Draught Beer Installation
A complete draught setup for the dispensing of ice-cold draught beer at a retail outlet such as a bar or restaurant can cost anywhere between R11k and R20k which sounds like a lot but if we break this down into components it starts to make sense. Let’s look at the components of what is required:
Counter Top Chiller
The counter top unit is as close to an all in one as you can get the only external components is the CO2 gas cylinder, gas regulator, keg couplers, beer line, gas line and the full kegs.
The counter top includes the taps, chiller unit and due to its design doesn’t require a tower.
Advantages: Its compact so can be placed on top of existing counter with minimal modifications – possibly just a hole for the beer lines to get to the back of the unit. Installation is simple and less intrusive.
Disadvantages – Cost can work out more expensive that the individual components. Another important consideration is that it doesn’t chill during loadshedding so may need a backup power source. Aesthetics – it doesn’t look as good on a bar counter and has limited space for the beer logos.
Under Counter Chiller
As its name suggests the chiller unit will be the bar counter and will be plumbed in to the taps and tower that will be above the counter. More on these in the next section.
Advantages – The chiller unit builds up an ice bank so it keeps the beer cold during periods of load-shedding. Chiller can circulate cold water through the tower to keep the beer cold to the tap. Less obtrusive as the fan and chilling unit are concealed.
Disadvantages – the unit is more bulky as it has a water tank for the ice bank to build up in. The inside of the unit needs periodic cleaning and maintenance. The chiller also has an overflow that can spill from time to time. The installation is more complex as it requires more plumbing and in most cases modifications to the bar counter.
We recommend a tap-tower that supports an inline chilling line as well as one that is insulated so you don’t lose the cold on the outside and avoids the ‘ice buildup’
It is essential to have taps that have flow controls on them – these compensate for pressure that builds up in the lines. To give an idea the CO2 pressure varies with temperature and the higher the temperature the more pressure you need to keep the CO2 in solution. This in turn will result in the beer flow from the tap being faster so the flow control needs to slow the pour down so the beer doesn’t foam as much when flowing into the glass.
Gas Regulator and Pressure Gauge
The high-pressure gauge indicates how much gas is remaining in the cylinder and the low pressure gauge sets the dispensing pressure. You could set the dispensing pressure to 3bar but that can cause the beer in the keg to over-carbonate in cold weather or adjust the pressure manually. This requires some knowledge of the gas laws that we studied many years ago at school. I usually set the pressure high enough that no bubbles form in the beer line which should be around 1-1.5 bar at room temp. The regulator should have a pressure control, pressure release valve and a shutoff valve before the gas line.
The keg couplers have a number variants the ones that Featherstone Brewery use are known as G Type couplers and the same size and setup as SAB use so are often referred to as SAB couplers – not that they own them its just the size and shape. The coupler has a gas in, beer out arrangement and both the inlet and outlet have non return valve built in. This stops the gas escaping and the beer line non return prevents beer in the line from pushing back into the keg. The coupler gets locked into position with a quarter tun and then the handle gets depressed to open the inlet/outlet.
Fittings (Gas line, Beer line and connectors)
The lines are 3/8” the beer line is clear and the gas line is opaque either grey or white. The connectors (straight, T piece or other) are compression so they push in to seal and can be released by depressing the ring before releasing.
The CO2 (carbon dioxide) should be food grade and supplied by any accredited supplier. We use https://mygas.co.za the 10L cylinder is suitable for bars and restaurants and depending on the dispensing pressure can serve at least 10x30L kegs. The pressure should be monitored at the point of dispensing and orders placed when the pressure drops within the red indicator on the pressure gauge.
We can provide branded 500ml beer mugs. These are versatile, robust and difficult to overfill as well as being easy to pour into compared to fluted or narrow glasses. Each style of beer has preferred glasses, but the most important attribute is that the glass should be sparkling clean. Rinse with fresh hot water and allow to air dry. If there is residue on the inside polish with a lint free cloth. If you see bubbles sticking to the inside of the glass it isn’t clean enough. You shouldn’t see any small bubbles stuck to the glass.
Volumes and Units
You can sell in any glass size, but it needs to be calibrated with an indelible mark indicating the volume – say 500ml, 400ml or 300ml.
This is required by law but also helps the servers dispense the correct volume. If the glass illustrated was filled above the line that will increase your wastage and decrease profit.
A 30L keg theoretically has 60 x 500ml servings. There is known wastage of at least 5% so expect a maximum of 57 pints from a keg. This is the little that gets left in the keg, line capacity etc.
Reducing foaming – foaming can lead to extra wastage. At the start of the day there will be foam in the tap this should be discarded – no more than 100ml per day. After this a foamy pour can be left to settle before filling the glass to reduce wastage. Watch the gas pressure, turn control valve and get practiced at delivering a perfect pour. This satisfies customers and reduces your cost.
Expect a 10% wastage initially then with practice and controls this can reduce to 5%. For stick control it is important to measure beer left after each shift and match to POS totals. The faster you move kegs the less wastage you’ll have.
It’s easy for servers to pour without control or to use up wasted beer.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Beer lines, taps and chillers need to be cleaned every 3-4 weeks. This is non-negotiable as beer quality is affected and could lead to keg souring through line infections. Servers don’t test the beer and can’t tell if infections are setting in. Better to be safe than to lose a full keg or risk unhappy customers.
Cleaning is two step first a caustic wash and second sanitizing. Every 2 months the taps need to be stripped, cleaned and lubed. Cleaning equipment is required so best is to use a line cleaning specialist such as BeerRIGHT that clean professionally every 3 weeks.
Seals, connectors and calibration are all maintenance issues and can also be looked after by BeerRIGHT. Please discuss directly.
Beer is foaming:
Check beer is cold – it should be <4C
Check line for bubbles – if bubbles are forming in the line increase pressure to maximum 2.5bar. Adjust flow control to reduce flow.
Beer is hazy/Milky
Our beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized so some residual yeast sinks to the bottom of the keg. This should not affect flavour but may be more noticeable on the first pour and last pour of the keg.
Beer wont pour
Check the gas line is open and that there is >1bar pressure on the line gauge. If beer still wont pour their could be a gas lock. Open the flow control fully and try again. If you just get a few drops with control fully open increase the gas pressure until it flows then reset the pressure and flow control.
Check there is beer in the line if not then check keg and coupler.
Hints and Tips
Here are some hints and tips to reduce gas loss, beer loss and general improvements to flow and beer quality.
- Keep kegs chilled until used. In a cold room or fridge below 4C (For every 10deg temperature increase the beer life halves). At 30deg C shelf life is 2 weeks, 20deg 4 weeks and 10deg 8 weeks.
- Shut off CO2 cylinder every night and switch on in morning (this reduces risk of gas loss as well as over-carbonation in the keg)
- Discard the first 100ml poured every day before first serve as well as first 100ml from a new keg.
- Keep a backup keg in cold storage ready to replace an empty.
- Make sure bar staff know settings and how to change a keg.
- Keep tasting notes/description for customers or print on the menu.
- Keep track of stock!