Switch from bottling to homebrew kegging and you'll never go back!
Do you enjoy making your own beer? Many beer enthusiasts enjoy making beer, called homebrewing, as much as they enjoy drinking great beer. I’ve had a lot of fun making beer over the years with one exception: bottling. Homebrew kegging can fix this problem.
Bottling your homebrew is a messy and time-consuming process. It can also be quite expensive when you factor in the cost of the bottles. First you have to sanitize all of your bottles using a sanitizing solution, heat, or some other method. Next it’s time to rig up a siphon to move the new beer from its fermenting vessel into the bottles themselves. If you manage to fill all the bottles without spilling any of your precious brew you then have to cap them. It’s during the capping process that spills or other disasters are most likely to occur.
Assuming you make it through the entire bottling process without incident, you’re still not home free! You must now find a place to store all of your bottles. Because the beer is still fermenting in the bottle (in order to add carbonation), building pressure can cause an explosion. Make sure you store them somewhere safe and easy to clean!
Not up for all of this trouble? There is an alternative: homebrew kegging! I made the switch to kegging homebrew a few months ago and I haven’t looked back since.
When you use a keg instead of bottles you effectively bypass all of the trouble spots for storing and serving your homebrew. In this case you only have one vessel to sanitize, and you don’t even have to siphon your homebrew – you can simply dump it into the keg opening. Of course there’s also no capping involved because the keg itself will have a simple locking mechanism.
How to get started kegging homebrew
First you’ll need to invest in a bit of a equipment. The main items you’ll need include:
- co2 tank
People kegging homebrew typically choose to use a cornealious keg or “corny keg”. A corny keg used to be used for storing and serving soda, but it’s small (just over 5 gallon) size makes it perfect for kegging homebrew.
You’ll want to choose either a pin-lock or ball-lock corny keg. Pin lock kegs are a bit easier to use, but they’re also harder to find. Keep this in mind in case you decide to expand your homebrew kegging system down the road.
If you can find a reconditioned corny keg you’ll be able to save a bit of money. These are getting harder and harder to come by, but ebay and craigslist are good resources. If you go this route make sure that it has been pressure-tested for safety.
You’ll use CO2 to force carbonate the beer. The nice thing about kegging homebrew is that CO2 will not cause the beer to oxidize. If you’ve ever had tried to drink beer from a typical rental tap the day after a party you probably weren’t too pleased with the taste. CO2 avoids these off-tastes and will allow your beer to last many months.
Try to buy the largest CO2 tank that you can fit in your storage space. It will cost a bit more to start, but it will save you many trips to the store. Many welding shops and homebrew stores will refill or exchange your tank for a fee.
Regulators are the heart of your homebrew kegging system. You’ll want gauges to measure both the pressure of the remaining gas in your CO2 tank as well as the pressure in your keg. Too much keg pressure will cause foamy beer, while too little will cause flat beer. Look up the right pressure for your type of beer online or ask your homebrew shop.
A homebrew kegging system wouldn’t do much good without hoses to deliver the beer! You’ll need two different hoses: one to connect the CO2 tank (through the regulator) to the keg, and one to move the beer from the keg to your glass. The serving hose can be as simple as a food-safe line with a small valve at the end, or as fancy as a full draft tower.
One final consideration if you decide to start kegging your homebrew is storage. You’ll need a refrigerator or converted freezer to keep you keg at proper serving temperature. Many people will build or buy a special kegerator for this purpose. Enjoy!