After just over 3 years of homebrewing, I finally switched to kegging! Let's just say, my experience so far hasn't quite matched the picture on the tin. And since my wife (who is the best wife ever for finally caving!) doesn't want to hear about all the things that went wrong, I'm posting it all here!
1. ONE WEEK?!
My Saturday went as follows: wake up, take the baby to daddy & me swim class, and then in the three hours left until daddy & me skating class with my son, I had some pick-ups to make. First stop, extended-stay hotel to pick up used fridge. Second stop, Morebeer to pick up a keg kit. Third stop, home! After skating class was over, I started reading through the instructions (and the stickies on HBT), and discovered "problem" number one.
Once you gas up your keg, you have to wait a week to drink it!*
So, reading all the posts about kegging, I had this expectation that I would just hook up the gas, shake for a bit, and wind up with perfectly carbed beer with a perfect head and served by the St. Pauli Girl. Apparently though, those are all just rumors to get people signed up. The instructions say to set my regulator to serving pressure, and then wait... (Note to keggers: when you bottle and prime at 70F, it takes about a week to carb your bottles). But, ok.
1A. FERMENTER TO KEG!
Ok, this was pretty awesome. I ferment in a bucket, and had crashed cooled it a few days prior. Rack into keg... done! No bottling bucket, wand, bottles, anything! This was even easier than the Tap-a-draft, which I thought was pretty easy.
2. SUCK BACK?
Instructions: "Hook everything up; you should know what to do with all these extra gaskets so we won't tell you where they go; pressurize your keg and then flush it." It really seemed like those quick disconnects needed a gasket or o-ring, but none of the included ones fit. At the end of it all, I had two gaskets left over... Since nothing exploded, I hope they were just extras.
Ok, so time for flushing... Except my keg has no release valve. Not to worry though; I have a Master's degree in Engineering. So, shut off the gas line, disconnect the gas-in from the keg, and then push down on the gas-in valve. Beer shoots out. CRAP! I must have hooked the lines up wrong. Push the valve on the beer-out post. Even more beer shoots out. So, no flush. No big deal.
Except that when I reconnected the gas line (now at atmospheric pressure) to the keg, beer shot out again -- into the gas line. Great.
3. WARM & FLAT?
Ooh, a carbonation table that lists volumes of CO2 along with fridge temp and PSI. Let's go online to see what I'm supposed to be serving my beer at. My first kegged beer is Janet's Brown, which I'll say is between an IPA and an American Brown. Serve at... 55F? Carb at... 2 volumes? So, the handy sheet also lists priming sugar amounts. This would work out to like 2oz of priming sugar. I have never used less than 5 oz, and always served at food-fridge temp (37F). So either I have been seriously over-carbing every beer I've ever made, or I'm about to get some warm, flat beer.
I am sure that this is going to be better for me and my beer, but it was still kind of a shock.
4. TEMPERATURE DEPENDENCE (or, PV=No gas for you)
Initial set-up: CO2 cylinder at room temp, regulator at room temp. Setting up for 10psi, since the beer was at about 35F. Then it all went into the new fridge. The next morning, I thought I'd get a sneak peak. Regulator reading: 5 psi... Even the tank gauge had dropped with the decrease in temperature. Ideal Gas Law? The real Ideal Gas Law would be "set your regulator, and everything will be FINE!"
Can we please elect a President who is bold enough to repeal that ridiculous Ideal Gas Law?
I'm just so glad I started off with a single keg and picnic tap, rather than a faucet. At least I haven't had a chance to screw up things like pressure balancing, faucet-mounting, manifold setup, etc.
5. THE ONLY THING IN THE WORLD WORSE THAN KEGGING
So, one day in, and I can say that there is only one thing in the world more stressful, time consuming and error-prone than kegging. And that is bottling.
Thanks; I feel better now.
*Or, you can mess with your pressure, shake it for a bit, wave your magic wand and wind up with a 5-gallon, 800psi bottle bomb.