From the HBD Archive
From: richer@ionic.HQ.Ileaf.COM (Al Richer)
Subject: Kegging basics
Date: 1992-07-08 12:13:22 GMT

I have seen the light, and it is made of stainless steel....

Greetings. After having asked several dozen stupid questions about kegging,
I have decided that I should pull all of this information together into one
article for the amusement and edification of the Digest.

I. Items needed for a kegging setup

Kegging is the process of packaging beer so it may be dispensed. To this end,
you need a package. The normal container for the homebrewer is the Cornelius
or Firestone stainless-steel premix soft-drink container. It is available from
many sources, including restaurant auctions, scrapyards, cooperative soft-drink
retailers, and other sources. Use your ingenuity, and you will seldom go wrong.

The other items to go with your keg are used for the dispensing process. They
allow you to dispense the beer under gas pressure, and to connect and disconnect
the equipment from your keg.

These items are:

A CO2 cylinder. Most hobbyists purchase a 5 Lb. one.

a pressure regulator. This reduces the 800 PSI of gas
pressure in the CO2 tank to a manageable dispensing
pressure (usually 5 to 7 pounds).

Hose with gas-in fitting. These items conduct the gas to
the keg from the regulator, and allow you to connect the
gas line to the keg. The gas-in fittings come in either
ball or pin lock. Buy whichever fits the keg you obtain,
as one is as good as the other for the homebrewer.

Liquid-out fitting and beer faucet. This is the part that
the beer actually comes out of. It has a fitting like the
gas-in one, but keyed differently to prevent interchange.
On the end of the hose from this fitting is a spigot to
control the flow.

When it comes to the pressure-regulating items and the gas bottle, don't
scrimp, as cheap or defective fittings can be very dangerous. Gas at 800
PSI is not trivial to handle, and an accident could be fatal.

II. Preparing to keg - How to get ready.

If you buy all of your equipment new, than you can skip this part. What I
am going to go into here is the cleaning and overhaul of a standard pin-
lock Firestone keg. Cornelius kegs are similar, but I have not worked with
them and would not speak of them without personal experience.

WIth a keg that has been used for soft drinks, the rubber parts that are in
contact with the drink become impregnated with the sugar syrups. These will
then flavor any beer you might bring in contact with them, so they need to be
replaced as part of the cleaning and preparation process. These are located
in the bases of the gas-in and liquid-out fittings, and around the lid of the

Remove the gas-in and liquid-out fittings, using a 13/16" open-end wrench
inserted through the gaps in the handle surround. Once loosened, these should
remove easily. Once unscrewed, set these aside, and remove the dip tubes from
the fittings welded to the tank. The gas dip tube is rather short, and the
liquid dip tube is the long one that extends to the bottom of the tank. Remove
the o-rings from both of these and replace them with new ones from the hardware
store. O-rings of the proper size are easily availablein the plumbing area
of most good hardware stores. Reinsert the dip tubes and reinstall the fittings,
tightening them with the wrench. Do not overtighten, as it is unnecessary and
will make it more difficult the next time.
NOTE: The gas-in fitting is the one with two lugs. The liquid-out fitting is
the one with three lugs. I got them mixed up too...8*)

Replacement of the top gasket is easy. Just open the head by lifting the bail,
then drop the head down into the keg and rotate it to remove the lid from the
keg. The O-ring should come out with the lid. Simply remove it from the lid
and replace it. New ones of these should be available at your homebrew
supplier, or try a pool supplier for a pump O-ring of the proper size. Bring
the old one as a comparison sample.

CLeaning the keg is rather simple. I usually prepare a solution of washing soda and soak a new keg full of it for 24 hours, followed by purging the solution
with CO2 through the fittings on the tank. This is followed by 2 gallons of
boiling water, well-agitated in the tank to clear the residue, and purged thru
the fititngs with CO2. The boiling water rinse is also a god way to clean out
a tank before use, along with a weak chlorine rinse for sanitizing.

III. Kegging - The process

Kegging is considerably simpler than bottling, but has a set of gotchas all
its own.

The first step is sanitizing the keg. I personally do this with a rinse of
hot water and B-Brite of a gallon or so, shaken in a sealed keg, then expelled
through the keg plumbing with CO2. After this, I do the same thing with
boiling water, again expelling through the plumbing, to clear the B-Brite
residue. One pass is usually sufficient, though if I'm being paranoid, I'll do
it twice. After this step, you must handle the keg in a manner to retain the
sanitation. This means not taking out the lid and laying it down on the work-
bench in the basement. Treat the keg as you would a sanitized bottle ready to

Next, add the priming syrup to the keg. I usually use 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 qt.
water, boiled for 10 minutes for sanitation. I cool this to blood temp, then
add it to the keg. Next, with a sanitized siphon hose,siphon your finished
beer into the keg, being careful not to splash, but swirling enough to get a
good mix on the priming sugar. Once filled (keep the beer level below the CO2
inlet, otherwise don't worry), reinsert the lid and cinch it closed. Before
doing this, I usually turn on the CO2 to the keg and purge the airspace above
the beer to clear the residual air in the tank.

With the keg sealed, pressurize it to 5-6 PSI to seat the head. If it begins
to leak, open and reseat it, which usually cures the problem. Make sure that
the lid isn't angled, which is easy to do and can cause leaking.

Allow th beer to carbonate for 1-2 weeks before drinking. I usually discard
the first 1/2 mug out of the keg, as it brings the yeast out with it. After
that, it's home free.

I need a beer after all this typing...


Alan J. Richer Mail:
Interleaf, Inc. All std. disclaimers apply
9 Hillside Ave. Your mileage may vary
Waltham,MA. 02154
" It's a nitwit idea. Nitwit ideas are for emergencies.
The rest of the time you go by the Book, which is a
collection of nitwit ideas that worked at least once."
from "The Mote in God's Eye" , Niven and Pournelle

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