Bar Management, Beer, Guides

You Really Should Know How to Change a Keg

November 19, 2021

Can you change a keg?

Changing a keg is something every manager, or better yet, every employee should know in order to be a team player. It’s a right of passage. There’s actually a lot of draught maintenance you can handle for your bar to ensure your bar is running smoothly, without the downtime of waiting for a draught system professional. We’ll take a look at some fundamental draught maintenance skills like changing a keg, as well as the changing couplers, faucets, and gas tanks.

BevSpot strongly recommends you hire a professional to regularly maintain your draught system. This ensures that your beer tastes its best, can help minimize loss from waste. They can also help with some of the maintenance addressed in the blog post (no, they won’t change a keg for you).

 

Changing Kegs

Let’s start with the one that is a rite of passage for new bartenders and managers: changing a keg. You’ll know you’ve done it right if you’re not covered in beer once you’ve finished. To begin, there are several types of couplers (the part that connects the draught line to the keg), but most of them connect and disconnect similarly. They tend to look like this:

keg coupler

 

Most systems work the following way: CO2 or Nitrogen goes in the side tube and leaves the keg via the top tube.

To disconnect a keg:

  1. Grab the plastic locking handle and pull it out until to unlock it.
  2. With it out, you can safely lift the handle all the way up.
  3. You can now twist the coupler counterclockwise to release the keg. If you didn’t pull the handle all the way up in the previous step, you will be sprayed with beer.

If this requires a lot of force, consider cleaning your coupler.

To connect a keg, you’ll reverse the process.

  1. Fit the coupler into the top of the keg. Doesn’t fit? We’ll address that further on.
  2. Holding the handle and not the lines, twist the coupler clockwise until it is firmly locked in place.
  3. Firmly press down on the handle. It should lock into place.

After changing, you’ll need to drain the lines a little bit to get out any old beer. It may be a pint or two depending on the length of your draught lines. This is an example of variance that you should expect in your beverage program. In some instances, you may need to change a coupler for your keg to work with your draught system or for cleaning.

 

Replacing a Coupler

Thanks for the info BevSpot, but my coupler doesn’t fit the new keg. The good news is that those can be changed. Most kegs from widely distributed U.S. breweries use a Type D coupler, also known as an American Sankey. Bars with European beers on draught are likely to need other couplers. If you’re unfamiliar with a keg you’re looking to order, check with your beer distributor representative to make sure you have the correct coupler available to tap it.

To replace a coupler:

  1. Turn off the gas to your keg from the regulator. Larger systems may have individual regulars for each tap output. You’ll also need to detach the coupler from your keg.
  2. Generally, there are constant tension clamps ensuring a tight seal. They’re little rings with a bolt that adjusts how tight they are. If you have them, loosen them.
  3. Did you turn off the gas?
  4. Loosen the hex nuts that connect the gas and beer lines. The coupler will now be disconnected. Be prepared for any beer in the line to drain out.
  5. Connect the new coupler by reversing the process; connect the hoses and tighten the nuts, then tighten the tension clamps to ensure a snug fit.
  6. Don’t forget to turn the gas back on when you’re done. You can safely tap the keg.

 

Changing a Faucet

If you’re adding a Nitrogen stout to your draught line-up replacing a CO2 IPA, you’ll need to know how to swap out faucets. To do so, you need a beer faucet wrench. Some wrenches come with a faucet tool on one end and a hex wrench for couplers on the other. 

 

faucet wrench

 

To change a faucet:

  1.  Turn off the gas to that line from the regulator.
  2. At the base of the faucet, you’ll find a ring with a few small holes in it (this is called a shank collar). Approaching from the right side, put the tip on the wrench into one of the holes.
  3. Rotate clockwise to loosen the collar. Note that the collars operate backward from typical nuts; righty loosey lefty tighty in this case.
  4. Support the faucet with one hand and continue to loosen the collar manually.
  5. With the old faucet removed, we can follow a similar process to get the new one in place.
  6. After manually tightening the collar to the new faucet and ensuring the system is aligned vertically, you can tighten the collar with the wrench counterclockwise to ensure there are no leaks.
  7. Don’t forget to turn the gas back on when you’re done.

 

CO2 and Nitrogen

Used for soda as well as kegs, these gasses are expensive, and a leak or empty syrup can really add up to a substantial loss of both gas and profits. Many gas companies charge a leasing fee for canisters, so letting empty canisters sit around will also end up being an unnecessary cost. If your draught lines are pouring weak or flat, chances are you need to change your gas. For this, you’ll need a hex wrench like the one pictured below. Typically, this is left attached to the regulator at the gas canister so it doesn’t get lost.

 

gas hex wrench

 

To change a gas canister:

  1. Turn off the gas by turning the knob on top of the canister clockwise. Even if the gas may be out, turn it off.
  2. Fit the wrench over the nut that couples the regulator to the canister. Loosen the nut by turning counterclockwise. These wrenches are pretty thin and don’t always get a good grip on the nut, so this can be frustrating at first.
  3. With the old canister detached reverse the process the attach a new canister.
  4. Once the canister is attached and the nut is tight, you can turn the gas back on.

A quick note on pressure (PSI): For CO2 beers, you’ll want 10-12 PSI, while Nitrogen beers need 35-30. These can vary slightly depending on your system, and you may need to adjust to get your beer perfect.

 

Having the knowledge and tools to help your bar run smoothly is crucial in running a profitable business; set your team up for success. Our goal at BevSpot is to provide you with all the tools you need simplify inventory, facilitate ordering, and manage profitability.

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