Why I Keg
I switched to kegs from bottles less than a year after I started brewing. Kegging offers the ability to control carbonation better plus less hassle when filling. Only one container to sanitize, only one siphon to start. Right now I have a small under counter refrigerator (no freezer compartment) that can hold two 5 gallon cornelius or “corny” kegs. These kegs are perfect for homebrewing as they hold 5 gallons, have parts that are readily available and are themselves available used for relatively cheap.
Some of you who worked in the food service industry a while ago may recognize these, yes these once were commonly used to hold syrup and lived under soda fountains to mix with the carbonated water to make soda! Now they are no longer used as the industry has moved to a more disposable system, which is actually great for us homebrewers because these can be had used for not too much money. A good cleaning, refresh some of the gaskets and get a couple fittings and presto! you have the perfect homebrew kegging system.
What I’m Kegging
The beer I’m kegging today is actually the first I’ve brewed in almost 2 years. I brewed it the day after Christmas (before I started the blog so no writeup, though maybe I’ll post the recipe in a later post) .It’s an old recipe that I make every year for our family reunion on the lake. The lake is a little inland lake that my dad always likes to point out is full of “goose and duck shit,” hence the name of the beer. It tastes good, I’ve tweaked the recipe to the point where I like it and can reproduce it pretty easily. Basically it was an easy start back into brewing for me.
Anyway now it’s done fermenting. Technically I probably should rack it into a secondary and let it sit for a while, but I’m impatient and want to have something on tap again. Plus, it’s homebrew, so what if it’s not completely perfect.
How to Keg – Equipment and Directions
- Sanitizer solution
- Racking cane or Auto-siphon
- Siphon Tubing
- 5 gallon bucket – not necessary but useful
- Beer (duh!)
- Pull fermenter full of tasty beer out of the cool, dark place you’ve been keeping it and place it on a high shelf or counter. This is necessary to get a good siphon. Let the fermenter settle again while you clean and sanitize.
- Gather your supplies. Disassemble all keg parts and clean thoroughly. Sanitize keg and all parts. Dump sanitizer solution into 5 gallon bucket and reassemble keg. When reassembling the keg, most kegs have a stamped “In” and “Out” on the outside of the keg, and while you don’t need to follow those directions it is VERY helpful to put the short gas tube and gas fitting on the “In” side while the long liquid dip tube and the liquid fitting goes on the “Out” side. There is a difference between the gas fitting and the liquid fitting so pay attention to that. Mixing those fittings up can lead to a poor fit and I’ve seen the plastic fittings that connect the CO2 tank to the keg explode because of built-up pressure. Sanitize siphon tubing and racking cane/auto-siphon.
- Pull stopper and airlock off fermenter. Attach tubing to racking cane or auto-siphon and insert into fermenter. Place other end of tubing into keg. Start siphon. That last sentence is only two words but can be a bear. Full disclosure, my first brewing kit came with an auto-siphon and that is the only thing I have ever used to start a siphon with. Using a racking cane seems difficult to me though I know people do it. To each their own, but I prefer the ease of an auto-siphon
- Fill keg with beer. When keg is almost full or when siphon gets down to the yeast cake stop the siphon. Seal keg.
- Attach CO2 supply to keg with plastic fittings and send gas to the keg at a very low pressure. If you don’t hear the slight sound of gas entering the keg, double check all your fittings. The top of the keg should have a blow-off valve, open that and make sure the keg is pressurized. Open this blow-off valve a few times, each time letting the keg fill up with CO2 again. This helps to remove oxygen from the keg since CO2 will displace the oxygen, which prevents oxygenation of your beer and the nasty flavors that can result.
- Once you’re sure CO2 is being supplied to the keg, bring the pressure up to normal pressure (I use 11psi at 38°F but you can change that depending on how carbonated you want your beer to be and what temperature you keep it at). Listen for any leaks. Sometimes I’ll bring the pressure up higher for the first couple days to carbonate the beer a little faster though I’m not sure how well that actually works. Other people suggest bringing the pressure up and shaking the keg to carbonate more quickly. Again, the times I’ve tried that I haven’t had much luck but YMMV.
After kegging, place keg in refrigerator and allow to sit. I’m usually impatient with my beers and try them after 24 hours and as soon as they reach an acceptable level of carbonation I’m drinking them. That is not the ideal so it’s something I’m working on. Letting the beer sit for days or weeks is much better for it and I always notice improvement in the beer over the next week or two as I’m drinking it. But that’s it. The beer is in the keg, at some point I hook up the liquid line to my taps and I’m ready to roll!
If you’d like more information about kegging, including how to calculate volumes of CO2 and how to dispense from your system you can check out the following links: