How to Keg

Kegging your beer is a great way to store and serve your beer, freeing you from the need to sanitize and fill bottles.  In this article, we will cover the basics of Kegging.

Overview

Kegging is the process of storing a complete or partial batch of beer in a stainless steel pressurized container.

Breweries usually use kegs that have names like 1/4 barrel, "pony" kegs, etc., in capacities of 15 gallons or so.

A "Sankey" commercial keg.  

To fill and use a brewery keg requires some specialized equipment.  And this is beyond the scope of most homebrewers.

Homebrewers usually use kegs that have been used by the soda industry to hold syrup, "soda kegs".  The soda manufacturing industry has millions of these kegs and they usually hold 5 gallons (whoa!  That's a typical homebrew batch!)

A typical homebrew kegging setup.

To fill and use a  soda keg requires very simple inexpensive fittings and is fairly easy and straight-forward.

Soda Kegs come in two basic varieties - "Coke" and "Pepsi", which are also known as "Pin Lock" and Ball Lock".  The Pin Lock has pins that stick out on the connectors of the keg to hold the fittings on.  The Ball Lock does not have pins, but uses internal ball bearings in the connectors to hold the fittings on.  The Ball Lock is by far the most popular and readily available keg used by homebrewers.  However, what ever style you use, the beer will not care and the basic operation is the same.

"pin lock"                                                            "ball lock"

 

Parts Needed

You will need:

A keg, Gas-in fitting, Product-out fitting, "Cobra Tap", 2 lengths of hose, hose clamps, CO2 regulator, and a CO2 tank.

Keg - Typically a 5 gal used soda keg, Ball-Lock (most popular a.k.a Pepsi) or Pin-Lock (a.k.a. Coke)

Gas-In fitting - CO2 gas is introduced into the keg via this fitting.  Usually Grey with or without a "IN" label.

Product (Beer)-Out fitting - Product (beer) is pushed out by CO2 from the tank through this fitting. Usually Black with or without an "OUT" label.

Cobra-Tap - attached via hose to Product-out fitting.  This has a lever attached to a valve to release the beer into the serving glass.

Hoses - The dispensing hose must be 1/4 or 3/8" ID hose about 4 feet long.  This is because the internal pressure of carbonated beer is about 12 lbs.  The pressure drop of skinny hose is such that internal pressure is maintained will allowing a reasonable product flow.  To large bore results in low pressure drop, and thus the carbonation level is allowed to drop over time while dispensing.  The Gas (CO2) hose can be whatever size will fit on the regulator and the CO2 Gas-In Fitting (typical 1/4" - 5/8").

Regulator - Dual Gauge regulator for CO2.

Kegging Day Description and Step-by-Step

Fill Clean Keg with a No-Rinse sanitizer (such as StarSan) to the top.

Dangle the lid with o-ring into keg.

Wait a few minutes, close lid, pressure out sanitizer through dispensing tap assembly.

Release any remaining pressure.  Move to where you will be kegging.  Remove lid (note - try to work quickly at this point to maintain CO2 purged atmosphere inside keg, i.e.  try not to leave open more than 10 minutes or so.)

Siphon from fermenter into keg.

Close keg lid. Attached CO2 gas-in.

Pressure to 20 - 30 lbs CO2 (regulator gauge), leave gas ON.

Put keg on side with CO2 gas-in on the low side (nearest floor).

Rock keg vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes.  You should hear the CO2 bubbling into the Keg.

Stand keg back up.  Turn off CO2.  Wait a few minutes for foaming to subside, vent off some pressure - dispense a beer.

Troubleshooting

Not Enough Carbonation -  (1) Put keg back on side, turn on CO2, shake for 1 minute, test again.  (2)  It helps if the beer is chilled.

Too Much Carbonation - (1) Bleed off all pressure. (1) Put keg back on side, CO2 off, shake for 1 minute, test again.

Excessive Foaming - (1) Beer should be cold. (2) All lines should be same temperature - warm lines and cold beer cause foaming. (3) Always dispense with tap all-the way on, do not "throttle beer". (4)  Check for pieces of trash trapped either in the post valves (disassemble) or in dip-tube or any fittings.  Trash will cause turbulence which will cause foaming.

Not Holding Pressure - There is a leak.  (1) Turn on CO2 to pressurize tank.  (2) Make up soapy water solution.  (3) splash on all fittings.  (4)  Leaks will show as growing bubbles.