5 Liter Kegs

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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.
I would have never thought to try and reuse these mini kegs. Great informative article, thanks.
There is some coating on the inside of the keg. When this coating starts to fade away, it can lead to rusty kegs.
I don't know if these are available in USA, but here in the Netherlands (and Belgium an Germany) you can buy simple stops to put instead of the bung used in the photos.
Inside the stop is a hole where you can put a pressure release valve. This will release pressure when it gets to much during the last fermentation.
When you are ready to tap from the keg, you take your partytap (the same as in the pictures) and push the pressure release through the stopper. The valve will fall in the beer (no worries) and you continue to push the tap through.
You can see the stopper in use here : http://zooi.oostindie.com/view.php?filename=650DSCF9265_resize.jpg
The stopper with the valve : http://www.brouwmarkt.nl/gummidop-met-drukventiel-voor-drukvat-mini-liter-p-1666.html
Hope this extra info helps :)
Does anyone know a way to hook up a ball lock connection to it? It would be nice to have a few of these for the top shelf of my keg fridge.
Thanks for the extra information. I mainly use the stoppers you refer to. Love the 5 liter setup in the picture! Where can a person get the top apparatus that the hoses attach to that are shown in the photo?
If reusing beer filled kegs, make sure you go for the ones with the bungs as pictured here. I have also bought ones with red plastic bungs which are a total nightmare to remove.
One thing I forgot to mention, when retrieving the center plug from the inside of the keg, when pouring out the water it works best to pull-out and open the lower tap . This allows air to get into the keg and the water comes out with more force. This almost always brings the plug with it first time.
@szap The 'tap' as seen on the photo can be find here: http://www.candirect.de/Zapfvorrichtung-Profi-fuer-5-Liter-Partyfaesser
I tried some of those 5L kegs early in my brewing life... While nice in concept, they are FoF in reality. IMO/IME, NOT worth the money at all. Even with the CO2 tap system/hardware it's not good. The tap will drip and the chances of getting a solid seal around the tube is 50/50 at best.
I'd advise saving your money and getting a corny keg system instead. IF you really want some small kegs, keep an eye out for the 1 gallon Taylor kegs (used to be syrup kegs). A good number of people use those inside normal fridges. Or get some 2.5 gallon or 3 gallon corny kegs. There are even vendors selling corny kegs in the 1-1.5 gallon range that could work in a normal fridge. You can get a compact CO2 system to work with those too.
One other thing to keep in mind. The 5L kegs are NOT designed for much carbonation. While ok for moderately carbonated ales, don't try higher carbonated brews in them. Unless you like the idea of your beer being all over the inside of the fridge (or wherever you keep it).
I don't recognize any of your problems at all.
Just don't use the bung the keg comes with, but buy the bung/stopper I mentioned earlier in my reply.
When you use the stopper with the pressure release, your keg will never blow. It will simply release/dump a to high level of CO2.
The only problem I have with these kegs (to be more specific: the stopper): when you have the tap installed in the keg, there can be a small CO2 leak between the hole in the stopper and the shaft. Not a bug problem at all, but you will have to turn off the CO2 after a night drinking and tapping. Next time you use, you open your CO2 valve to the keg.
They are also great to bring to partys, camping or during a weekend away from home.
I will always take 4 of these kegs with me when we go away for summerholiday :)
edit: since these kegs are a bit more common over here, they are also a lot cheaper.
A new empty keg with stopper/release is about 8 euro. A keg filled with cheap beer on sale can sometimes be found for 6 to 8 euro (you have to get the stopper/release from your local HBS).
We use 20 of these kegs without any significant errors.
I've got a few of these saved but have not reused yet. I like the idea. Only issue with the pre-carb ones is that they get flat if not used right away, similar to a growler. I would like to try the CO2 system if it's not too expensive. The ones I have use a 2 piece top bung for pressure release, and don't have the plastic inside cap. The rubber bung is hard to get out, but not too bad after some practice.
You could try one like this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/PARTY-STAR-DELUXE-5-LITER-MINI-KEG-CO2-TAP-/271332731706?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f2cb0eb3a
But 50 USD is a bit expensive I guess.
I think these party taps are rare in USA?
You can get 5 litre kegs at brewuk (and probably a lhbs) for ?5.99 not including shipping. They also stock bungs.
Do these kegs need to be refrigerated after filling, but before the beer is consumed? Or can they just be stored in a cool place?
The filled kegs can be stored in a cool, or even warm locations. I did have two kegs bulge while being stored in garage during vert hot stretch in the summer. Pretty sure this was due to kegging a little too early more then any problem with the kegs. I would feel comfortable storing the filled kegs anywhere you would store bottles.
I mix priming sugar (usually 1/3 cup) with 2 cups boiling water, cool, and then pour into bottom of bottling bucket before siphoning brew. I then fill the 5 liter kegs to within aprox 1 inch of the top. If you don't use a bottling bucket, I would add priming sugar to the keg before filling.
The filled kegs can be stored in a cool, or even warm locations. I did have two kegs bulge while being stored in garage during vert hot stretch in the summer. Pretty sure this was due to kegging a little too early more then any problem with the kegs. I would feel comfortable storing the filled kegs anywhere you would store bottles.
Does anyone know if the "kegerators" made for these mini kegs have CO2 hookups? I've found some of these on craigslist for $50ish, which seems better than $50 just for the CO2 tap.
Kinda, I am getting ready to post an article that covers this however in the mean time: http://www.instructables.com/id/Krups-Beerteender-Conversion/ that may help you
I don't know much about the Krups Beertender but if the kegerators you are seeing are either the edgestar or the avanti, I would guess the $50 ones do not have CO2 hookups. That being said, if you can get one for $50, with a little searching online you should be able to find the Edgestar conversion kit for around $60. This would give you a setup with CO2 for under $120 that would cost over $200 new.
I just received the edgestar with conversion kit as a gift. I've never kegged before, only bottled. Does the keg still need priming sugar if you're using the co2? If not, can you store unprimed kegs in the fridge until they're ready to get tapped?
While the setup you have would carbonate your beer, it would probably take several of the 16 gram CO2 cartridges to accomplish this. I have always used priming sugar (aprox. 1/3 cup per 5 gallons) in te bottling bucket at the time of kegging and let it carbonate and then used the CO2 to maintain the carbonation and dispense the beer. One thing I did was purchase a Aquatek CGA 320 adapter that let me use a paintball tank on the edgestar regulator. It has to sit outside of my kegerator because the paintball tank is too tall to fit in the included space, but this would probably give enough CO2 to carbonate a 5 liter keg.
How would this work for root beer that requires much more sugar? Are there 5 liter kegs that will handle the pressure...or some sort of pressure relief that automatically limits pressure to avoid a root beer bomb?