Friday, April 29, 2011

Kegging SheppyBrew

Saturday, I finally kegged a batch of beer.

I've been brewing since early 2009, and have always just bottled my beer.  I never really minded the bottling process too much when all my batches were 2.4 gallons, but for some reason, the 5 gallon batches really pushed me over the edge, making me despise bottling days.  Cleaning and sanitizing 40 or 50 bottles and then individually filling and capping each one was starting to seem like way too much work.

So, for awhile I've been thinking about kegging.  Cleaning and sanitizing one container is much easier than doing 50.  Filling that container is pretty much just like filling the bottling bucket before.  Of course, I wouldn't have to cap all those bottles.

Kegging takes a bit of an upfront investment. The first piece of equipment on my wish list was a kegerator, so that I would have a place to keep my kegs of beer cold.  I had been on the lookout for a proper-sized mini fridge that I could convert.  I also looked at actual professionally built kegerators.  Some of the kegerators on e-bay were going inexpensive enough that when I factored in the refrigerator, conversion kit, CO2 tank, CO2 regulator, and other miscellaneous "stuff", the build or buy ROI was pretty much break-even.

And then, one day in early March, I placed a really low big on an ebay kegerator, expecting that there was no way I would win the thing.  But, I did win.  So, for over a month, I've had a kegerator sitting in my garage waiting for the opportunity to be used.

And, this Saturday, Fat and Stoopid Amber Ale was ready to transfer.  I stopped by my LHBS (the Brew Hut) last week to get a re-furbished corny keg and some quick-connect fittings for the gas and beer lines.  Then, I stopped by a little later in the week to get my CO2 tank filled up.  Saturday morning, I started to put everything together and test the system when I decided that I did not like the clamps that came with the kegerator, so I went to home-depot at its 6AM opening time to get ones I liked better. 

I sanitized the keg with my normal star san and then pressurized the keg to run the sanitizer through the beer line and tap.  After running the sanitizer through, I simply "racked" my beer from the fermenter into the keg.


Draining the beer into the keg.
Filling the keg went smoothly.  I sealed up the keg, and pressurized it.  I purged oxygen from the head-space of the keg by opening the release valve a few times, and let the keg sit under 30 psi pressure.

Then, I had to move my kegerator from the garage to the basement.  First, though, I moved my little beer fridge from the basement up to our kitchen.  I'm not sure if that little fridge will stay there or either be moved elsewhere or sold.  The kegerator replaced my little beer fridge downstairs.


Inside the kegerator.


The kegerator.
Throughout the rest of the day, I let the kegerator temperature stabilize.  I kept playing with the CO2 pressure, and eventually ended up at about 12psi and 38 to 40 degrees F.  I'll let the carbonation slowly absorb into the beer over the next few days.  Sunday while watching the mighty Blackhawks defeat the evil Vancouver Canucks, I poured myself a beer from the kegerator tap.  It was a very nice beer.  Under-carbonated as expected, but it was certainly coming along.  I expect it will be perfect in a few days.  Isn't it exciting?

I harvested the WY1272 yeast so that I have some for future brews.  I cleaned everything up.  I'm feeling pretty good about this whole kegging step that I've taken.



Harvested some yeast

There are a couple of changes I think I need to make to my setup.  My kegerator will physically fit two corny kegs, but right now, my gas line only supports a line to one keg, and I only have one serving tap.  So, I'll have to get some splitter valves from my regulator to two kegs.  I think for now, keg two will only have a picnic tap attached, and I'll open the kegerator to get beer from it, but eventually, I'll want to run a second tap out of the kegerator.

Right now, my CO2 tank and regulator sits inside the kegerator.  I think I will want to set that up outside and drill a hole through so I can adjust the pressure without opening the door.  This will be especially important when there are two kegs in there.

I may eventually want a bigger CO2 tank.  The one that came with the kegerator is tiny, and will have to be filled quite often (I think).  The tiny tank will probably be perfect to bring camping or to picnics or similar off-site places where I want to bring a keg of beer.

I'm also thinking of adding a tap or two to my big beer fridge, and setting it up so it can hold two or three kegs.  This is probably really far in the future, but it is something I can see myself doing eventually.

Anyway, the important part of this blog post is that SheppyBrew is now available in keg.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

2 comments:

  1. I am very surprised that it took you so long to start kegging your beer. It only took me one attempt at cleaning and sanitizing so many bottles that i decided a kegerator was a worth while investment (and a fun project). Did you ever decide to get a bigger kegerator or expand to your fridge?

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  2. Yes, It is sort of amazing that it took so long. It is one of those things that once you do you realize it was silly to put it off.

    I have not expanded to my fridge or gotten a bigger keggerator. To be honest, I do like HAVING bottles, so I probably will always do some bottling. I did just purchase a beer gun, so I have the option of bottling straight from the keg.

    Anyway, Eric, thanks for stopping by.

    Others who are looking for kegging information ... check out http://www.howtokeg.com/

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