Keg o' My Heart April 19, 2016 14:09
We have all been there: you have one batch of beer sitting in the fermenter for two weeks, then a third, and you are staring down a fourth week but you just don’t want to bottle. You feel like your life is a cheesy commercial and you are the overwrought home owner who can’t handle moving a stack of magazines off your coffee table. Unlike that poor sap, however, you don’t need some hyper-specialized gizmo to file eight-month old periodicals. You just need a keg. And a few other things.
Kegs are to many homebrewers a sort of Aristotelian ideal; a place you need to reach even if you don’t know exactly why. Well, let me tell you why, and then I will tell you why not.
The Pros of Kegging:
- Kegging is faster and easier than bottling! You only have one vessel to clean and sanitize before filling, thus it is faster in all regards.
- You can drink your beer (or cider, soda, or even wine) sooner! Just follow our handy Kegging 101 instructions, and you will be sipping your fine fermented beverages just 24 hours after filling that stainless tank.
- Less clean-up while drinking! No bottles to rinse. Did we mention kegs are faster in every way? That includes how fast your beer disappears.
- Kegs are also better for long-term storage (except for the space issue). As long as your keg is in good shape and holds pressure, oxygen will never touch your beer. Did you make a high-alcohol brew that needs to sit and mature? Your bottle caps can fail and corks can dry out, but oxygen will never get into your keg.
That all sounds great, right? Of course it does. IT IS GREAT. But before you step into your friendly, local homebrew shop that is providing you with all this great information for free without passive-aggressive implications (*wink*), you should know a few more things. We want you to buy a kegging set-up, but we don’t want you to be surprised and feel bad.
- Kegging is an investment. We sell used kegs - reconditioned, pressure-tested, and guaranteed - for $85/each or two for $159. The basic kegging equipment is $99 - that includes a CO2 regulator, tubing, connectors, and a picnic faucet to run one keg. You will also need a CO2 tank, which you can buy full locally for under $100. That is about $280 to get set up for one keg (and closer to $400 for a second). Keep in mind this is a one-time cost and you have already invested that much in bottles and time to clean them!
- There is one other expense involved: you have to keep the keg cold (or simply drink warm, flat beer, which has its place, too). You can usually find a used fridge or chest freezer (and a digital thermostat override for about $95) in Uncle Henry’s, on the side of the road, or in your father-in-law’s basement. Or maybe you still have that fridge from your college years and just don’t know what to do with it.
- Ultimately, we guarantee when you decide to get that keg, it will take you farther down the homebrewing rabbit hole. One keg become two becomes four becomes a bar in the basement becomes… you get the point. This is just fair warning; we are all for your new obsession.
This all sounds good so far? Here are a few final thoughts on getting into kegging.
- Don’t over-think hose length! You can read on the internet all day about sizing and length for your faucet. Your first concern should just be carbonating your keg properly. When it is time to pour, bleed off the excess pressure and set your regulator at 5psi or so. This is not a keg of Bud Light or from your favorite local microbrewery! Those often need to run at a much-higher pressure. You really don’t need to use eight feet of 7/32 inch (or some other non-standard size) hose. I use 2-3 feet lengths of ¼ inch. Works great.
- Buy a good regulator! You can always find a used regulator for wicked cheap online. Just don’t. Make the investment in a good regulator. There is nothing worse in homebrewing than losing a batch of beer after it goes in the keg. Craptastic regulators are a sure way to do this. And don’t ever run your keg of homebrew with a party pump; that will just ruin your beer.
- Don’t be cheap with kegs! See above. You can find kegs for $30 online, and then spend hours of your time and the same extra $50 on parts that you would have spent here buying a keg that works from the start.
- Keg lube. You will never regret keg lube.
This all just a long way of getting to an entirely separate point. At the end of April, the Farmhouse will be wishing a fond farewell to a member of the team. Zach, Ambassador to Winylhaven, will be departing for a new adventure on the Dark Side of the Bridge. If you have made wine in the last nine months or so, you have probably met Zach. In his time here, Zach quickly established a reputation as a knowledgeable winemaker, but to the rest of the staff, we are more likely to remember the feeling that we were always in a screwball comedy movie that we didn’t realize was being filmed. And we mean that in the best way - it’s really a trip, man. There was one scene we actually filmed, and it is possibly the most viewed thing we have ever posted: Zach Robbins doing the carbonation cha-cha. Enjoy. And godspeed, buddy.