Kegging Your Beer

complete-cornelius-keg-setupIf you’re tired of cleaning and filling countless bottles you might want to consider kegging your beer. You can keg your beer in minutes and enjoy drinking it in as little as 3-4 days. It’s very satisfying to be able to squeeze a tap and draw off a pint or a jug of beer. The only drawback to kegging is that it’s not as portable as bottles but most brewers will happily trade this inconvenience for the advantages kegging offers. However if you want the best of both worlds you can purchase a special counter-pressure bottle filler that will let you fill bottles from your keg.

Where to Start

The initial start-up cost may seem high at $295 plus it works best if you have a spare refrigerator to store the keg in. However when most brewers take the plunge they wonder why it took them so long and they would never go back to washing and capping bottles.

Here are the components of a basic starter kit:

  • CO2 Tank – Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is used to carbonate and dispense beer. CO2 is stored as a liquid at very high pressure so it needs a strong tank to hold it. Our tanks are new and have been inspected and filled with CO2 gas.
  • Regulator – CO2 gas is stored at up to 1000 psi but you want to dispense it at around 12 psi. The regulator does this job for you. Our regulators are dual gauge. One gauge shows the pressure in the tank while the other shows the dispensing pressure.
  • Cornelius Keg – These are usually used and reconditioned soda kegs but new ones are available at about three times the price. Cornelius kegs are stainless steel and hold 18.9 litres or 5 US Gallons and are perfect for storing your beer.
  • Gas and Dispensing Hoses – The gas hose runs to the CO2 tank while the dispensing hose runs from the keg. The length of the dispensing hose is important to get the proper pour. If your hose is too short or long you will end up getting a glass full of foam. If you keep your beer refrigerated you will want about 3-4 feet of dispensing hose.
  • Quick Disconnects – These are the fittings that connect the gas and dispensing hoses to the CO2 tank and keg. They come in two styles: pin-lock and ball-lock. Our kegs have the ball-lock system which make changing out kegs fast and easy with no wrenches required.
  • Tap – We have to get the beer out! The tap attaches to one end of the dispensing hose. The basic kit comes with a black picnic-style thumb tap but much more elaborate taps are available.
  • Refrigerator – Although not really necessary a refrigerator makes kegging much easier. If you don’t have a refrigerator you will have to carbonate your beer at a higher pressure and therefore you will need a longer dispensing hose to bleed off the extra pressure. Warmer beer will also take longer to carbonate—sometimes up to two weeks.

Preparing and Filling the Keg

Make sure to check all connections for leaks. You don’t want to your tank of CO2 to leak out overnight. Use soapy water to check connections. You’ll see bubbles if there’s leaks. If this happens tighten or reseal your fittings again until you’re sure there are no leaks.

Sanitize the keg then siphon your beer into it. Close the lid and attach the gas hose. Open the gas valve with the gauge set to 12 lbs pressure. When the gas stops entering turn off the valve and bleed the gas from the keg by lifting the release valve on top of the keg. Repeat this 2 more times to purge air from the keg. Give the keg one last shot of gas with the pressure set to 20 lbs. This higher pressure will help to seat the seals and less chance of leaking.

Carbonating Your Beer

While you can naturally carbonate your beer by adding sugar, most people force carbonate it with the CO2 from the tank. The easiest way to do this is to put the beer in a fridge, set the pressure from 12-14 lbs and leave it for three to four days. Your beer is then ready to enjoy!

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