New Keg Prices are Weird

When I was setting up my kegerator, and looking to add kegs, I remember being confused on why different sizes of new kegs were basically the same price.

Looking at the current prices in December, 2020, Adventures in Homebrewing has 5 gallon, 2.5 gallon, and 1.75 gallon, brand new, ball lock kegs for the same price: $75 (on sale). They also have new 3 gallon kegs for $69, which is weird since the regular price for all 4 sizes is $119.

My Flawed Logic

When I was first getting kegs, I was confused why kegs that were half the size weren’t half the price. Or at least, like 60% of the price.

My assumption was that since they’re so much smaller, there should be a significant price difference.

What’s the Deal?!

I was talking to someone about a different product that this person helped make. But they were talking about how difficult it was to explain why their shirts cost the same amount of money, regardless of size.

They went on to explain that the cost of the material is the smallest part of the cost of producing the shirt. The main expense is the labor needed to precisely cut the pieces, then carefully arrange and sew the pieces together.

This made me realize that the extra 6 inches of a sheet of stainless steel is not the expensive part of producing kegs. The expensive parts are producing the precisely machined holes and threads where the posts and lid attach; making sure the bottom of the keg is shaped correctly so the low spot is where the dip tube lines up; and producing clean, sanitary welds along the seams between the top and bottom of the keg and the sides.

The small amount of extra stainless steel and the extra couple inches of welding along the side don’t cost much more for a 5 gallon keg versus a 1.75 gallon keg.

Buy What You Need

I guess this is a long explanation focusing on the fact that if you want small kegs because you’re splitting batches, or just because that’s the size batch you make, don’t overthink it. Buy the size you need.

Sometimes, I get too focused on getting the best bang for my buck and end up getting something that doesn’t really solve the problem I’m trying to solve. Don’t do that, get the best tool for the job you’re doing.


Make Hard Seltzer Easy

As homebrewers, we do not need to worry about the same legalities a brewery, distillery, or bar would need to consider. We can do what we want.

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Why Does it Matter?

Breweries must produce the alcohol they sell in-house. This means they must create a sugary liquid for yeast to ferment into the alcoholic content of their seltzer.

As a result, a brewery cannot take an alcohol solution produced elsewhere, carbonate it, add flavor, and sell it as hard seltzer.

But We Can

As homebrewers, we have a lot more legal leeway, since we are not selling what we produce. The main benefit of this situation, especially as it pertains to making hard seltzer is that if we have a kegging system (affiliate link), we do not have to produce the alcohol used to make hard seltzer.

Even a tight squeeze lets you use the kegs to their best function.

We can take any neutral-flavored spirit, dilute it to the ABV we want, and force carbonate it like any other keg we put in our kegerator. Primarily, this means we can take vodka at 40% ABV (80 proof) and dilute it down to whatever strength we want. There are also other spirits available, like Everclear 190 Proof (95% ABV), that require less volume to produce the desired strength.

Unfortunately, Everclear 190 Proof is not sold in many states in the USA. Because of its high alcohol content, the 190 proof version can be hard to find, but they do have a lower-ABV versions at 60%, 75.5%, and 189% ABV. However, the 120 Proof version is the most available. Even this will reduce the quantity of spirit needed to make your seltzer by half.

How Much do I Use?

There are formulas available that will walk you through the process of hand-calculating the volume of spirit and the volume of water you will need to produce the seltzer at the desired strength you desire.

But I found a handy calculator that greatly simplifies the calculation for you. Given that most seltzers clock in at 5% ABV, and I have a 2.5 gallon keg, I was curious what it would take to make 2.5 gallons of seltzer using Everclear 120.

The calculation is based on liters, so I put in 9.5 liters as the target volume after dilution, 60% as the actual before dilution, and 5% as the target after dilution.

This handy tool spits out the handy instructions that I need to combine 0.79 liters of spirit at 60% ABV with 8.71 liters of water to produce 9.5 liters of seltzer.

The Simple Version

There you go. Fill that small keg, force carbonate, and you’re all set. You have delicious, unflavored hard seltzer.

Oh, wait, you wanted flavor? Well, you could treat it like my keg of carbonated water and keep an array of Italian soda syrups, fruit juices, and mixers on hand so you can mix up whatever tickles your fancy.

The nice thing about this is that it allows you tailor your beverage to your tastes at the moment you want a drink. Not sweet enough? Just add more of your flavoring.

The Committed Version

If you have a flavor you know you want, there is another option. And if you have 5 gallon kegs rather than 2.5s, there is a simple option just a few clicks away. You just re-run the dilution calculation above so you have a target volume of 19 liters (5 gallons).

This gives you a needed volume of 1.58 liters of spirits at 60% ABV, combined with 17.42 liters of water to produce 19 liters of beverage.

The link above takes you to list of fruit wine base concentrates. They come in 1 gallon jugs and are intended to be diluted to make 5 gallons of wine. One gallon equals 3.79 liters, so you could make 5 gallons of the flavor you desire by combining:

  1. 1.58 liters of spirits at 60%
  2. 3.79 liters (1 gallon) fruit wine base
  3. 13.63 liters of water

And you’re off to seltzer town! This ratio would produce a fairly sweet sweet seltzer, with a similar flavor profile to fruit juice. You may need to play around to find the right combination of what you enjoy.


Building a Draft Beer System Part 2

The Liquid Side

Most beer lovers, and especially homebrewers, dream about having a dedicated kegerator set up to serve beer from kegs. There are lots of benefits to serving from kegs: convenience (most homebrewers can fill one keg rather than 52 bottles) . . . and it’s pretty badass to pour your beer from a tap.

In this article, I’m going to walk through the components you’ll need to set up the liquid side of a draft (draught) system. This is a list of the components, and I’ll flag specific components that may come as different types or sizes so you can use this list for any system. The links to components I personally like are affiliate links, but you can find a wide range of options, prices, and sellers for similar items.

I am not going to discuss kegerators vs converted chest freezers vs refrigerators. This is just about the parts you need to get beer (or other liquids) from the keg to the faucet where it can fill your glass.

What You See

When you set up a draught system, the liquid side has the components you usually see. Most people only notice the tap handle and faucet you use to actually pour the beer, but you also see the front part of the shank. Let’s see what’s in store:

  1. Faucet (affiliate link)– This is the component the beer pours from. There is a mechanism attached to the 3/8”-16 UNC bolt that opens and closes the faucet. The specific faucet in these photos is an Intertap faucet sent to me as a sample. These are unique on the market because you can change out the spout from the regular pour spout(pictured) to a growler-filler spout you can slide a piece of vinyl tubing onto to fill bottles and growlers. There is also a nitro spout option, which allows you to pour beers with nitrogen; the main difference is there are small holes in the spout to help knock the nitrogen out of solution so you get the smooth cascading bubbles associated with nitro beers. I purchased the spring pictured to allow the tap to close automatically when I release the tap handle rather than needing to push the handle back. This also minimizes the chances of accidentally leaving the tap open and losing beer because it isn’t closed completely.
  2. Tap Handle – This is a handle that is attached to the faucet. You pull on the handle and beer comes out of the faucet. When you are in a bar, these are what you probably remember about the system. Most commercial beers have a unique tap handle for each beer as a way to be recognizable. But you can also purchase simple handles that just provide something to pull on.
  3. Ferrule – This is optional, and its need is determined by the tap handle you are using. Some handles have a 5/16” bolt sticking out of the bottom rather than a 3/8”-16 UNC (USA) nut embedded in the body of the handle. Since the faucets have a threaded bolt on top, the handle threads into the top of the ferrule, which then threads onto the bolt on the faucet.
  4. Shank – Beer shanks are units that thread onto the faucet and pass through whatever type of wall you are mounting your taps on. For kegerators with pipes coming out the top, the shank is very short because the wall of the pipe is narrow. If you built a collar for a converted chest freezer or the door/wall of a refrigerator, the shank needs to be long enough to pass through the barrier. Passing through the wall of a walk-in cooler is common for bars and restaurants and requires the longest shanks in general.

The Hidden Pieces

  1. Tailpiece – The tailpiece is what connects the shank to your beverage tubing. Three components make up this part of the system. There is a tailpiece gasket made of a soft material to make a good seal, usually neoprene or silicone. A beer hex nut secures the tailpiece to the threaded body of the shank. The tailpiece itself fits inside the beer hex nut and presses against the gasket to provide a liquid-tight seal.
  2. Beverage Tubing – There are lots of varieties of beverage tubing, but this allows the beer to flow from the keg to the tap. Tubing is flexible to allow you to move kegs around to keep things organized as well as to be able to manipulate the quick disconnects when you need to detach the keg.
  3. Quick Disconnect (QD) – QDs are fittings that lock onto the keg to allow the liquid to flow out of the keg into your draught system. In general, homebrewers use either ball lock or pin lock kegs and commercial breweries use sanke couplers on their kegs. This isn’t always true, but fits the majority of cases. Differences outlined below.
    • Sanke – These are favored by commercial bars and breweries for many reasons. One of the main benefits is that the sanke coupler both provides the CO2 gas hookup to push the beer and the attachment for the beer to flow out of the keg into the tubing to be delivered to the tap. With some practice, a sanke QD can be attached or detached with one hand/one motion.
    • Ball Lock – Ball lock kegs became popular with homebrewers when Pepsi stopped using them to deliver fully mixed and carbonated soda to commercial accounts. The quick disconnect part of these function similar to the quick disconnects used on air compressors where you lift a collar, allowing small metal balls to slide over a ridge and into a groove, then the collar is pushed back down, using the balls to lock the QD in place in the groove. When Pepsi switched to the boxes of syrup that get mixed with carbonated water at the point of service, thousands of these kegs became available for homebrewers to use for carbonating and serving their beers. Ball locks became the standard in many ways and some companies are now making ball lock kegs specifically for homebrewers.
    • Pin Lock – Pin lock kegs were used by Coca Cola to deliver fully mixed and carbonated soda to their client accounts. To make their system incompatible with Pepsi’s ball lock kegs, these QDs have notches cut into them that slide over pins on the post of the keg to lock in place.
  4. Keg – This is where the liquid goodness lives until you are ready to pour it into a glass and it enters the maze outlined above. Keg types correlate to the QDs outlined above: sanke, ball lock, or pin lock.

The Plan

You will want to put some thought into the type of system you build. Whether you will be building a system to accommodate sanke, ball lock, or pin lock kegs. Most people pick one type and stick with it. If you are setting up a commercial bar or just want to keep commercial beers on tap, you will probably be going exclusively with sanke QDs, because that is what virtually all breweries use.

Homebrewers have more options. Many homebrewers I talk with pick either ball lock or pin lock kegs and stick with that type of keg no matter what. I own both ball lock and pin lock kegs, so I set up all my lines with ¼” MFL nuts and purchase MFL threaded quick disconnects so I can swap them out as needed for pin lock, ball lock, or sanke kegs.

Whatever you decide, you’ll be able to put together a great home draught system. If you have specific questions, please send me a message and I’ll either get the answer, whether it’s something I know or need to do a little research.


Component List with Affiliate Links

Intertap Forward-Sealing Faucet –
Intertap Self-Closing Spring –
Shank –
Tailpiece –
3/16″ Beer Tubing ––Per-Foot_p_820.html?AffId=337
Ball Lock Quick Disconnects –
Pin Lock Quick Disconnects –
Stainless Steel Sanke Coupler –

Amazon Affiliate Links
Intertap Forward-Sealing Faucet –
Intertap Self-Closing Spring –
Shank –
Tailpiece –
3/16″ Beer Tubing –
Ball Lock Quick Disconnects –
Pin Lock Quick Disconnects –
Stainless Steel Sanke Coupler –