John had some unfulfilled questions about getting started in kegging homebrew. It has been a long time goal of his to start kegging some of his beer while still bottling most of his batches. He wants the option to quickly carbonate and serve fresh beer at home for family and visitors (mostly me, I hope). This week, we touch on some of my recommendations for his first few purchases of the main hardware.
This conversation covers some of the obvious equipment needs to get started. More importantly, we cover the largest ticket items for getting started and we discuss a couple of the not so obvious ways to save some money and/or hassle when getting started in kegging homebrew.
Buy a Fridge
You’d be surprised how often it come up that someone tries to get stared in the kegging process but doesn’t want to invest in a fridge. Buy a fridge because an ice bath doesn’t cut it. Purchase one that can do double duty as a storage fridge for brewing ingredients and bottled beer. In the past, a quality stand up fridge has also been good for storing a large birthday cake or a 6 gallon bucket of turkey brine. So consider the multipurpose utility of a fridge to justify the cost of your first kegging fridge.
It’s incredibly hard to carbonate a warm keg and expect good pouring results later so that is why a fridge is necessary. Also, a dedicated fridge keeps the beer cold which helps clear faster and is much easier to work on balancing the beer lines and carbonation for foam free pouring than trying to serve kegged beer using an ice bucket.
Don’t invest in a CO2 tank
Unless you are absolutely sure you have a vendor that will fill a CO2 tank for you, you’re better off doing tank exchange. I prefer tank exchange because you can save some costs. A brand new tank as a part of a kegging homebrew kit usually costs more than the entry fee for getting into the tank exchange program.
[This is something we didn’t talk about in the video. It’s somewhat cheaper (albeit more work) to piece a system out yourself rather than going with a kit. After the keg, the tank is the most expensive part of the setup.]
Buy a Regulator
This item is pretty straightforward. Buy a dual gauge regulator, though I don’t think I’ve seen too many single gauge regulators. One gauge is for the tank pressure and the other one is for line delivery pressure.
The regulator is a cost that you can’t get around. In fact, it will cost a little more if you heed this very important advice: Protect your regulator.
They sell this device called a regulator cage. It’s usually around $15, pretty cheap money for what you get out of it. A CO2 tank with a regulator and a hose attached to it tends to have a habit of being in the way, a lot. If you’re like me, eventually, you will knock over your tank and break one of the gauges.
I was able to replace the gauge, but for the cost of the cage, I wouldn’t have broken the gauge if you catch my drift. No cage and I’m likely to bust another gauge someday. It’s a cheap investment to save you money in the long run.
Compare the Costs of New vs. Used Kegs
To be honest, I don’t think the cost of a new 5 gallon corny keg is worth it. Used kegs are generally slightly cheaper and just as good. Be sure you buy one that is already holding pressure. If the keg was most recently used as a soda keg (pretty rare for that to be the case these days), you’ll want to get a gasket/o-ring replacement kit.
The rubber rings tend to absorb flavors and aromas. For some reason, soda aroma just doesn’t leach out that easily. New rings might be worth it all together to avoid leaks early on and you’ll know how much service time are on the new rings rather than waiting for a frustrating failure of beer all over the floor of your new fridge (see the first item above).
There’s a lot of ‘little things’ that go into getting started with kegging homebrew too. We’ll address those in an upcoming video.
Until then, BREW ON!