentioned, the only side effect to lines that are "too long" is a slightly slower pour.

And FWIW the line balancing calculators are designed for commercial systems where the "ideal" length is the one that gets the fastest pour without severe foaming issues, since the speed of the pour can affect a bars profit. The "ideal" length for us homebrewers is usually the one that lets us pour a wide variety of beers at different carb levels and temps without any foaming issues. I figure that if I have time to drink a beer, I have a few extra seconds to wait for it to pour, which IMO is a small price to pay for the incredible flexibility of my serving system.

The calculators assume a carb level under 2.7 vol, a beer temp between 34° and 38°F, and try to result in a flow rate of ~1 gal/min. These assumptions work great for most commercial systems since most commercial beers are carbed bewteen 2.4 and 2.7 vol, and most distributers require the beer to be colder than 38°F. If you raise the temperature or the carb level over those figures, you need to slow the flow down further to keep the CO2 in solution. And since line resistance is not a constant, but actually decreases as flow rate decreases, the balancing calculators become useless quickly.

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Old 10-07-2012, 09:01 PM   #7
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I run 10-12 PSI, 40-42F, and have 7' lines with nearly zero rise. They are probably just on the short side. I'll go back with 8-10' lines when I replace them.

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Old 10-07-2012, 09:19 PM   #8
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I just bought a kegging kit, haven't even used it so bare with me... If 10' to 12' lines are what actually work then why do all the sites selling kits sell them with 5' lines? Will my first kegged beer (stout) suck through a 5' line?

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Old 10-07-2012, 09:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDFlow
I just bought a kegging kit, haven't even used it so bare with me... If 10' to 12' lines are what actually work then why do all the sites selling kits sell them with 5' lines? Will my first kegged beer (stout) suck through a 5' line?
Because they use the line balancing calculators designed for commercial systems. If you call them to complain about foaming most of them will tell you to turn the temp of your fridge/keezer/kegerator down to 34-36F. If your stout will be lightly carbed and /or stored cold, the 5' lines will probably work ok.
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Old 10-08-2012, 12:56 AM   #10
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Well, I had no idea that the only downside to lines that are "too long" was just a slower pour, I always assumed that would cause foaming issues as well. If that is true that a slower pour is the only disadvantage, then I agree, it is silly to try to balance a home system so precisely, just give yourself a couple of extra feet and call it good!

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