So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Kegerator 101: It’s Draft Time!
May 28, 2014
Today’s post was inspired by a wise craigslist acquisition by a friend of mine. Not only did he find a barely used kegerator, he found a restaurant quality unit at half price with all the bells and whistles; wise purchase indeed Jimmy (boom, you just got plugged on the blog. Consider yourself an F list celebrity son). To impart some beer nerd wisdom to my friend for his new toy, and for all of you who have ever wanted to have a draft system at home, I’ve decided to post on some common problems that are encountered:
Bad Tasting Beer
Does every pint you pour have a nasty chemically aftertaste? Do all of your pints have the distinct flavor of Banana Laffy Taffy (if you’ve ever had a beer like this you know exactly what I’m talking about) Here are a few of the common caused and solutions:
Dirty/Old draft and C02 lines or faucets: I am surprised that this isn’t something that is more common sense, especially in restaurants and bars. If you have a kegerator at home, make a habit of changing your beer lines with every change of the keg. Some people might tell you that you don’t need to change them that often, but it has been my experience that even if you are immediately switching to a keg of the same beer, the taste will be degraded. Beer line is relatively inexpensive to buy in bulk and so are all of the products needed to properly clean your faucets and hardware.
Old Beer (Eeeeeeew): If you’re a slow drinker (or just have a keg of something you don’t particularly care for) your beer may end up sitting in the keg for a long period of time, which is not really a good thing. Just as certain beers are not meant to bottle condition, many beers are going to taste worse the longer they are left in the keg. My advice to solve this problem, invite folks over for some Cards against Humanity and have them help finish off what you have on tap.
Hot Keg: Ever left a beer in your car all day? Yeah, that’s what happens when you let your kegs get too hot. This is the fundamental reason one would own a kegerator, but even if you are using a draft system without a refrigeration system, try to keep your kegs at least at cellar temp (that's the reason that basements were invented….yeah that’s totally why).
Unless you are at a college kegger, there is really never an excuse for a glass full of foam. Allot of the same things that can cause a bad taste in beer can also cause some degree of extra foaminess, but there are other possible causes:
Too Much Pressure: This one should be pretty obvious (especially to anyone who ever over pumped a super soaker) but if your C02 pressure is too high, that will make foam. Your pressure will vary depending on the size and type of your keg, as well as the type of beer ( you don’t want a barleywine to have the same type of carbonation as a pilsner for example) and you may need to tweak it a bit from time to time as the volume of beer in your keg decreases.
Clogged/Worn Faucet: The best analogy I can think of in this situation is a garden hose. When nothing is obstructing the end spigot the water flows evenly; put your thumb over it and the water starts to spray with more force and in different directions. The same concept applies to a clogged faucet, you are putting allot of pressure from the beer through a smaller opening as a result of the clog, resulting in a more forceful output and therefore foam. Likewise, a faucet that is getting worn down can have a similar effect on the quality of your pint. Maintain your faucets and when they start looking long in the tooth, invest in a replacement.
Too much/too little beer line: The length of your beer line needs to give your brew enough distance to negate excess force from the keg to the faucet without being so long that it allows for gas pockets to form. Generally speaking, most beer lines shouldn’t be longer than 8 feet unless you are running from a basement to a bar upstairs or something similar, in which case you will need to make some other considerations to have a well poured pint.
Unless you are drinking a beer intended to be less carbonated (see the “So you’re not really a beer person….” post for examples) you probably don’t want your beer to be flat. There are a few considerations to avoid this situation, particularly when dealing with kegerators:
Your Beer is too Cold: While certain big name beers tout how cold there beer should be, this is really just a rouse to get you to drink something so cold you can’t actually taste that its total crap. Having your beer too cold not only affects taste, but can result in an unappealing cloudiness and keep your beer from retaining enough C02. Generally speaking, you don’t want your kegorators temp to go below 36 degrees , and I would recommend keeping it somewhere in the low 40’s for most beers.
Low Pressure: Same rules as too much pressure apply here. It’s particularly important to note that if you are force pressurizing a homebrew keg, you need to keep pressure up for a few days on the keg before you even tap it, and again regardless of the type of keg, you will need to monitor and adjust as you drink through its contents.
Greasy Glasses: There is a reason the whole nose on the thumb trick worked for your kegger beer in college (if you don’t know what I’m talking about here, ask someone from Wyoming). Any type of oiliness can have an impact on your beers head and carbonation, so make sure glasses are washed thoroughly.
That should cover most of the major issues that one might expect with having a keg at home (with the exception of an increase in lethargy and having random people “just stop by”). If anyone has any questions that weren’t answered with this post about kegged beer, feel free to shoot me a tweet! And with that, I’m off to my basement to pour another pint.
What I was drinking during this post: Collette by Great Divide