How To – Keg Your Beer

We have a very important topic on our hands – how to put your batch of home brew into a keg. Kegging is a beautiful thing indeed. If you are a hop-head like me, kegging is the only way to go!

Benefits of Kegging

  • Freshness – those 2-3 weeks that would normally be spent waiting for bottle conditioned beer to carbonate are the same 2-3 weeks that your precious and volatile hop aromas and flavors are oxidizing and dropping off. Yikes! You don’t want that when you spent nearly as much money on hops as you did on the rest of the ingredients for the batch. Cold storage means you get to slow down the process of hop flavors and aromas dropping off – long live the hops!
  • Speed – it only takes about 2-3 days to carbonate a batch of beer in a keg.
  • Beer on draft makes your domain perfect for entertaining – to those who don’t brew (and arguably to those who do brew too), beer coming out of a polished stainless steel faucet in a seemingly endless supply is a majestic thing – especially when you made the beer.
  • No yeast required – whether you’re carbonating cider or beer, you can take your mind off “is there enough yeast in suspension still to carbonate my batch?” – in a pressurized keg, liquids have no choice but to take on the CO2 that you push into the headspace of the keg, provided that there’s enough room for the CO2 to dissolve into solution. Don’t worry, this is only an issue in things that are excessively sweet. Like, ridiculously sweet.
  • Process is a key component to mastering a great double IPA, and in my personal experience, kegging is mandatory in doing so.
  • Did I mention speed? If you’re trying to perfect your own recipes, kegging allows you to spend more time worrying about improvements for the next batch.

Before we get started, let me start by telling you that I still have no problem bottling to this day. Many home brewers who keg complain about bottling and down-talk those who do bottle. If you start kegging, it is important to remember that you don’t want to be that person who down-talks bottlers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with bottling. When it comes to Belgian beer or sour / funky beer, many would agree, the only way to properly finish the batch is to bottle condition it. Take Duvel for example, the delicious bottle conditioned champagne of beer. Do you really think Duvel would be the same on draft? What about Orval? While kegging is faster and easier, there are still plenty of advantages and reasons to bottle a batch of beer.

Benefits of Bottling

  • Age-ability – unless you have a surplus of kegs, you don’t want them occupied for a year or more while you wait for your beer to mature and hit its peak (Russian imperial stouts, barleywines, funky / sour beers, etc).
  • A bottle conditioned beer is always going to have perfect carbonation. Growler fills are always down on carbonation and the process of filling a growler oxidizes the beer slightly.
  • You can relax knowing that when you give a friend a bottle to try, that she or he will have the correct experience that you as the brewer planned.
  • Bottles are easier to give away. For those of us like me, who like to brew more but drink less, this is an obvious perk.

Kegging works for many styles of beer, but it isn’t universal. Before you keg, make sure you know what your objectives are for the batch of beer.

Without further adieu, here is my kegging tutorial!

Anatomy and Vocabulary

First, we need to familiarize ourselves with the anatomy and vocabulary of the keg and draft system. You don’t want to be that guy who goes into a home brewing shop asking for the tap for the tapper on the tap. Let’s also clear the air on the use of the word, tap. To me, the only appropriate usage of it is regarding the action of hooking up a keg to a draft system for the first time, “Hey, I just tapped this keg of beer.” or “Hey, BRI just tapped a new keg of Street Cred.” This makes sense because hooking up a keg is essentially tapping into it via usage of the correct draft system.

Now, for talking about a pint of beer:

I just got a pint of Street Cred on tap.

I just got a pint of Street Cred on draft.

Grammar aside, below is my diagram of a home brew keg along with the names of its various components. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary as I am about to start dropping keg vocabulary all over the place in the coming text. You may want to grab a beer, sit down, and relax. There is a decent amount of learning to do here, but don’t worry – I’ve kept it extremely visual.


  • Posts – there are two of them and they are slightly different – one is for the gas side and one is for the liquid side
  • Post o-ring – this creates the seal between the disconnect and the post when the disconnect is attached to the post
  • Poppet – there are two of them (one on the liquid post and one on the gas post) – these are the openings on the keg where gas can enter and beer can exit
  • Pressure relief valve – this can be released to vent excess pressure when dialing in a lower pressure on the CO2 regulator – if there is pressure in the keg, pulling the relief valve to relieve all pressure is required in order to be able to remove the lid
  • Keg lid foot – these are plastic caps that act as bushings between the lid latch and the keg body so that there is no metal-on-metal contact wearing out the body of the keg each time you open and close the latch on the lid
  • Tank – this is the keg itself without the lid, posts, and dip tubes – sometimes you will hear the tank referred to as the body


  • Disconnect – the connector that gives you access to the keg input and output


  • The style of disconnect shown above requires a nut and stem to attach tubing to the disconnect – I find this style of disconnect to be more flexible to use
  • The other style of disconnect goes directly to a hose barb fitting instead of the threading that requires the nut and stem
  • Beer line – while there are calculators out there to determine the ideal length and diameter of beer line for your draft system, I find that 6 feet of 3/16″ ID beer line works perfectly – I get a perfect pour every time



  • The gray disconnect goes on the notched post
  • The gas dip tube is short because it is designed to let CO2 into the headspace above the beer inside of the keg


  • CO2 regulator – regulates pressure inside of the keg – converts high pressure coming from the CO2 tank into low pressure – when the keg pressure drops while pouring a beer, the regulator automatically adds more CO2 to the keg to maintain the set pressure
  • High pressure gauge – this indicates the pressure inside of the CO2 tank – a CO2 tank with a true 5 pound fill will read somewhere around 1200 PSI
  • Low pressure gauge – this indicates the pressure being fed into the inside of the keg – generally speaking, you serve a keg at around 11-13 PSI (depending on your refrigerator’s average temperature)
  • CO2 tank master shut-off – this opens and closes the CO2 tank – if you’re going to be away for several days from your draft system, it is generally good practice to shut off your CO2 tank
  • CO2 tank – this is where the pressurized gas comes from – all CO2 tanks have a date stamp on them indicating their manufacturing date – CO2 tanks can be refilled up to but not exceeding 5 years from the stamped date – expired CO2 tanks may be refilled after successful completion of a recertification test by an authorized gas distributor
  • Pressure valve – this is where you can change the pressure going to the keg – changes made here will be reflected on the low pressure gauge – if you are decreasing the pressure to the keg, you will have to briefly pull the relief valve on the keg to vent the excess pressure – most all gas shut-off valves have a one-way valve integrated to prevent the back-flow of gas from inside the keg into the regulator, hence needing to vent the keg briefly to see the decreased pressure change on the low pressure gauge
  • Pressure relief & emergency relief – in most cases, you will not need to use this – it is also called an emergency relief because it is calibrated to automatically vent excess CO2 in the event that the regulator goes haywire and the pressure keeps increasing to above the pressure that the low pressure gauge can read – generally, the emergency relief vents at the highest reading on the low pressure gauge so that you don’t break the gauge or send an unsafe level of pressure to the keg if the regulator goes out – in the extremely rare case that both the regulator goes out, sending unsafe pressure to the keg, and the regulator’s emergency relief also malfunctions (we’re talking going surfing and getting struck by lightning and bit by a shark at the same time rare), as a redundancy, the keg’s relief valve also will vent at high pressure, generally at 120 PSI or 130 PSI
  • Gas shut-off valve – these generally are one-way valves that do not allow for the back-flow of gas to pass through them – in this picture, you see coming off the wye that there are two of them – this means I have my regulator set up to run the same pressure to two kegs, but since I am only using one, the shut-off on the right is in the off position
  • Wye – this simply is a splitter
  • Regulator body – this is the part containing the internal components necessary to regulate pressure – the body is the CO2 regulator without the emergency relief, gas shut-off valve, high pressure, and low pressure gauges


  • CO2 gasket – goes between the CO2 regulator and the CO2 tank – without this, you WILL leak CO2
  • Never hand-tighten your regulator to your CO2 tank – again, you WILL leak CO2 if you do – the regulator has a hex nut on it for a reason – use a wrench!


  • Shank assembly – looks like a giant bolt with a hole bored down the center on one side, and the right connection for a faucet on the other side – the shank simply allows for a clean installation of a faucet that goes through something, in this case, through a piece of wood – on the front end of a shank is where the faucet is connected, on the back end of the shank is where the beer line is connected
  • Tap gasket / beer washer – this creates a seal between the back of the shank and the tail piece
  • Tail piece – shaped like a 3D T with a hole bored through the middle and with a hose barb on one end, this allows for the connection of tubing to the shank
  • Beer coupler nut / beer hex nut – this is the nut that secured the tail piece and tap gasket to the back of the shank


  • Faucet – this is where the beer comes out from
  • Tap handle – as much as I would rather call this the faucet handle, tap handle is the industry standard name for this component – when pouring a beer, always pull from the base of the handle, never the top – pulling the top of a tap handle can apply too much torque to the faucet lever and snap it off, potentially leaving you with beer flowing and no convenient way to stop it quickly since the handle broke off at the base – be careful!

Okay, now breathe.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the vocabulary section. I know that was a lot to digest, but it’s much easier to keg when you know the names and functions of all of the major components. Now for the process of kegging your beer! Let’s get started!

Sanitizing Your Keg and Draft System


The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the lid of the keg. We need to fill the keg up just past half-way with sanitizer. I like to use Star San for all of my home brew sanitation. To remove the lid, pull upward on the latch, as shown in the picture above.


This is what the inside of a keg looks like.



If you’re using the style of disconnect without the hose barb, remove the nut and stem from the disconnect.


Since I am using a proper faucet for pouring my beer, I need to sanitize the components involved. Using a spray bottle, I spray Star San on the tail piece and the back of the shank. The tap gasket goes into a kitchen prep bowl along with a few other components that I will list below.


Remove the pressure relief valve by twisting the pull-ring counter-clockwise. This goes in the kitchen prep bowl of Star San.


Remove the lid o-ring and place this, along with the lid itself in the kitchen prep bowl of Star San.


Remove the gas disconnect from the nut and stem (if using the same style of disconnect as pictured above).


I prefer to disassemble my disconnects when I keg a beer. To do so, simply use a flat head screwdriver and remove the top piece.


This is an exploded view of a pair of keg disconnects. Place the pair of disassembled keg disconnects into the bowl of Star San. Don’t worry – the internals of the disconnects are interchangeable.


Remove the keg posts with a wrench.


Again, I am a fan of fully disassembling things for cleaning and sanitizing. Above is an exploded view of a keg post. I prefer using the universal style poppets, as they come right out for cleaning and sanitizing. Some posts may have different poppets that use a retainer clip to hold the poppet in place inside of the post. Place the disassembled pair of posts and their components into the bowl of Star San.


Lift up the dip tubes on both sides, pull the dip tube o-ring downward slightly, and spray down thoroughly with sanitizer. If you wish, you may also remove the dip tube to slide the o-ring completely off for soaking in sanitizer. I find spraying it down thoroughly with sanitizer to be sufficient.


Set the dip tube back down and spray down where the post connects with sanitizer.


Put the posts back onto the keg the same way they were removed. Be sure to match up the gas post (the one with notches on the vertices of the nut) with the gas dip tube (the short one). Tighten the posts down with a wrench. Now, fill the keg just past half-way with properly diluted sanitizer…


Like so.


Re-assemble the keg lid in the same way it was disassembled. Don’t forget the lid o-ring! Close up the keg with the sanitizer in it. It should look the same as when you started.


Lay the keg on its side for a couple minutes.


Rotate the keg slightly and let it rest for a few more minutes.


Rotate the keg again slightly and let it rest again for a few more minutes. Continue this process until you have made one complete rotation. This ensures that all of the internals of the keg get to soak in sanitizer.




After completing this process, I usually pick up the keg and shake it around for a minute or two, just for good measure.


Now it is time to remove the disconnects from the bowl of sanitizer and reassemble them. Once reassembled, reconnect each disconnect to its corresponding nut and stem. Remember, gray = gas, black = beer. They both begin with the same letter. That’s how I remember it.


I am connecting the reassembled black (beer) disconnect to the beer line.


Connect your regulator up to your CO2 tank.


Spray down the bottom inside of both disconnects with sanitizer, as well as the keg posts. Connect the disconnects to the posts, and with the faucet in the off position, open the CO2 tank master shut-off and dial in a typical serving pressure of about 12 PSI. Open and close the faucet a few times to work sanitizer up the keg’s dip tube, into the beer line, and into the nooks and crannies in the faucet. Now, run a good liter of the sanitizer out through the faucet. Close the faucet and allow the whole system to sit for a few minutes to sanitize. Now close the CO2 tank master shut-off. Vent out all of the pressure in the keg by pulling on the relief valve ring on the keg lid. Remove both disconnects from the keg’s posts.


After this, I like to remove the nut and stem from the disconnect again. Hold the beer line above the closed faucet though or else sanitizer will come out from the line.


I then open the faucet, place the open beer line below the faucet, and allow the sanitizer to drain out. Once this is complete, re-attach the liquid disconnect to the nut and stem on the beer line.

Fill ‘er Up!

Remove the keg lid, dump out the sanitizer and behold! Now your keg is sanitized and ready to fill with beer!


Siphon your beer into the keg from either your secondary (preferred) or primary. If you normally go from primary straight to bottling without the use of a secondary, I recommend leaving the beer in the primary fermentor for 4 weeks prior to kegging. You can clog the dip tube with yeast and other sediment if you don’t allow your beer to properly clear prior to kegging.


Behold this beautiful sight! This is what beer that will be carbonated and ready to drink in 2 days looks like!


Put the lid back on the keg and latch it shut. Open the CO2 tank master shut-off, connect the gas disconnect to the keg’s gas post (remember, the one with the notches). Dial in typical serving pressure of about 12 PSI. You will hear the gas go in, and then it will go quiet.


Once it goes quiet, pull the relief valve open on the keg for about 1 second. Let go of the relief valve and let the keg fill back up with CO2 until it goes quiet again. Pull the relief valve open again for about 1 second. Let go, and let the keg fill back up again. Repeat this process about 10 times. This process flushes out most of the oxygen from inside of the keg and replaces it with CO2. Remember, oxygen is bad after fermentation, so this process is a must!

The Soapy Water Test


Now, with the serving pressure still dialed in on the regulator, we need to check for any leaks. You don’t want to be that person who didn’t use soapy water but who insists that there is no leak in the draft system, despite having leaked an entire CO2 tank overnight. Check every connection. EVERY connection. If you’re using soapy water and checking every single connection, the leak WILL reveal itself. Bubbles don’t lie! Take your time with this.


By every connection, I mean where the disconnects connect to the keg posts. The keg pressure relief valve. The keg lid itself. The connection between the disconnects and their nuts and stems that attach to the tubing. The hoses that are connected to the hose barbs on the nuts and stems. The connection between the CO2 tank and the regulator. The connection between the regulator body and the shutoff valves. The exterior of the shutoff valve where the handle for the shutoff pivots. The connection between the regulator body and the high pressure gauge / low pressure gauge… etc. See what I mean? There are tons of connections where CO2 could potentially leak from. Be sure to test them all. While performing the soapy water test, I hold a towel underneath where I am spraying to avoid making a mess. If you spot a leak, tighten the connection. If this does not work, you may need to replace a seal. It is a good practice to keep spare parts around if you own a draft system.

Force Carbonation


Once you have determined that there are not leaks in your draft system, set the pressure to 30-35 PSI and put the whole keg system into the refrigerator, leaving the CO2 on the whole time, for 2 full days. It is a good practice to leave the liquid disconnect off of the keg while waiting for carbonation – not all faucets can hold 30-35 PSI, especially the plastic “party faucets.”



At the end of two days, back the pressure all the way down on the regulator. Pull the relief valve on the keg and let all of the CO2 out. Close the relief valve and then dial in 12 PSI on the CO2 regulator.


Grab your favorite glass. Hold it under the faucet at an angle and pull the base of the tap handle towards yourself. Close the faucet when the glass is mostly full of beer.


Now savor the moment! Your first batch of beer on draft is a big deal! Congratulations! Sit down and enjoy a pint. As you can see what needs to be done from the picture above, I’ll be enjoying this pint while I clean up the office. You may however want to call your friends over for this one!


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