Mini Kegging Our Home Brew

Family Ale home brew from a mini keg.

As our search for the most convenient and reliable method for dispensing home brew continues, we currently find ourselves infatuated with the five litre mini-keg.

Bottles are great, apart from the fact that cleaning and filling enough for a batch takes most of a day, and is beyond tedious. Serious home brewers rave about Cornelius kegs, but every time we read a ‘simple guide’, we find our eyes glazing over: too expensive, too complicated, and with too many dire warnings. Polypins are fine, but we’ve had more than one beer come out of them lifeless (our fault) and there’s no easy way to rectify that after the fact.

Mini-kegs, in theory, offer the best of all those options: bulk-filling, affordability, availability, and control over carbonation.

Mini kegging kit from Brewferm.Our first two attempts at mini-kegging didn’t go well. Even with the drastically reduced priming recommended by the manufacturers, we found the beer so over-gassed that we just got glass after glass of furious foam. This time, though (1938 ‘Family Ale’) we nailed it: we released the pressure from the keg before affixing the tap, and then dosed it with Co2 from a bulb to achieve the right level of carbonation at the point of serving.

We’re not sure we’ve ever seen our home-brew looking as appealing as this did with a stable head and gentle carbonation. (We didn’t aim for ‘fizz’.)

We’ve found that, assuming cleaning and sanitising procedures have been followed, it keeps for weeks in the keg, so there’s no rush to drink the whole lot in one sitting.

We bought our mini-kegging kit (three kegs, gas bulbs, tap) from Brewsmarter via Amazon.co.uk for £70 including delivery.

7 thoughts on “Mini Kegging Our Home Brew”

  1. Additional thrift suggestion – the mini-casks from breweries can be reused if you’re careful in getting the top out. Additional bonus is that they essentially come “free” with the beer in them…

    They dispense as per a normal cask drawing air in through a vent so won’t last very long in comparison (but it’s only 9 pints!). I rinse them with caustic and videne as per a corny.

    1. I assumed that the drew CO2 from the bulb, rather than air? I love the idea (although as time goes on and I get better at it, bottling is less and less painful), but 9 pints would take me a few days to drink through during the week…

        1. There are 2 5L keg designs, the mini keg which uses CO2 bulbs, and the easy keg which is cask conditioned (and must be vented for every dispense). The brewery 5L kegs are easy kegs and can be reused, but it is helpful to buy spare easy keg bungs for ~50p each from brewuk. My best bitter that I kegged in these totally wowed our guests at our NYE party, it had that cask feel and texture to it.

          The beer will last longer in these once opened, as air is not forced through the beer, so you will get better lifespan than a real ale cask. The kegs can be stored in the fridge too, to get a bit more lifespan out of them. But these are a social dispense solution, realistically you want to clear the beer out on the same day.

          They are also a good way of getting beer clear. As long as you dont move them about prior to dispense, beer with low-floccing yeast strains can be cleared by just leaving the beer in these kegs for a while.

  2. I had the same struggle at first – and ended up breaking the dip tube when trying to release some pressure (my own stupid fault!). How did you release the pressure before fitting the tap? Poke the bung into the keg with the dip-tube, then pull it up again?

    I’ve since moved on to Cornelius kegs (yes, it’s a faff and not a cheap solution, but I’m very glad I did so), but I do still like the mini-kegs for taking with me to parties and the like. I drop 5 litres into the mini-keg from a cornie, so it’s already properly conditioned, add the tap and gas and it’s spot-on.

    1. It wasn’t very scientific — pop the bung in, wait for the hissing to stop, push the tap down and into place.

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