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Kegging

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Many homebrewers choose to keg their beer rather than bottle it. Kegging offers several advantages to bottling, such as reduced packaging time, faster carbonation time, more control over carbonation levels, and the ability to dispense just the right amount of beer. Kegging does require a greater up-front cost as well as additional equipment and space.

A typical home brewing keg system

This article details some of the basics of kegging.

Contents

[edit] Equipment Needed

Several pieces of additional equipment are required to keg beer. At a minimum you will need some kegs (most home brewers use cornelius kegs), Beverage Lines, Quick Disconnects, and Picnic Taps or other means of dispensing your beer, and some way of keeping the kegs cold, typically a refrigerator or chest freezer (see kegerators).

Many home brewers choose to have more advanced kegging set-ups including a CO2 tank for force carbonating, gas lines, and a draft tower and faucets for dispensing.

[edit] Types of Kegs

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There are several different types of kegs; however, most home brewers use cornelius kegs as they are easy to use and hold 5 gallons: Kegsizes-1-.gif

Other types of kegs include Sankey Kegs, Mini Kegs, and 1/2 barrel Commercial Kegs.

[edit] Buying kegs

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Cornelius kegs are available new or used/refurbished. There is a significant price difference between new and used kegs; most home brewers choose to purchase used kegs that have been pressure tested and require minimal maintenance before being put into service.

Things to consider when purchasing used kegs include whether the keg has been pressure tested, whether the gaskets, O-rings, and lid need to be replaced, and whether the keg has been cleaned. Kegs that are ready for immediate service tend to be slightly more expensive than those that still require maintenance.

[edit] Kegging Process

The kegging process is fairly straightforward and considerably easier than bottling.

First the keg must be cleaned and sanitized. It is important that all parts of the keg are properly sanitized in order to prevent infections. Most home brewers break down their kegs (see Keg Maintenance in order to ensure proper sanitation.

Once the keg is cleaned, sanitized, and re-assembled, the beer is racked to the keg. Some home brewers prefer to "naturally" carbonate their kegs with priming sugar while other choose to force carbonate. Those brewers who use priming fermentables to carbonate must make a priming solution (just like when bottling) and add it to the keg prior to racking the beer. It should be noted that kegs require less sugar in the solution than bottles.

Once the beer has been racked to the keg, the lid is then placed on the keg and pressure is applied to seat the lid, sealing the keg. If carbonating naturally the keg should be kept at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees F) before cooling to serving temperatures. Kegs that will be force carbonated should be cooled to serving temperatures immediately.

[edit] Force Carbonating

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Most home brewers choose to force carbonate their kegs in order to better control the carbonation level for a particular beer style and to carbonate their beer faster.

There are several methods for force carbing, but the most popular is the "set-it and forget-it" method in which the CO2 regulator is set to the correct pressure for achieving the desired level of carbonation and then left alone. The beer is then given a week to carbonate before it is served. This method requires a balanced system to avoid excessive foaming.

[edit] Storing Kegs

One of the largest obstacles to kegging is finding a place to keep your kegs cold. Most home brewer use a mini-fridge, refrigerator, or chest freezer as a kegerator or purchase one ready-made. These take up additional space and add cost to your kegging set-up.

When not in use kegs should be stored cleaned and sanitized with the lid in place.

[edit] Building Your Kegerator

Due to the cost of ready made kegerators, many home brewers choose to build their own.

[edit] Model Specific Instructions

[edit] Generic Instructions

[edit] Serving From a Keg

Serving beer from a keg can be as simple as pulling on your tap or pressing down on your picnic tap but there are some pitfalls to be aware of.

The biggest concern when serving from a keg is excessive foaming which occurs when there is too much pressure coming from the keg; luckily, it is easy to correct by properly balancing the system. A balanced system is one in which the pressure coming from the keg (called the serving pressure is allowed to dissipate as the beer travels through the lines. This can be achieved by using longer lines, narrower lines, or by reducing the serving pressure.

Another way to avoid foaming is to turn down the regulator once the desired carbonation level is reached, thus reducing the serving pressure.

[edit] Keg Maintenance

A typical cornelius keg post

Proper maintenance of your kegs is crucial to ensuring proper ongoing use. There are several critical parts to cornelius kegs that can be easily replaced if necessary:

Breaking down kegs is a simple process that involves removing each of these parts so they can be inspected, cleaned and santizied, and replaced if necessary.

[edit] Troubleshooting

Leaking kegs are a common problem encountered by home brewers. Leaks may be caused by worn o-rings, old poppet valves, or loose posts. If you encounter a leak, it is best to check these three potential causes.

Another frequent issue is gas leaks. If your CO2 tank appears to be emptying rapidly, chances are a gas leak is to blame. Connect your gas lines and turn on your gas; brush soapy water over all the possible connections and the lid of the keg; anywhere that bubbles occur is a gas leak. Once you know the source of the leak, it is usually a quick fix to seal it back up.

[edit] External Links

Homebrew Keg System Instuctions

Carbonation Chart

WortMonger's thread about Kegs and their benefits to the brewer.

Where to find kegs.