Monday, January 31, 2011

The Joys of Kegging

I thought up this post in almost a mocking rebuttal to Nick's recent post "Night Time Swearing, Why You Need A Bottle Filler". While there are many advantages to bottling beer, there is also an amazing alternative, which is kegging. Lets go over the pros and cons of both, and you can make your own decision whether or not you should make the move to a kegging operation.

Bottling
Bottling is a great way to get your beer out there. There's nothing more exciting and thrilling, than after all the work of brewing, waiting of fermenting, and waiting to carbonate, popping that cap the first time and hearing that classic psst! That tells you, hey, everything is going to be a-ok. At the very least it means, A) I'm alcoholic, B) I'm carbonated. I always tell myself when making recipes, the worst case scenario is I'll have alcoholic water (except when you're making hard cider, then the worst case is you have plain ol' cider).

Bottling is a great way to get your beers out of the house. It's super easy to grab six bottles out of your fridge, stick em' in a six pack, and bring them to your friend's house for all to try. Bottling is also cheap in the short term.

That being said, bottling is a huge pain in the ass. Individually sanitizing 50 bottles takes a huge tub of sanitized water, and a boat load of counter space. Things also go much smoother if you have two people so you have one person filling, and one capping. There's also the danger of over-carbonating. Meaning you added too much priming sugar, which meant the residual yeast made too many CO2 farts, which created 50 glass grenades sitting in your closet waiting to blow. Time start to finish to bottle a 5 gallon batch is probably around an hour, depending how experienced you are and the help available. In summary:

Bottling Pros: Uncapping a homebrew is immensely satisfying, it's easier to distribute bottles, in the short term,  cheap.

Bottling Cons: Takes up a lot of room, time consuming, messy.

Kegging
Kegging for the first time, especially after countless annoying bottling sessions, is akin to the euphoria you feel when you have that first craft beer. When you take that first sip and you think to yourself, my god, where have you been all my life? Start to finish kegging a five gallon batch could take 10 minutes if you're in a rush, and that's mostly waiting for your siphon to get your beer into the keg.

Kegs are inherently safer than the potential bottle-bombs I mentioned earlier, being all stainless steel. Homebrew soda-kegs are left-over from the era of soda companies using kegs to distribute their soda-syrup versus the bag-in-a-box they use today. There's thousands of them out there. You can probably pick up a used one at your local homebrew shop for about 30-40 bucks. You heard me right. One of these bad larrys runs the same as you would have spent on the same about of bottles for that 5 gallon batch. So in that aspect they are cheap.

Heading over to the dark side of this cloud is in the short term a kegging system is expensive. If you're planning on running a draught system, you need the fridge, temperature controller, taps, keg taps, tubing, cleaners, and more. In addition, if you want to continue bottling from time to time for competitions, you also should consider getting a bottle filling mechanism of some sort (beer gun anyone?). Start up cost if you have none of this is about 300 bucks on the low side, and there is no high side.

Which also brings up that if you switch over to kegs, it's not easy to bottle off the kegs because the draught nozzles tend to generate that beautiful, fresh off the tap head, in your bottle, which means it will lose a lot of carbonation in the process. If you want to bring your beer to parties, I'd invest in growlers, which will also run you about 25 bucks a pop.

Kegging Pros: Draught beer all the time! If that isn't enough then it's cheap in the long run, it's significantly easier, and a lot cleaner.

Kegging Cons: Expensive to start up, difficult to distribute outside your house.

Well there you have it! I hope that helps you make a decision if you've been thinking about going down one road or the other. Please feel free to drop us a comment or drop us a line at our new email address ATaleOfTwoBrewers@gmail.com!

3 comments:

  1. Thank god we came across kegging equipment on the cheap early in our process of brewing. Bottling the occasional batch is more than enough hassle for me on that front.

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  2. Dont forget about the natural carbonation vs. forced carbonation debate.

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  3. What an
    excellent concept, & a great article! Congratulations all around!

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