How to Tap a Keg

If you are about to pick up a keg of beer or have one sitting beside you ready to go there is a good chance you are now wondering how to tap it. We have you covered, in this article, we are going to explain everything you need to know about how to tap a keg and you will be pouring and enjoying a fresh beer in no time.

Step #1 – Identify Your Coupler

The coupler is located at the top of the keg and it is where your tap is going to connect to the keg. There are different types of couplers. In the United States, most kegs are “D” couplers. However, if you are purchasing an imported beer don’t be surprised if it uses an “S” coupler. The merchant you purchase your keg from will be able to confirm which type of coupler your keg requires and in most cases be able to provide you with the coupler itself.

Step #2 – Ice Your Keg

For many reasons it is important to ensure that you are chilling the whole keg and not just the bottom section. Many of the keg buckets people use only ice the bottom third which is a mistake. One of the main reasons you will get too much foam coming out of your keg is because the beer is warm. Chilling all of the keg will result in not just a nice cold beer but also one with the perfect level of head retention.

There are a few methods you can implement when it comes to keeping a keg cold. However, the simplest and most commonly used method is a large bucket filled with ice. We recommend that you buy a large plastic garbage can as it will be big enough to ensure that you are chilling all of the keg and not just the lower portion.

You will want to start chilling your keg at least 2 hours ahead of time. Before placing the keg into the bucket, first, pour a thin layer of ice on the bottom of the bucket and then place the keg on top of it. Begin filling the bucket with ice around the keg, fill it all the way to the top ensuring to cover the top of the kg itself. It is also recommended that you chill the actual tap and line that the beer travels through.

Step #3 – Tap The Keg 
a keg of beer sitting on ice next to the words how to tap a keg.
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If you are simply picking up a keg for a one-time event then most likely you are using what is referred to as a party pump style tap, versus one that is connected to CO2. If you do have the CO2 setup you can read this post: How to change a keg to learn how to tap your keg.

With the party pump the first thing you want to do is remove any covering from the vale at the top of the keg where the coupler will be seated, the covering will usually be plastic or cardboard.

Next, make sure that the handle on the pump is in the up position and not the engaged position. Now look to line up the lugs on the coupler with the openings in the valve. Push down on the coupler to seat it into the valve on the keg.

Once seated, lock the coupler by turning it clockwise approximately 90 degrees. The last step is to lock it into place and engage it by pushing down on the handle on the coupler. As long as there is no foam bubbling up around the coupler you have tapped the keg correctly, if there is you will need to disengage it and tap it again.

Step #4 – Pour The Beer

For the first few pints of beer, you pour do not worry about pumping the tap, the keg will already have enough pressure built up to be able to push the beer out. You will also find that most of the first pint you pour will be foam, that is normal, simply set that pint aside and let the foam subside until it is just liquid and then top it the rest of the way up. Every pint afterward will be beer if you have followed the steps outlined in this article.

Do not get overzealous with the pump. If you pump it too much you can actually create foam. Tilt your glass at a 45-degree angle and point the spigot towards the side of the glass about halfway down the glass starting out, as it fills up aim your spigot higher up and slowly bring the glass back vertical. It is easier to have two people working the tap, one person to fill the beer and the second person to pump the tap if the flow of the beer gets too low.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a keg sit before tapping?

When you bring a beer keg home it will have become agitated somewhat from transporting it, it is recommended that you let it sit for 1-2 hours before tapping it. You can place it in the bucket of ice so it is also cooling down while you wait.

What temperature do you keep kegs at?

Unless you have a kegerator or some other means of dialing in the temperature do not worry too much about this. Keeping the keg in a bucket of ice will create an ideal enough temperature for the keg. However, if you want to dial it in most beer tastes and pours best at approximately 35 degrees F.

Can a keg be tapped twice?

If you are using the party pump you will only be able to tap the keg the one time, this is because these styles of pumps use oxygen to pressurize the keg and oxygen is not good for beer as over time it can cause your beer to become infected and develop off-flavors. If you are using CO2 you can tap your keg repeatedly.

How many beers are in a keg?

It depends on which size keg you purchase. The ½ BBL is the most popular style keg that people pick up for large functions, and it holds the equivalent of approximately 165 twelve-ounce beers. To find out how much beer is in the varying t keg sizes you can check out this post: How many beer in a keg?

Cheers, Big Robb is Out!

Big Robb with a pint of home brewed beer
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P.S. If you make your own beer or would like to get started, I recommend you grab the recipes for my top 5 best-selling beers from my brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on a smart device. Enjoy!

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