Kegging homebrew… should you do it, what you need, and how to keg.
All of this is what I am going to cover in today’s post for you…
As a brew pub owner obviously I keg on a very regular basis and it may surprise some of you, I actually still do it the old-fashioned home brewing way… corny kegs and all… which means I have tons of experience to share with you.
I kegged 12 kegs of beer just yesterday in fact! 🙂
Now having said that when I make my own batch of beer at home, I will actually not always keg the beer. I actually prefer the taste of bottle conditioned beer better than kegged beer. I like the carbonation of bottled beer better, it also has a better mouthfeel, head retention and taste in my opinion than kegged beer.
So if you are a homebrewer do not feel like it is a must to move to kegging… no question there are many advantages to kegging but it is not a necessity and you may find that like me you prefer bottled beer better and do not mind the extra time it takes to bottle?
Maybe?!? Maybe Not?!?
So Should You Keg Your HomeBrew
I would say yes… even though bottle conditioned beer tastes better, the difference in taste is not drastic and the advantages of kegging homebrew are freaking significant.
Let’s look at just a few of the reasons why kegging is better:
1) Cleaning and sanitizing bottles is one huge pain in the arse. Major win for kegging. I don’t care what gadget you have for cleaning your bottles, it still takes up a hell of a lot more time than cleaning a keg…
Empty old beer from bottle… rinse bottle… clean bottle… sanitize bottle… put bottle away until next batch… sanitize bottle again… rinse bottle… do it another 24 – 40 times depending on bottle size you use…. ah hell no!
With kegging… do it one time, done!
2) Filling bottles vs filling the keg. Big win for the keg here. Put the fill up hose in the keg and open up the tap baby, done!
Bottling… major pain… take a bottle… fill the bottle… cap the bottle… do it 24 – 40 more times depending on your bottle size.
3) Carbonating. The worst part of bottling homebrew is waiting for the beer to be ready…
2 weeks of bottle conditioning is the longest 2 weeks in a home brewers life. Kegging beer… two days or less and if done correctly (I’ll explain below) and you have perfectly carbonated beer… consumption time!
What Equipment You Need
When I first thought it would be cool to keg my beer, I held off for a while because I was intimidated by the process. I figured it would be a daunting task, very complicated and expensive to get started.
I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on all the above.
Kegging is not hard or complicated and it is not that expensive.
So let’s take a look at the equipment you will need to get started.
1) A Keg! Starting out I recommend going with a corny keg; AKA the old Pepsi and coke kegs. They work great, are easy to clean, easy to fill with your beer and are a heck of a lot less expensive than the fancy sanke kegs.
2) A C02 tank. When I started kegging I purchased a 5lb tank. This was the most expensive component of the system. Having said that, in hindsight I would have purchased a 10lb or even a 20lb tank, simply because the gas lasts longer and the cost to fill a 5b verses a 20lb is pretty much the same.
3) A Keg Regulator. The regulator connects directly to the C02 tank. It controls the flow of gas from the tank to the keg. Depending on how fast you are carbonating the beer the PSI will be set higher or lower.
I do recommend a dual gauge regulator. The dual gauge shows you how much gas is still in your tank, so you will know when it is getting lower. The dual gauge regulator is not a necessity but the price for one is about the same as a single, so might as well have it.
4) Keg Disconnects. These connect to the keg and allow the gas in and the beer out. Depending on if you get a coke or Pepsi Cornelius keg you will require either a ball lock disconnect set (Pepsi) or a pin lock disconnect set (Coke).
5) Faucet Picnic Tap. This attaches to the liquid line to pour you the homebrew. Starting out, I would simply recommend pouring out of a picnic tap. Later on as you advance in kegging you can build a kegerator and get yourself some nice fancy tap handles.
6) Gas and Beer Line. You will need two lines. A gas line to go from the regulator to the keg and a beer (liquid) line to go from keg to picnic tap.
7) Fridge. You do not need a fancy kegerator or a fridge to start. I started out with just a little bar fridge. I ripped the shelves out of it and doing so made enough room to house 1 keg and the 5lb C02 tank within. Worked just fine.
So that is it for equipment my friend… pretty straight forward.
I have found that Adventures in Homebrewing is a great place to be able to get all the equipment I just listed. They are reasonably priced and I have always had great luck when dealing with them.
How To Keg Your Beer
You would think this would be really straight forward, but although not difficult there are a few things you need to know to keg your beer correctly.
1) Filling Your Keg. OK you would think this step would be very straight forward and simple. I sure did the first time I kegged, and boy was I wrong. I figured just put the spigot of the fermenter over the opening of the keg and let the beer pour into the keg…
… if you have been brewing a while you already know how stupid of a mistake I made without even telling you. By just letting the beer pour in, I oxygenated the hell out of the beer… wrong thing to do!
Now having said that… this is Make Beer Easy and I do not like to over complicate things, and I do tend to buck the supposed tried and tested BS that the brewing Goo Roo’s like to spew… and to be honest, even though I do NOT recommend you do what I did… the beer turned out just fine in the end! (oxygenated and all)
However the proper thing to do and what I now do… is get yourself some beer line… put it on the end of your fermenter’s spigot or siphon and put the other end into the keg… all the way down to the bottom of the keg… so that when you fill it; it does so from the bottom and does not splash the beer around… aka oxygenating it….
2) Seal the Keg. Put the keg cover on. Sometimes I put Keg Lube around the gasket to seal the keg better. Vaseline works just as good and is less expensive.
3) Purge the Keg of Oxygen. After you have filled your keg with beer, put the lid on the keg, now you connect the gas line to the keg. Give the keg a good shot of gas, I do so at 35 psi. A couple of seconds is fine.
Now you need to release the C02 you just put it… with the Pepsi Cornelius kegs they have pressure release valves at the top that you just pull to release the gas.
With the Coke corny kegs you will have to release the gas through the pin lock disconnect. With my Coke kegs I bought a separate pin lock gas disconnect, put some gas line on it and use it to release the gas.
Now some of the Goo Roo’s’ we talked about will tell you that when kegging homebrew you will want to purge the keg 5-7 times… I have found no difference in the results of the beer if I do this twice verses if I do this seven times. So I purge twice… keep it simple baby!
4) Connect the Keg to the Gas. Time to carbonate the bad boy. Connect the gas line to the keg and turn that C02 on baby! Put keg in the fridge. You want to carbonate cold.
Now I know your next question….
How Long Do I Carbonate For?
The answer is it depends on how fast you want to drink your home brew?
1) Wait 5-7 Days. If you can wait 5-7 days… turn the gas up to about 10 – 12 psi… your system will be slightly different. So after a couple of days try the beer and see how it is tasting. My system at home I have found that 12 psi for 5 days carbonates very nicely. Yours may turn out to be 10 psi for 7 days, etc.
2) Wait 48 Hours. If you want beer ready in 48 hours, the following method carbonates the beer perfectly. Hook the beer up to 35 psi… leave it on the gas for 24 hours. Turn the gas off and let the beer sit for 24 hours. After that you will have perfectly carbonated beer.
3) Wait 5 Minutes. Yup… you can carbonate beer in 5 minutes. I do not like this method, but it works (kinda)… I have not had great luck with it, but when in a crunch it will give you carbonated beer. I just find it is not that great of a carbonation, very foamy, etc.
Anyhow what you do is you connect the keg to the gas… turn the psi up to 35… lay the keg on its side (still connected to the gas)… and than roll that keg back and forth on the ground for 5 minutes.
Yup as stupid as it sounds… it will carbonate your beer.
Here is a Tip for You to Get a Perfect & Fast Carbonation Every Time:
A very very very cool way to carbonate beer and it works incredibly well… takes 30 – 60 minutes… is to pick up a QuickCarb by Blichmann. It’s a product by Blichmaan (obviously), that you connect to your keg and the C02 tank and it carbonates your beer for you. This machine works incredibly well. We use it when in a pinch at our pub. If we are getting low on beer we keg some up really quick, fire up the QuickCarb and within 30 – 60 minutes we have perfectly carbonated beer.
That’s it my friend… piece of cake! Don’t be intimidated by kegging homebrew. It’s not hard and if I can do it than you can! 🙂
The last quick thing to cover is what psi to keep the beer at while drinking/serving it… this will be something you have to test for yourself. It will be somewhere between 5 – 10 psi typically… adjust it as you see fit… too foamy turn it down… beer pours to slow turn it up… etc.
That’s it… If I can help you to get going with kegging let me know in the comments section below… always happy to help!
Need more help making that perfect beer? Check out the following post => How to Home Brew – The Complete Guide
Note: Also if you are going to pick up your own kegging gear… do ‘ol Big Robb a favor and take a look at some of our recommended vendors.
If you end up buying your gear from them they will send me a few pennies for sending you their way. Helps keep this site live and buys me the odd pour of beer! Cheers Big Robb is out.