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Old 03-30-2005, 07:05 AM   #1
mrkeeg
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Default cooling soda-dispenser for kegs?

Hi all,

I've only ever done a handful of beer kits and already I tire of constantly scrounging for and cleaning bottles. Also, even buying new, empty bottes is a cost that adds up.

Soo... despite the fact that I really can't afford it and should be saving my money for schoolbooks and food... I've just started looking into keg systems.

It seems that to buy the setup... hoses and taps, regulator, C02 bottle, and keg would run about $300 CND - that sound about right? Of course... I read stories about people simply finding kegs in rubish heaps... but I'm not sure... Also would have to buy a keg fridge...

Sorry for the ramble... on to my main point. I found a used "soda dispensing" system for sale, I will go look at it tomorrow. When I spoke to the fellow he said it came with a number of stainless soda pop kegs (I'll have to see what style...), the hoses and regulators and all, minus the C02 bottle. Also, it comes with a unit that has a chilled block with a coil running through it ... the idea being that your keg of soda needn't be cold, because it will be cooled on the way to the tap through the line. It seems a resonable price, if I can get a C02 can, and saves needing a fridge.

Any thoughts? Obviously I will have to look it over. Anyone seen or used something like this? Am I right in thinking that any system that a)has a presurized keg and b) can easily deliver beer from said keg, will work?

Thanks,
Keegan

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Old 03-30-2005, 01:55 PM   #2
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Well, check it out. You can almost certainly use the kegs, but the way soda dispensing systems that I have seen work is there is only soda syrup in the keg and it gets mixed with soda water in the tap...so that part of the system would be useless. You'll want to put a regular tap on it.

As far as the chilling block, that's how "jockey boxes" work. You basically put a copper coil in a cooler and run the beer through that to chill it. It's a good way to have portable beer, but it will make it much harder to properly condition, since the beer itself won't be cold until it's served.

One thing to be careful of...make sure the kegs don't smell of root beer. That smell *never* comes out.

It sounds like you could get a lot of the pieces you need...especially the kegs and regulator. I'd definitely check it out. Cheers!

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Old 03-30-2005, 04:51 PM   #3
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Ok, thanks for the thoughts. I guess I'll know more tonight.

Some of the taps I've seen are just small black plastic, thumb operated, looked like they would be maybe only a few dollars each, so even if I had to replace that part, it might not be a big deal?

I think I can probably condition my beer pretty well the same way I do with my bottles - by keeping them in my basement cold room for a while (maybe 14-18 C) - once conditioned, it shouldn't matter if the beer warms before being cooled again in the chiller? Obviously many temp changes are probably not good.

Root beer smell? *lol* ... won't come out, even from stainless steel? That is interesting, thanks.

Just to get my mind around this - if you don't mind ANOTHER question... how do the costs of a system break down? It just seems like there isn't very my "to" a home keg system...

Kegs: $5-80 /ea
CO2 canister: $60?
Regulator: $60?
Taps, lines, connectors.... maybe another $50 - increased if I have to replace some of them to loose smell, or just because of age...

Finally, is there an advantage to carbonating "naturally" with sugar in the keg? Or once you have the system, are you just as well to force, and avoid sediment?

Thanks a lot,
Man... I'm getting thirsty...

Keegan

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Old 03-30-2005, 05:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrkeeg
Root beer smell? *lol* ... won't come out, even from stainless steel? That is interesting, thanks.
Maybe it comes out of stainless...eventually...but you'll have to replace every non-stainless part in the keg for sure. This is one of those things the homebrewer community has said for a long time because it's very true. I scrounged many of my kegs from junkyards and whatnot, and I always avoided rootbeer ones as does everyone I know. I once tried to get rootbeet smell out of plastic fermenter...for a year...I don't think the smell faded in the least. Just so you know...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrkeeg
Just to get my mind around this - if you don't mind ANOTHER question... how do the costs of a system break down? It just seems like there isn't very my "to" a home keg system...

Kegs: $5-80 /ea
CO2 canister: $60?
Regulator: $60?
Taps, lines, connectors.... maybe another $50 - increased if I have to replace some of them to loose smell, or just because of age...
And a fridge...the costs can obviously vary widely, but yeah, there's not much to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrkeeg
Finally, is there an advantage to carbonating "naturally" with sugar in the keg? Or once you have the system, are you just as well to force, and avoid sediment?
You need to be able to chill the entire keg in order to force carbonate. So you'll need a fridge. I see no advantage to "natural" carbonation in kegs and I never do it. Others may disagree. I can force carbonate a keg and have it ready in about half an hour. That's a big advantage to me.
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Old 03-31-2005, 06:25 PM   #5
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Thanks again Janx.

It looks promising. The fellow was using it for pop, and it definitely would need a very thorough cleaning. It looks suitable for beer, as it is the old style pop setup - not with syrup.

I guess I'll just have to decide if it is worth the money. He's asking $200 (CND) for the 4 kegs, regulator setup (one regulator / 2 kegs), and the refrigeration/ 4 tap unit. Also including an extra regulator and tap. He's asking an extra $50 for a 20lb CO2 tank.

The unit is old and seems a bit noisy, and one of the kegs WAS used for rootbeer... so I'd be happier paying a bit less ... but still, to buy kegs at the LBS is $80, so on the kegs alone I might save money... On the other hand, I've wasted 200 bucks in more foolish ways...

Is it usually easy enough to replace the rubber fittings from a hardware store if necessary?

Keegan

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Old 03-31-2005, 06:39 PM   #6
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I just ordered 6 kegs online and they were about $150 shipped. You can beat that $80 price really easily.

Best deals I have seen are morebeer.com (free shipping...get the ones that you need to refurbish and you can get 4 for like $80...refurbing them is easy).

Another cheap place is homebrewing.org (got mine there). There was a guy selling them in the For Sale section of this forum as well.

I'd say just order your kegs and stuff from one of those places and cobble it together. Buy just the CO2 tank from the guy you know IF it has been inspected recently. It seems like you'd be buying stuff you don't need from this guy. Do the taps really look beer suitable? A regulator would be a useful thing to get from him. The refrigeration thing seems less than ideal to me...

Anyway, good luck!

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Old 03-31-2005, 07:03 PM   #7
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Okay, thanks Janx. Maybe I was getting too excited by the idea of having beer on tap by ... this weekend! Unless he cuts me a better deal, maybe I won't go for it.

I think the taps would be suitable for beer (you pull on it, the beer comes out. If the fridge is on, it's cold. anything spilled (forbid!) is caught in the drip tray...), but then again, simple thumb taps are probably really cheap anyway.

What does refurbishing a keg entail?

Later,
Keegan

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Old 03-31-2005, 07:51 PM   #8
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OK...I was picturing different taps...if they look like they work like beer taps then it may not be a bad deal...

Refurbing a keg just means replacing all the rubber o-rings and maybe the poppets if they aren't springy enough anymore.

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Old 04-02-2005, 12:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janx
Well, check it out. You can almost certainly use the kegs, but the way soda dispensing systems that I have seen work is there is only soda syrup in the keg and it gets mixed with soda water in the tap...so that part of the system would be useless. You'll want to put a regular tap on it.

As far as the chilling block, that's how "jockey boxes" work. You basically put a copper coil in a cooler and run the beer through that to chill it. It's a good way to have portable beer, but it will make it much harder to properly condition, since the beer itself won't be cold until it's served.
The problem is trying to carbonate it without chilling it first. You will need to use a LOT more CO2 pressure to carbonate it at ambient temp vs refrigerated temp. This equate to more CO2, meaning your cylinder won't be able to carbonate as many kegs, meaning more frequent filling, meaning higher operating costs.....

You can buy cheap refrigerators, staring at 18 to 19 CF, for a little over $100 US. That's the best way to go, unless you would rather go with a chest freezer and temp controller.
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Old 04-02-2005, 09:50 PM   #10
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I think that's a good point bryan.

Thanks for the thoughts both.

I've worked out a decent deal with the guy, that I am happy with for the kegs, taps, and regulators, even without the cooler - so if the cooler doesn't really work well, I'll be cool with that anyway, and buy a fridge sometime.

Does it put undue pressure on kegs if I cool them in my regular fridge, carbonate them, then store them warm?

Wish me luck!
Keegan

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