Make Beer at Home. Part 4: Homebrew Kegging

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By Ed

The holidays are coming and if you are getting serious with Homemade beer (see part 1 and part 2 in our series) you may be interested in trying your hand at beer kegging.  It's actually very straightforward and other than the initial equipment investment, fairly frugal.  Once your gear is bought, the cost really is finding a local source to charge your CO2 cylinder and occasional fitting replacement on your keg.

So were do you get gear?  Prior to the last few years, the only places I could find were out of the USA (and there are many, so American readers - don't feel slighted that I haven't provided a good source).  Thankfully, Canada now has a very good online source for all things homebrew and particularly - Beer Kegs.  Ontario Beer Kegs has beer kegging kits that range from simple, picnic faucet dispensers to multi-tap, Refrigerator (kegerator) based systems.  They are great (and not a paid sponsor, so I am not shilling here) and their prices are a bargain.

So, here is my basic Tutorial for putting homebrew in a keg.  You'll need to read Part 1 and Part 2 of my Make Beer at Home series for the 411 on getting the beer part made.  When you are ready, read on to find out how to get it on tap.

Ok, what you need to start:

Copyright Ontario Beer Kegs

  • 1 reclaimed, clean soda keg (like what restaurants have for soda fountains - if you know someone in the restaurant business, you might get one cheap/free)
  • A Regulator
  • CO2 cylinder (I have a 5 lb. one, but as long as it can be attached to a regulator, you're are OK)
  • Cobra Tap - basically the cheapest tap you can get
  • Various Lengths of Gas and Beer Lines, plus fittings to connect to Keg, Regulator and Picnic Tap
  • A cold place to store it all (we have a fruit cellar that stays pretty cold, but the beer fridge in your garage would work too)
So, if anything on that list sounded totally foreign, then you are just like me when I first tried this.  Fortunately, Ontario Beer Kegs has complete kits for the neophyte.  I got the one depicted above to get me jump-started and it all worked like a charm.

Once you have everything and a batch of beer ready at the bottling stage of brewing, do this:

1.  Clean everything meticulously, but don't use chlorine based cleaners as they are hard on the stainless steel keg and other parts.  Rinse thoroughly.

 2.  Rack your finished beer directly from the carboy into your keg.   
I use a clothespin to hold the siphon rod up slightly, so sediment that settles to the bottom of the carboy stays there.  Don't worry about getting all the beer in your carboy - your keg won't hold a full 23-litre batch.  Some will still need to go into bottles.  Don't add sugar either - the carbonation will be done artificially.

homemade beer kegging

3.  When the Keg is nearly full (don't fill past the short CO2 "in" pipe) stop the siphon - or just continue it into whatever jug you normally bottle from.  You'll deal with the leftovers later.  For now, you need to fit the keg lid and start to close it.  Don't seal it all the way quite yet.

4.  Get your CO2 cylinder and regulator setup and ready to go. 
Keep the regulator shutoff closed, dial open the cylinder and adjust the regulator to about 12-14 PSI.

5.  Attach the gas line to the "In" valve on your keg.   
Remember, the regulator shutoff is still closed, so no gas should go in now. 

homemade beer kegging

6.  Open the regulator valve and lock the lid on your keg. 
In a simultaneous and balletic synchronicity, you will start the flow of CO2 to your keg and lock the lid down.  I have yet to do this perfectly, and don't know if it is even possible, so expect a little gas (and possibly beer spray if you filled the keg up too much) from around the lid as you clamp it shut.  No big deal.  The lid really locks best when it has the gas pressure behind it.

homemade beer kegging

7.  And you're done - almost  

8.  If you are unsure if your keg is holding the pressure, you can test it by tipping the little release valve on top.  You should hear a gas release sound.  Insert a "gas release" joke of your choice here.

homemade beer kegging

9.  I now put the whole assembly - Keg, CO2, regulator and lines - in my cold cellar to chill and for the CO2 to carbonate the beer for at least 2 weeks.  There are "Flash" methods of carbonation, but they require a bit more skill and timing.  Unless you are in a rush, don't bother.  You may choose to put everything in your beer fridge or get fancy and drill holes in it for lines and a tap (if you do that, check your fridge specs online so you don't drill out some freon).

homemade beer kegging

When the beer has fully carbonated, attach your Cobra tap to the "out" post on your keg and pour yourself a tall glass of reward for your hard work.

homemade beer kegging
Gratuitous, bonus beer shot.

This may look like a lot of work, but it is actually a lot faster than bottling and capping 60 bottles.  I have included as many photos as I could to help guide where possible, and that has stretched things out.  Don't be intimidated - give it a shot.
Are there already any home keggers out there? 

The Make Beer at Home Series:

Part 1: Simple, Foolproof Equipment
Part 2: Simple, Foolproof Brewing
Part 3: Bottling
Part 4: DIY Homebrew Kegging
Part 5: Simple Tips to Make Your Beer Better

1 comment

  1. Thank you for the post...I am just getting into brewing at home and really enjoy the whole process. I have just ordered some supplies from OBK and once I convince my wife, kegging will be the next step.
    We live in Kingston so there is only one supplier and hops and LME is sometimes out of stock.

    I may start bugging you on a regular basis.


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