Ask drinkplanner kegerator under pressure

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And we’re back! Let’s get to this week’s question.

“I have a kegerator in my basement bar. Where should the CO2 pressure be kept? I’ve looked at several sources of info, and they all seem to indicate something different. More often than not, there’s too much foam, which makes the basement patrons sad.


Foaming at the Mouth”

I feel your pain, brotha. It’s one thing when you’re watching the local bartender pour a pitcher and seeing them pour the foam off the top down the drain, because you’re not paying for it. It’s another thing altogether to have to pour away your own beer in your own house paid for with your hard-earned dollar. Even half a glass of foam seems like a waste.

You’re right, the internets are full of conflicting information. Micromatic (the company that makes the kegerator) suggests 12-14 psi. suggests 10-12 psi. Someone in the Pirate 4×4 forum (off-road swashbuckling?) posted a handy chart that I’m not smart enough to figure out. I ran into a guy at the sake tasting last week who owns a kegerator and he suggested setting it as low as 2-3 psi. With so much conflicting information out there, and so many variables (type of beer, temperature, equipment used, etc.) it’s hard to make sense of it or know who’s right. From everything I read, I pulled together some general rules that should hopefully help.

1. Try dropping the temperature – If you’ve got your temp set above 40° or even high 30s, drop it on down. I know this might be a more appropriate temperature for bocks and ales, but dropping the temp can help. If you’d prefer your beer warmer than that, pour it into a thick room temp glass, and wait a minute or two. In the same vein, if the kegs you’re buying aren’t already chilled, and you hook them up without letting them get cold enough, expect foam.

2. Increase the length of your beer line – Your beer line should be at least 5-6 feet long, with a diameter of 3/16″. If you’ve got it any shorter than this or you’re running a 3/8″ diameter line, it’s contributing to your foam problem.

3. Pour slower – Remember how I mentioned about bartenders pouring and getting a lot of foamy spillage when they fill a pitcher? Bar taps pour fast because they have a lot of people to supply for (and can afford to waste), but yours shouldn’t. Throttle it on back, and let it pour slowly. Yes, it might take 10-15 seconds longer than before, but it’ll definitely cut back on your foam.

4. Don’t be afraid to drop/raise the pressure – The guy I talked to said it defies all conventional wisdom, but after a lot of trial and error he dropped his pressure down as low as 2 psi and he’s very happy with it. This may not work for your particular setup, but the point is don’t be afraid to mess around with it. Kegged beer is already carbonated, the CO2 is just used to push it out of the keg and into your glass, so there’s no risk of pouring flat beer. If you’re pouring a lot of foam and wasting beer already, you might as well play with the pressure and waste it with a purpose.

Hopefully this helps, and you’ll be pouring the perfect beers in no time. If any of our readers have some tips we may have missed, leave ‘em in the comments.

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