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Plastic storage beer barrels with screw lid both small and large, plus plastic wine barrels, all are great for parties.
Learn how to use the S30 CO 2 gas cylinder
There are several different barrel types. They vary significantly, from traditional oak barrels to modern stainless steel barrels. We will be discussing pressure barrels for homebrew. Therefore oak barrels will not be covered in this article.
There are two main types of homebrew pressure barrels, plastic barrels like the economy barrels and king keg barrels and stainless steel barrels like the Cornelius kegs and the Brew Dog Kegs.Plastic Beer Barrels
A good quality sturdy food grade plastic pressure barrel is an established way of serving homebrewed beer from the tap. The white plastic makes it easy to see how much beer remains in the barrel.
Buy food grade plastic see-through wine barrels with a tap attached for ease of use.
As the wine is drawn off, the wine barrel walls collapse. No air is allowed into the chamber, which keeps the wine in tip-top condition for you to drink and enjoy.
These wine barrels come in a box for easy storage. The boxes keep the wine barrels stable as the sides collapse during use.F.A.Q.
Do we have to drink the beer in the beer barrel simultaneously, or can we drink it at intervals?Answer:
Once your beer is in a pressure barrel, it usually keeps for quite a while. You can store your beer in your barrel and use the tap to draw off pints as you need them. The bottom may be full of yeast. (The term is scraping the bottom of the barrel). Consequently, make sure that you leave the last inch in the barrel. You only need a gas bottle to screw in the top of the pressure barrel to force all the beer out. When you remove the beer, it creates a bit of a vacuum. Sometimes, the vacuum can stop the beer from coming out. But no - you don’t have to drink it all in one go unless you wish to of course.Barrel Maintenance
The essential maintenance of the barrel is similar for both types.
After use, rinse the leftover yeast, beer and foam from all areas, including the lid, floats, taps and valves. If there is any dried-on residue, you may need hot water with some V.W.P. cleaner steriliser.
When cleaning the inside of a barrel, be sure to use a cotton cloth or nylon brushes. Please DO NOT use any abrasive materials, as they will damage the inner surface of the plastic barrel and provide anchor points for bacteria and other nasties. It also makes it significantly harder to clean and sterilise effectively for all subsequent attempts to use the barrel.
Once clean, dry the barrel and visually inspect all washers, repair or replace any damaged washers, reapply any lubricants and check the tightness of all fittings. Finally, remember to sterilise the barrel immediately before re-using.
Please watch our video on valve maintenance for further information.
Pressure Barrels and Kegs are a great way to condition and store your homebrewed beer, lager, and real ales. It is much quicker and easier than bottling. There are many different barrels available, allowing you to choose the one that suits your needs. Using a keg means you can dispense your beer just like in pubs.Use of Pressure Barrels and Casks
Once your beer has fermented, you will need something to store and from which to serve the beer. There are many options available to home brewers, each with pros and cons. This article will explain how to use pressure barrels, cover the most significant benefits of using barrels, and help you get the best out of them.
Barrels are well suited for all beer types. It is, after all, the preferred method for commercial brewers. What is different is how they are carbonated.
In most commercial situations, the beer is flat when in the barrel. However, the introduction of carbon dioxide happens at the time of serving. In homebrewing, the beer is self carbonated. (Self carbonation of a beer is essential to qualify as a real ale.) Pressurisation or carbonation is one of the main issues to be on top of when using barrels. Like most things in homebrew, carbonation is not tricky. It just needs regular attention. If you want to know more about this, look at our articles and videos on pressurising a barrel.
Barrels are easy to clean and sterilise. Beer can be syphoned directly from the fermenter into the barrel. Sugar is added for secondary fermentation, pressurising the barrel and providing light carbonation (or condition). Secondary fermentation is also known as priming. Ensure that the barrel is stored in a cool area away from direct sunlight. When stored well, beer can keep in the barrel for months, even years.Homebrew Barrels come in 2 main types.
The king kegs are easier to clean as you can get your hand inside them. If you need to store the barrel on the floor, the top tap version will better suit this.
Both versions will probably require the addition co2 as you consume the beer. As the level of the beer goes down in the barrel, a void will replace it. No air can enter the barrel; however, the beer will continue to give off some co2, filling this void.
If the beer level drops too quickly, the co2 will not be able to replace the void quickly enough, causing a vacuum, and the pressure in the barrel will drop.
If this happens, you will need to maintain the pressure by adding co2 to fill the void.
The level of co2 required by the barrel depends on many factors. You can expect the need to top up co2 on a forty-pint barrel two or three times.
There are two ways that co2 can be added and your preferred way with determining the type of valve you use.
Pressure barrels are ideal for serving beer directly; however, you need somewhere you can store them.Casks
Professional breweries mainly store beer in large casks, holding nine gallons or more. The brewer connects the cask to a dedicated tap; however, the air is allowed in during usage, which can contaminate the beer if not consumed quickly. The beer becomes sour and undrinkable. Once open, the casks need to be finished with around 4 – 5 days, making them unpopular with most homebrewers.Easy Keg
A popular version of the cask is a relatively new product called the Easy Keg. This mini cask works precisely the same as its full-size cousin, but it's only 5L, so the home brewer can usually consume the beer before it can deteriorate. The Easy Keg contains an integrated tap for serving. Its portability and size make it ideal for taking to parties. Care is needed to avoid disturbing any sediment. These small casks require priming sugar just like a pressure barrel. Although not meant for reuse, if you are careful when removing the bung and use non-chlorine-based cleaners, you can use them multiple times.
Check Out Sterilization and Disinfection
Published January 2022