Kegging Beer Natural vs Forced ConditioningSunday, March 1st, 2009
Kegging your home brew is a great way to save time. If you like draft beer you will love kegging your own brew. There are two basic methods for conditioning kegged beer. The choice depends on how soon you need the beer or if you want to conserve CO2. With natural conditioning, you prime the beer with priming sugar, keg it, then let it sit for up to two weeks. With force carbonation, there is no priming sugar, and you force the CO2 gas into solution by rocking or shaking the keg.
Siphon the beer into the keg then stir in priming sugar. Seal keg, and attach CO2 line. At this point oxygen is bad for the beer. By purging the head space in the keg, the beer will stay fresh longer. Clear out the head space by venting the keg and replacing with CO2. This venting procedure only needs to be done when the beer is first packaged.
The procedure: turn on gas to pressurize keg, leave for a few minutes, shut off gas, then open release valve on the top of the keg to vent it. Repeat this step a few times to get all the oxygen out of the head space.
The pressure relief valve on the top of a corny keg.
When the head space is purged, shut off the CO2, disconnect the hose, and store the beer for at least ten days. A couple weeks may be necessary. Natural conditioning takes more time but conserves CO2.
Follow the same steps as under ‘natural conditioning’ above, except do not add priming sugar. Put the keg into the fridge to cool it down. After four to eight hours, hook up CO2 again, set regulator to the desired level of carbonation, and open the gas line. Rock the keg for several minutes until no more swishing is audible. It is helpful to orient the keg on its side to maximize surface area the gas can dissolve into. When you no longer detect any swishing or noise coming from the regulator you are almost there. Continue for a few more minutes. Now the beer is saturated with CO2 at the desired level. Shut off the CO2, disconnect the hoses, and store the beer for three days. After that time it is ready to serve. Force carbonating takes less time but uses up more CO2.
A note about light lagers:
I have found that adding priming sugar to light lagers throws off the delicate flavor by adding additional sweetness that takes a long time to subside. There is little active yeast left in a lager given it has fermented longer at colder temperatures. Force carbonation of light lagers yielded better tasting results sooner.
Enjoy your draft beer! Caution – be careful when working with pressurized gases, take care to read instruction manuals and follow directions. Do not drink beer before or during any of these procedures. After you are done, then crack or ‘tap’ a home brew 🙂