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Homebrew Kegging for Beginners

Homebrew Kegging for Beginners

Kegging your homebrew saves time and money and offers a convenient way to serve your beer.  This article serves as a beginner’s guide to kegging.  It will walk you through the basics of purchasing a kegging system, filling your kegs and serving.

Purchasing a Beer Kegging System

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 while 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 and is what we recommend.

As a beginner, we suggest purchasing a complete keg setup rather than piecing together your own.  Kegging systems can always be expanded upon.  A complete system should cost $200 (or less) and will include all the supplies listed above.

Filling the Keg

As with anything homebrew related, sanitation is extremely important.  Give your keg a thorough cleaning before usage.  Refurbished Cornelius kegs often have soda residue present alongside the interior walls of the keg.  Pressurize the keg once with CO2 listening for leaks around the hose fittings and valves.  This is very important because leaks can lead to oxidation of your beer.  Sterilize the keg with a stainless steel-safe agent 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, making sure you get a proper seal.  Next, pressurize the keg using your CO2 tank, shoot about 28-30 psi into the keg.  Purge any remaining air in the keg using the release valve on the top of the keg.  Once you’ve done this, shoot more CO2 into the keg while gently shaking the keg back and forth about 100 times making sure that all air is released and displaced with 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.  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, 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!

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