Author Topic: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg  (Read 7501 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« on: June 09, 2011, 06:42:02 AM »
I was inspired by Brewing TV's how-to's on cask conditioned ales, so I decided to give it a shot on a scale appropriate for my needs.  I had an old 5L Warsteiner mini-keg sitting on a shelf so I inspected it for potential use.  It has a plastic bung on one head that comes complete with a hard spile.  I can vent the cask by pressing sideways on the spile, this is how you'd normally let air in as you draw from the keg.  It has a spigot on the side of the keg, about 1" above the other head.  This is positioned perfectly to let me draw brew without pulling the yeast, gelatin and hops from the very bottom.  Plus the spigot is made where you pull it out but you still have to turn it to open the tap so it won't push out from the pressure of carbonation.

In any case, I had a small batch of Best Bitter done so last night I put together my cask.  First I put some boiled priming sugar solution (I used 25g of jaggery, a kind of brown sugar from India), then I racked the beer into the keg nearly to the top, then added a little gelatin in solution, then a few First Gold hop pellets.  I bunged and rolled and shook it gently.  I put the keg in the kitchen so it would be relatively warm and carbonate quickly.  Now comes the hard part, waiting!  I'll check back in when I tap and see how it worked, though I see no reason why this won't go exactly as planned.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline 1vertical

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2011, 06:47:25 AM »
That sounds like a fun project. Hard part is the waiting I agree.  I love jaggery
in my beers especially Belgians.  I have never used it for priming purposes tho
the small quantity in 5 liters prolly not even detectable. Post yer results please.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 08:44:31 AM »
Ran into a bit of a snag yesterday.  I walked by the mini-keg and noticed the hard plastic spile had popped up.  It wasn't leaking but when I attempted to push it down it did blow a little beer out the top and wouldn't stay punched in.  I released a little of the pressure and put the keg in the refrigerator.  I don't know why this would have happened, come to think of it I'd better review how much priming sugar I added.  I was only shooting for low carbonation but I don't know if I included the residual CO2 from fermentation.

I'm not sure why the spile popped up, it isn't that way when you buy the keg full of carbonated beer.  Maybe it is weaker now, that or I've carbonated more than I intended.  My thought is to duct tape the spile down, that is a traditional approach in my house.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 09:24:26 AM »
My experience with mini-kegs is that you need significantly less priming sugar than if you were to bottle.

I don't recall the ratio, but I want to say it was like 1/3 or so.

When I use them, I use 5 to 7 coopers carbonation drops.  Never more than 7.  I had one keg turn into a football and one that shot the tap back at me and nearly gave me a black eye.
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 04:19:06 PM »
So when I am ready to tap my first draft, I should yell "Incoming!"?

I don't think I understand how the size of the container makes a difference in the amount of priming sugar.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2011, 04:23:25 PM »
Geez what a moron I am!  I used Tastybrew to figure out how much sugar I'd need to add for 0.75vol of CO2 in 5L, it was -0.1oz.  For 1.3vp; I'd need 8g of sugar.  I added 25g, apparently I neglected to remember I had 5L not my usual 2.5gal.  Now I guess its just a matter of bleeding off the CO2 until the activity is over.

I am periodically remindedo of how stupid I am.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 04:28:08 PM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2011, 04:28:07 PM »
How did you get the spile out of the bung without damaging it? How did you clean and sanitize the keg?

I've been thinking that mini-kegs would make great serving containers for years, I've just never spent any time figuring out how to reuse them for homebrew.

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2011, 04:32:12 PM »
The spile is just a plastic plug in the hole of the bung.  Its easy enough to remove by hand, and then the bung will come out.  The spile has a lip on the internal side so even when overcarbonated, that catches and holds rather than shooting out into out space. The bung has a large lip that makes it seat snugly, and the spile expands and prevents the whole thing from coming out.  As for sanitizing, I just rinsed with hot water several times and then sanitized with Starsan, including draining some out the tap.  I heard that the kegs are lined with plastic so I don't think it should be any harder than sanitizing a bucket.  I rinsed it right after emptying it of course.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline phillamb168

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2011, 01:59:28 AM »
What a brilliant idea. For the wooden bit that you put into the hole on the top, did you buy that from somewhere specific? I've got a couple of those mini-kegs lying around and hate to see them go to waste... This is a perfect way to keep that from happening. Cheers!
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2011, 04:15:19 AM »
Lennie (and others), you might be interested in my project on reusing Heineken mini-kegs.  It works, it really really works.  I use 1 tablespoon of cane sugar to carbonate a keg.  Takes about 2 to 3 weeks to carbonate, just like bottles, but it's 1/3 as much sugar as you'd use for bottles.  And the apparatus fits inside the little BeerTender (countertop refrigerator/tapper) machines, which is what I was shooting for since I received one for Christmas a couple years ago.

http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=21461&hilit=heineken
Dave

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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2011, 05:29:41 AM »
What a brilliant idea. For the wooden bit that you put into the hole on the top, did you buy that from somewhere specific? I've got a couple of those mini-kegs lying around and hate to see them go to waste... This is a perfect way to keep that from happening. Cheers!

The keg already has a little plastic plug in the center of the rubber bung, this is what I'm calling the hard spile.  If you push it to the sife it will let off pressure.  They have it there so you can relieve the vacuum caused by dispensing beer, but it works both ways so you don't really need a soft spile.

Thanks Dave I'll check that out.  I hope I didn't give the impression that this is an original thought, in fact I believe I got it from Brewing TV's last cask conditioned ale episode.

I had put the keg in the fridge and decided to bring it back out and let the secondary ferm finish up.  I couldn't stand it so I tapped a small 8oz, the stuff was great!  Very nice graham cracker malt flavor with a balanced bitterness thats on the low side of the style, but the way I like it.  It was also surprisingly clear for it being so soon after a vigorous fermentation, not bright but getting there.  I bottled the other part of this batch and will try them side by side and report.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2011, 07:47:42 AM »
I don't think I understand how the size of the container makes a difference in the amount of priming sugar.

I've not bothered to figure out the physics of it, but I know it to be a fact.  Perhaps it has something to do with the ratio of head space in the container to volume?  Anyway, less is better in this case.

I've got a couple of those mini-kegs lying around and hate to see them go to waste... This is a perfect way to keep that from happening. Cheers!

Re-using them is pretty simple.  You can use them as casks, like Lennie is doing, put them in one of those Beertender deals (like Dave), or buy/build a tap for them and just use them like corny kegs.  You can also rig up a schrader valve on a barbed fitting and force carbonate in them.  I must have six or more filled and waiting to be tapped, along with the rest of my kegs and bottles.

One thing I've found on cleaning them is that it's hard to get them dry.  They don't drain fully due to their shape.  I push a clean rag or paper towel partially into the hole and shake until it absorbs all the loose water, and then let them air dry.

There's a good thread on NB forums on building a tap, if you're interested.  I've built three recently, but haven't had the opportunity to pressure test them all.  I know one had a leak, unfortunately...
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2011, 10:55:07 AM »
There's a good thread on NB forums on building a tap, if you're interested.  I've built three recently, but haven't had the opportunity to pressure test them all.  I know one had a leak, unfortunately...

I saw that, his latest design looked pretty clean and simple.  I generally have enough kegs though, this thing was just an ideal way to try cask conditioning.  I'll definitely dial the sugar way back on the next one.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2011, 11:25:40 AM »
I've thought about them for cask ale, too, but never given it a try.

I'm sure there's a way to rig up a breather for the bung.  Perhaps a check valve on a barbed-nipple so that it would draw air when you pull a pint, but not release pressure?  I'll have to think about this.
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2011, 09:25:47 AM »
Last night I drank a bottle of the same beer that went in the cask.  It wasn't as good, and I think it had diacetyl that I didn't get as much of in the cask version.  Maybe it isn't really done carbonating but it was really clear.  I've had it downstairs at maybe 62F since I bottled, normally I bring them upstairs to a warmer clime for carbing.  Guess I'll have to do that.

I've thought about them for cask ale, too, but never given it a try.

I'm sure there's a way to rig up a breather for the bung.  Perhaps a check valve on a barbed-nipple so that it would draw air when you pull a pint, but not release pressure?  I'll have to think about this.

I don't think you need that, you just need to bleed enough pressure to be able to pull a draft without it blowing out the spigot.  Then you need to drink fast.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2011, 09:27:49 AM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
Hannibal, MO