In episode 2 of Drips & Draughts, we go through all of the components of a draft beverage system. Walking through all components from the gas cylinder to the keg then to the faucet and everything in between.
Many people are intimated by the thought of setting up and using a draft system, but once you have a general understanding of the components, draft systems are really quite easy to use and maintain. Join us for this weeks episode!
Highlights & Takeaways
CO2 and Nitrogen cylinders use different valves.
Cornelius kegs come in 2 versions – pin lock and ball lock. Cornelius kegs use “disconnects” to attach gas and beverage lines to the kegs.
Commercial kegs are know as sanke kegs. Sanke kegs have a single point of entry or both gas and liquid – this is done through the coupler.
There are many different types of faucets available – standard, stout, creamer.
You can personalize your draft system with a unique tap handle.
Episode 2 Transcript
Hey there! Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. I’m Brendan Hanson, I’ll be your host. Today we’re going to be talking about draught equipment. We’ll basically be doing a draught equipment overview – kind of a run through of the common components of a draught system.
If you need refer back to this episode you can do so by going to www.dripsanddraughts.com/2.
So what is a draught system?
A draught system is basically just a way to push a beverage from a keg to a faucet by using a compressed gas, whether that gas be carbon dioxide, a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen or just 100% nitrogen.
I’d say that most people are familiar with the faucet or the tap portion of the draught system. You typically see faucets at bars and restaurants but until now you probably haven’t given much thought to where that beer that pours from that faucet comes from. You just know that you ordered a beer, the bartender pulls the handle forward and there you go, your glass is full of beer.
Today, we’re going to run through all of the components of a draught system, just kind of a broad overview so you can get familiar with what goes into actually serving. Whether it’s a beer or a coffee or any other craft beverage.
Let’s get started, let’s jump in to this a little bit
Basically in any draught system, you’re dealing with a gas side and a liquid side and the gas side and the liquid side you can just imagine that they’re divided by the keg. That’s where they both meet up and that’s kind of where the magic happens as well.
Let’s start with the gas side of the draught system. You’re going to have a gas tank or a gas cylinder. Typically in a beer environment that’s going to be a CO2, sometimes a beer gas which is a blend of CO2 and nitrogen.
CO2 tanks, CO2 cylinders use a CGA 320 valve. It’s male threaded on the cylinder whereas a nitrogen tank uses a female threaded valve. It’s a CGA 580 valve but regardless of the type of tank and the type of valve, the gas tank, the gas cylinders provide a common purpose. They pressurize your draught system.
Now, these gas cylinders are under a very, very high pressure so you wouldn’t be able to hook this directly up to your keg. What you need to do is in line you’ve got to put a regulator which basically takes the full tank pressure down to a useable pressure for your draught system. Most regulators that you find or going to allow you to adjust the pressure of your system to between 0 and 60 psi.
I mentioned that CO2 cylinders have a male threaded CGA 320 valve; on the CO2 regulator you’re going to have a female threaded nut that attaches to the CO2 tank and then just the opposite on the nitrogen cylinder. The nitrogen cylinder has the female threaded CGA 580 valve and the nitrogen regulator is going to have a male threaded end that basically goes in and attaches to the nitrogen tank that way.
After the gas cylinder, after the regulator, most draught systems are going to be split out to any number of kegs or maybe you’re doing this at home and you’re basically running gas directly from your regulator to the keg.
There’s basically a few different options in terms of setting up your gas system. From your regulator you can run a gas line to what’s called an air distributor. This would then split your gas line into multiple gas lines allowing you to pressurize and serve multiple kegs at one time. The one drawback in using an air distributor if there are any drawbacks is that each one of those lines is going to have the exact same pressure that is set at the regulator level. If you’re serving different beverages, different types of beers you might want to have different pressures going to each keg.
So if that’s the case, if you do want to control the pressure going to each keg individually then you’re going to need a bank of regulators so you can have a multi-body regulator that attaches either to your primary regulator or directly to your tank and what that’s going to let you do is control pressure individually to each keg.
I mentioned earlier that our keg is kind of midway point. It’s the dividing line between our gas side of our draught system and our liquid side of our draught system. So attached to your regulator, attached to your air distributor, you’re going to have gas lines.
Gas lines basically run from your distributor or from your regulator to either a disconnect or to a keg coupler. Disconnects and keg couplers basically just let you attach your gas line to the keg. So when talking about disconnects and couplers we’ve got a couple of different types that we should talk about. We’ve basically got corny kegs which were used by the soda industry back in the day and now are hugely popular among home brewers, many coffee shops use these, many mobile serving companies use these and then we have sanke kegs which are kind of commercial kegs that you’re used to seen at large breweries or from large breweries or maybe think back to your college days… You’ve probably seen a sanke keg at a college frat party.
So depending on a type of keg that you have, you’re going to need a different fitting to connect the gas line to that keg. With the corny kegs, each gas line is going to have its own disconnect on the end and with corny kegs you’ve got either a ball lock disconnect or a pin lock disconnect based on the type of corny keg that you have.
With sanke kegs you basically just need a keg coupler. There are different keg coupler types based on regions but here in the States we use an American Sanke D-style coupler.
So I already got into describing kegs a little bit but going back, you’ve got Cornelius and you’ve got sanke kegs.
Cornelius kegs have two posts, they have a gas in and they have a liquid out post and then you’ve either got – you’ve got one of two choices with corny kegs. You’ve got a pin lock version which basically has pins on the posts that kind of allow you to lock your disconnect on and then you’ve got ball lock corny kegs which basically just have a ball lock fitting that pops over the post and kind of locks in place that way.
So as opposed to corny kegs, sanke kegs have a single point of entry and that’s all done through the keg coupler. Whereas the corny kegs have a liquid post and a gas post. Sanke kegs just have that single point of entry and it’s all handle through the keg coupler.
Alright, we’ve finished discussing the gas side. We’ve gone to the keg, we’ve discussed the keg.
Now, we’re talking about the magic, the beverage side, the liquid side. Every draught system needs to have a beverage line or a liquid output. The beverage line is going to be connected to a disconnect or to the keg coupler allowing your beverage to flow to the keg. Whether that beverage is beer, coffee, kombucha, soda, maybe a mixed drink.
The beverage line is just basically going to help you get that drink where it’s going, to the glass.
At the other end of that beverage line is the part that I eluded too earlier that most of us are familiar with and that we’ve seen is the faucet or the tap. There’s a few different types of taps, there’s a few different types of faucets. We’ll kind of just run through those real quickly.
One, you’ve got the party tap. This is probably the one you’ve seen in college. It’s basically just a hose with a cheap little plastic fitting at the end that allows you to serve without the need for a large set up.
But more commonly and something you’ve probably seen within the last week is a standard faucet like a beer faucet. These are seen on counter tops, they come out of towers, sometimes they’re mounted directly into a wall. Regardless of how they are mounted, the beverage line is basically going to go into what’s called a shank and that shank has a fitting that allows a faucet to be screwed onto it. The shank basically spans the gap from inside the fridge or inside the beer tower to outside where the faucet is attached. So attached to the shank is obviously the faucet and there’s tons of different types of faucets.
You’ve got chrome faucets, you’ve got stainless steel faucets, you’ve got plastic faucets. So faucets might be made out of almost anything and they do help serve different purposes but then you’ve got different types of faucets.
You’ve got the standard beer faucet which can be used for pouring any type of drink really. Then you’ve got the stout faucet which is common for pouring like a Guinness stout and this is what’s really popular among coffee drinkers right now is nitro coffee. Getting that rich, creamy, cascading pour and then that heavy rich thick head on the beer or coffee.
Next in line you’ve got a couple other types of faucets. You’ve got flow control faucets which are great for if you’ve got an over-carbonated beverage or maybe if the pressure in the draught system is just too high.
What a flow control faucet does is allow you to regulate the flow of the beer or the coffee or whatever beverage it is at the faucet level rather than having it go maybe into the back room to adjust the pressure of the entire system.
Then another type of faucet is a creamer faucet which is basically a standard faucet. You can pull the lever forward to serve your beverage but then you can also push the lever back and it adds a kind of frothing or creaming function to it. This creamer function can be found on many stout faucets as well so you’ve got that pull forward pour and then you’ve also got that push back creamer function.
That about does it for the draught system.
The only other one thing that you might be wondering, “Why hasn’t he mentioned tap handles?” Tap handles, I guess, you can include the draught system though they are not necessary for pouring the beer per se. But tap handles do get attention. You can add a lot of personalization with the tap handle, you can obviously add branding, they’re great branding pieces. I mean how many of you out there have ordered a beer or ordered a drink because of the tap handle you saw at a restaurant or a bar? They are definitely good attention getters.
So, I think that’s going to do it for the second episode of Drips and Draughts podcast. As always if you’ve got any questions, feel free to email us at email@example.com or you can tweet us @ColdBrewAvenue on Twitter. If you’ve got draught systems specific questions, which you probably do after today’s episode, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking forward to the next episode and if you are too, we’d appreciate if you can go to iTunes and leave us a review. If you’ve already left us a review, maybe share this podcast with your friends.
Whether you’re looking into putting a draught system into a coffee shop or maybe you’ve got a friend who you want to convert his garage fridge into a kegerator, let them know to check us out, they can find us in dripsanddraughts.com and this episode can be found in dripsanddraughts.com/2.
So, as always, recording this episode has brought up by a couple of ideas for future episodes. So some things you can look for in future episodes:
What type of gas should I be using?
What’s the difference between CO2, beer gas and nitrogen?
How can I set up a mobile draught system?
Can I make my own tap handles?
All right, that does it for today. Thanks again for joining us on the Drips and Draughts podcast. You can find this episode at dripsanddraughts.com/2.