Kegged beer: Changing a keg

The “Kegged beer” series covers draught dispense – from system set up and operation, to pouring and changing a keg. While it’s likely most helpful for people working in bars, restaurants, and bottle shops with kegged beers on offer, it’s interesting for all of us to learn more about beer’s journey from keg to glass! New to the series? Start here.

We’ve now discussed draught system components, operation, and pouring. Our last topic in this series is what to do when a keg runs dry – change it!

Selecting a new keg

Before we change a keg, we need to select a new full keg to replace the empty one with, but not just any keg will do.

When it comes to selecting that new keg, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. (If using refrigerated storage) We want to make sure the new keg we’re going to tap is ready to serve, meaning it has been chilled to the draught system operating temperature (3 oC / 38 oF). This generally requires being refrigerated for at least 24 hours prior to service
  2. We also want to select the keg with the closest “best-by” date, so we can ensure we’re rotating our stock
  3. Finally, once we remove the plastic cap that covers the keg valve on the new keg, we want to inspect the keg valve quickly to make sure no debris is present before we tap it with our coupler

Keg changing basics

Once the new keg has been selected and we’re ready to tap it, generally speaking for most coupler designs, there are three steps to follow:

  1. We disengage the coupler from the empty keg (there are different ways to do this based on the coupler type, which you’ll see in the videos below, but both result in the handle being raised into the “up or “off” position), then we turn the coupler a quarter turn (90 degrees) counter-clockwise to unseat it and lift if off the keg.
  2. We seat the coupler on the new keg, turn it a quarter turn (90 degrees) clockwise to lock it into place, then we lower the handle into the “down” or “on” position to engage it.
  3. (And, if present) We reset the foam on beer or FOB detector by releasing the float ball, venting any foam and gas from inside the chamber and filling it with beer. From here, our new keg will be ready to pour.

As mentioned in the first article in this series though, not all coupler types function in the same way.

While this approach works for many coupler designs, the main exception is the slider-type system couplers. For these, there’s no quarter turn needed, the coupler simply slides into place over the keg valve.

Check out the videos below to see how different coupler types work when it comes to changing a keg.

D-, G-, S- and U-system couplers (depress button to release)

The below video shows how to change a D-, G-, S-, or U-system coupler with a button underneath the handle. Notice how the button is depressed, then the handle is raised to the “up” or “off” position in order to disengage the coupler, before it’s turned to unseat.

This video also shows how to reset a FOB detector.

Source: Innserve Ltd YouTube

D-, G-, S- and U-system couplers (grip and pull handle to release)

Watch this video from 0:19 and notice how this coupler has the handle pulled out (towards the user) and then raised to the “up” or “off” position to disengage, before it’s turned to unseat. (There’s no button here.)

Source: Dave Allred TheRealBarman YouTube

A- and M-system couplers or “slider-type” systems

To see how the slider-type system works, watch this video from 5:39 – 5:45.

Notice how these slider couplers have a button underneath the handle that is depressed in order to disengage the coupler, but there’s no quarter turn to seat or unseat here. These couplers simply slide into place over the keg valve and the coupler handle is lowered down to engage.

Source: Keg King YouTube

And that’s it, the basics of draught dispense for kegged beer are covered!

Our final series covers beer storage… and the off-flavours that can develop if beer is not properly handled. Get started here.

Discovering Beer is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.

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