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This is a simple guide to properly and effectively cleaning, sanitizing, filling, carbonating and serving homebrew beer using Corny kegs. The advantages to kegging are many, but they can be summarized in a few key points: Kegged beer is ready to drink faster than bottled beer because you will be using a Co2 tank to carbonate! You can also carbonate to any level you want – no more guess work that may come with natural carbonation! In addition, there will be no more sanitizing, filling and capping dozens of bottles!
Equipment You Will Need
MoreBeer! Product Numbers and links in Parentheses
• Cornelius or “Corny” style keg (KEG418/KEG420)
• 5 ft – 3/16” Inner Diameter (I.D.) Beverage Line (D1700)
• 3 ft – 5/16” Inner Diameter (I.D.) Gas Line (D1704)
• Gas-In (Gray) Quick Disconnect (KEG710)
• Beverage-Out (Black) Quick Disconnect (KEG700)
• Handheld faucet (D1260) or other beer faucet
• Co2 Tank - 5lbs or more (D1056)
• Co2 Regulator (D1060)
• Refrigerator or Chest Freezer with Temperature Controller (FE600/FE601)
• Brewery Cleaner such as PBW (CL25A)
• Sanitizer such as Star San (CL26)
• Soft Scrub Pad (CE27) and/or Carboy Brush (CE40)
• ¼” Line Brush (CE45)
• Deep Socket Tool – 11/16” and/or 7/8”
Equipment You May Want
• Keg Lube, such as CIP Film (CL48)
• Replacement Keg O-Rings (KEG500)
• Replacement Poppets (KEG540)
• Replacement Body Connects (KEG460N/KEG470N)
• Co2 Tee (D1860)
• Manifold (D1800/D1805/D1810/D1815)
• Secondary Regulator (D1067A/D1067B/D1067C/D1067D)
• Diffusion Stone - .5 Micron (KEG594)
Homebrew Kegging Equipment Review in Detail
The Keg: The Cornelius, or Corny, keg is made from stainless steel and designed to hold up to 60 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure. The most common Corny kegs are made to hold 5 gallons of liquid, however, they can vary in size. The Corny keg is made up of:
Keg Shell: This is the body of the keg that holds the liquid and is made of stainless steel.
KegTop and Bottom: The top (handles) and the bottom of the keg are usually made of rubber; they canvary in color but are most commonly black.
Keg Lid: This is the piece that goes onto the top of the keg to close it. It consists of a bail to hold it in place, a pressure relief valve, and a large o-ring to form a seal against the keg. Keg lids are normally interchangeable between kegs; however, some lids are a different shape than that pictured, and will only fit certain style kegs. These less common lids are commonly called “racetrack” lids due to their unique oval shape.
The “Gas-In” Body Connect or Post: This is the part that the Gas-In Quick Disconnect fits on. This fitting is commonly identified by having either a star pattern and/or hash mark on the base. It usually takes a deep socket to remove these; typically they will be either 7/8” or 11/16”.
The “Beverage-Out” Body Connect or Post: This is the part that the Beverage-Out Quick Disconnect fits on. This fitting will not have astar pattern or hash mark identifying it.
Keg Poppet: In each of the body connects is a poppet. These are spring-loaded and alloweither gas in or beer out when the Quick Disconnects are placed on the bodyconnects. These sit on the dip tube flange.
Keg Gas-In Dip Tube: These are made of stainless or plastic and are usually 1 – 2 inches long. There is a gasket that seals the connection where the tube slides into the shell. This is how the gas gets into the keg.
Keg Beverage-Out Dip Tube: These are always made of stainless and can be curved or straight. These are made to reach all the way to the bottom of the keg. Beer-Out Dip tubes have a gasket around them to form a seal where they go into the shell. This is what draws the beer from the bottom of the keg.
Keg O-rings: There are 5 o-rings on each Corny keg; 1 for the lid, 2 for each body connect, and 2 for each dip tube. O-rings should be replaced if the keg was used for something other than beer and periodically every couple years after that, depending on usage and storage. We recommend using a keg lube such as Lubrifilm on the o-rings. This will help prevent the o-rings from cracking and also make putting the quick disconnects onto the keg easier.
To Clean Homebrew Kegs
1. Completely dismantle the keg by taking off the body connects, dip tubes, o-rings, the
keg lid, etc., and put the small fittings into a bowl.
2. If the keg is dirty or has residue left over from the last use, use some brewery cleaner
such as PBW and some warm water to fill the keg at least half way.
3. Use a carboy brush or a soft scrub pad (not steel wool) to clean the shell of the keg
inside and out, paying close attention to the areas that are hidden to make sure they
are cleaned thoroughly.
4. Clean the Beverage-Out Dip Tube with a ¼” Line Brush and some PBW solution.
5. Clean and inspect all pieces such as O-Rings, Poppets, Body Connects, etc., for signs
of wear or breakage. Replace if needed.
6. Drain the keg and small parts and rinse them well. The PBW may be used on another
keg/keg parts or dumped at this time.
7. Reassemble the keg.
To Sanitize Homebrew Kegs
1. Fill the shell completely with a sanitizing solution. We recommend Star San. Follow
the directions for diluting the sanitizer you use.
2. Let the sanitizer sit in the keg for the recommended contact time (2 minutes for Star
3. Put the lid in a separate bowl filled with sanitizing solution and let this sit as well.
4. Once the lid has soaked in the sanitizer for the proper amount of time, put it onto the
filled keg, making sure that it seals correctly.
5. Flip the closed keg over and let it sit for another 1-2 minutes. This will allow the
sanitizer to get into all the areas in the keg including the dip tubes.
6. Drain the keg. When using “no-rinse” sanitizers, such as Star San, a small amount of
foam or sanitizer will not impart any flavors or orders. You can drain the keg by:
a. Opening the keg and setting it upside-down for 5 – 10 minutes.
b. Siphoning the sanitizer out with a siphoning set-up.
c. Pushing the sanitizer out with Co2. This is the recommended way, as this will
sanitize the serving lines as well as fill the shell with Co2 rather than air.
The Co2 Set-Up
The Co2 setup consists of two main parts: the Co2 tank and Co2 regulator. We highly recommend that a Co2 tank of 5lbs or more is used, along with a regulator like the one pictured. Although smaller, more portable systems are available, they are not very practical for carbonating.
Co2 (Carbon Dioxide)
Co2 is a gas that will take liquid form at certain pressures and temperatures. This gas is what we use to both carbonate and serve beer. Being that Co2 is in liquid form when in the tank, the tank must be upright when the tank is on and the regulator is hooked up. Turning the handle on the tank counterclockwise turns the tank on. Co2 tanks need to be hydrostatic tested every 5 years at about $15 each test, so we recommend “swapping” your tank rather than having it filled, when possible. One 5lb Co2 tank is usually enough to carbonate and serve 6 or more five-gallon Corny kegs.
The Co2 Regulator
The Co2 Regulator essentially takes the pressure of the gas of the top of the tank and reduces it to a lower, controlled pressure. The regulator attaches to the tank with a female hex piece. The pressure going into the regulator is generally around 500-900 PSI, depending on the temperature of the tank.
The body of the regulator has two gauges. The one on top is the adjustable pressure and the one on the side reads the pressure of the gas in the tank. The gauge that measures the tank pressure can be a bit deceiving as it will show about 700-900 PSI if the tank is at room temperature, and 500-600 PSI at refrigeration temperature. This will remain fairly steady until most of the Co2 is gone from the tank. At that point, the gauge will start plummeting into the red, which means it is time to swap your tank for a full one.You can adjust the flow of Co2 by turning the screw in the main body of the regulator. This threaded fitting will usually be screwed all the way out when it is new, but it will not actually come completely apart from the regulator body. To engage it, thread it in slowly till the threads start to connect. The more you thread it in, the more the PSI will build. Once the desired pressure is reached, moving the nut until it hits the body of the regulator will lock the threaded fitting in place. Remember that you may notice some “drift” between PSI readings if the tank changes temperatures. On the bottom of the regulator is an on/off valve as well as a one-way valve, commonly called a check valve. These allow for ease of turning the gas flow on and off, as well as protection from liquid working its way up into the regulator. A dual gauge Co2 regulator with check valve.
Connecting the Co2 Regulator
The regulator connects to the keg via a Gas-In Quick Disconnect. The Gas-In Quick Disconnect is connected to the regulator with 5/16” I.D. tubing. A majority of Co2 equipment has 5/16” barbs, which is why 5/16” tubing is commonly used for gas equipment. However, the Gas-In Q.D. has a ¼” barb on it so the 5/16” tubing must be attached and secured with a hose clamp. We have never found this to be a problem with leaking, etc., as long as the tubing is clamped down tightly. If you wish to run multiple kegs off of one Co2 Tank, you will need a Co2 Tee, Gas Manifold, or Secondary Regulator. The Co2 Tee will allow only one additional keg run at the same pressure as the other, the Gas Manifold will allow for many kegs at the same pressure and the Secondary regulator will allow for many kegs at different pressures. They are all easy to use and install, the one you choose depends on your ideal set-up.
Checking the Kegging System For Leaks
When you first build your gas system, or add any modifications, you should always check for gas leaks. The easiest way to check for leaks is to put all of the tubing and any connections (excluding the regulator and any other parts that may become damaged in liquid) into a bowl of water with the gas turned on. If a leak is present, you will see bubbles when submerged under water. Another great way to check for leaks is to use Star San, which is known for foaming, in conjunction with a spray bottle or
washcloth. Commercial leak detectors are available, but they are not necessary for small-scale draft systems.
Filling and Carbonating Kegged Homebrew
Filling and Sealing the Keg
A Cornelius keg can be filled in a variety of ways, from just opening the lid and siphoning into it, to alternative methods such as Closed Brewing http://morebeer.com/public/chrisg/closedb.htm to help reduce bacteria pickup. Once the keg is filled, it is most important that the lid be seated properly before the bail is closed. To do this, turn the Co2 on, and set it to 10-12 PSI. Put the Gas-In Quick Disconnect onto the Gas-In Body Connect of the keg while simultaneously pulling up on the bail of the keg lid. The lid might move a second or so before finding the seal, but it should sit correctly relatively fast. Once the lid is sealed and held up by the gas, set the bail of the lid. To purge oxygen out of the air space in the keg, pull up on the pressure relief valve while the gas is hooked up. Now the keg is ready for carbonation!
Beer in a Cornelius keg can be carbonated a number of different ways. Keep in mind that all the methods of carbonating assume that an adjustable pressure Co2 regulator is being used and that the beer is at or below 60°F as Co2 is more readily absorbed into cold liquids (see Carbonation Chart below). It is recommended that beer be kept very cold to allow the beer to absorb Co2 more easily. Please note that carbonation times may vary depending on the style of the beer, density of the liquid and the method used to carbonate. It is always a good idea to test beer frequently to make sure the carbonation level is right for you. This manual will cover carbonating by:
• Saturation Over Time (recommended)
• Using a Diffusion or Carbonation Stone
• Shaking Co2 Into the Solution
• High Pressure Carbonation