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My First Attempt at Kegging

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GAbrewer

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So I picked up a few soda kegs recently, a 20 pound CO2 canister with regulator, hoses and connectors, and one dog ugly home-made kegerator with a single tap. The stuff had been sitting around unused for quite a while, so I cleaned and sanitized the hell out of everything. I checked the kegs, bought a few new o-rings, keg lube and such. I also bought another beer side connector, some tubing, and a picnic tap so I could hopefully use more than one keg at a time. As it turns out, it was a good thing I bought the extra line, but I'll get to that later.

The first batch I tried to keg was a stout I had brewed about 2 months ago. It's been in a secondary for about a month. Before racking it, I put the whole carboy in the fridge Monday and let it chill for about 24 hours. My plan was to fill a few bottles to set aside in case I wanted to give some away, and also to compare the bottle-carbed beer to that in the keg. Now, it seemed silly to me to rack it to a bottling bucket since I was going to be kegging most of it. So I just sanitized a few bottles, put some Cooper's tabs in them for carbonation, and prepared to rack the beer out of the carboy. But one thing I learned the hard way is that trying to rack from an autosiphon into the bottle without a bottling wand attached is not a good plan. I ended up overflowing the first bottle and spraying beer all over the place before I clamped the tubing down and got it stopped. Not wanting to repeat this step six more times, I just went ahead and racked the rest of it into the keg, and put the keg back into the fridge for a little while.

Before I tried my hand at carbonating the keg, I figured I'd try to find a way to fill the remaining bottles. I decided to try something similar to the solution listed in BierMuncher's bottle-filler thread. I attached my bottling wand to the picnic tap, attached it to the keg, and then attached the CO2 tank to the keg. This worked and I was able to fill the bottles. After capping those, I was ready to try carbonating the beer in the keg. I tried a method I read about, which was to turn the PSI up to about 35 PSI, and sit in a chair with the keg in my lap and rock it back and forth for several minutes. This is supposed to allow it to carbonate quickly so you don't have to wait so long before drinking. So after doing this I left the keg in the fridge for a little while to let the beer cool off. I didn't leave the C02 tank connected, but I didn't release the excess pressure from the keg either. After a little while, maybe an hour, I released some of the excess pressure from the keg tried dispensing beer from the picnic tap. The first glass was all foam, and the next two weren't much better. After the foam died down, I tried it. It tasted reasonably good, but in spite of all the foam the beer really wan't as carbed as I would have liked.

The next day I tried another glass of my stout. It was a bit better carbed and less foamy, but not much. But now I had another beer I wanted to try kegging, so I figured I'd try this one and see how it turned out. It was an IPA which was had been in the primary bucket for about a month. I had put this one in the fridge at the same time as the first beer to let it cool off. At this time I decided to try connecting my stout to the kegerator tap and see if it worked. Unfortunately I found that beer was dripping from the hex-connector at the shank running through the fridge door. It made a big mess, so I just disconnected it and gave up on that plan for the moment. I think there's supposed to be a washer between the connector and the shank that must of been lost, so I'll have to look for one later. Fortunately, I still had my picnic tap, so I just cleaned it up and switched it to the other keg.

Again I intended to bottle a few beers before kegging the rest. This time I tried racking the beer from the bucket into a few bottles with the bottling wand attached to the auto-siphon. This didn't make a mess, but it didn't work either because the wand got gummed up with trub from the bucket. So again i just racked it all to the keg and used my BMBF clone to fill a few bottles. When that was done, I tried carbing the beer in the keg. This time I set it to about 30 PSI and only shook the keg for about 1 minute. It still had too much foam and not enough carbonation for my liking. I also decided I'd try leaving the keg and tank connected in the fridge for a little while with the gas set to about 12 PSI and see if the cold and gas would allow the beer to carb a little better. But what I found was that after an hour or so of that, my CO2 starts to leak from the coupling between the tank and the regulator. I think that either the washer between the tank and the regulator needs replacing, or perhaps the entire regulator. So I don't dare leave the tank connected and turned on for a long period of time.

At this point I think I'll check the beer tonight and see if it's any better. If it's not, maybe I'll see if I can replace the washers and stop the leak and see if I can carb it using the slower methods. I guess if all else fails I can prime in the keg and just use the CO2 tank to dispense if I can't figure out a better to get it carbed the way I like. I have to say so far that I like not having to clean and sanitize 50 bottles for every batch, but then again I've never had a complaint about the carbonation levels of my bottled beer. Hopefully I can be patient enough to figure out how to get this to work better.

Anyway, here's my ideas as to what I might be doing wrong. Sorry about turning this into a small novel. ;) Feel free to comment or add to this list as you see fit:

1. Maybe I'm just not being patient enough. Maybe a slow method of force carbonation would works better. Unfortunately I don't think it's a good idea to leave the gas on for a long time until I can make sure the connections aren't going to leak. Hopefully the washer is the problem. Money's in short supply right now, so I definitely won't be getting a new regulator right away.

2. Perhaps my lines are too short. The picnic tap I'm using only has about 3 feet of tubing. I've been reading that shorter lines can cause excess foam.

3. I'm not sure the old fridge I'm using is cooling the beer enough, or maybe just too slowly. Judging by the temp on a thermometer I left in the fridge, it's at about 45 F.
 

hopsalot

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If you are force carbing your gas should be on for long periods of time. It will take forever to get it how you want if you don't. Fix your tank/regulator/connections.

Shorter hoses lead to more head, sometimes too much. This is a easy fix; new hoses or less pressure (around 5-8 psi).

45 is cold enough, but this does not deal with your problem
 
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GAbrewer

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Yeah, I plan to try a new washer this weekend. If I need a new regulator, that will probably have to wait until next payday.
 

boogyman

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I've found that force carbing at 30+ psi usually causes more problems than it's worth, since it's a lot harder to hit the correct carbonation on first try. I would recommend just setting to serving PSI and letting it sit until it's carbed. It should take 1 to 1 and a half weeks to get carbed.

With that said, you definitely need to fix your leaks. Use washers and teflon tape if you have to.

As for the line length.. it may be too short, but usually won't be a huge problem if you have your beer at the correct temp and correct carbonation. I would get the other issues fixed first before worrying about line length. If you get the carbonation issue figured out, and it's still foaming, increase your line lengths.
 

underwaterdan

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I have found that you should be patient, I usually wait for a little while and carb that way set to about 12psi or so and let it sit for a week or so. But you will need to fix your problem with the leak because you are obviously wasting a lot of c02, even when you are force carbing imagine how much c02 leaks out during that hour at 35psi.
 

MikeG

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Yikes, you've gone through a lot. I've just resorted to connecting the keg at 12 PSI and leaving it for a week. Luckily I haven't had any leaks but the BM bottling I've done once and wow, what a mess - should get better the next go-round. :tank:
 
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GAbrewer

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Yikes, you've gone through a lot. I've just resorted to connecting the keg at 12 PSI and leaving it for a week. Luckily I haven't had any leaks but the BM bottling I've done once and wow, what a mess - should get better the next go-round. :tank:

Heh, yeah, you know, I think this might be a cautionary tale about why you should buy some things new instead of buying somebody else's old kegging setup that's been sitting in the garage for 10 years. You might save money in the short run, but in the long run you're probably going to spend extra money getting everything back into working order.
 
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It's a good idea to make it common practice when purchasing stuff like this, to always replace seals. Especially after they've been in a garage for 10 years!
The 30PSI Burst carbing still takes 24-36 hours of being ON 30psi. but is hard to monitor the minute it reaches your desired level, so you may spend the next few days venting to bring it back down.
On your first few kegs, I am only on my 4th, I would recommend slow carbing over 1-2 weeks at serving pressure. At least get an idea for your system.
 
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