So, you want to start kegging…..
Kegging is a common and natural evolution that many homebrewers arrive at either early, or not long into their brewing careers. The obvious advantage is being able to deal with an entire batch in one container, instead of multiple, and to have the ability to carbonate all at once, and to a consistent level. This says nothing about the time savings of kegging, but these advantages are not without costs. For the most part, the costs of kegging are one-time costs with very long lifespans, so while kegging is an additional cost up front, anyone who intends to brew even as seldom as monthly will realize huge time savings in a very short time.
This simple overview is intended to give you an idea of the main pieces needed to begin kegging, and the approximate costs. Since costs are subject to change, please ensure you visit our site to confirm prices to avoid any surprises when you shop.
Individual brewing setups can and do vary widely. Some are described as “ghetto breweries” while others are clearly showpieces of engineering, order, and layout. I only mention this since we are essentially skipping over all of the brewing process and landing at the very end, at the packaging stage. It doesn't matter how you brew, or what you brew on, but we are assuming that your existing packaging set up is bottling, so you MAY not have a CO2 tank and regulator yet, or a keg, or the connections to the keg, since these are not essential at any other point in the brewing process.
Having said that, there are always exceptions to rules, but we need to make the assumption that you are beginning from a typical bottling set up with little or none of the needed hardware to begin kegging.
The first consideration for you to make is to determine why you want to leave bottling and move to kegging. For many people, it’s to avoid the “hassle” of bottling, which translates to mess and time. However, the cost of bottling is less than the cost of kegging, so if you are cost sensitive, but have time on your hands, bottling might be your best bet. If your beer is inconsistently carbonated and you want to move to a more consistent method, again if you consider the costs, you might be better off fine tuning your bottle conditioning process. Finally, if you are wanting to move into a refrigerated storage and dispensing system, then kegging is the answer, but you have already resigned yourself to investing in both a kegging solution and a refrigeration solution. The last point I will make here is that it is easy and common to move to kegging without building a keezer or beer fridge with taps. You can often find room in a normal or dorm sized fridge for a keg with a simple picnic tap for serving. This gives you the convenience of kegging with a simple way to serve, without the additional costs of a built-out fridge or keezer.
OK, so you want to move to kegging, and here is what you need to have;
- A keg. Cornelius (corny) ball lock, 5 gallon kegs are by far the most common, available both used and new.
- A CO2 tank and regulator. CO2 is the only element of this system (except the beer) that requires periodic refilling and thus an ongoing cost. However, at typical dispensing pressures of 11-13 PSI, you only consume about ½ Lb of gas for each full keg you dispense.
- A dispensing solution. As noted above, an easy way to begin is to fill the keg, cool and carbonate it, and attach a tube with a “picnic” or Cobra tap. The tap rests on top of the keg inside the fridge and you simply dispense directly from the tap. The other option involves faucets and shanks and will not be covered here.
- Tubing and connections from the CO2 tank to the keg, and from the keg to the tap. This is the least expensive part of the process, but since it involves connections that are under pressure, it does demand that you do a solid job of making all the connections as tight as possible.
So, here is a typical cost breakdown for each component you need…
- Keg, used. About $70.00 each. There are occasionally sales and many people buy them online from other brewers moving or leaving brewing.
- CO2 tank: a 5lb tank is about $120.00, filled. Note that all tanks in Canada have to be inspected every 5 years, so if buying used or online, be sure you know the last test date.
- CO2 regulator: About $70.00 for a good, new unit with ONE pressure output.
- One gas and one liquid ball lock disconnect, plus FML swivel nut and barb. This combination is about $7.00 each
- Tubing and picnic tap: tubing is about $1.00 per foot and a picnic tap is about $5.00. You can expect to need about 4’ of gas line ($4.00) and about 10’ of beer line ($10.00).
- Connectors/clamps: these can be purchased cheaply, but often not stainless steel, for about $0.50 each. You need one for each end of each line, so expect between $4.00 and $8.00 total.
Total estimated cost is $296.00 plus HST. When the time comes, the cost to refill a 5lb CO2 tank is $15.00, 10lb is $30.00, and 20lb is $60.00.
You will find all these items as more routinely in stock at The Homebrew Beer Academy, but prices have started to fluctuate a bit, so please contact us, check online, or come in to see us for current pricing.