Keg It! Part 1
Once you have all the stuff you need covered in Part One, the only thing left to do is get the beer into the keg, which is what I will be covering in this post.
The process to keg your beer starts at the same point in the brewing process as bottling. So once your beer has settled during secondary fermentation you are ready to move your beer to the keg. For a quick overview you can check out the older posts on the brewing process:
Home Brewing Part 1, A Trip to the Home Brew Supply Store
Home Brewing Part 2, The Boil
Home Brewing Part 3, Fermentation
Home Brewing Part 4, Moving to Secondary Fermentation
Home Brewing Part 5, Bottling
The night before you are ready to move your beer to the keg you should move your secondary fermentation vessel somewhere higher off the ground (like the kitchen counter) to make it easier to siphon the beer into the keg. Let it sit in its new location for 6-8 hours to allow any sediment that was disturbed by moving it to fall back to the bottom of the vessel.
2) Sanitize your keg: The easiest way to sanitize a Cornelius keg is to boil about 5 gallons of water.
Remove the top of the keg and pour the boiling water into the keg. Be careful, the keg and the water will be really hot and it's easy to burn yourself. Fasten the lid back onto the keg and then flip the keg upside-down and allow it to sit on the floor for about 10 minutes. The hot water will kill all the bad stuff and flipping it over allows the water to heat up all the fittings at the top of the keg to ensure they are sanitized as well. After 10 minutes, pop the top off the keg and dump out the hot water. Careful of the steam because that burns too. Put the lid back on and allow the keg to cool off a bit while you sanitize the rest of your equipment.
Hot keg, upside-down:
Note: Never use bleach or chlorine to sanitize a keg. It's one of the only things that can ruin stainless steal over time.
3) Sanitize your siphon and siphoning tube. You can bleach it and rinse or just use some no-rinse sanitizing powder.
Auto-siphon and tube:
4) Bring 1/2 - 1 cup of water to boil and stir in the same amount of dextrose that you would use when bottling. Its usually 100 grams of dextrose to bottle or keg a 5 gallon batch of beer.
Bag of dextrose (my new roommate found a drawer full of these weighed out into bags like this and thought I was dealing cocaine. Hilarious):
5) Open the keg and dump in the water and dextrose mixture.
6) Place the keg on the floor directly below your secondary fermentation vessel. Remove the top of your secondary fermentation vessel. Run the tube end of your siphon into the bottom of your keg. Make sure it hits the bottom to avoid splashing and limit oxidation. Then, take your auto-siphon and place it about halfway into the beer in your secondary fermentation vessel and give it a few quick pumps to begin siphoning the beer into the keg. This is the best part... Instead of having to fill and cap every bottle, you now just have to slowly lower the siphon until all the beer is moved into the keg
Siphoning beer from fermentation vessel to keg:
7) Place the lid onto the keg. Then take out your CO2 tank and connect the gas to the valve that says "In". Turn the gas on and slowly crank the pressure up to about 30PSI. This will ensure your lid is sealed. You might hear some popping-- that's normal.
Turn up the pressure to about 30PSI:
8 ) Store the keg however long your recipe requires the beer to stay in the bottle before chilling and drinking. For most ales it will be from 65-75˚F for at least 14 days (can be longer for some recipes). f you are really desperate to have your beer finished sooner you can actually force carbonate, instead of adding the dextrose as mentioned in Step 4 above. I will post on that later.
9) When the time is up, stick the keg in the keggerator. Once it is chilled, pull to open the pressure valve to release the extra gas. Turn the pressure all the way down on the gas tank regulator. Attach the beer line to the "Out" valve on the keg, and the air line to the "In" line on the keg. Turn the gas on and slowly increase the pressure until it is around 5PSI. Pour yourself a beer and see how if its flowing well and adjust the pressure as needed.
That's all there is too it. It might seem like a lot of work, but once you have this down it's super easy and you will probably never use bottles again.