Fermenting in a Keg?

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by AGbrewer, Feb 26, 2020.

  1. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    I'm tired of using glass carboys and have no interest in spending $180 on a SS fermenter. So I have a few questions about using 5 gallon kegs for primary and then secondary/long term conditioning. I have done some long term / secondary conditioning, but never primary. Just need some tips and input from folks that have actually done it.

    1. Have you personally been successful at using kegs for primary fermentation?
    2. Have you personally been successful at using kegs for secondary fermentation / long term conditioning?
    3. What are the some tips (e.g. top 5 or so) that you can give on making primary fermentation in a keg easier?
    4. What are the some tips (e.g. top 5 or so) that you can give on making secondary fermentation / long term conditioning in a keg easier?
     
  2. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    I don't ferment in a keg so take it as you will but shorten dip tube on ferment keg or get a floating dip tube like in the bubble fermentors so when transferring to secondary/serving keg you minimise trub carry over.
     
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  3. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member

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    And use clear tubing to jump from keg to keg. You can see the clarity - or lack thereof
     
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  4. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    I've done batches in kegs, both primary and long term aging/secondary fermentation. My thoughts:
    • Batch size needs to leave a bit of headroom in the keg for the krausen.
    • You can sometimes struggle to get a seal at low pressures, so try lube on the seal or just add a little CO2 to get some pressure.
    • You'll need to either bag your dry hops or put a mesh filter around your dip tube (even after you've trimmed it a little) as the hops get disturbed and will block the disconnect
    • I have used trimmed and untrimmed dip tubes for different situations. A trimmed dip tube definitely makes it easier to start filling relatively clear beer straight away
    • Closed transfers are much easier
    • Add a bit of CO2 when you cold crash in case the keg doesn't seal and sucks in atmosphere
    Currently I prefer my Speidels for primary fermentation and use the kegs for long term aging/secondary. Ball lock disconnects on the Speidels gives them fairly similar functionally.

    • IMG_20190907_113158.jpg
     
  5. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    Yeah you won't get a full keg afterward this way but lots of people do it. I've got a 30L Sanke keg that I'm eyeballing as a fermentation vessel not because I don't have fancy buckets but because I'm curious if I can do it.
     
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  6. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    I’m really wishing for a 10 gallon keg, but the 5 gallon ones (much cheaper!) work great. You don’t get a finished 5 gallon keg out of them once done, though.

    I have a drilled hole for an airlock, but you can also use a blow off tube via the gas post if you’d like.

    No issues at all, although transferring a very trub filled wort from primary to serving keg could be very problematic I guess!
     
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  7. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    Already got the short dip tube. However, I don't use pressure to transfer. Just use a SS racking cane with clear tubing. I know that most folks say it risks cold side oxidation, but honestly, in my experience, that hasn't been an issue as long as I don't slosh it around too much.
     
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  8. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    Love the idea of adding CO2 for cold crashing to prevent suck back. Never thought of that, but will do it for cold crashing and long term storage.
     
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  9. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    Probably should have mentioned that I only bottle, really don't do kegging. Opps... Most of my beers are High OG (29 - 34 Plato) and barrel aged. This really doesn't lend itself to kegs as I plan on aging them in the bottles for up to 5 years after having bulk aged for 1 year in the 5 gallon corny keg.
     
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  10. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    Not cheap, but certainly cheaper than a proper kegging setup, you can get a mini-regulator and couple it with a sodastream gas bottle or CO2 catridges to do some very basic adding CO2 to a keg. You can see some options here - .

    Or if you think kegging may eventually happen there's adapters that will allow a normal CO2 regulator to attach to a sodastream bottle.
     
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  11. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    I have a full kegging setup with CO2 bottle, regulators, and taps. Just don't normally use them. But given the tip about suckback, I think I'll use it for that.
     
  12. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    There are a lot of reasons not to do it, but you may be willing to deal with them.
    The main reason I don't like it is the cleaning nightmare it creates.
    The biggest benefit is the closed fermentation, that can be done under pressure with closed transfers, but you don't seem to want to do that.
    Weigh out the pro's and con's and give it a try.
    Good luck.
    Cheers,
    Brian
     
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  13. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    When you say "Cleaning Nightmare", what exactly do you mean?
     
  14. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    Are there any particular reasons you would want to ferment in a keg but not be doing closed fermentation, under pressure, or enclosed transfers? There are plenty of fermenter options out there for you to move to and not use glass. I don't think I would ferment in kegs if I wasn't doing closed transfers or fermenting under pressure. I don't see the benefit, unless it's just something you want to do.
     
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  15. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    The entire top of the keg around the dip tubes will have dried Krausen on them. So instead of wiping out an open fermentor or using a carboy brush to clean out your glass, now you get to remove the posts, remove the poppets, take out the dip tubes then clean all those parts and wipe out all the non smooth areas around where the tubes penetrate the top of the keg.
    Then reassemble everything.
    What a PITA!
     
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  16. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    And then, you're doing that for every 4 gallons of beer!
     
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  17. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    Don't like glass or plastic. Don't want to spend $180 bucks on SS fermenter. Kegs are roughly $30 bucks. That's basically it.

    As for closed pressurized fermentation or closed transfers, never really had any issues with non-pressured fermentation or trafers.
     
  18. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    True, however, I would have to do the same thing to a SS fermenter with a ball valve anyways. So to me, that is basically a wash.
     
  19. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Is there a particular reason you don't want glass or plastic? If you're categorically eliminating those materials (and I've had good luck with plastic over my brewing career), all that's left is stainless. I won't go back over what has already been stated and if you are limiting yourself to three gallon batches, using a keg might be a good option, as long as you can relieve pressure and can keep things sanitary.
     
  20. AGbrewer

    AGbrewer Active Member

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    Yes, but you have to do that anyways
    I don't like fragile equipment, I'm kind of a bull in a china shop type person. I've dented/cracked plastic and glass in the past along with scratching each one. Not interested in doing it again.

    Kegs just seem to fit the niche for what I want of being durable and sanitary on the cheap. I really do like all the comments that everyone has been bringing up, but to be honest, I think that I've about convinced myself to use kegs and run with 4 gallon batches. If I find that 4 gallon batches of Big Beers can't stay in a 5 gallon keg, I'll probably look into dropping the recipe size or forking over the money for a 7 or 8 gallon SS fermenter.
     

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