My keg set up and what it cost me (please don’t judge me)

Kegerator

To say I love showing off my kegerator is probably a bit of an understatement. Much to my wife’s dismay it takes pride of place in our house. It tends to attract a bit of attention, particularly from Coles delivery guys who I am told ask my wife about it every week.

The question I get from my mates however that I am a bit sheepish to answer is ‘how much did it cost’. I would like to preface this blog article with the comment that I prefer to ‘buy once and buy right’. I’ve spent a large part of my youth buying the cheapest things I could get and I have always come to regret it. With this is mind, the kegerator was to be a long term purchase.

I got my kegerator from Craftbrewer. Picking it up required a friend with a ute and I am eternally grateful to my mate Geoff for doing so (and even without any promise of beer!). The whole package set me back $1600 which is more expensive than it could have been if I had gone barebones but which I don’t regret.

A major cost was the kegs themselves. The kegs are second hand and were previously used as soda kegs by the major soft drink companies. Unfortunately, they no longer produce these kegs for soda so as demand goes up and supply goes down, they are climbing in price. Each keg was $80 which was multiplied by 4 (3 for the beer on tap, 1 for beer waiting to go on tap). In hindsight I probably could have got 3 and would still be happy.

One part that was more expensive than I expected was the C02 bottle. Having bought gas cylinders in the past I mistakenly thought these would be cheap. $260 later and I had a very different opinion on how much these cost. In addition, the regulator set me back $105 which wasn’t cheap.

One of the costs incurred because of my ‘buy once, buy right’ policy related to the taps. My understanding is that Craftbrewer gets the fridge and taps from Keg King who import them from China. Doing a cursory internet search suggests the taps are woeful and will immediately cause you issues. When Craftbrewer receives them they take the taps off them and throw them in a big pile. They strongly encourage their customers to update the taps because they know they will be disappointed if they go with the originals (which internet forums seem to confirm). This cost made up the majority of the major expenditure.

Shut up and take my money!

So am I happy with my purchase? So far very much yes. One minor issue I am coming up against relates to the fact that I try to limit my beer intake (did you know there were calories in beer?!). If I leave the taps too long between beers they tend to stick a bit. I now know I maybe would have been better off getting ‘forward sealing’ taps which are even more expensive. But for the moment, I am happy with this set up.

I also very quickly got a font snake to ensure consistent carbonation and will talk about this in another post.

Has this made a difference on my brewing? When it comes to time I don’t necessarily think I save that much more time. Cleaning a keg is reasonably time consuming if you want to do it right. What I can say however is that is has improved the quality of my beer immensely.

Kegging my beer has resulted in me getting brilliant clarity, consistent carbonation and generally having better control of how my beer turns out. Weirdly I also find people who haven’t drunk homebrew before seem to treat your beer differently?

My next step is to get a beer gun or something similar so that I can start bottling off a few once I get to the end of the keg. Would love to hear any suggestions below on how to approach this if you have any! As always, please let me know if you have any questions or if you’re considering getting into kegging.

Review: Digital Homebrew Font Snake

Font Snake

This post is a bit of a follow on from my previous post, ‘My keg set up and what it cost me’. If you haven’t read it, check it out. During this post I mentioned that I had bought a Font Snake. There was a bit to talk about for the font snake so I thought it would be better placed in its own post.

So what is a font snake and why would you need one? When I got my kegerator I was pretty excited to start putting beers through it. However, I quickly realised I was having issues with carbonation. Whenever I poured a beer I would get a glass of foam and it wasn’t until the second or third beer that the foam would calm down. A quick google search revealed I was definitely not the only person with this problem.

My keg set up is a traditional kegerator with a 3 tap font on top. The insides of the fridge keep the kegs cool but the problem is as the beer rises through the unrefrigerated font, it warms up and starts to release carbonation meaning that you end up with a glass full of foam. The reason this would improve after a couple of beers is because the cold beer will have cooled the lines and the font. A suggestion that popped up over and over again was to get a font snake/fan.

A font snake is a little mini fan (think PC fan) which has a tube attached to it. The fan gets placed in your kegerator and the tube runs up the font thereby blowing the cold air from the kegerator up the font. As with all things in homebrew, there was two ways I could approach this, either build one myself or buy one.

Now for those of you who read this blog regularly you will start to see a common theme…I’m not handy. I really am not. I try to be every now and then but usually end up spending more money trying to fix something I made badly resulting in me spending more money and ending up with an inferior product. Plus who has spare PC fans lying around? I was very surprised how the forums thought this was a normal thing…

Dancing Beer Bird

Anyway, my searches caused me to stumble upon digitalhomebrew.com. Digital Homebrew is a local company which produces homebrew specific items mainly the font snake and stirplates. A review of testimonials from other clients had nothing but positive things to say about them and they seemed like a trustworthy company. I also like to buy local when I can and support small business. The font snake set me back $79.45 including delivery which wasn’t the cheapest. That being said, I was willing to pay a little bit more for the confidence I was getting a good product from a local business. The price has gone up a little and as at today was approx. $89. This is because the Australian dollar is getting smashed and he has had to change the prices to USD. If you are interested as to why, check out this blog which more than explains why this was reasonable: http://blog.digitalhomebrew.com/2015/08/27/its-all-about-the-benjamins/

So did the font snake sort out my woes? 100% yes. As soon as it was installed I noticed the difference. My carbonation became uniform and my beer was colder when it hit the glass. What I also liked about the font snake was there was an easy to reach switch and variable speed allowing me to turn it on and off if required and cool quicker if need be.

If you have any questions about font snakes or kegging in general leave it below!

My Mighty New Stirplate!

Stir Plate

I remember a time when i first started home brewing when I thought that home brewing may lead to me SAVING money! Oh how I was wrong. What I never took into account was my unending desire for the perfect beer and the number of products I would want to buy to help me achieve that goal.

The next thing in my list of unending purchases was a stir plate.  If you don’t know, a stir plate is essentially that, a plate that will stir! Its purpose is to stir your yeast starter to ensure maximum yeast growth. Up until now i have been somewhat hesitant to use liquid yeast cultures as I didn’t have a stir plate and would need a pretty big yeast starter to get things going.

I was recently perusing my usual home-brew websites when I noticed a blog post from Digital Homebrew. You may recall I bought my font snake from these guys and have been really happy with the great products and stellar service. On the blog post, the owner explained that due to the ever declining Australian dollar, he has had to change the currency of the product to USD. This means the product was about to go up in cost reasonably substantially. This was incentive enough to pull the trigger and very soon I had a stir plate.

Flask

So is it any good? The first thing I did when I got it was obviously fill a glass with water and create a pretty impressive funnel. My wife looked at me like I was an idiot as I laughed a maniacal laugh reserved for those who have conjured the power to control the earth’s greatest resource, water. Once that fun was over, I quickly turned my mind to what to brew that would benefit from a yeast starter and a liquid yeast culture.

As this was leading up to Christmas and I had a few family members coming around who are exclusively lager drinkers, I thought a good lager was in order (as lagers need a heavy pitch of yeast). The yeast starter performed amazingly even in a 5L flask I bought for the lager starter. In fact, this thing is a little too powerful and I constantly had to keep winding back the power.

Could you build a stir plate cheaper? Most likely. Could I do so? Maybe not. Either way this has been a great purchase that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for an out of the box solution.

If you have any questions on stir plates or brewing in general, feel free to pop them below. Until next week…