In this episode, Brendan & Cary discuss how to find and fix draft system leaks as well as common places to look for leaks in a draft system. Thanks to all of you who consistently listen to the show. If you haven’t done so already, please leave us a review on iTunes.
Highlights & Takeaways
Liquid leaks are easy to spot, however gas leaks are a little bit harder to pinpoint. Follow some of our suggestions for common spots to check for draft system leaks.
Our podcast eeked into the iTunes New & Noteworthy section again – if you haven’t yet rated or reviewed the podcast on iTunes, please do us a favor by hopping over there and leaving a quick review.
A mixture of water and soapy water is a great way to find a slow leak in your draft system. Start by spraying the water on connection points between hoses and fittings.
Episode 11 Transcript
Brendan: Hey there and welcome to episode 11 of the Drips & Draughts podcast! Today is a monumental day for this podcast. One, because we’ve cracked the New & Noteworthy section in iTunes in the hobbies section again. And when I say cracked, I mean we just barely eeked in there. So we could really use your help getting bumped up a few notches. So we could really use your help getting bumped up a few notches. If you wouldn’t mind going into iTunes, finding our podcast and just clicking to rate it and review it. Leave a quick review – we would definitely appreciate it. And the second reason this podcast is monumental is because I’ve finally got the man, the myth, the legend on here with me. My brother. Cary Hanson. He’s been trying to avoid this for quite some time, but now that we work in the same office it’s uhh… it was bound to happen, and today was the day. Many of you know Cary through our ebook, many of you have probably conversed with him via email and today you’ll get to hear him on the podcast.
So last weekend I had a huge problem with my kegerator at home. And we’ve recently got a few emails about draft system problems, particularly leaks in the system. So Cary and I today are going to tackle draft system leaks and how they happen, where they commonly happen and what you can do to fix and prevent them.
So without further ado, let’s get into today’s episode and talk… Leaks.
Brendan: Alright. Welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson. And today, we’ve got another first. We’re about firsts here. We’ve got my brother, Cary Hanson, on a show with us. So welcome Cary.
Cary: Thank you. Thank you.
Brendan: Great to finally have you with us.
Cary: It’s about time.
Brendan: After 10 episodes, finally here. So I think most of the listeners kind of know I got into home brewing and how I got into draft coffee. Why don’t you give us a little background on how you got in the home brewing?
Cary: Yes, sure. So I got into home brewing, what was that? Close to 10 years ago now through my brother-in-law who just happened to call me one day, he knew I like beer, and he’s like, “Hey. We should just start making our own beer.”
So I started looking into it and realized it was a lot easier than it sounded. So I looked up a kit and actually bought my first kit, I think, from Costco.com. Just buckets and all the works that I needed, and we just started making beer one night and loved it.
Brendan: And I think it wasn’t too long after that that I got the same call from you saying, “Hey. You got to come over here and brew some beer with me.”
Cary: Yes, it’s contagious.
Brendan: It was. And I totally got into it as well. And it’s actually what got me to start liking beer. I never really liked beer. So speaking of that, what’s your favorite craft beer?
Cary: Right. So before all this, I really only liked kind of the darker beers or like the Newcastles, the browns or the nutty beers. And after brewing and actually being able to touch the ingredients, smell the grains, the roasted grains, or smell the hops, I really started enjoying the IPAs more. Because you start to smell the individual ingredients and then you start to seek those ingredients out in the beers you’re drinking, and you try to smell and identify everything. I think, like any craft beer enjoyer, I tend to like the IPAs more now. The really clean, hop smelling IPAs, I’m big on right now.
Brendan: That’s your go to?
Cary: That is my go to.
Brendan: So, we’ve actually got an IPA here. It’s from Rogue Farms, and Rogue is actually the company that got me into craft beer. We had the Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale (94 points on Beer Advocate).
Cary: Oh yes. It’s so good.
Brendan: Which I absolutely fell in love with. And since it’s Monday here, and it’s your first time on the podcast, I say we just crack, get this thing going.
Cary: Looks delicious.
Brendan: Yes. So obviously, you got yourself into home brewing through your brother-in-law. You got me into home brewing. How about cold brewing coffee and—how’d you get into that?
Cary: So cold brew. I’ve drank coffee for years, and it was always—I’d always buy iced coffees regardless. Before I even knew about cold brewing, I’d buy iced coffee. It was brewed hot, and then cooled down, and a lot of times, they just weren’t very good, I tried doing it at home and it just was never right. Always tasted a little bit burnt by the time you cooled it down, or sat on in the hot plate in your coffee maker. So when I think you told me about cold brewing years ago and started doing that, I was like, “This is a perfect solution since I love iced coffees” and “Why not cold brew it and just keep it that way, it tasted so much better.” So-
Brendan: Right. And then there was surely after that, where we started to put it on tap, and we had a couple mishaps with carbon dioxide in carbonating our coffee. But-
Cary: Yeah. Don’t use CO2 on coffee.
Brendan: [laughs] It was a fun learning experience for sure. So obviously, you like cold coffee. What’s your favorite way to drink coffee? Now that we have so many different ways. Heating, cold brew, and just cold brew over ice, nitro coffee?
Cary: You know, I still think I prefer just an ice coffee. Cold brew coffee over ice, I’ll add a little creamer to it if it sounds good that day. But for the most part-
Brendan: That’s your go to?
Cary: It’s just black, or mixed in a nitro coffee here and there is fun. But my go to is just over ice, these warm Californian days we have all time, it’s just perfect to carry around with me and-
Brendan: And now we got the kegerator in the office. We’ve got cold brew on tap all day long.
Cary: [laughs] Jacked on caffeine all day long.
Brendan: We’re getting a lot of work done though.
Brendan: We’re actually getting our first podcast together done so it’s working out. So today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about draft system leaks. We’ve had a few clients who’ve called and said, “Hey. I lost an entire tank of carbon dioxide” or “an entire tank of nitrogen”. And draught system leaks suck, but they happen from time to time. Cary it is at a draft system leak where he lost I think a 20 pound tank of carbon dioxide.
Cary: Yes. That’s terrible.
Brendan: I’ve had the same thing. I’ve had a system leak. We each had different types of leaks. So we’re going to go through the different types of leaks, and what you can kind of do to find then and correct them. But before we get into that, I just want to talk about a problem I had last weekend with my keezer. The entire thing froze over. The temperature controller stopped working. And that was a huge bummer to walk out to when I was expecting to get a glassful of cold brew coffee in the morning, and nothing would pour. Everything was just literally frozen. My temperature controller stopped working entirely, and every single keg froze. I had a lot of bottles in there that actually blew up. And I looked at the temperature and it was down to three degrees Fahrenheit when I was typically keeping it at about 36. So for those of you who don’t know, a keezer is basically a converted chest freezer that you turn into a fridge by adding a temperature controller to it. So not to bum everybody out but yes, lot of lost coffee, lot of lost beers in that incident. So maintain those temperature controllers if you have them.
Alright. On to leaks, system leaks. Typically, there’s two types of leaks. You’ve got either a liquid leak which are very easy to find because you’re spilling beer, or coffee, or some other liquid all over the place. And you’ve got gas leaks which are obviously a lot more difficult to find because a lot of times you can’t hear them, certainly can’t see them. And the fact that you can’t hear them or can’t see them, it can also be dangerous. Because if you’re leaking CO2 into the environment, you could asphyxiate yourself if it’s a small enclosed area. So we’re going to talk about not the liquid leaks so much just because those are easy to find, we’re going to talk more about the gas leaks. And how they can occur, and what you can do to fix them.
So firstly, the first place that we’ll talk about a potential gas leak, is at the regulator level. And this typically doesn’t happen, but when it does, I think it’s usually from a regulator just being old and going bad.
Cary: Yes. You can replace all the internal workings, the diaphragms, and things in the regulator to help prevent this. But lot of times, when you have that regulator leak, you’ll hear it. You’ll hear like a hissing coming from your regulator. Provided that you’re in a somewhat quiet environment. If you’req in a loud coffee shop or something, you may or may not hear that. So you always just want to watch your gauges and make sure they’re not going down quickly.
Brendan: Yeah, this is something that we really have encountered too much. I’ve never had a problem with any of our regulators. I don’t know if you have, but-
Brendan: Yes. I think it’s typically due to just either abusing the regulator or just age. When they start to get old maybe beyond five, six, seven, eight years. I’ve actually had the regulators in my garage for a few years now, never had a problem. Knock on wood.
The next area you might encounter a small leak is the pressure relief valve. Either on the regulator or maybe on the keg. Sometimes, these just need to be greased or oiled, or sometimes there’s just too much pressure in the system to where they start to blow off. But that’s also a common area where you might have a small leak in the system.
Next up, we got gas lines. And this is kind of one of those areas where you could potentially have a leak or many leaks, depending on how many gas lines you have. All the gas lines are more or less, all of your fittings are connected to gas lines at some point, and it’s all those connections in the gas lines where you could run into problems. I think that’s where you ended up, tracing your problem back to?
Cary: Yes, exactly. So the majority of the gas lines that we sell, they’re connected to a swivel nut which will then attach to your regulator, or your disconnects for your kegs and stuff. And those swivel nuts are MFL fitting and should seat perfectly against the check valves, or the other fittings. But sometimes, there’s just tiny imperfections. It will allow a tiny leak, and you wouldn’t even be able to hear it. It could leak out in a week, or it’d leak out in overnight and you’re screwed. The easiest way I would say to check for this, you can spray all your check valves with warm soapy water. Watch for any bubbles-
Brendan: Yeah, they’re not easily detected. You do have to get some soapy water involved if you’re going to find it. Unless you just want to go through each connection one by one and if it’s a swivel nut, tighten the swivel nuts. They are harder to find. And they’re typically slow leaks. You’ll notice your tank pressure going down day by day, whereas normally, tank pressures stay pretty consistent.
Cary: Right. In my case, it was one of those MFL fittings on the swivel nut. And I tightened it as hard as I could with a wrench, it was still leaking. So it was a small imperfection in it.
Brendan: A burr in the metal or something.
Cary: Exactly. So I wrap the threading in a little Teflon tape, and that fixed it or you could use those little plastic tailpiece washers will fit right in those swivel nuts, and that’ll seal it up for you to–
Brendan: Definitely. Those help seal the connections a little bit better. We’ve mentioned it twice, the MFL fitting. You want to explain what that is, what MFL stand for?
Cary: What does it stand for?
A male flared fitting.
Brendan: Yes, a male flared fitting. So it’s basically a threaded fitting that has a male flare on the end. And then the swivel knots, they’re the female side that fit against the male side, obviously. And they’re– was slightly angled, so that they–
Cary: Yes. It’s like a 45-degree angle. They just fit right into each other, and then, yes, tighten in tight.
Brendan: Yes, provide a good seal that way. So moving down the system a little further. The next area that sometimes you could have a leak in is your keg coupler, which is a common piece on commercial kegs or your disconnects, which is common in homebrew or corny kegs. I’m not too familiar with leaks on the couplers. However, on the corny kegs, I have seen leaks on the disconnects because they’re made out of plastic, they can just start to wear overtime. And you could even crack one if you’re to drop it. They’re not indestructible. So I have seen leaks in those.
Cary: Right. Yeah. We sell two different types of disconnects. One, just has a barb on it. The other one has MFL fitting. So it’ll be the same fitting we just talked about. A lot of times, those just need to be tightened a little bit more if it’s leaking there. If it’s a barbed disconnect and it’s leaking from there, chances are your clamp on your hose through that isn’t tight enough.
Brendan: Right. The threaded fittings are nice because you’ve got the swivel nut on your gas line or your beverage line. It allows you to swap out connections very easily. It makes changing your disconnects easy. It makes replacing your disconnects with a commercial coupler easy. You’ve got a lot of options with the swivel nuts and the threaded fittings. Whereas if you have barb fittings, you basically have to cut your gas line or your beverage line if you’re going to replace that. So most of our setups, most of the systems that we sell at Keg Outlet, they will come with swivel nut fittings and threaded fittings.
Lastly, one of the last places to check for a leak is the keg itself. Corny kegs have a lot of things going on. They’ve got the posts. They’ve got the lid. And all of those pieces have o-rings. So depending on whether you have a new keg or a used keg, you’ve got a lot of different o-rings in there. The lid has an o-ring, a big o-ring. The dip tubes have o-rings. The posts have o-rings. And that’s actually where I traced my leak back to one of the posts was just either not tightened all the way or one of the o-rings on the inside had gone bad and just allowing gas to leak out. And I lost a 10-pound tank of CO2 in the process.
Cary: Yeah, with the post as well, they have a small spring inside of them called a poppet. And these wear out overtime, too, and need to be replaced. So once the spring loses its tension or whatever–
Brendan: Yes. Once the poppet loses its tension, those poppets can be replaced, so can the o-rings that go inside. And it’s always a good idea to replace the o-rings on your kegs every couple of years, every few years. We sell both new kegs and used kegs. Used kegs, we pressure test them but we don’t know how old the o-rings on there are. So if you get a used keg, it’s always a good idea to get some new o-rings with it just to replace those before you start using it.
Cary: Yes. A couple of bucks for o-rings will save you a lot of money and headache in the long run if you do have a leak there.
Cary: It’s worth it.
Brendan: It is worth it. And I think that’s about it. In terms of leaks and where they might come from, what might cause them, I don’t know. Anything else in particular you want to throw out there?
Cary: I think that’s about it. I mean, not a fun topic but anyone with the draft system has probably come across this. And it’s a crappy day when it happens trying to figure it out, I mean, spend money on a new tank. So it’s like something you want to just monitor right away, make sure everything is good, and then you don’t have to worry.
Brendan: Yeah. We try to be pretty active in social media. I just got to bring this story up. We’re pretty active in social media. And I saw a post from somebody, I think it was on Reddit a year or two ago. And he had come home from work, and he had a keezer full of, like, four different beers. And he came home and his cat had hopped up somewhere and knocked his fish tank over, and it fell across his keezer and opened up every tap. So not only did he have all his fish dead, all his fish tank water on the ground, but all his homebrew had drained out over his entire keezer. So he came home and just had an awful day.
Cary: That’s terrible.
Brendan: So, yes. If you have cats, make sure you lock those taps. And we sell faucet locks, too.
Brendan: Alright. Well, Cary, thanks for making it-
Brendan: 10 episodes in before you actually made it but–
Cary: I know. You finally got me out there, man.
Brendan: You’re going to have to be a regular now.
Thanks for joining us on episode 11 of the Drips & Draughts podcast. If you’d like to find show notes for this episode you can do so at dripsanddraughts.com/11.
And hey, if you find yourself looking at the show notes for this episode, why don’t you go leave us a review too. It’s quick. It’s painless. And it’s easy. And it will help us out.
So, thanks to Cary for joining me on this episode. It’s actually nice to have a co-host. I probably shouldn’t go as far as calling him a co-host yet since I’ve actually had other guests on here more than he’s been on here. But yeah, I like having somebody on here to talk to. It makes the show a little easier to get through and it’s probably more interesting for you to listen to. So let us know what you think. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @ColdBrewAvenue or @DripsDraughts.
I should probably also say thanks to Rogue Ales since we had a Rogue Farms beer today while we were recording the show. We had the Rogue Farms 7 Hop IPA. It’s an India Pale Ale brewed with 7 varieties of Rogue Farm Hops.
I know that right now a majority of our listeners are here for coffee content and serving coffee on draft, but if that’s why you’re here, you should probably check out Rogue Ales as well just because they do a lot of [interesting] stuff. They mix in all sorts of ingredients. They do chili beers, they’ve done coffee beers, they even do a Voodoo Doughnuts Maple Bacon Beer.
You know, they get pretty creative, as are coffee shops these days. Coffee shops are getting extremely creative in what they’re doing with both hot brew and cold brew. I’ve seen cold brews starting to be barrel aged like how whiskeys and beers are. Check Rogue Ales out, you might get some good ideas from them.
That’s going to do it for today, but thanks for joining us on episode 11 of the Drips & Draughts podcast.
We look forward to seeing you again next Friday.