In case you were not aware, one of the most popular forms of beer packaging is the keg, which is a pressurized metal barrel with a valve on the top end. Kegs can also contain carbonated beverages, such as soda. Original kegs were wooden and made by a cooper to transport items such as gunpowder, nails, and various liquids. Modern innovation saw the shift to stainless steel and its most common use being the storing, transporting, and serving of beer.
A barrel (or Bbl) is the standard method for measuring volume in kegs of beer, with a barrel holding 31 gallons. For ease of transportation and use, three smaller barrels are utilized for commercial use:
- 1/2 Barrel, or Full Size Keg – Holds 15.5 gallons of liquid and will pour 124 pints (considering yield is 100%)*
- 1/4 Barrel, or Pony Keg – Holds 7.75 gallons of liquid and will pour 62 pints (considering yield is 100%)*
- 1/6 Barrel, or a Sixtel – Holds 5.2 gallons of liquid and will pour 41 pints (considering yield is 100%)*
*- Yield is how much liquid you get from your keg. 100% yield is not common, but you can get as close to that number as possible if beer is pressurized properly and stored at the proper temperature (42-48° Fahrenheit).
Once a keg is completely dry (or “kicked,” if you’re into beer slang), it must be replaced with a brand new keg. In order to do this correctly, you must detach the coupler from the empty keg, determine which keg you will be tapping next, then re-attach the coupler to that keg.
To remove the coupler:
- Pull the handle outward and away from the center of the keg.
- Lift up on the handle to disengage the coupler, then twist it a quarter turn counter-clockwise.
- Lift the coupler away from the keg.
When selecting your new keg, be sure to check the “best by” date and tap the keg with the oldest date to ensure you won’t have beer going bad on you over time.
- Be sure to position your new keg so the coupler can reach the valve with plenty of slack remaining in the hoses for the attachment.
- Be sure the keg you are tapping has been stored in your cooler at the proper temperature for at least 24 hours.
- Allowing the keg to store in the cooler for at least 24 hours will allow it to “rest” or “settle” in case it was jostled in any way during transportation.
To attach the coupler to the new keg:
- Ensure that the coupler handle has been pulled out and up. The handle should stay in this position by default.
- Position the coupler on the keg valve and turn it clockwise until the threads, or “teeth,” on the coupler and keg valve lock in place.
- Push the handle down firmly until it clicks into the engaged position.
Below is a video demonstrating how to tap/change a keg, courtesy of Bartending Pro: