5L Mini-Kegs

Robert L. Lamothe (rll@unh.edu)

The 5L mini-keg is the perfect thing for the person who wants to try kegging for the first time. Small, economicle and re-usable, mini-kegs store easily, are easy to clean and can fit in a refrigerator during dispensing. There are a few tips to keep in mind with these kegs:
5 liter, or approximately the same as a 12 pack, 4 5l kegs can accomodate a 5 gallon batch.
$5 to 6$ per keg, $0.75 to $1 per bung, $14 to $60 per tap.
There are several different taps, Gravity feed, this tap is the cheapest of all the taps to purchase, however it requires peircing a hole in the keg to allow air to enter to replace the volume removed by the beer. Air Pump, similar to the hand pump type tap provided by beer distributors when renting a keg. CO2, similar to the air pump in style but uses CO2 dispensed from small cartridges to propel the beer from the keg.
Unless you plan on drinking an entire keg in one sitting, then it is advisable to use a CO2 tap. These can either be plastic or metal and use seltzer style CO2 cartridges for pressure. CO2 taps generally run between $30 and $60. Cartridges run $10 to $12 per box of 10 and come in two sizes, 8 gram and 16 gram, 16 gram recommended.
When priming a 5L mini-keg use about 1/2 the normal amount for bottling. This would be 1/3 cup Corn Sugar or 2/3 cup Dried Malt Extract for an entire 5 gallon batch. Over priming could result in dented or exploding kegs.
Draw off the first beer or two with the internal pressure from Conditioning. Then apply pressure in short bursts, putting only enough CO2 into the keg to draw off another beer or two. This method will allow you to get 1 to 1.5 kegs per cartridge.
Remove the rubber stopper from the keg, this can take quite a bit of effort. Fill the keg about 1/3 of the way with water and then invert the keg over the sink letting the water fall out. The plastic bung will be pulled along with the water and fall out into the sink. Then put your jet-spray bottle washer on the faucet and blast the inside of the keg to remove the slurry. Re-fill the keg with water and a teaspoon of bleach and let soak for a few minutes, drain the keg and re-rinse with the jet-spray. Allow to dry inverted and replace the dust cover when fully dry.
Add 1 Teaspoon of B-Brite (or similar) to each keg, fill with warm water to the top and allow to sit for several minutes. Drain water and blast with a jet-spray bottle washer to rinse.
Fill each keg to within an inch of the top, this is just about the bottom of the top "band" on the keg. Over filling the keg will result in reduced carbonation levels.
There are many ways to seat a bung in a mini-keg, however this is the technique I prefer. After filling the keg, seat the bung in the bunghole and press it in tight. Let the keg sit for 5 or more minutes to allow CO2 pressure to build up inside the keg. Using a standard hammer tap bung into place, the built up pressure in the keg will help the keg maintain its shape and resist denting. With practice all it takes is one or two good taps from the hammer to seat the bung.
Hold tap near the base of the rod with both hands and place on bung. Push rod straight down, driving bung into the keg. Slide tap down until seated, make certain lock tabs are securly fastened to the keg.
Long term dispensing:
When done with the keg for the day, give it one last good burst of pressure. This should allow you to drink your beer off tap for many days.