So You Want to Keg Your Beer? Part 1

I bottled my beer for five years before taking the plunge into kegging. I knew I wanted to start kegging my beer, but even with the hundreds of articles out there on kegging, I was still having a hard time boiling it down to what I needed to know. Fortunately, I had Kyle at the store to be my spiritual guide into this whole new world of pieces and parts that would magically hold and serve my beer without me ever having to wash another bottle. Even then I stumbled through a lot of the basics; hooking it all up, cleaning, carbonating, etc. Even though there’s lots of resources on the internet, I had a really hard time finding something that just showed me the basics step by step. I figured others might have this problem too, so this is my guide to kegging, or basically all the stuff I found out the hard way.

Picking a keg

Corny keg for homebrewing

5g Corny Keg

The first thing you’ll need when you want to keg your beer is… a keg! We’ll cover corny kegs here, shown in the picture on the right. These were traditionally used to serve soda, but they’re easy to work with, so that’s what most homebrewers use. Sanke kegs are the other type, like the commercial beer ones you get at Sam’s Quick Shop, but we’ll save that type of keg for anther post.

Corny keg lid

Corny keg lid

Corny kegs hold five gallons of beer, and have an elliptical opening at the top that you can pour the beer in, with a removable lid and a strong metal clasp to lock down (see picture). That opening is sealed with a black rubber ring called an O-ring, and you can add keg lube to this O-ring for a better seal. Every keg also has 2 posts at the top. One is for CO2 gas coming in, and the other is for liquid going out. For now, you can tell which is which by opening the top of the keg and looking in. The liquid post is connected to a long metal tube called a “dip tube” that runs from the post to the very bottom of the keg. The gas post is connected to a very short metal tube that you won’t even be able to see just looking in the keg from the top.

Top view of a corny keg

Top view of a corny keg

At this point, it’s important to understand the basic mechanics of the keg. The following diagram shows five gallons of beer in your keg. The dip tube is connected to the liquid post and goes all the way to the bottom. As you add CO2 through the gas post [1], you increase the pressure on top of the beer [2]. This pushes down on the beer, pushing it up the dip tube [3] and out the liquid post [4]. This basic diagram is the most important concept in understanding how to set up your kegging system, so always keep it in mind… it’s not too complicated.

The basic flow of a corny keg

The basic flow of a corny keg

Check back again soon for Part 2: Pin lock vs. Ball lock kegs.

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2 Responses to So You Want to Keg Your Beer? Part 1

  1. RikR says:

    Glad to see you started this topic. My biggest problem with kegging is related to setting pressure. Hope you can offer some hints. At 10 lbs my beer serves with too much head. When I reduce it to about 5 lbs, seems first glass serves nicely, but following glasses serve with less head. Still trying to get it right. Also, have been trying to carbonate kegs by just hooking them up at the serving pressure and giving them a few days. My recent Pumpkin Spiced Porter hasn’t seemed to get carbonated sufficiently. May have to force carbonate at a higher pressure. Will look forward to your posts.

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