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This article provides an introduction to '''kegging''' your beer at home. Kegging beer is much easier and less time consuming than bottling, not to mention the ''cool factor'' of pouring your homebrew from a tap.
So you want to start kegging? Tired of endlessly scrubbing the gunk from old bottles? Sick of the two hour priming, filling and capping exercise? Do you want to avoid priming altogether? Do you have an extra refrigerator laying around that you could mount a tap on? Want to be the envy of ALL of your friends? There are many reasons for kegging, but the most often cited is simplicity. Kegging is easier, faster and simpler than bottling your beer. It offers the convenience of being able to draw any amount of your own draft beer anytime you want by just squeezing the handle on your tap.
The initial investment is somewhat high - perhaps $150-180 US for an initial setup. In addition, the kegging system works best if you have a suitable refrigerator, usually a second one to store the keg in.
Almost all home brewers use the Cornelius kegging system, which uses 2.5 to 5 gallon Cornelius kegs to store the beer in. Cornelius kegs are the same kegs used for many years for dispensing soda, so they are also frequently called soda kegs. Since most soda distributors have converted to a bag-in-box system there are literally millions of used Cornelius kegs available on the market at very reasonable prices of around $20-30 per keg. The most popular size is the
===Home Kegging System Components===
* '''CO2 Tank''' - CO2 is used to dispense beer rather than air because CO2 will not interact with and spoil your beer. CO2 is stored at very high pressure in a tank that looks something like an oxygen or scuba tank. Liquid CO2 is measured by weight. Tanks are sold in 5 lb, 10lb and 20lb sizes and can be refilled at many locations. It costs about the same amount to fill the tank regardless of size, so a larger tank can be better if you have the space since it will last much longer.
* '''Regulator''' - CO2 is stored at 800-1000 psi, but you want to dispense your beer at 8-15 psi. The regulator does the conversion for you. A small screw on the regulator lets you adjust the output pressure, and many have a valve to cut off the flow of gas as well. Most brewers prefer a dual gauge system.
On gauge shows the pressure of the tank, and the second shows the output pressure.
* '''Cornelius Keg''' - As described above these "soda kegs" are made of stainless steel, very easy to clean, maintain pressure well and are suitable for storing beer for a year or much longer if maintained properly. The most popular size is the 5 gallon keg, which is a tall cylinder that looks very much like a scuba tank with a flat top. Smaller 2.5 and 3 gallon kegs are nice if you have limited refrigerator space or want some beer on the go. Kegs come with two fittings - either ball lock or pin lock. Of the two, the ball lock are more prevelent.
* '''Gas Hose''' - A clear plastic hose that runs from the regulator on your CO2 tank to the "gas" input on your Cornelius keg. It supplies the pressure to dispense your beer. The best gas hose is thick walled to minimize leakage.