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How To Tap A Keg

Without a tapped keg offering cold brew at the push of a button or the pull of a handle, a man cave is, well, just another room in the house.  Every man cave worth its salt should have some type of kegerator system, and once that system is installed you will need to know how to tap the various types of kegs that will be central to this system.

If this is a new concept to you, fear not.  In this article we will cover the methods on how to tap a keg, and explain the steps you will need to take before, during and after the keg setup.

Steps To Take Before You Tap A Keg

Before you can begin the process of tapping your keg you will first need to identify the type of tap system your keg is equipped with.

Although most domestic beer kegs—filled with beer that is made right in here in the United States—are equipped with the American “D” tapping systems, some import beers may be equipped with different types of tapping systems (this is a question you will need to ask the retailer or vendor when purchasing the keg you plan to set up).

There are a few different types of tapping systems with which a keg may be outfitted.  These systems include the:

  • American “D” tapping system
  • European “S” and “U” tapping systems
  • The Grundy “G” tap system
  • The German Slider or “A & M” tapping systems

Once you have identified the type of tapping system your keg has, the next step is to ice the keg down thoroughly.  Nobody likes warm beer, and to make certain that the beer will have a perfect head on it from one pour to the next, it is imperative that you first chill the keg down thoroughly.

Of course, if your keg is part of a kegerator system, the refrigerator portion of that system will be sufficient to cool your keg.  However, if you have a freestanding keg, in order to correctly chill your entire keg—and not just the bottom portion of it—you will need to follow these steps.

  • Use a large garbage bag to line your keg.  Using a large (yard and garden) garbage bag you will need to completely cover the keg with the open side of the bag facing outwards (this step will come after filling it with ice).
  • Fill with ice.  At this point you will only need to fill the bottom portion of the empty garbage bag with small ice cubes.
  • Insert keg.  Carefully lift the keg into the garbage can and on top of the bottom lining of ice cubes.
  • Pack bag with ice.  With the remaining ice cubes, pack the rest of the garbage bag with ice around the perimeter of the keg.  Make sure you continue to fill the bag until the ice is about 1 inch from the top.
  • Let ice settle and repack.  Next, pull the garbage bag up and around the keg, allowing the ice to settle all around it.  While doing this, continue to pack it with more ice cubes. You may need to enlist the help of a friend to help you properly and carefully lift the keg off the ground.
  • Secure the bag.  Using either tape or some type of cordage, secure the garbage bag around the keg.
  • Put keg into large tub.  With the bag secured around the keg, lift the keg into a large bucket or tub of some kind.  This will help catch any spills and prevent the keg from tipping later on.
  • Allow the keg to cool.  It will usually take about 4-5 hours for your keg to completely cool down.  As it does, you may have to replace some of the ice as it melts.
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Now that you have your keg on ice and cooling, you will also need to ice the tapping system as well.  By icing the tap you can prevent any loss of carbonation that might otherwise happen when your icy cold beer meets the warm tubing system of the tap.

Cooling the tap will not take nearly as long as cooling the keg—usually about 30 to 45 minutes.

Tapping a Keg with an American “D” Tapping System, a European “S” Tapping System or a European “U” Tapping System

keg

The process for tapping a keg with an American “D” tapping System, a European “S” tapping system or a European “U” tapping system is essentially the same.  These are the tapping systems we will discuss in this step of the process.

The first step is to remove the plastic or cardboard cap from the fixture that sits atop the keg of beer.  After completing this step, you should see a few open slits on the top of the keg and a roundish valve with a ball bearing in the middle.

The slits you see are there to help guide the tap’s notches and to hold the tapping system in place.  One thing to keep in mind is that the D, S and U valves look very similar to the German slider, A and M systems.

So again, be sure to check with your retailer or vendor regarding the specific type of tap you possess.

Next we are going to seat the pump on the top of the keg.  Be sure the lever is in the “up” or “off” position, and carefully line up the coupler lugs on your tap with the corresponding opening on the keg valve.

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Using a bit of force, push down on the tap system until it is on the keg valve.  In doing this you will drive the ball bearing down, provided you are using a little of the required force when pushing.

While maintaining this downward pressure, twist the tap clockwise about 90 degrees, until you cannot twist it any further.  Make sure to maintain this downward pressure until the tap is locked into place.

Otherwise, you will get a nasty shower of beer sprayed right into your face and eyes.

After you have twisted the tap until you cannot twist it any further, you will now engage the tap.  To do this, pull the handle of the tap outwards while simultaneously pushing the tap down onto the keg valve mechanism.

In some cases you will need to twist 2 flanges to lock it into place, but most taps will lock automatically after this step.

If you have tapped the keg correctly, you will not see any bubbles or foam gurgling from around the tap.  If you do see this, then the tap is incorrectly seated.

In this case, you must once again pull the handle out and reseat the tap onto the keg valve. Once the keg has been properly seated you are ready to move on to the pouring stage.

Pouring from Your Tapped Keg

The types of cups you use to enjoy your beer from your newly tapped keg make a world of difference.  If you are using beer glasses, any scratches on the inside of the glass can act as nucleation sites for bubbles to form—this is something you don’t want, as the presence of bubbles is a sign you are losing carbonation, leading to flat, tasteless brew.

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To avoid this, you can rinse the glasses with water first to help fill those scratches.  If you are using plastic cups, do not worry about scratches as they will not harm your pour.

When pouring the first few pints of beer using a beer tap, DO NOT pump the tap.  Instead you should simply push down on the button or nozzle for these first few pours, as the pressure that is already in the keg is more than enough to expel the beer.

For the first few seconds in a newly-tapped keg you will see a lot of foam.  Do not worry about this.

This is normal, and your tasty beer will follow along soon enough.  But you do need to deal with this foam in the proper way.

When adding beer into a glass that is foamy you are only going to get more foam, causing you to waste more of your beer.  Instead, set the foamy glass of beer aside in a spare glass and wait until all the foam has died down before adding more beer into that glass.

When the tap begins to pour beer and not foam, grab another glass and start to fill it.  To minimize the amount of head on the beer, try to tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle as you first begin to fill.

Then, as your glass begins to fill, readjust your glass to the vertical position.

pouring a pint

Finally, maintaining the perfect pour of beer, glass after glass, is the goal of any keg owner and user.  So how exactly is this achieved?

Actually, there is no hard and fast rule regarding the number of pumps it requires to pour a perfect pint of beer.  Instead, you should simply monitor the flow of beer and pump as the pressure begins to wane.

If the beer is coming out of the tap at a very rapid rate, especially if you see some foaming, you can stop pumping the keg because it is at full pressure.  Certain types of kegs have a pressure release valve with a metal ring attached to them.

These can be pulled if the pressure is very high and creating nothing but foam.

On the flip side, if the tap is beginning to slow down to a snail’s pace when pouring, you may want to give it a few pumps to increase the pressure and guarantee you a perfect pour.

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