When we talk about packaging your homebrew or wine after fermentation, you can bottle condition and wait a few more weeks for it to be ready (and have bottle trub) or you can do what we think the best option is—Just Keg It!
In this installment of Just Keg It, we want to cover what we often have requests for in our supply store—how to use a commercial Sanke/Sankey style keg in your homebrew kegerator or keezer. Both names are used, but for this article we will use Sanke. Also for this, we’ll focus on using Ball Lock MFL liquid and gas disconnects because they are the most widely used and easiest options for a quick conversion between Sanke to Ball Lock. And either way, the conversion is really easy!
Commercial Sanke Kegs
Whether your commercial keg is a 1/2 barrel (15.5 gals), 1/4 barrel (7.75 gal), or 1/6 barrel (5.16 gal) in size, it uses the same standard commercial Sanke components. These include a ball valve seated inside a neck in the middle of the top of the keg that is connected to a spear that reaches to the bottom of the keg for allowing the beer to flow up and out. The Sanke coupler attaches to the neck of the valve, locks in place, and presses the ball valve down to allow the beer to flow and CO2 to enter the vessel. Just remember that there are multiple types of keg valves, which require multiple types of couplers. So, you will choose a coupler based on where the keg came from or the country of origin. Here we will assume you have a Type D Coupler that should fit most kegs from the United States. (where a Type A, G, M, S, or U would fit German and European kegs).
Normally, this coupler is directly connected to a CO2 regulator and tap line in a single or dual tower commercial kegerator (the kind you most often see sold in stores for home use). But as homebrewers, we usually convert fridges and freezers for our needs instead of purchasing a prebuilt kegerator. So, our versions will usually have the main disconnects that fit all our homebrew kegs—Ball Lock. So, to start you WILL need a commercial coupler for that Sanke keg. There’s no way around that. But from there you have a couple of options to make your Ball Lock (or Pin Lock) set up work.
Option #1: Sanke to Ball Lock Adapters (The Easy Version)
This is by far the easiest method for you to quickly add a Sanke keg to your existing Ball Lock kegerator setup. Once you have the correct coupler for the keg, you simply need to purchase a Ball Lock to Sanke Adapter for both the liquid and gas connections on the coupler. The main difference between the two being the shape of the post, which allows for a better connection with the disconnect. These can easily be screwed into place and then you only have to attach your CO2 and liquid Ball Lock disconnects and you are in business for pouring beer!
Currently, these type of adapters only exist for Ball Lock disconnects. So, if you have Pin Lock disconnects and they are attached to your liquid and gas lines using a 1/4 inch MFL to barbed swivel nut in your liquid and gas lines, then check out the next option.
Option #2: Sanke to Direct Swivel Nut Connection (The Slightly More Complicated Version)
The next best option for converting a Sanke keg for use with your homebrew kegerator—whether it is Ball Lock or Pin Lock—is to simply change out the connections for a direct connection to your gas and serving lines. This involves removing the disconnects on each line and/or the barbs on the coupler, so it requires you to have a swivel nut in the end of each line and to purchase two 1/4 inch MFL tailpiece flare connections. These tailpiece connections replace the standard barbs and are screwed into place with the beer nuts you already have.
You remove the existing components, then add the 1/4 MFL tailpiece flare connection to the coupler, tighten it in place wth the existing beer nut, then screw on the swivel nut connection on your liquid and gas lines. But, be sure to add a nylon washer to eliminate any metal-to-metal contact inside the swivel nuts. Typically, your liquid and gas disconnects both have plastic ends at the end of the threading that accomplish this without needing the separate washer. Then, attach your coupler and you should be good to go for serving beer from the Sanke keg!
Those are the two best options for allowing you to add a commercial keg to your existing homebrew kegerator or keezer setup. Most of us love to brew our own beer at home, but we still have a taste for commercial examples. They can always help guide us during recipe development or fill in the gap when we just haven’t had time to brew! Plus, who doesn’t have a favorite commercial example of some kind that they’d love to have a large format package of just waiting to be poured whenever you want? Give it a shot!
Semi-Media Director/Special Event Coordinator TBI, Producer, Writer, Host, and Host Wrangler Come and Brew It Radio, Homebrew Consultant, Lover of Experiments