Know your Couplers and More!
Beer kegs come in all shapes and sizes and they all have one thing in common (besides being filled with beer). They all need a way to be tapped. Enter the humble keg coupler, it acts as the key to unlocking the beer inside! We will talk about the different styles of kegs along with the couplers that dispenses the liquid gold inside them.
There are many different kinds of couplers. Many breweries, large and small, are using D-system style couplers in North America. Ensuring you have the correct coupler for the keg you have is very important, nothing is worst than throwing a St. Patrick’s day party and being unable to tap the keg of Guinness! Some couplers such as the D-System and the S-System look almost identical but will only work on their respective keg.
Nice Gas You Have There
The biggest enemy of beer is oxygen, sure at college parties you had a hand pump to dispense, but the beer usually did not last until the morning.The more restrained drinker who looks to have a keg on tap for a few weeks will need Co2 or a blending gas to dispense.
CO2 – Straight up good ol’ fashioned carbon dioxide. This is the most common method for beer dispensing in a direct draw system (A direct draw beer dispenser stores kegs at the ideal serving temperature in a self-contained unit. Think kegerator). Co2 is absorbed into beer making carbonation possible.
Beer Gas – A mixture of Co2 and Nitrogen. The concentrations of Co2 and Nitrogen can vary, however the most common mixture is 75% Nitrogen to 25%Co2. This combo is best known for serving Guinness. Nitrogen packs quite a punch, it is primarily recommended for long draw systems or faucets with restriction.
Nitrogen – Not typically used in beer. Nitrogen does not adsorb into liquids, which is why you do have some mix with Co2. This makes it a great choice if you are dispensing wine or coffee (a topic for another day).
The Mighty Coupler
- Ball Retainer
- Coupler Ball (Nylon)
- D-Style Probe, Plated
- D-Style Probe Seal
- Hex Nut (beer thread, 29/32-14)
- 3/8 Tailpiece for Coupler
- Check Valve (Duck Bill)
- Coupler Body
- Bottom Seal
- D-Style Black Handle Assembly
- Pressure Relief Valve 60PSIG
- Handle Hinge Pin
- O-Ring, (Coupler Probe)
Pretty neat right? Who would have thought so much goes into dispensing good times? As you can see most couplers are serviceable, with regular cleaning and maintenance couplers should last years with having to replace minimal parts.
So far we have discussed the method of tapping the keg with the correct coupler, now we can talk about receiving the keg’s malty bounty. The landscape for beer dispensing has been changing as different faucet designs come to market, some design changes like flow control and forward sealing have really gained popularity. This is not going to be an exhaustive write up of all the different faucets available, instead we will discuss the common faucets on the market. We highlight the main stream “standard” faucet as many pre-built tap assemblies will ship with this style faucet.
This is the faucet you will see at most bars and tap rooms and it comes in many different finishes, chrome plated brass, stainless steel, and brass. They are inexpensive (manufacturer depending) they are easy to maintain with plenty standard parts. These faucets are easy to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance.
The stout faucet is most commonly seen used on Guinness or other “nitro” beers, especially beers that are using a nitrogen mixed gas. The faucet design adds the restriction needed for dispensing nitrogen backed beers, but also gives that beautiful cascading effect.
Forward Sealing Faucet
Forward Sealing faucets are not really new to the market but you don’t really see them used in large commercial settings. While forward sealing faucets are a little more expensive they do offer some very distinct advantages. One major advantage is sanitation, on standard faucets (rear sealing) when you close the tap a small amount of beer is often left in the faucet. The beer left behind will often spoil and become very sticky making the tap hard to pull, this is especially true if you haven’t pulled a beer for a day or two. Forward sealing faucets drain completely into your glass, this means you are not going to leave beer in the faucet where it will spoil or dry into a sticky mess.
This “faucet” makes our honorable mention, it is inexpensive and works great in a pinch. Some people use these when their keg will be on the go or until they build a more permanent setup.
Cleanliness is Godliness
The keg has kicked so we want to make sure we clean everything for before the next keg shows up. In most commercial settings this is done by 3rd party or staff regularly (hopefully). There are plenty of cleaning tools and chemicals available for home and commercial use. Most people won’t be dragging out a specialized cleaning keg for their draft lines and that is okay, as long as we get some cleaner run through the lines, break down the coupler and clean whatever you are using for a faucet.
Get yourself some well known chemicals like Beer Line Cleaner (BLC) and hot water. Avoid using any chemicals that have chlorine or other harsh components as it will flavor stain your lines or damage the faucets. You can get creative with your cleaning methods but nothing beats a double sided brush and a pressurized bottle cleaner.
There are many different configurations for dispensing beer and this write up only scratches the surface of what is out there. We encourage you come and talk to us and we will assist you in building the perfect draft configuration.