In this part of our kegging series I’ll go over an easy part of the equipment but the vital pieces that allow you to put it all together, the disconnects.
I use all ball lock equipment. I think that most keggers are using ball locks today, but there may be some secret enclaves in the country where only pin lock stuff is available. So be sure that you know what your favorite shop carries for equipment before you start searching for kegs.
On the top of your keg there are two posts. Most kegs will actually say on the top of the keg, at the base of each post, “IN” and “OUT”. Simply put one is for the gas in, then other is for the beer-out. Inside the keg you’ll see that the gas in side has a small 1-2 inch long dip tube. The length of that tube is really sort of meaningless as you don’t do much with it (unless you want to use a carbonation stone, but we’ll talk about that at another time). The center of each post has a small circular valve that is spring loaded, this is called a poppet. The poppet pushes up agains the inside of the post to seal the keg off from the inside. Getting the beer out or the gas in all happens at the poppet with the disconnect.
If you look inside a standard black or grey disconnect you’ll see a plastic pin. That pin is what pushes down the poppet to allow that valve to be open when the disconnect is on. Below are a couple pictures of the standard dissonnect. Normally, the black ones are for the “out” side, or beverage side. The grey ones are for the “in” side or the gas side. These disconnects are very simple to use. They simply slip down on top of the correct post (in or out) and snap on. To remove the dissconnect, there is a round collar that you simply pull up on to release the “ball lock” and then you pull the whole connector off of the post.
Basically you can use standard clear food grade vinyl tubing to go from regulator to gas-in connector, or to go form beverage out connector to your beer faucet. There are some more specialized types of tubing but I have always used the standard tubing. The diameter of your gas line is not all that important, however the diameter of your beverage line becomes an important consideration. The diameter of your line, and the length of that line is important and can cause excess foaming in the beer if not chosen correctly. In the kegging process we call this balancing the system. It can be a difficult topic to cover, so I’ll write about that separately and stay focused on the parts here.
The last thing you need to get (post ball locks, and tubing) is a faucet of some sort. Beer is delivered through a faucet, not a tap. A tap is the part of the system that draws the beer out of the keg. In this case the “tap” is the black ball lock dissconnect. If you were “tapping” you favorite commercial sanke keg of beer, the tap is the device that you push down onto the keg’s large center post. Beer is delivered out of a faucet. When you get started a standard picnic or cobra faucet is all that you need. Here is a picture:
You deliver your beer through the faucet to you glass (or mouth!). One key I always have to remind people is that you should fully depress or open the faucet. Or no matter how well balanced your set up is, you’ll get foam.
I have been playing around with some of my kegging stuff lately as I am getting some of my most recent brews ready. I think that the best way to see this stuff in action is through a video. I’ll try and get that up soon with this post.