Workshop Review: Kegging at Oak Barrel Winecraft

on 5-04-2015 in Homebrewing

I’ve been brewing my own beer for a few years now, but there’s always room to learn more. So I was excited when Oak Barrel Winecraft announced they were going to host workshops on various homebrewing subjects. The most recent event was a workshop on kegging and since I’ve only kegged a handful of batches, I didn’t want to miss it.

Oak Barrel Winecraft is our friendly neighborhood homebrew store. Located in Berkeley (North Berkeley really) along San Pablo Ave, they serve the needs of local beer and wine makers, as well as those who dabble in cheese, vinegar, and mead. For my fellow beer makers, their extract is very good and they keep all the hops and yeasts in refrigerators, so I’m always confident that I’m getting fresh ingredients. Plus the kits always get great reviews from my friends.

The staff is very helpful and being brewers themselves, also very knowledgeable. This new series of free workshops is an excellent extension of that helpful nature.

The kegging workshop was held in the back area in Oak Barrel and lasted from 3 hours, with a break in the middle for pizza and beer. I went into the class with some existing experience with kegging, but I didn’t really know how to take my kegs apart completely to clean them or how frequently that should be done. I was also hoping for some tips on force carbonation. I’ve been force carbing my kegs slowly over the course of a week, which works, but takes a long time.

The workshop started with a demonstration of how to breakdown a used keg so it can be refurbished. We focused on a pin lock, 5-gallon corney keg, but the same steps apply to my ball-lock gear. Unsurprisingly, the process is fairly straightforward if you have the right tools for the job. In this case, a deep-socket, 12-point socket wrench head is necessary for removing the in and out valves on the top of the keg. After removing the valves and dip tubes from the keg, the instructor showed us how to clean the keg itself and replace the rubber O-rings. One new tip was to rinse the keg with citric acid after cleaning with sodium percarbonate. The citric acid neutralizes the cleaner and makes rinsing the keg much faster.

After demonstrating how to reassemble the keg and sanitize it, the instructor guided us through the steps necessary to fill the keg and force carbonate the beer. This method is pretty easy, so I’ll share it here. First we turn the CO2 up to 40 PSI to pressurize the keg and shake it for 30 seconds. After shaking the keg, we turn the CO2 down to 30 PSI and gently shake the keg until the pressure hold steady at 30. Finally the keg is left for 24 hours at 30 PSI. Afterwards the beer should be carbonated and the pressure can be reduced to a serving level.

Following a lunch of (free) pizza and beer, the demonstration wrapped up with some information about bottling beer from a keg. The instructor had a complicated counter pressure bottle filler which he explained is typically used for competition filling. Fortunately, he also went over a technique for filling bottles from a picnic tap and some tubing. Since we regularly fill growlers to take to parties, this technique will be very useful in reducing foaming.

By the end of the kegging workshop I was feeling very confident in my ability to properly clean our kegs and improve our carbonation techniques. Naturally Oak Barrel was able to provide the rubber O-rings and washers I needed to perform the reconditioning process. I picked up a socket wrench attachment at Ace Hardware to complete my kit.

Overall Oak Barrel was an ideal place to learn more about brewing and I look forward to attending a future workshop on additional homebrewing activities. If you are interested in attending any of the workshops at Oak Barrel Winecraft, you should give them a call or email and ask to be added to the mailing list. Happy brewing.

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