Kegging vs bottling: Pros and cons of different home brewing methods

Wednesday, January 18, 2023
When it comes to home brewing, one of the biggest decisions a brewer has to make is whether to bottle or keg their beer.

Both methods have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice will ultimately depend on the individual brewer's preferences, equipment, and experience level.

Bottling is the most traditional method of home brewing, and it is a simple and straightforward process. Bottling requires minimal equipment, and it's easy to find bottles and caps at most home brewing supply stores. Bottles are also easy to store and transport, making it easy to share your beer with friends and family.

One of the main advantages of bottling is that it allows for priming and bottle conditioning, which can enhance the flavor and carbonation of the beer. Additionally, bottling can be done in small batches, so you can brew a variety of different beers without having to invest in a large kegging system.

bottling home brew beer ideas

If you are new to brewing, bottling beer is a fine place to start - you will learn a lot about making beer (such as not adding too much sugar to avoiding beer gushers!)

On the other hand, kegging is a more advanced method of home brewing that requires additional equipment such as a keg, a CO2 tank, and a tap or dispenser. Kegging also requires more space to store the equipment and the keg itself.

However, one of the main advantages of kegging is that it allows for easy dispensing and serving of the beer. Kegged beer can be served directly from the keg and dispensed with the use of CO2 pressure, which ensures that the beer stays fresh and carbonated. Additionally, kegged beer can be stored and served at a consistent temperature, which can enhance the flavor and aroma of the beer.

Another advantage of kegging is that it allows for force carbonation, which can be more precise and consistent than bottling.

Dear reader, having ventured this far, I suspect you really want to start kegging your brew. Here's how you can start. 

bottling kegging debate

You will need the following gear to start your kegging journey. 

There's a wee bit of a cost outlay...
  • A keg is the container where your beer will be stored and served. They come in various sizes, such as 5 gallons and 2.5 gallons. The most common is the 5-gallon keg also known as a Cornelius keg (or corney keg).
  • A CO2 tank is used to pressurize the keg and dispense the beer. The size of the tank will depend on the size of the keg and how often you plan to dispense beer.
  • Regulator: A regulator is used to control the pressure in the keg and ensure that the beer is dispensed at the correct pressure.
  • A tap or dispenser is used to dispense the beer from the keg. It can be a simple picnic tap or a more advanced draft system.
  •  Hoses and fittings are used to connect the keg, CO2 tank, and tap or dispenser.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing supplies such as Star San are critical to ensure that your beer stays fresh and free of contamination.
  • Optional: A kegerator or temperature controller to keep the beer at the desired temperature.
Once you have the gear you wish to use, then it's onto setting up.

Setting up and using a kegging system can seem overwhelming at first, but with the right equipment and a bit of knowledge, it can be a simple and efficient way to dispense and serve your beer. 

Here is an overview of how to set up and use a kegging system:

  • Assemble the keg: The first step is to assemble the keg by attaching the hoses and fittings to the keg, CO2 tank, and tap or dispenser. Make sure that all the connections are tight and secure.
  • Charge the CO2 tank with the appropriate amount of CO2. The pressure will depend on the style of beer and your personal preference, but a good starting point is around 12-14 psi.
  • Purge the keg: Before filling the keg with beer, it's important to purge the keg of any air. This can be done by releasing the pressure valve on the keg and allowing the CO2 to fill the keg. This will also help to remove any oxygen that may be present in the keg.
  • Fill the keg: Once the keg is purged, fill it with your beer using a sanitized racking cane or a transfer tubing. Be sure to leave about an inch of headspace at the top of the keg to allow for the pressure of carbonation.
  • Carbonate the beer: Allow the beer to carbonate for 1-2 weeks at the desired pressure and temperature, depending on the style of beer. You can also use a carbonation calculator to determine the desired pressure.
  • Dispense the beer: Once the beer is carbonated, it's ready to be dispensed and consumed. Open the tap or dispenser and pour your beer!

How to sanitize your beer kegging system

Sanitizing a kegging system is critical to ensure that your beer stays fresh and free of contamination. Here is an overview of how to sanitize a kegging system:

  • Clean the equipment: Before sanitizing, it's important to thoroughly clean all equipment including the keg, CO2 tank, hoses, and fittings. This can be done using a cleaning solution specifically made for cleaning brewing equipment or a mild detergent and hot water. Be sure to remove any visible dirt or debris.
  • Prepare the sanitizer: Once the equipment is cleaned, prepare the sanitizer solution according to the manufacturer's instructions. Common sanitizers include iodine-based solutions, chlorine-based solutions, or peroxide-based solutions. We would use Star San.
  • Sanitize the equipment: Using a sanitized spray bottle or a bucket, thoroughly saturate all equipment with the sanitizer solution, including the keg, CO2 tank, hoses, and fittings. Allow the solution to sit for the recommended time, usually around 5-10 minutes, before rinsing with clean water.
  • Rinse the equipment: Once the sanitizing time is up, Rinse all equipment thoroughly with clean water to remove any traces of sanitizer
  • Air dry or use a clean towel: Once the equipment is rinsed, either allow it to air dry or use a clean towel to dry the equipment.
There are many brands that offer cleaning solutions specifically designed for cleaning brewing equipment, including kegs. Some popular brands include:
  1. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash): This is a powerful, alkaline-based cleaning powder that effectively removes protein, starch, and other brewing by-products from kegs and other brewing equipment.
  2. Star San: This is a foaming acid sanitizer that is safe for use on all types of brewing equipment, including kegs. It is effective in low concentrations and requires no rinse.
  3. OxiClean: This is a versatile, oxygen-based cleaner that can be used to clean kegs and other brewing equipment. It is effective in removing protein and starch-based soils.
  4. One Step: This is a no-rinse sanitizer that can be used to sanitize kegs and other brewing equipment. It is effective in low concentrations and can be used at room temperature.
  5. B-Brite: This is a cleaning solution that is designed specifically for cleaning beer brewing equipment, including kegs. It effectively removes protein, starch, and other brewing by-products.


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