Why We Keg Our Homebrews

By now we have had our home brewed ales going primarily into kegs for the past 6 months. It seems everyone starts with bottles and if they brew enough eventually finds the value in kegging and pouring home brews from a tap.

Well there are some advantages that made the decision the right one for us:

  • Manually washing, filling, and capping beer is slow and not fun. I’m sure the first few times it is cool to show off your special creation in a bottle but after filling 40-50 or more bottles several times, it gets old fast.
  • Bottles are inconsistent, different temperatures and conditions in each bottle mean that one bottle opens beautifully and pours perfectly and the next bottle annoyingly foams over and you lose half your brew.  Plus sometimes they just don’t taste consistent. The problem is the yeast is still alive and active when you bottle a home brew.  The yeast will continue to change the brew and can leave lots of weird sediment on the bottom of the bottle. Eventually you get tired of all the high maintenance required to get consistency pouring from a bottle.
  • Bottles take up too much space. We quickly learned that our kitchen fridge couldn’t contain the bottles needed for a 5 gallon standard small brew batch.  Inevitably the bottles had to be left at room temp which is not good.  After a few batches I resolved to find a reasonable sized fridge that could be dedicated to beer bottles in the garage but even this was quickly overrun with stock for the next house tasting event.  Bottles just aren’t a very efficient storage method.

So if you were like us and find these advantages enticing its time to start kegging which is easier than you think.  If you already have a refrigerator dedicated to brews you probably can remove the shelving and modify this into an easy kegerator by ordering a kit or supplies through amazon.com or some other online retailer.  What you need is a CO2 tank and regulator, hose and fittings, and a tap with a shank that you will install through a hole in the door, side or top of your fridge.

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Our humble homemade home brew kegerator contains three corny kegs with three taps and room to hold a few spare bottles, hops, and supplies.

Whether you go this route or if you already have a kegerator you will need to get fittings to connect to corny kegs. Corny kegs are awesome durable metal stainless kegs that fit 5 gallon batch brews perfectly and are a simple design for quick soda machine syrup refills. They have a simple seal-able door and an “in” connection for the CO2 line and an “out” connection for the beer line. You simply pour in your fermented brew and seal the door then connect the beer line to the “out” and CO2 line to the “in”.  What is great is they are widely available at reasonable cost online. Just make sure that you get the right fittings for the connectors (if your keg is ball-lock then get ball lock connectors, likewise for pin-lock).  Once beer is in the keg it will carbonate in 1-2 weeks depending on the pressure (I set my regulator to about 10).  Over additional weeks it will clarify and begin to pour beautifully.  As you can see in our set up below you can fit up to three kegs where a normal 15 gallon (1/2 barrel) keg would fit and the CO2 tank doesn’t have be inside.

Kegging home brew is pretty simple to set up and having multiple batches available on tap is very doable. The advantages over bottling are clear.  The only disadvantage I can think of is it does make your beer less portable. We remedy this by sometimes bottling a couple 22 oz bottles prior to kegging the remaining batch.  This makes it easy to gift or bring to a party.

Let me know if you need help setting up your homebrews on tap.  I’m sure you will find the process rewarding and easier than expected. I know we have!

Posted by John Peterson

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2 thoughts on “Why We Keg Our Homebrews

  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing! I know you said bottles taste inconsistant, but do you notice a difference between a ‘normal’ bottle and keg? Does it vary by type of beer?

    • Good question. Since the beer that goes in our keg is identical to what goes into the bottle the only difference is really level of carbonation and whether you like the option for yeast sediment from the bottle bottom in your glass. With a keg you can control the carbonation level with pressure where a bottle self carbonates with a small amount of bottle fermenting – a bit less controllable. The yeast eventually settles to the bottom of the bottle and you can add it to the pour or not with a quick swirl. With a keg the beer usually pour clean after a few weeks settling. There are varied opinions on whether including this sediment adds or ruins flavor. Beer can also change over time – for better or worse. Higher alcohol and bolder beers tend to age better. The keg is like a giant bottle so it should be the same whether keg or bottle for our brews with the exception of what I mentioned above. Commercial beer is often filtered and pastuerized to get a consistent product and bottles can be quite a different from draft versions even if they carry the same name.

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