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> Using Kegs as Secondary Fermenters, contributed by flaminio
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post Dec 10 2005, 10:12 PM
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Using Kegs as Secondary Fermenters FAQ
contributed by flaminio

If you have some kegs to spare, using them as secondary fermenters has a number of advantages. The idea is to rack from your primary fermenter into a keg, then go from the secondary keg to your serving keg. You, of course, could just skip racking to a serving keg and serve directly from the secondary keg, but that's no fun! (IMG:style_emoticons/brewboard/wink.gif)

Advantages of Using a Keg as a Secondary Fermenter
-- You can all but eliminate the possibility of oxidizing your beer, especially when using the racking w/CO2 method from the primary (see Racking FAQ).
-- It also limits the possibility of contamination because transfers take place in an enclosed environment.
-- Kegs are also obviously impervious to light, so there's no worry about storing your beer with the lights on or drapes open.
-- Smaller foot print means better storage and easier cold conditioning.
-- Get a start on pressurization from the natural carbonation during secondary.
-- Much stronger and more durable than glass and plastic.
-- Cleaning and sanitizing kegs can be easier than carboys.
-- When reconditioning yourself, a keg costs about as much as a carboy, but are more versatile

The process is pretty simple. You need to make a jumper connector by taking a piece of 1/4" beverage tubing and two liquid quick disconnects. Here's what the jumper looks like after assembly.
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First purge the destination keg of oxygen by sealing it, putting the CO2 disconnect on the beverage out post, and burping the keg. Then connect the kegs together by the jumper using the beverage out posts. Next connect CO2 to the originating keg's in post at low psi and the transfer will begin. Open your relief valve to let out pressure in the destination keg. We want the destination keg's pressure to be lower than the originating keg to maintain the flow. If you have a flip style valve, just flip it open. If you have a ring style, pull and twist the valve 1/4 turn to lock it open. Alternatively, you could put a gas QD on the in post to let the pressure bleed off. The idea is this keeps positive pressure in the keg, keeping oxygen and other bad stuff out. Here's what the setup looks like in action, with CO2 on the originating keg and the valve flipped open on the destination keg. After the transfer is completed, you may want to give the full keg a final burp to evacuate any oxygen that might be in the head space. Then finally seal the keg up and apply 15-20 psi to ensure the keg has a good seal.
Attached Image


Here's another setup with a ring-style pressure relief on the destination keg. Here I used a gas QD to let the pressure out.
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One bump in the road may include foaming when the destination keg gets full. This is typically because the originating keg was pressurized by natural carbonation. If you just pull the relief valve once in a while during secondary, you'll have no problems. This will keep the pressure from building and carbonating your beer. If I have time, I usually chill the originating keg before racking, and that's a sure fire way to avoid any foaming. You can also pressurize the destination keg to the level of the originating keg, and maintain that pressure through the transfer. A Bleeder Valve (part #K088 from Northern Brewer, for example) is very handy, but not required, to do this correctly.

There are a couple strategies to limiting sediment pickup when using a keg as a secondary. One idea is to cut about 3/4" of an inch off the bottom of the dip tube. This will leave most sediment on the bottom of the keg undisturbed, while not leaving too much beer behind. Another idea is to use a cobra tap and pour a pint or so to clear any sediment. Both methods will result in about the same amount of beer loss. These methods, of course, are optional if you're not too concerned about the amount of sediment in your serving keg.
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