Draft Beer System Components
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A draft beer system can be divided into three equipment categories:
* Cooling (Refrigeration)
* Beer Flow
* Gas Pressure
There are many configurations for cooling and storing keg beer. These include special refrigerators known as Kegerators, Mobile Bar units and walk-in room coolers. A less expensive method of storing beer is to convert a food refrigerator or freezer into a kegerator using the appropriate Whirlpool, Maytag, or GE appliance parts and other specialty parts (see Keg Conversion Kit and our How-to Workshop). All provide the same function by storing the keg under refrigeration at a constant 38F temperature.
Beer Flow Components
The components of a draft beer system include all the equipment from the keg to the faucet. These components include the Keg, the Keg Coupler (Keg Tap), brewery approved Beer and Gas Line tubing and associated Fittings, Beer Shank assembly and the Beer Faucet. In a counter top dispensing application, a Beer Tower is used. The Beer Tower assembly commonly includes a Beer Line & Fitting, Beer Shank assembly and a Faucet.
The first component is the Keg which contains a valve with a stainless beer flow tube. Most North American Brewers use a ½ barrel also known as a full size keg (15.5 gallons) as the standard keg or a ¼ barrel (7.5 gallons).
The beer in the keg contains CO2 which is naturally produced during the fermentation process. The level of CO2 in the beer is determined by the brewer and type of beer in the keg (lager, ales, stouts, etc.) The level of CO2 varies by type of beer and because of these differences the amount of Gas Pressure applied to the keg will also vary to maintain the proper level of CO2 in the beer during the dispensing process.
The Keg Coupler, a.k.a. Keg Tap, is the Beer Flow component that opening the valve in the keg and allows gas pressure to enter the keg and for beer to flow out. Not all breweries use the same type of keg valve and beer coupler (keg tap). See our Beer Brand Coupler Reference List. From the Keg Coupler, beer will flow through hose nipples and brewery approved Beer Line (flexible tubing) to the Beer Shank assembly and out the Beer Faucet.
The diameter and length of the beer line plays a major role in controlling the speed of the beer flow at the Beer Faucet. In most Direct Draw refrigerator draft beer systems (Kegerators) 3/16" (inside diameter) beer line is used, in Glycol Cooled draft beer systems where the beers lines can run up to 500 feet (a.k.a. long draw systems) the Beer Line diameter and material specification will vary according to the system requirements.