Party Tips for Kegs and Kegerators

Keg Beer

Looking for more tips on beer and wine pairing with cheese and food, as well as some hardware to support such a fine habit, see my TIPS Page.

I was at a friend’s house and he mention that his keg was putting out a bit too much foam. We both agreed that part of the reason was that it was a new keg. However, I am a big believer in lower PSI so with the micro-brewed (15-gallons), a PSI of 8-10 is good. However, if you have the proper set up you can go to the recommended 14, which does allow optimal taste in a pour. Yes, taste does change with pressure… most pubs you go to have about a 14 or higher setting.

There are ways for the amateur to start fixing the problem of foam, and here are some of the best tips for making your kegerator the best in the neighborhood. One of the most common causes of foam is the tower. As you or your guests go about drinking there brew the beer in the tower is warming up to room temperature. When someone goes to pour from the tap the beer in the tower is warm and that is typically the foamy part. That is one of the easiest ways to combat foam, but it takes a little cha-ching.

~ TIP

  • One of the most helpful sites I have found (especially their forums section where dummies like myself can ask questions from the pros) is MicroMatic.com. I would suggest after going through this blog to stop over there and root around. They have everything under the sun for purchase.

These cold taps cooled tower dispensers can be found at any of the sites I am going to recommend, they range in price and get pretty expensive. You know your finances better than I so shop with caution. Another item to add to your kegerator if you have the money to spend is this little device (Click image to the right for seller)

This device is good for kegerators as well as the “back yard diddy.” Here is a demonstration of hooking it up as well as the best procedure for a backyard keg:

The device is not terribly expensive ($62), and for the person with the kegerator you would want to mount it inside the refrigerated section of the kegerator as to keep the beer in it cold.

~ TIP

  • Another helpful site for ideas on what to buy and helpful hists is the site KegWorks.com. Check them out. Again, their people are really helpful, over the phone or email if you have any questions.

Again, some of these Q&A can get very technical, for homor sake I will post a response over at MicroMatic that made me laugh… keep in mind though that these folks take beer seriously!

Question:

Our boat club installed a new 4-faucet Mini-Mushroom tap from Micromatic recently. We have a little too much foam on all taps, and the only difference I can see is that the beer lines are a smaller diameter (1/4″ vs. 3/8″) than the old tap. Temp is good, it’s direct draw, same CO2 setup. Any ideas?

Response:

What’s the distance from the keg to the tap? What’s the “vertical lift” in the system (distance from center of keg to tap)? What beer are you dispensing?

Questioner:

The distance is about 36″, the beer is bud, bud light, Blue Point Toasted Lager and Blue Point Pale Ale. No trouble with old tap (it was an eyesore) same issue on all beers

Response:

Sorry to hit you with math here Nick but this is the way I work it out…

I was told that the proper formula to use is this…

L=(P-(H x 0.5) -1) / R

L=Length (Are you saying 36 inches from keg to tap?)

P= CO2 Pressure (for the type of beer you’re pouring I think it’s around 14lbs if your temp is 38F)

H=Height (from the center of Keg to the faucet let’s pretend its the three feet you’re talking about since that’s the only way I can see it – the taps being above the keg)

R=Resistance of the line

If the length is 3 feet like you say…

3=(14-(3 x 0.5) – 1) /R

3=9.5/R

3r=9.5 (This is the total resistance of the line)

We need to run line that has a total resistance of 9.5lbs. 3/16ID beer line has a resistance of 3lbs per foot… so if we run 3.17 feet of 3/16 you’ll have the perfect resistance.

If (and this might be the case), you’re really talking about 36 feet we’ll have to change the numbers a little and use different diameter line. Let me know.

And here is a great conversation about altitude and settings via Beer Advocate:

Question:

Hey Everyone, I have read countless thread on this and have not been able to solve my problem. I am getting all foam from my kegerator. I need to balance this for a coors light keg for now (no barbs about the crappy beer please, the home brew is going in afterwards) and I have been changing things based on recommendations from other peoples issues that I have read about, but can’t get this solved. Here are the facts:

-Mini-fridge style kegerator with tower and circulating fan to keep tower cool
-Tower goes 2 feet above keg
-Temperature of beer: 34 degrees
-line length: 12feet of 3/16″ beer grade line kept in the fridge, above the keg
-pressure: 10psi
-Altitude: ~7500 feet (in Colorado)
-Everything has been cleaned thoroughly
-Brand new CO2 regulator
-Keg was placed in the kegerator for three days to settle, then tapped and vented and sat for another 48 hours

I have tried line lengths from 3ft to 12ft, Pressures from 3psi to 16 psi, and temperatures from 33degrees to 40 degrees. Every time I change something I let the whole system settle. All I ever get is foam, foam, foam. If anyone has any ideas I am more than happy to try pretty much anything at this point as I am thoroughly frustrated.

Thanks in advance.

Answers:

if you have screwed around with your pressure very frequently you have probably altered the vols of the beer in keg, so it is difficult to determine if the keg beer is over carbed, under carbed or something else. not much can be done about that now though.

be sure the beer in the glass is the correct temp. the first pour should be your desired temp. measure with an accurate thermometer on the first pour.

let’s assume that everything works.

you are at 7,500 feet. about 1 pound of restriction must be added for every 2,000 feet above sea level. so a bit less than 4 psi, roughly, in additional restriction to overcome. you don’t have an altimeter i assume, and we just need to be close enough.

you need something closer to 18-20 psi with this beer at 38 degrees. try 5′ of 3/16″ vinyl and shorthen to 4′ if needed.

i am going off memory here, and a pro can likely dial it in a bit better but i think we are pretty close. your applied pressure is too low.

let us know how it works. you might need a second keg.

Cheers.

Here is what you need to do always to pour great beer:

1. Set and check your beer temp and serve between 38 and 40.
2. Keep your line short (6 ft or less) and use the smallest diameter beer line (3/16).
3. Set psi at 10 for all beers except hoppy ones (e.g., not Coors/Budweiser type beers) and set them at 11 and leave it. 11 psi works best for a permanent setting.
4. Use all stainless steel facets and connectors which touch beer and clean these lines weekly (minimum every 2 weeks). Be sure to disassemble facets and tappers and clean.
5. When serving beer – Open and close the facet briskly and fully! If you try to open it slowly it creates turbulence and foam.

If this does not work, come down to our brewery for remedial training!

You can read more in their Forums at Beer Advocate on various subjects. Obviously this is more business oriented, but one can see why not paying attention to your math teacher actually hurts you later in life. Of course the easiest way one is going to keep foam issues down is to CLEAN YOUR LINES! (Here is a longer video help)

It may be troublesome, but this is the price one pays for perfection. Here is a short Q&A from BeverageFactory.com that explains the issues:

Q: Why do dispensing lines have to be cleaned?

Beer lines have to be cleaned because a scale called calcium oxalate, commonly referred to as “beer-store” forms on the fittings, lines and taps. “Beerstore”, if not completely removed in a cleaning process will leave an unsanitary surface that can harbor microorganisms. Line cleaning with the proper equipment and chemical, eliminates the build-up of “beerstore” protecting the integrity of the product.

Microorganisms or bacterial will grow very quickly if a sanitary environment is not maintained, causing off-flavors or shorten the shelf life of the beer. Regular cleaning assures that bacteria does not have the opportunity to reach levels which affect the quality/taste of the beer.

Q: How often should I clean my lines?

Line cleaning should be done on a regular scheduled basis. (approximately every 6 weeks) A standard cleaning kit will perform approximately with scheduled line cleanings. We recommend that you clean your lines every time you switch out a keg.

Q: How do I clean the Beer Line and Faucet?

Once a week the beer line and faucet should be cleaned with fresh water. You will need the CK100 Cleaning Kit to do the following steps.

Clean, clean, clean! This is the best possible recipe for a healthy poor.

Jockey Box Tips!

Cobra Attachment Tips!

One last item, one of the reoccurring problems during my time at a place that sold kegs was the proper hookups for the proper beer (e.g., domestic, European, and the like).

Proper Beer Couplers!

So some of the guys and I put together a helpful list of proper couplers to pair with the right beer. Whether you are having a “dirt-party” or have a nice kegerator tucked away in a corner of your home, this list is most helpful:

TAP Multi Big

I hope this helps all you beer lovers out there — Cheers, Papa Giorgio.

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