Tuesday, January 26, 2010


A good friend of mine, known to many as The Mannondale, has lately started brewing his own beer. He is on the accelerated homebrewer program. In the month he has been brewing, he has brewed maybe 6 batches of varying strength and variety. I have yet to try any of his beer (since he lives 2 southern states away), but considering his increased interest and the quality of the ingredients he is using, I have no doubt that the quality of his product is top-notch. Another aspect of his brewing for which he can be considered an over-achiever is that he has already acquired a kegerator and is planning to keg his first batch tonight. This post is essentially a primer for how I keg and carbonate my beers so he has somewhere to work from when figuring out his process.

What you need to keg your homebrew:
  • A 5-gallon soda keg
  • An auto-siphon
  • Sanitizer solution
  • keg lube
  • co2
The process is super quick and simple. Essentially, it is the same as racking to secondary, but you are racking to the keg. Your keg needs to be clean. Then your keg needs to be sanitized by pouring in some sanitizer solution, re-fitting top, and shaking the keg for a a few seconds. I usually then let it sit while I take a sample of my beer to check the final gravity. Then, simply pour the sanitizer water back into your sanitizer bucket. Go ahead and drop the top in the sanitizer water, too. (But I usually keep my rubber o-ring out of the solution.) Using a sanitized auto-siphon, transfer the beer to the keg. Then lube the o-ring with a fresh coat of keg lube, place on the top, and secure the top on the keg.

With your beer in the keg, the next important thing (for beer quality) is to purge the oxygen immediately. To do this, simply hook the co2 up to the "in" connector on the keg and turn on some gas. You will hear the gas fill the empty space in the keg. When the keg is up to pressure, simply let the gasses escape by opening the pressure relief valve on the top of the keg. Repeat this several times to be confident that the oxygen has been evacuated.

It is generally accepted that beer carbonates more successfully when chilled. So at this point, I typically put the keg, while still connected to the co2, into the fridge to chill overnight.
(Fast forward to the next day)
Now that your keg of beer is chilled, you have a couple options for carbonating.
  1. Slow Carbonation - If you just hook up your beer to the gas and let it sit for a few days, then your beer will eventually carbonate. This can take different lengths of time, depending on your co2 pressure. I have had this take a week to fully carbonate in this manner. These days I want my beer faster, so I no longer use this option.
  2. Fast carbonation - For this method, I will jack up the pressure to 20-30 psi and actively work at the carbonation over the course of 20-30 minutes. You can either lay the keg down on its side and rock the keg back and forth or plug the co2 into the "out" connector (if using ball locks) and keep the keg upright (but still gently rocking it back and forth). Keep going as long as you hear the bubbling of co2 entering the keg. After maybe 20 minutes of this or when the bubbles are much less pronounced, then I call it done.
At this point, your beer should be ready to serve. Turn your gas down to your desired pressure (around 8-9psi for me - i prefer lighter carbonation) and pull yourself a beer. You may find that the pressure settles in over the course of a few days.

That's all there is to it. Beats bottling any day (Though I do still find reason to bottle the occasional special beer).