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> Kegging and Carbonating your Beer, Submitted by Jim Yeager
Jimvy
post Sep 15 2005, 11:05 AM
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On one hand, kegging sounds like a wonderous thing....no more cleaning bottles, no more waiting 3 weeks for carbonation, beer on tap! On the other hand, once you get your equipment, it can seem like a major pain in the butt to hook up everything right, carbonate to the right pressure, and avoid damaging your beer. So to help those getting started, or those struggling with the typical kegging/carbonating issues, here's some instructions on what works for me:

First things First

When you start kegging, the first thing you need to think about and take care of is the rebuilding of the kegs (unless of course, you purchased ones that were already rebuilt for you). You need to take the kegs apart and replace the o-rings, clean it with some cleaner (I use oxyclean) and sanitize before actually putting beer in them.

To take off the keg posts, I use a 7/8 socket (note, some kegs vary in post size):

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image001.jpg)

Removing the "IN" post looks like this. The o-ring on the tube is one of 5 that needs to be removed and replaced.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image003.jpg)

In this shot you can see the large o-ring on the lid that needs to be replaced, as well as one of the two post o-rings.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image005.jpg)

The "OUT" tube shows the last o-ring to be replaced. Also, if you can clean the inside of the dip-tube, do so (I have a special brush that I use for hoses that works for the dip-tubes as well).

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image007.jpg)

HBA also has a great article on cleaning and maintaining kegs that I highly recommend you check out as well. It can be found here.

Purging the O2

Once your kegs are cleaned and sanitized, you can fill them with beer. However, you do not want to seal them up with a bunch of oxygen in them, so you need to purge it out.

Hook up your CO2 to the keg, using the "IN" post (I usually have mine set to 12-15 psi for this):

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image009.jpg)

Once the CO2 stops filling (you'll be able to hear it), pull the release. Let it fill up again and release. Repeat 3-4 times and you should have only CO2 in the keg.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image011.jpg)

You can leave you beer like this for a long time without concerns.

Proper CO2 Levels in Beer

Thanks to HBA, here is a nice chart for determining what pressure you should carbonate your beer to: CO2 Chart

Methods of Carbonating

There are a couple of different ways you can force carbonate your beer....it all depends on when you want it ready and what equipment you have available to you. The thing you need to remember is, you should really carbonate your beer when it is cold. It'll allow much better absorption and take less time (the 5 minute method show below assumes your kegged beer is 40F).

Patient Method - Simply hook up the CO2 to your "OUT" post and turn the pressure to whatever you want to carbonate at (usually 10-12 psi for 40F). Within 3-5 days the beer will be carbonated to the proper level (based on my own experience, this can take a week or longer, depending).

Note: You can also do this using the "IN" post, which will avoid the possibility of getting beer in your gas line, but it'll probably double the amount of time needed for it to carbonate. I've done it this way and I'd figure at least 10 days.

5 Minute Carbonation - If you're in a hurry, you can carbonate your beer within 5 minutes (however, I'd suggest leaving it overnight at a minimum after doing so). The easiest way I've found to do this is to obtain a bleeder valve like the one shown in the first picture below. The bleeder valve will let you know what the pressure in the keg is....very helpful as you'll see in a minute.

This keg has beer in it and has been purged of O2, but the pressure inside the keg reads 0psi.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image013.jpg)

Turn on the CO2 tank to 25-30psi and attach the gas to the "OUT" post (you can use the in post, but it will take longer).

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image015.jpg)

Disconnect the CO2. The pressure in the keg is now 25-30psi. To get the CO2 absorbed into the beer, you need to agitate it somehow. I put my kegs on their corner and shake back and forth for 30-40 seconds.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image017.jpg)

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image019.jpg)
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Jimvy
post Sep 15 2005, 11:05 AM
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After shaking vigorously for 30-40 seconds, I attach the bleeder valve to the "IN" post to see where the pressure has equalized.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image021.jpg)

The gauge reads about 8psi.....typically, for my system I shoot for 12psi, so I re-attach the CO2 to the "OUT" post at 25-30 psi, wait for it to stop filling the keg with CO2, disconnect, and shake again for 30-40 seconds.

This time I'm at about 12-13psi....the job is done.

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image023.jpg)

When you are connecting gas to the "OUT" post, you have to be careful of a couple of things. First, if the pressure in the keg gets higher than the CO2 tank (i.e. you pressurize to 25psi and then turn your CO2 tank down to 12psi and reconnnect), the pressure from the keg will actually push the beer into your CO2 line, and possibly to your regulator. You really don't want to damage your regulator so be careful with this. Second, the "OUT" posts are usually slightly bigger than the "IN" post....so it's a pretty tight fit using a gas connect (you could certainly use a liquid connect though). When you pull the connect off the post, try to do so fairly quickly. Otherwise it may stick and spray some of your precious beer:

(IMG:http://webpages.charter.net/jim.yeager/Beer%20Writeups/Kegging%20and%20Carbonating_files/image025.jpg)

No Bleeder Valve

So what if you don't have the bleeder valve....can you still carbonate the fast way? The answer is yes, but you aren't going to be able to get it perfect. I have suggested the following to friends that are in a hurry but don't have a bleeder valve:

1) Hook up the CO2 to the "OUT" post at 25psi (do not disconnect)
2) Shake the keg for 10 seconds
3) Let the CO2 fill the keg again
4) Shake for 10 seconds
5) Let the CO2 fill the keg again
6) Disconnect the CO2
7) Shake for 30-40 seconds

It won't be perfect, but it will get you close....close enough to drink some. You can also do a combination....do the quick method to 25-30 psi 1-2 times and then put on pressure via the "Patient Method."

Dispensing

Since we're already talking about CO2, let me throw in a little blip on dispensing. Most literature I've seen says 1.8-2.0psi per foot of beer line, so if you don't want to turn your CO2 up and down, you'd need about a 6ft beer line and dispense pressure of 12psi (and you could adjust up and down depending on the temp of your frig and the psi you like to carb at). This works for a kegorator or picnic taps.

Jim
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MtnBrewer
post Nov 12 2008, 10:49 AM
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stout_fan has submitted the following tips:
  1. I have posted before, but here's a recap:
    I use standard automotive quick disconnect airline fittings for my CO2. A female is on 6 feet of gas line coming from my regulator. I have gas and liquid fittings adapted through a female flare to FPT adapter. On the other side is a male QD. Before racking my beer into the keg I slap the liquid fitting on and purge through the dip tube to displace all the air in the keg. Since I use both ball and pin lock fittings, this makes life a LOT easier.
  2. How do you know you've purged all the air? Leave the lid in place, open the safety valve. Cranking 10 pounds or so CO2 will make note from the relief valve. Because CO2 has higher compressibility (along with higher molecular weight) the note will drop an octave when CO2 goes through the relief valve. You can then turn off the gas confident you've purged the air out of your kegs.
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