Starting kegging from scratch, want to do it right the first time

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TallDan

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You need to know one thing: Apparently JohnnyRotten gets a commission every time someone uses a Sanke keg. For reasons nobody knows, he feels it's his mission to spread their gospel, and denigrate the use of the old and inexpensive standby, corny kegs.

Now, he may be right about the superiority of sanke kegs over corny kegs. I don't know. I've actually thought about trying them, but I'd A) have to buy a bunch at a higher price than corny kegs, B) I'd have to replace the fittings I use to connect them. The cost issue is significant.

In the meantime, you have to ask why, when Sanke kegs are out there, so few homebrewers use them. I wish there was a cheap way to try them, but it's rare to find them for sale used, and when you do, you have to wonder whether the owner is selling something that actually is the property of a brewery.
If you think it's rare to find them used, it's because you haven't looked:
https://www.probrewer.com/classified-ads/ad-category/used-kegging-and-cooperage/
 

JONNYROTTEN

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You need to know one thing: Apparently JohnnyRotten gets a commission every time someone uses a Sanke keg. For reasons nobody knows, he feels it's his mission to spread their gospel, and denigrate the use of the old and inexpensive standby, corny kegs.
The real question is why do feel the need to comment on something you've never tried.... Now send me my $5 and go away
 
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Beernik

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It does seem like a trade-off if a bunch of little things vs. a couple expensive things.

The extra 2-inches of height isn’t a big deal to me. It’s probably a better design with it. I may shorten the casters from 4 to 3-inch to compensate. I’ll have to run a call on the final design’s weight.

I won’t make a decision on ball kegs vs sanke until I make a parts list and cost both options out. Sanke’s look like all the parts are more expensive but there are fewer parts to buy.

I’m planning to buy everything new anyway. I learned with bottles to stop asking friends for their empties because I received too many “ash trays.” With kegs, I don’t want to risk inheriting anyone else’s problems.
 

day_trippr

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When the soda industry transitioned from kegs to BiB it freed an unfathomable number of 5 gallon cornelius kegs with basically nowhere to go. There was so little perceived value that likely millions were sold for scrap even as homebrewers got the idea to use them.

Meanwhile, sanke kegs didn't even appear in the US until the very late 70s, first in half barrel and then quarter sizes (sixtels were considerably later), virtually every one of them were the property of breweries and there was no retail market for new kegs due to the daunting price tag compared to cheap cornies. And that's still pretty much the case - nothing has really changed there.

Going forward...unlike the cornelius paradigm I don't see used sankes flooding the market anytime soon simply because they are in fact the current commercial standard. Unless plastic kegs suddenly become en vogue, anyway...

Cheers!
 

TallDan

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If you insist on comparing the price of an old used corny to a new sanke, yes, the price difference is huge. I also paid $35-45 ea for my corny kegs, but I've had to replace most of the seals, half of the poppets, and a lid. Add that to their prices and the difference narrows. I've also lost gallons of beer to leaky poppets, and at least 10lb of co2 to leaky lids and seals over the years. Add that to the price and I'd have been better off with sankes.

If you're patient and keep an eye out for used sankes, you'll find deals, just like if you do the same with cornies. Another thread here, a guy said he has a line on them for $25 each. If you look a new cornies and new sankes, the prices are very similar.

The question here was along the lines of "if you could start over" and "do it right the first time". To me, if i was starting over, i'd go sanke.

Another thing to consider is the cost of the entire life of the keg, including residual value. If used sankes are worth $50, and used cornies are only worth $30, and you can buy either one new for $80, which is the better deal? Oh, you're going to homebrew forever so you're not worried about residual value? Then you probably aren't too worried about the minor upfront cost difference, and would prefer the lower maintenance option: sanke. All of those replacement poppets and seals will add up over time.
 

william_shakes_beer

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I have a 5cf freezer with 2 taps and 3 kegs. 2 serving and one on deck carbing. Never run out of beer. I have a 10#co2 tank and gages inside. I have a dual pressure regulator so I *could * set one at serving pressure and one at a higher pressure for force carbing. However, both zones are set to the same pressure, since it takes me multiple months to kick a keg and I can carb at serving pressure to keep my life simple.
 
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Beernik

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@william_shakes_beer,

This sounds a lot like what I was doing with bottles and would be done once I get kegs in place. I was traveling a lot for my job then and it was easier to schedule one day for just brewing than to try to mix it in my daily activities. I’d brew back-to-back beers, ferment them, & bottle them together. I usually did two styles that could take the same yeast starter to keep it simple.

Then I’d spend the next two or three months working my way through 8 to 10 gallons of beer.
 

eulipion2

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When I built my kegerator I knew I wanted stainless hardware because it'll never wear out. All my shanks are stainless, all my faucets are stainless (Perlick & Intertap, all flow control), and now even my quick disconnects are stainless (~$15/each from Williams Brewing, occasionally on sale). My tubing is Bev-Seal Ultra with (plastic) push-in fittings (buy a couple extra in case one breaks.)

I prefer flare fittings to barbs for the sake of convenience in cleaning, swapping, and otherwise messing with my system. If you ever want to use a Sanke keg you can get a flared tailpiece that will work with a Sanke coupler, like this:

Or you can get a ball lock-to-Sanke adapter so you don't even need to swap out your disconnect, like this:

I've also used the flare tailpiece when one of my push-in shank fittings broke and I didn't have a spare, but did have a spare push-in flare fitting. Adaptability will set you free.

Also, I swapped out all my corny keg poppets for "universal" poppets rather than have to deal with tracking down brand-specific poppets, which is pretty nice, but I've discovered recently that a couple of my stainless disconnects need a very stiff poppet spring to provide enough back pressure to fully open the disconnect.

I use a bulkhead with a keg post for to run my gas through:



The last thing, I thought I might want to do nitro at some point, so I built in an added line for nitro. My two taps closest to the nitro line are the Intertaps so that I can swap the standard nozzle for the stout nozzle. I still haven't used it yet, but it's there, ready and waiting.

Good luck with your build!
 

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Beernik

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Thanks.

I need a reality check on some preliminary design dimensions:
Top of bar: 43”
Center of tap: 51”
Minimum top of tap handle: 55” (assumes a 4” tap handle)

I cut the casters down to 2 inch to get it that low, but I’m thinking I need to raise it back up to at least a 3” caster.

They seem a bit tall for the average person, but I’m 6’-1”.
 
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Beernik

Beernik

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I started thinking about maybe having a 3 gallon keg with a hand pump for cold brew coffee. That way I could brew a whole bunch and have it ready for me when I leave the house at 5am.

That was until I tried some for the first time today and it tasted too weak. I’ll stick with espresso or French press.

UPDATE: My wife just saw a picture of a 3-tap stainless steel Kegco dispenser and said, “I’d let you have that in the kitchen.” So now I have to keep the cost under $850+tax to justify the build project.

I’d still have to replace the chrome taps and regulator on it.
 
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Beernik

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If I did a KegCo unit, I’m guessing:
For a Sanke system, I only need to. add
- 2 sanke kegs
- keg spear removal tool

For a Ball Lock system, I only need to add
- 3 ball lock kegs
- keg wrench

For either system, I’d want to replace:
- chrome faucets with stainless steel flow control faucets
- single secondary regulator with 2 or 3 secondary regulator manifold

If this is correct, I could do either a 2 sanke sixtle system for about $1,280 or 3 five-gallon ball lock system for about $1,420 (everything new) and my wife would let me put it in the kitchen.
 
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Beernik

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I just priced out my build design. The Sanke system is $400 more expensive than the KegCo but I get a 3rd keg. The Ball Lock system is almost exactly the same price as the KegCo version but I’d have the ability to expand to a 4th keg.

But my build design would be relegated to either the garage or my office.

I hate to say it, but I think for the sake of marital harmony & kitchen convenience, I’ll be going with a KegCo unit.

Maybe there’s a way I can get racing stripes on it... :D
 

TallDan

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You might want to see what you can find out about the noise level and power use of the kegco. They look very similar to the perlick kegerator that I had when I started. While I liked the look and the great build quality of the perlick, it was quite a bit louder and power hungry than the upright keezer that I replaced it with.
 
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Beernik

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Reading some reviews, it sounds like the nuts that hold the chiller plate are notorious for causing a loud popping sound. They can be replaced with nylon nuts and the sound goes away.

Otherwise, the fan & compressor don’t sound like they are overly loud.
 

Tyler Hurst

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I used to think exactly the same as you “I always run out of beer before I get a chance to brew again I’ll be fine with a keezer that only holds two kegs?”
Not the case for me. I wish I would have invested in a system that holds at least four kegs.
 

TallDan

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Reading some reviews, it sounds like the nuts that hold the chiller plate are notorious for causing a loud popping sound. They can be replaced with nylon nuts and the sound goes away.

Otherwise, the fan & compressor don’t sound like they are overly loud.
I don't think that the perlick was necessarily considered loud for it's intended (commercial) use either. Loud for a bar or restaurant that always has lots of people talking and some TVs or music going is different than loud for my kitchen though. I suspect I'm also paying more attention to that than most people though, I like when I'm home alone and the house is very quiet.

I used to think exactly the same as you “I always run out of beer before I get a chance to brew again I’ll be fine with a keezer that only holds two kegs?”
Not the case for me. I wish I would have invested in a system that holds at least four kegs.
My initial thought was more along the lines of "I'll still drink commercial beer for variety, so only one tap is fine." Thing is, I still wanted to brew a big imperial stout and didn't want to tie up my only tap with it. Four taps works well for me, three would even be OK, especially if i had room for a fourth "on deck" keg to cold condition and carbonate. I often end up with only three taps active.
 
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Beernik

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Before this 3.5 year break, I brewed for over a decade. I’m fairly confident in my burn rate.

The reason I’m switching from bottles to kegs is my old, old place had a great cellar with lots of shelving for bottles. In my new, new place there is no basement and I’d have to store bottles at room temperature in a closet. Kegs will be more space efficient.

Having a 3rd tap would make rotation easier or I could have seltzer water or ginger ale in it.

I’ll have a separate ferm chamber and I could get kegs carbonated and ready there.
 
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Beernik

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If I do the KegCo option, I have permission to slide it in the pantry if I put shelves in the pantry afterwards. I just need to check that I can put a 24” wide appliance behind a 24” door without removing the door frame. (The bastard who build my condo didn’t check if the water heater could fit through the door frame before framing it. I’m not making that same mistake.)

I also found where KegCo units can also be custom ordered from the Beverage Factory website. I’ve got the cost just under $1000 plus tax, shipping, and the actual kegs.

Only 5 days until moving day.

27FDE5E2-FCC9-468A-BB00-D1C4C3776A0D.jpeg
 
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Beernik

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So, I’m looking over my old ‘dwarf’ sized condo fridge I just replaced with a full sized side-by-side and realized I may be able to slide a sixtle sanke with a low profile dispenser in the fridge compartment.

The dimensions above the compressor hump are: 25” tall x 20” wide x 18.5” deep. I’d replace the bottom plastic shelve with plywood or HDPE and place the co2 tank next to the compressor, below it.

How much can I trust the height on a sixtle keg is 23 3/8” tall and that a low profile tap only raises it 1” above that?
 
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Beernik

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Apparently the right way is:
1. Pitch a bunch of ideas your wife hates.
2. Agree it should be a chest freezer with wood exterior.
3. Wife changes mine & all appliances must be stainless steel.
4. Decide to buy a KegCo because it’s stainless steel & the same cost as your wooden build.
5. Wait a month.
6. Get ready to buy the KegCo & realize your old fridge meets the wife’s criteria of being stainless steel.
7. Pitch to wife the idea of using the old fridge.
8. Argue about the old fridge. Wife now insists it must be wood and have a built in liquor cabinet.
9. Wait another week before revisiting the original wooden design. Realize adding a liquor cabinet won’t be too difficult.
10. Find a Insignia 10.2 cf freezer on sale at Best Buy for $270.

I placed the order today. It will be here next Friday & I can finalize the design. I don’t have the interior dimensions on it, but it should be able to hold 6 ball lock kegs.

Still haven’t decided on ball vs sanke yet. I want to see what the interior layout with the compressor bump looks like first.
 
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Beernik

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I finally found interior dimensions for this freezer. Drafting it up, it should fit six sixtel sanke kegs with low profile connectors without needing a collar. Ball kegs or standard D-connectors would need a 4” collar.

If it measures true, I’ll buy the sixtels and low profile connectors to save myself the work.

EDIT: looks like a 5lb cylinder won’t fit on the compressor hump without a collar. It will have to be configured as 5 kegs and a cylinder or 3 kegs, a bucket, & a cylinder.
 
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Beernik

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I’m resurrecting my zombie thread because I’m brewing again, finally have the time & money to build, and have another question:

I’m building a coffin keezer.

My freezer is large enough I can put the CO2 tank inside the freezer, but I understand that causes problems with not knowing how much gas is left in the tank.

I don’t want my tank sitting out in the open, so I’m thinking about putting in a hidden compartment accessible only through the backside or when the lid is up. The other option is make a pocket door on the front.

Has anyone else tried this?

Edit: “pocket door” isn’t the right term. I mean a pocket space with a cupboard door on it.
 
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TallDan

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I understand that causes problems with not knowing how much gas is left in the tank.
No, it doesn’t really change that. The pressure in the co2 tank will depend on temperature, but it’s not telling you how much gas is left anyway. It’s just telling you that you’re not out of gas yet. If it’s more convenient to keep the co2 in the keezer, do it. The only downside is that it takes up space that could be used to keep more beer cold.
 
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Beernik

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That’s good to know.

I’ve got a 3 tap tower. Knowing how I drink, I’m fairly confident 15 gallons on tap is plenty. But also knowing my history with equipment, I know if I’m not planning for expansion, I’m not planning properly.

If I keep the CO2 tank out, I can expand to 5 kegs inside. With built in cabinets, I could put on a second 3 tap tower and keep the 6th keg in a cabinet and full of warm ginger ale or soda water. With built-in cabinets, I would also have room for a nitro tank addition.

I’ve been reworking the design the last couple days.

This exercise helped me figure out three more things. 1) I can put back in the built-in liquor cabinet across the front and keep the width of the keezer less than 2.5-feet wide (doorway width). 2) I have a spot to hide a built-in power outlet and route all the electric (fans, temp control, etc.) to it so I only need to take one cord to the wall. 3) I’ll have a storage spot for keg tools, keg lube, PBW, StarSan, etc.
 
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Beernik

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Designed the front view today.
- I verified the liquor cabinet will fit most standard bottles.
- I verified the 6 keg/2 tower expansion works.
- I verified I can fit a CO2 tank, an N2 tank, & a keg in one cabinet.
 
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