Bottling five gallons of beer can take an hour or more, but kegging the same batch requires only 10–15 minutes. Sanitizing one keg is much easier than sanitizing 50+ bottles. And there’s something very satisfying about coming home from work and pouring a pint or two of beer you made yourself.
Getting into kegging requires some upfront cost, but it needn’t be prohibitive. In fact, if you have a spare refrigerator lying around, you just need a few things to get started.
In theory, you could get started with just one keg, but having two or more is preferable because after you polish off that first keg of homebrew, you’re going to want a second one waiting in the wings. It’s most convenient to choose either ball lock or pin lock kegs and stick with them, but adapters are available in case you change your mind later on.
Carbon Dioxide Tank
Manufacturers call these cylinders, but the rest of us call them tanks. You’ll purchase your CO2 tank empty and have it filled locally. Many homebrew shops can fill a tank, as can welding supply stores and paintball retailers. Carbon dioxide is sold by the pound, and your tank will be sized accordingly. Most homebrewers opt for a 5-pound tank.
Carbon Dioxide Regulator
A regulator attaches to the CO2 tank and reduces the high pressure on the supply side (hundreds of pounds per square inch) to the much lower pressure you’ll need for carbonating and dispensing (10–20 pounds per square inch).
Gas Disconnect and Tubing
These are what deliver gas to your beer. One end of the tubing draws gas from the regulator, and the other supplies it to the keg through the gas disconnect.
Liquid Disconnect, Tubing, and Faucet
These are what deliver beer to your glass. Tubing carries beer from the keg through the liquid disconnect and supplies it to the faucet, where it will flow into your glass as you try in vain to keep your new “best friends” at bay.
Some homebrewers build sophisticated banks of shiny, stainless steel faucets that could rival the local bar, but you only need a plastic picnic faucet (also called a cobra tap) to get started. These are what you used at college parties, but the beer you dispense from them will taste much better!
Just be sure to use a real pint glass and not a plastic red cup. I mean, we’re not animals.