Would you like to learn how to start kegging your own beer? Kegging your homebrew saves time and money and offers a very convenient way to serve your beer. This article walks you through the basics of purchasing a kegging system, filling your kegs and serving your kegged beer at home.
Purchase a Beer Kegging System
If you don’t already have a beer kegging system, you can purchase one from your local homebrew store or a major online brewing supply store. A kegging system consists of a keg, a CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas tank, a pressure regulator and two hoses. One hose feeds CO2 gas into your keg inlet, and the other hose brings the beer from the keg to your tap. Keg sizes vary, but the most popular size is the 5 gallon Cornelius or “Corney” keg.
If you are just starting out with kegging your own beer, it is best to purchase a complete starter system from a single store. Complete systems typically run less than $200 for an initial setup including all of the supplies mentioned above. Several popular brewing supply stores that sell kegging equipment can be found on our links page. Once you have your kegging system you will need to fill the CO2 tank with CO2 from a local beverage supply or gas supply store.
Filling a Keg
Give your keg a thorough cleaning before use, as many used Cornelius kegs have soda residue present. Pressurize the keg with gas once and check for leaks by applying a small amount of soapy water around the hose fittings and valves. Sterilize the keg with a stainless steel-safe agent such as iodophor before filling. Fill the keg by siphoning from your homebrew fermenter, being careful not to splash or aerate the beer.
Once the keg is full, put the top on it and pressurize the keg using your CO2 tank. Purge any remaining air in the keg and displace it with CO2. Do this by pressurizing the keg with CO2, then release air using the release valve on the top of the keg. Repeat this 4-6 times to make sure that all of the air is out and replaced by CO2. Once the keg has been pressurized with CO2, you can store it in this configuration for several months as long as the keg has no leaks.
Carbonating the Keg
Kegs must be stored under pressure and refrigeration to carbonate properly. I use an old refrigerator to keep 3 of the 5 gallon kegs on tap at all times, and I’ve drilled a hole in the side of the fridge so I can keep the CO2 tank on the outside. To calculate the carbonation pressure needed, put a thermometer in your refrigerator and leave it for a few hours. This will give you your carbonation temperature.
Next, using a Carbonation calculator such as BeerSmith (Carbonation item on the Tools menu), enter the volumes of CO2 desired to set the carbonation level (2.4 is a good starting number to use), enter the refrigerator temperature and volume of beer. BeerSmith will calculate the CO2 pressure needed to force carbonate the beer. If you don’t have access to a carbonation tool, start your system at 10 psi of pressure and adjust it later. Set your CO2 tank regulator to the desired pressure, hook it to your keg and place the keg in the refrigerator. Again, it is not a bad idea to check your lines and connectors for leaks if you have not used the system before. The keg will begin to carbonate in a day or two and reach full carbonation within a week.
Enjoy Kegged Homebrew
You are now ready to enjoy your kegged homebrew! Always pour your beer down the side of the glass and open the tap fully. If you find that the carbonation level is too high, simply dial your CO2 pressure down a bit. If the beer is too flat, adjust the keg pressure up a bit. Invite some friends over and enjoy fresh homebrew from the tap!
You might also enjoy these articles:
- The Beer Gun and Counter Pressure Fillers: Bottling Beer
- Keg Line Length Balancing – The Science of Draft Beer
- Kegging your Home Brewed Beer with Chris Graham- BeerSmith Podcast #79
- Filtering Home Brewed Beer
- How to Wisely Spend Your Home Brewing Dollar
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