kegs are assembled from many stainless steel parts and a number
of rubber O rings. Most of these parts come into contact with
the beer and therefore must be cleaned and sanitized before use.
With careful disassembly and assembly, none of the stainless parts
should ever need replacement. O rings can eventually dry out,
crack, get cut, or simply get lost. One of the real advantages
of Corny kegs is the wide availability of standard replacement
parts. Most larger homebrew supply shops and mail-order suppliers
will have all the parts you need, and several national distributors
of restaurant and beverage supplies also carry all replacement
view from above a typical Corny keg with lid removed. Lids
can come in different styles, with or without a pressure
relief valve (top). The O rings from reconditioned kegs
(shown around the lids) should be thoroughly cleaned or
many home brewers acquire used, reconditioned kegs, and because
there's no way of knowing where that used keg came from, it's
always a good idea to disassemble used www.kegs.completely and inspect
them for damage (such as pitting or rust spots inside), residue,
and general cleanliness. The kegs may well need a good scrubbing
The lid: It should be easy enough to remove the lid and
the large O ring used to seal it when the keg is depressurized
by lifting the retaining bail (the lid won't budge if the keg's
under pressure). Often the O ring will smell strongly of soda
syrup. The smell can be removed by washing in warm soapy water.
Many brewers prefer to buy an O ring kit to replace all the
rubber parts to eliminate the syrup odor. I've never found the
original O rings to have any effect on beer aroma or flavor,
but the choice is yours. These large rings cost about $4 (about
$7 for a kit). In any case, the O ring should be removed from
the lid, and both parts thoroughly washed and reassembled, along
with the retaining bail.
A newly purchased keg should be very clean inside and not require
any special treatment. An effective way to wash the interior,
if it's needed, is to add about 1-2 tsp of nonperfumed dishwasher
detergent or TSP to about 2-4 qt of the hottest tap water available.
With the lid in place and locked, shake the keg repeatedly,
then drain and rinse. Usually, the kegs you buy will have only
been used as soda canisters, and any residue they contain is
easily water soluble.
be harder to clean after you've used them for beer making because
of beer stone, protein deposits, trub, and so forth. A standard
carboy brush will come in handy for loosening gummy material.
The dishwasher detergent will then leave the keg bright. It's
sometimes difficult to tell whether the keg is completely rinsed,
so after draining all detergent water I rinse three times --
twice with very hot water, and a final time with cold water.
valves: Two valve assemblies, also at the top of the keg,
allow the rapid connection and disconnection of the gas pressure
line and the beverage dispensing line. These poppet valves are
designed so that gas pressure inside the keg seals the valves
shut when the keg is not connected during storage and transport.
The gas and beverage hoses connect to these valves using "quick-disconnect"
fittings. The valves and matching fittings come in either a
ball-lock or a pin-lock style, which are just two different
ways to couple the fitting to the valve.
of a pin-lock (left) and a ball-lock keg.
The two valve assemblies thread onto the keg like any nut to
a bolt. For ball-lock kegs, use any wrench or socket that matches
the fittings (one is usually a standard hex shape, and the other
usually a 12-point style), turn them counterclockwise, and remove
them from the keg. On pin-lock kegs, the gas-side connector
uses two pins 180 degrees apart, and the beer side uses three
pins 60 degrees apart. The pins make it difficult to get a wrench
on the beer side. Many brewers modify a spark-plug socket wrench
by cutting slots in the corners for the pins to fit into, which
prevents accidental snapping of the pins off the connector.
keg with disconnect fittings, gas hose, and beer hose with
picnic tap. The IN and OUT fittings on a ball-lock keg have
very slightly different diameters. The mnemonic for connections
is Gray = Gas, Black = Beer.
Each of these valve assemblies consists of two main parts: the
threaded connector that you just removed, and a poppet with
a spring pressed into the housing. These valves can usually
be cleaned with no further disassembly by simply hand-agitating
them in hot soapy water (soak if needed). If you feel it is
necessary to clean the poppet or replace one that no longer
seals, simply depress the poppet into the housing with a nail
or dowel and it will pop out the bottom. Reassembly is simply
a matter of pressing it back in.
the O rings. Inspect the exterior O rings for damage, and
replace them if they've been cut. They can be removed from the
valve housing using a small screwdriver -- be careful not to
use too sharp a tool.
Soak the valve assemblies in iodophor before reassembly.
gas (IN) fitting of a pin-lock-style keg has two pins; the
beer fitting has three. The poppets in these valves allow
the keg's gas pressure to seal shut when the keg is not
and gas tubes: Remove. After you've removed the valves
from each side of the keg, you'll see the two threaded connections
integral to the keg. In the hole of each connection you should
find a stainless steel tube. The tube on the gas side of the
keg, the side marked IN, is only about 3 in. long; the other
tube, on the beer side marked OUT, is much longer and reaches
to the bottom of the keg. Remove both tubes by simply reaching
into the keg and pushing the tubes up and out.
The top of each tube is flared outward to retain the O ring
and to prevent the tube from dropping through the hole into
the keg. Carefully remove the O rings (original equipment on
many kegs is often a rubber washer), and clean them and the
tubes with warm water and detergent. A long tubing brush is
handy for thoroughly cleaning the interior.
fittings on this keg are not interchangeable with ball-lock
connectors. Thus, it's usually best to stick with one style
Reassemble the keg by inserting the long dip tube into the OUT
side of the keg and the short tube into the IN side. Thread the
valves back on, remembering to put the gas and beverage valves
on the correct sides of the keg.
When you're ready to rack from your fermentor to the keg, add
about 2 qt of iodophor solution to the keg, seal it with the lid,
and agitate. Rock the keg enough to get sanitizer inside both
dip tubes, and occasionally invert the keg and depress the pin
in the center of the valve housings using a large nail or other
tool to allow any sanitizer in the tubes to drain out the valve
assembly and sanitize difficult-to-reach parts. After a few minutes
of agitation, I drain the sanitizer into an open pan and use it
to sanitize the racking tube and cane. (Be sure that all the solution
is drained from the long tube by standing the keg upright and
depressing the OUT connector.) Leave the keg inverted in a clean
container while you prepare for racking.