Saturday, February 9, 2008

It's all about the equipment (part 2)

Psst....Hey buddy….Can I interest you in a used Cornelius Keg?

That is how the transaction seemed to go. I was getting ready to go out of town for a bit and needed to bottle a batch before I left. I really wanted to keg the batch, but had not yet purchased a keg. I ran to my local brew shop with hopes of getting a 5 gallon keg, new or used. Truth be told, I was ready to spend $100+ for a new keg, knowing that I did not plan the purchase out, and there may not be any used kegs in stock. When I arrived, there were no kegs to be found at all.

I was given a story about one of the guys traveling to Michigan to meet a guy about a thing and probably come back with a truckload of used kegs, but at the moment they didn’t have a reliable source. To their credit (and one of the reasons I continue to go to this shop) they offered to drain one of the kegs at the shop and let me borrow it until they did get some in stock.

After a several ideas, I left without my keg and went home to bottle my batch of Dubbel Trubbel. I did use the Tap-a-Draft, so that saved me a bit of time. We’ll see how well beer ages in there; I also filled about 10 bottles as well.

While I was out of town, Mrs. Brew Meister followed up with the LBS to see if the Michigan connection was able to come home with some used kegs. She visited the shop, and while they did not have any in stock, one of the guys decided to sell two of his personal kegs to the LBS so they could sell them to us! 40 bucks, and 2 pin and lock kegs at last.

The CO2 cans are really expensive. I bought I setup from an online retailer that sold a 5 lb can, a 3 foot gas line, a 2 foot beer line with a picnic tap, and a single double gauge regulator.

There is a bit of learning curve in kegging beer. The first lesson learned was replace all seals in any keg that is new to you. Even though the keg had been washed (and was holding pressure when I bought them) the seals would not hold after I transferred the first batch, and I lost all the gas in the CO2 can of the course of a few days.

(Note from Mrs. Brew Meister: While the LBS guys said the seals wouldn’t need attention just yet, the guy who sold the used kegs to the shop urged and insisted that the seals really should be replaced. He repeated this advice to me several times. It should go down in history like all great lines: “Replace the Seals!”

CO2 containers can be filled at several places, but the best place may be a paintball shop. I have several options in the yellow pages for industrial gas, but most places do the swap program. I was not about to trade in my nice new clean can for a potentially dirty or greasy can. Also, the industrial guys wanted $17 for a 5lb can. Mrs. Brew Meister did a quick search and found the paintball shop in town will fill our can while we wait for $10.

Teflon tape and keg lube are essential. The Teflon tape works on any threaded connection to help seal and make the connection easier to tighten. The keg lube helps extend the life of the o-rings, and allows for an easier connection of pin connectors.

Let the CO2 carbonate the beer. I know it is possible to have a “bottle conditioned” keg, but why bother? All the yeast settles on the bottom of the keg, and is at the front of the line when you dispense the beer. It all works out best when you learn to pressurize the beer so that there is a nice equilibrium between the carbonation level and the dispensing pressure.

Here is a great introduction to kegging beer with Cornelius kegs. It was one of the best investments I have made in homebrewing.


(To be continued, with ISSUE 2: Plumbing...)


Anonymous said...

Great article on kegging equipment! I never went back once I switched to kegs. I just posted a short article on kegging on my blog as well. How to Keg Homebrew Beer


Parrothead said...

There are some nice carbonation references there Brad. You have some other good articles there as well. Thanks for visiting here.