Craft The Perfect Draft Mini-Kegs

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About three years ago the brewing bug had bitten pretty hard, according to SWMBO beer was all I ever seemed to talk about. I'll admit that hasn't really changed over the years, but I was surprised to get an EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator as a gift that year. After all I had just bought a new kegging system, connected it to a Perlick tap in my refrigerator and was very happy to finally be drinking fresh draft beer at home. I wasn't sure if I'd be keeping this new kegerator, how often would I use it now that I already had my corny keg setup and working. Long story short I eventually plugged in the kegerator, ran down to the nearest liquor store and brought home a cold five liter Newcastle Brown Ale mini-keg to try.

A quick read of the instructions was all it took to figure out how to flush the beer line clean, snap the connector on the mini-keg and pour myself a cold Newcastle Brown Ale draft beer. It took more time to decide where to keep the EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator than it did to hook it up and get it working. I brewed smaller batches of beer back then and demand would outpace my production capacity, so I'd have to buy beer when the homebrew ran out. The mini-kegs held a lot of beer and were easier to store than bottled or canned beer and the draft beer tasted fresher too. There was also an added bonus, the Mini Kegerator turned out to be a great conversion starter, everyone seemed to like pouring their own beer and hanging around it.

Things got really interesting once I bought the optional conversion kit that lets you keg your own homebrew, naturally carbonate it then pour your very own drafts using a small Co2 regulator. The kit allowed me to serve my own home brewed beer, or any other beer that didn't use the DraughtKeg technology. DraughtKeg's have their own patented self regulating Co2 pressure system built into each mini-keg. This provides enough Co2 to serve an entire mini-keg of beer while keeping the beer inside fresh for up to a month after tapping it. The only shortcoming is there aren't a lot of beers to choose from, Heineken and Newcastle are the only ones I've seen locally. The conversion kit provides the Co2 for serving the beer using an external disposable cartridge and adjustable pressure regulator. Some breweries offer mini-keg fills that can be used in the EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator with the conversion kit.

When naturally carbonating beer inside a mini-keg it's a little different than when using bottles. I used StarSan to sanitize the mini-kegs just like I would when filling bottles or corny kegs but filling them was a bit more challenging. The hole used to fill the mini-keg is pretty small making it hard to see how much beer is inside when filling from a bottling bucket. Calculating the amount of priming sugar to use is different than when using bottles too, the mini-kegs use less sugar because of their shape. Using a small funnel I added four teaspoons of pure cane sugar to each mini-keg, about 50% less than I would have used when filling bottles. I carefully filled the mini-kegs with beer leaving an inch of headspace between the surface of the beer and the top of the mini-keg. The beer was ready to serve in about three weeks and was perfectly carbonated, there was a bit of foaming on the first pours because of the higher Co2 pressure build up while naturally carbonating the beer.

The EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator and the Conversion Kit are a great way to make serving cold draft beer a lot of fun. You can serve beer packaged with DraughtKeg technology, mini-kegs filled at your local brewery, your own home brewed beer or choose a beer available at the liquor store. At last count Heineken Premium Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Coors Light, DAB Original Lager, Spaten Premium Lager, Warsteiner Premium, Paulaner Hefe-weizen, Bitburger, Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, Molson Canadian, George Killians and Bell's Oberon were all available in mini-kegs with more to come. So the next time you're planning a party or thinking about getting a new piece of brewing gear you may want to consider all the options available when using mini-kegs.
Vince Feminella [aka: ScrewyBrewer]
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@ickmund you've got to screw the cartridges into the gauge as quickly as you can to limit the Co2 that leaks out, but once it's tight I've had no leaking at all.
@Ryush806 yes the kegs have a non-metallic liner inside to prevent rusting. I just clean the kegs out after use then turn them upside down to drain. Using a thin soft cloth to blot up most of the moisture inside helps with drying too.
Nice article. I wonder if you could fill one of those from the corny already carbed up? Kind of like filling growlers and bottles. I've had great success with little to no foam by chilling the bottles, priming the line, purging and using a very low psi to fill.
I thought about the mini keg systems I've seen on Midwest site & the like. I wonder if they have cooler/server units that can hold more than one keg? I'd like to get something to fit the space the bottle boxes take up between the Comp hutch & bottling table.** From what I just read of reviews on Midwest's site, the kegs leak half the time &/or pour slowly. Although there kit doesn't include the fancy fridge/server rig. More like a party tap or something. What are your experiences before I shell out $130?
* Found it on Amazon; http://www.amazon.com/Mini-Kegerator-Refrigerator-Draft-Dispenser/dp/B001LTJSU2/ref=pd_sim_k_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1FVM8V7SQ40NQENDP5M4
*PSS- My mechanically-minded side was just thinking of a better bung than those plastic ones to keep it sealed until putting it in some kind of mini-kegerator to tap them. Like one just big enough to hold 4 mini kegs, with maybe a 10lb Co2 bottle & Perlics?
I have 2 and I use them as mini casks for real ale. I have a standard 19L keg system but if i'm brewing something english, I will put at least 5L in the mini casks and prime with 13g of sugar and .25tsp of gelatin. They work great and a much better way to serve a session bitter or mild than a keg.
My understanding of these is that the liner is only good for 4-5 refills. If they were stainless steel, they'd be great!
I've used these but seem to get a very sweet taste from them compared to the beers that I bottle conditioned from the same batch. Anyone else experience this?
@jbierling its a pretty clever design where the hole in the larger softer bung gets plugged with a smaller hard piece of plastic. The smaller piece is tapered so the more Co2 pressure that builds the tighter it seal against the larger bung.
When the beer is ready to serve just wet the dip tube and push the small piece down into the mini-keg, the larger bung fits tightly against the dip tube to prevent any Co2 from escaping.
I have used these kegs for a while now with great success. A word of advise if anyone is planning on reusing ones purchased filled with beer - If the fitted tap is circular instead of a upside down trapezoid shape then avoid, the circular taps will leak. If the bung is a plastic red bit on the outside and a black bit in the middle instead of a soft black rubber outer and a red plastic middle then avoid, the bungs made from the red plastic outer bit are not reusable and a total PITA to remove.
I bought mine for about $22.00 each and I guess mileage will vary depending on use, care and maintenance. I haven't witnessed any rust myself so its hard to say exactly how many uses expect per keg.
Enjoyed your article. This is the setup I started with and still use to some extent (have gone to 5 gal. Kegs but still use the 5 liter to take beer to parties etc.) Here is a link to an article I posted over a year ago that has a few additional pictures.