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Making the jump

Kegging equipment!

Kegging equipment!

I finally pulled the trigger on a kegging system. I’ve had the second fridge in the basement for a year now, with the hopes of using it as a kegerator at some point. After bottling homebrew for 2 years, I’m looking forward to the ability to simply rack my beer to one vessel and carb in up in a matter of days, not weeks. Hopefully my wife will appreciate the lack of bottles soaking or drying on the near the kitchen sink as well.

I’m hoping to actually pick up a second faucet and the appropriate gas line splitter this summer as well, so I can have more than one option available at any time. I did jump on the fact that my lhbs had corny kegs and got two.

For those of you unfamiliar with the typical homebrew kegging set up, here’s a simple explanation. Most homebrewers brew 5 gallon batches. Cornelius kegs are 5 gallon capacity kegs. Prefect. I know these corny kegs as soda kegs from my youth working in restaurants. Beer came in 1/2 barrels (what most of us think of as a keg) and soda in these 5 gallon kegs with two posts (IN for the CO2, OUT for the liquid to the taps).

Rather than a simple picnic tap, which would require opening the fridge to pour myself a beer, I got a faucet that I intend to mount to the door of my fridge. This will require a drill with a hole saw that attaches like a drill bit, but has a tube with saw teeth at one end. I believe the diameter will be one inch, and through that the shank will slide through. The faucet will attach to one end of the shank, and the liquid tubing will attach to the barbed end on the other end of the shank. The corny keg and CO2 tank will sit in the fridge. CO2 will enter one post of the keg, carbonating the liquid initially, and then being used to force the beer up the dip tube and out the other post when the faucet is opened.

Joe Rutolo, owner of my lhbs, Border Brew Supply in Salem, NH, has offered to walk me through any and all of the steps as I get ready to install and use my kegging system. Dealing with any pressurized gas system like this is nothing to take for granted, so I intend to bug Joe plenty until I feel comfortable in knowing the ins and outs of kegging.

With bottling homebrew, you need to wash and store all the bottles properly, and deal with washing and sanitizing every one of the 48+ bottles leading up to bottling. There’s also the need to mix in priming sugar to the beer prior to bottling. This sugar will get eaten by the remaining yeast while in the bottle, and the CO2 given off by this process is trapped in the bottle, forcing the beer to carbonate. This process itself takes about two weeks. Then when you pour bottled homebrew, you have to be careful not to pour the sediment in with your beer. Thus, you leave about 1/4 inch of beer in the bottles to keep the sediment out of your glass.

Bottling for me would require loading the dishwasher with bottles the night before bottling. The heat dry cycle in the dishwasher sanitizes the bottles. But it needs to be done overnight to allow the bottles to cool. Filling hot bottles could cause the g;lass to crack, and the heat could kill the yeast remaining in the beer which is needed to carbonate. It’s a major process. The benefit is that it’s easy to grab a six or 12 pack of homebrew form your fridge and bring it wherever you’re going. But, for kegged beer, there are options. 64 oz growler bottles can be filled form the faucet with the help of some tubing. Growlers only last a day or two once opened though, before going flat. But when just wanting to bring some beer for a night, no problem. For a bigger party, one could bring the entire keg, and leave the CO2 tank at home. IF it’s already carbonated, one can simply use a CO2 gun as needed to keep the beer flowing to a picnic tap. The issue with bringing a keg is that traveling in a vehicle with it will cause any sediment that’s settled at the bottom to get kicked up into the beer. And shaking it could mess up the carbonation level too.

So, I now have my Mosaic IPA dryhopping. Soon it will be my first kegged beer. In the coming week I will be drilling the hole in the fridge door and mounting the faucet. I’ll be sure to take pics and post commentary as I go.

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