A guide to kegging

Keg Image

Kegging is a fantastic alternative to bottling your beer, it’s much quicker and easier to sanitise, fill and carbonate than bottles and is growing ever more popular with home brewers. In this post we’ll cover what you’ll need and the process to follow when kegging your home brewed beer.

What you’ll need:

19L Cornelius Keg:

CO2 Tank:

IMG_2373

Regulator:

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Gas in Hose with Quick Disconnect (grey):Gas In Hose

Product out Hose with Quick Disconnect & Dispense Tap (black):

Product Out Hose

Refrigerator (optional)

The carbonation process will take less time, the colder the keg is. I will go over this in more detail further down. If you want to use a refrigerator, ideally you’ll need to buy one big enough to store the keg and CO2 tank – so best get these first.

KEGGING PROCESS:

Preparation

  1. Half fill the keg with hot, soapy water. Scrub the inside with a sponge, attach the lid and give the keg a good shake ensuring all inner surfaces are thoroughly covered.IMG_2360
  2. Attach the regulator to the CO2 tank and connect the gas in hose quick disconnect to the ‘IN’ post (ensuring the gas valve is closed – pictured, and the pressure on the regulator is set to 0).Gas In
  3. Attach the Product out hose with quick disconnect & dispense tap to the ‘OUT’ post.IMG_2363
  4. Test the pressure by turning on the gas and gently turning the pressure on the regulator to 10 psi.
  5. Press the tap to run the water through the hoses. Increase pressure until good flow is achieved. If there is no flow there may be a gas leak* and you’ll need to check the fittings are on correctly. Run all of the water out of the tap into a bucket/sink.Regulator
  6. Half fill the keg with sanitiser solution, disconnect the fittings and shake the keg vigorously for 60 seconds. Reconnect the fittings and repeat steps 2-4 so the sanitiser fills the product out hose. Leave it like this for contact time advised on your sanitiser product, then press the tap to empty the keg completely.Sanitiser
  7. Whilst you’re waiting for the keg to sanitise, sanitise your syphon, so it’s ready for when you fill your keg. Simply fill a bucket or sink with sanitiser solution, draw some through the syphon and leave in the sink/bucket for the contact time advised on your sanitiser product.IMG_2380

*If you notice any gas leaks this might be because the fittings aren’t tight enough. It could also mean the ‘O’ ring on the lid isn’t sealed properly – you can apply Vaseline or keg lube to the ‘O’ ring to prevent this. The pressure of the CO2 should push the ‘O’ ring in place first time however.

FILLING:

  1. Syphon the beer from the fermenter into the keg. If you’ve made 23 litres, not all of it will fit into the keg – you can always bottle what’s left over.Syphon
  2. Wet the ‘O’ ring on the lid with water so it seals well and fit the lid to the keg.O Ring
  3. Connect the gas to the IN post and open the gas valve as pictured below. Apply a good amount of pressure; when you can no longer hear the gas going in, close the valve. Release the pressure using the release valve on the lid to purge the air from the top of the keg. We want to remove all air from the keg so not to spoil the beer. Repeat 3 times to ensure all the air is out.IMG_2368
  4. Apply a last ‘shot’ of high-pressure e.g. 50 psi of CO2 to the keg to push all seals in place, then return to about 25 psi – the correct pressure is explained next.

Carbonation

As mentioned earlier, the time it takes to carbonate will depend on the temperature of the keg. The cooler it is, the less time it will take as the CO2 absorbs quicker at cooler temperatures. If you have a big enough refrigerator, sit the keg and CO2 tank in it for 3-4 days.

At room temperature this method will take longer and require different levels of CO2 pressure. See the table below as a guide to how much pressure you should apply.

Carbonation Table

As a general guide for Port 66 products, at room temperature (around 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the table above) beer needs between 20-28 psi. Ciders require fewer volumes of CO2 and therefore only between 15 to 25 psi. After 5 days turn this down to about 10 psi and run a test by tapping off some of your beer/cider to taste. At room temperature it probably won’t be carbonated yet but you can keep testing it each day until it is.

Chilling

Even if you don’t have a large enough refrigerator for carbonation, you need to think about chilling your beer for serving. One way to do this – once the beer is carbonated – is to place the keg in a large durable container such as a plastic bin or bucket – such as a fermenter bucket – and fill it with ice and cold water.

Be careful when placing the keg in the container not to shake it up too much. The beer should be chilled, ready to serve after about 40 minutes, so prepare if you have guests!

Obviously this is a little more difficult to regulate than a refrigerator, but it is a lot cheaper too.

A Kegerator is another method you can use to chill your beer, which is basically a purpose built refrigerator for a keg with the taps on the top. You can buy these already made although they aren’t available in all countries. Alternatively for those who like a bit of DIY, you can set up your own kegerator once you’ve bought all the necessary items. Here’s an article on how to do this.

Alternative Methods

The method described in this blog means the CO2 is naturally absorbed into the beer through pressure, however there are other ways to carbonate your beer.

  • Forced carbonation: This is where you apply the CO2 whilst shaking the keg. The gas reaches a larger surface area this way, and is therefore absorbed into the liquid quicker. There is a risk of over-carbonation using this method, however this is easily rectified. There’s a lot of information on forced carbonation available online, such as this video.
  • Pressure Barrel: Again this option is much quicker and easier than bottling. There are a few down sides however; they are quite difficult to chill to serving temperature (if you’re brewing indoors you’re going to be serving a room-temperature beer), you might get inconsistent carbonation towards the end of the barrel and they can be prone to leaking.

The pressure barrels are significantly cheaper than the keg set up outlined above however, and they don’t use a CO2 tank for carbonation. If you’re going to use this method we advise 80g of sucrose sugar per 23L barrel like this one:

Pressure Barrel

Testing & Serving

When testing the carbonation of your beer, attach the Product out hose, set the pressure to 10-12 psi and tap off a sample. If it is still under carbonated, detach the hose, reset the CO2 pressure to 25 psi and give it a couple more days. If it has over carbonated, turn off the CO2, pull the pressure relief valve repeatedly and keep testing until the foam has reduced.

Different beer styles have different recommended serving pressures but generally you want to turn your regulator down to around 10 psi and experiment with what works best for your preferences.

If you have any helpful tips for when kegging your beers please share them in the comments below.

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