You got your home kegerator and have ordered your favorite keg of beer. Now all you need to do is to tap your keg and pour into your frosted beer mugs.
While you are probably aware, the purpose of tapping the keg is to push gas into the keg so that the beer can be push out by the pressure build up in the keg; while keeping the beer remaining in the keg fresh.
Typically CO2 is used to dispense delicious beer out of your keg. It’s possible you could opt for a simpler air pump dispenser that works by forcing air through a tube, however continuous contact with the air and oxygen will significantly alter the taste of your beer for the worse.
Oxygen will react with the beer inside the keg and after a couple of hours, you will get a very flat tasting liquid. So tap your keg with carbon dioxide and not air if you want your beers to stay fresh in your kegs for weeks or months.
A CO2 pump, on the other hand, is nice and clean, reducing any risk of a low quality tasting beer to zero. And as a bonus, CO2 can keep your unfinished keg cool for days even weeks at a time.
It is also possible to tap your keg with Nitrogen or a combination of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. This is where you are venturing into nitro beers.
Nitro beer is that rich and creamy pint with a thick white head. You will also notice that the bubbles in nitro beers are tiny compared to the large bubbles of regular draft CO2 beers.
Nitrogen is similar to carbon dioxide in that both gases are inert gases and will not react with the compounds in our beers. Hence both gases are great for pushing beers out of the keg and into our glasses.
I will explain below on how to tap your keg with CO2, which will largely be similar to using nitrogen as well. But there will be some intricacies that you will need to look after when you use nitrogen, which I will attempt to discuss too.
Nothing too rocket science, so do not worry.
How to Tap a Keg with CO2
You’ll find tapping your keg with a CO2 pump will be a cinch so long as you stick closely to the following instructions.
What You Will Need To Tap A Keg
Before starting you’re going to need a couple items: a keg coupler (tap), CO2 Regulator, single or dual gauge, Airline tubing and connectors, a beer hose, draft beer tower or dispensing valve faucet, snap clamps, flat head screwdriver, adjustable spanner (wrench).
First, before you start, you’ll need a keg coupler. This will allow the CO2 to flow into the keg. You’ll need to do a bit of research in order to find out which keg coupler is compatible with your keg.
Also be sure to not rustle the keg too much as this could affect pressure readings. If there has been excessive agitation during transportation, let it settle for a couple of minutes prior to tapping. Make sure the beer faucet is in the off position prior to tapping.
Now moving onto your CO2 canister, attach a CO2 regulator to the cylinder before tightening the regulator coupler nut with an adjustable spanner. Place the toggle shut off valve into the closed position (or upwards) and set it aside. To ensure the tapping process goes by smoothly, place the canister in the upright position.
Go grab the hose clamp and place it over the opposite end of the air hose before attaching it to the keg coupler gas inlet port. Make sure this is secured especially tight. Now you can put the keg coupler in the off or open position by lifting the handle. Place hose clamp over the other end of the air hose and attach it to the keg coupler gas inlet port.
Tapping The Keg
Now that everything’s in place, it’s time for the easy part.
First, align the coupler with the lugs on your keg and turn clockwise about a quarter. Make sure it’s t. Then, pull outward before pushing down the coupler until you feel a click.
Next, open the regulator toggle valve by pushing down on the lever. This will bring it into the on position. Now, you should be able to fill with CO2.
Go to the CO2 tank and open the valve, rotating the knob counter-clockwise this time. Keep turning until it stops.
To adjust the CO2 pressure, locate the screw/handle beneath the dial (the top gauge on a dual gauge regulator). Turn it clockwise until the marker hits 10-12 psi. These pressures will ensure great taste for longer.
But you should experiment on regulating the pressure to get your preferred foaming of your beer and how gassy you want your beers to be.
Some cheaper beers that are brewed with lesser malt and hops may have a high carbonation levels to compensate for the lack in taste while the premium beers may have lesser carbonation when the brewer keg their beers.
So you ought to try out whats a good PSI for your beers. I like a lower 7-10 psi for premium beers and a higher 10-12 psi for beers that have a higher carbonation levels.
So test test test before you drink drink drink.
How Long Before a Keg Goes Bad Without CO2
Now, you may be asking, why use CO2 at all? Well, a previously mentioned, using a regular air or party pump can decrease the overall quality of your beer. You’re only guaranteed optimal freshness for 8-12 hours give or take. But again, CO2 can last days or weeks. If set up well, your keg can last even months.
Flat beer, is bad beer, but with a CO2 canister hooked up, you can fill your kegerator once and still be able to take out for gatherings again and again.
How to Tap a Keg with Nitrogen
Tapping the keg with nitrogen is not much more different from using CO2. But you will need a couple of things beforehand.
First of all, you will need nitrogen gas and typically it will be a blend of nitrogen and CO2; about 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide. Also note that you should use a nitrogen cylinder as nitrogen will need to be pressurized at a higher pressure.
The regulator that you are using for the CO2 cylinder would not be suitable. You will need a N2 regulator that fits to the nitrogen cylinder as it can handle the higher pressure too. If you want to use an adaptor for your existing CO2 regulator, do make sure that your existing regulator is rated for the PSI of your nitrogen cylinder for obvious safety reasons.
The last thing is the secret to getting the creamy head you see on a glass of English ale or stout. It is a Nitrogen faucet or a Stout faucet.
Such a faucet has a restrictor plate in the faucet which is a disk with 5 tiny holes. The nitrogen, at high pressure, forces beer through these 5 holes and creates the white creamy head by agitating the CO2 out of the beer.
That’s all the difference on how to keg with N2 versus carbon dioxide.
Questions on Tapping Your Keg
Still unsure about some things about tapping your kegerator? Here are some commonly asked questions regarding installing CO2 into your kegerator.
How do I know how much gas is left in my tank?
This is where those double gauge regulators come in. The second gauge on your regulator is what’s called the gauge and this is what measures the amount of CO2 or N2 that’s left in your cylinder. It’s near impossible to accurately tell how much gas is left without it.
Instead of waiting until all the gas completely runs out, do a bit of research and find out how many kegs can be dispensed per CO2 or N2 canister. Otherwise, it’ll just be a guessing game.
How do I read my regulator?
You will have either one or two different gauges that can measure pressure. The only one you’ll need to focus on however is the one that measures psi on a 0-60 scale. This is the regulated pressure gauge and it measures the pressure of the beer gas as it’s going into the keg.
What pressure should my CO2 or N2 be set at?
Typically, it’s advised your CO2 pressure remain a constant 12-14 psi. Although, it’s best to follow your brewery or distributor’s recommended pressure. If they did not give it you initially, its never a bad idea to call them up.
Inaccurate pressure might result in improper carbonation, resulting in either flat beer or tad bit more froth than you were looking for.
As for N2/CO2 blend, your beer supplier will typically recommend 25-30 psi. You will need this higher pressure so that the carbon dioxide in the beer can be knocked out when it is forced through the restrictor plate.
That will produce the desired creamy foam.
Should my CO2 or N2 tank be inside or outside of the Kegerator?
It won’t really make a difference in terms of beer quality and dispensing, but keep in mind most gas tanks are already pre-attached to the sides of fridges. Typically, it’s better to have more inside your fridge so you can have optimal keg fitting space.
The most important thing when it comes to your CO2 or N2 tank placement is that it’s upright, secure, and kept away from any sources of dangerously high temperatures.
Where can I get my beer gas tank filled?
If you don’t want to buy a new canister, there are a couple of places that would be more than happy to refill your can. Local welding supply stores, locations that fill fire extinguishers, local homebrew shops, and sporting stores that sell paintball guns are all places that have CO2 dispensing machinery. Your best bet will be to try out these places.
You can also check with your local pub and ask them about their supply of beer gas.
One tip is note is that most suppliers will charge you the same price to refill your tank whether it is a large or smaller tank. So if you can afford the space and you are using an external gas tank, I would recommend that you get a large gas tank.
There you have it, now that you’re all carbonated, it’s time to dish out the drinks. You’ll be guaranteed good times for months to come.