This post was written exclusively for Epic Man Cave by Rae Eriksen.
What can be better than a fresh draft beer, chilled to perfection with a thick head of foam that clings to the side of the glass? For most of us, such a sublime experience has been restricted to outings and special occasions where a keg is present – at home, beer mostly comes in bottles and cans.
But the rising popularity of the kegerator – a specialty refrigerator and beer dispensing appliance – is changing all that. For a relatively small investment, beer lovers can bring home a keg of their favorite brew and tap it wherever, whenever they want.
But there’s more to the perfect draft beer than just having a kegerator. Bartenders and brewmasters around the globe have perfected the technique of getting the best beer from a keg. So pull up the barstool and check out these professional secrets to getting a great draft beer.
Keep it cold
Experts agree that the right temperature for serving draft beer is between 34 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Your own tastes may vary, but for optimal taste and texture it’s best not to stray too far from this range. If beer is too warm will have too much foam, meaning there is less beer for you to enjoy.
But not too cold
When beer is too cold it can look cloudy and taste flat – the cold temperature keeps the carbonation in the beer from escaping, so no pleasing foam will built up. Plus, it will leave you feeling full faster, and that carbonation in your belly will lead to belching.
When you put a new keg into your kegerator, you need to let it refrigerate overnight so it gets thoroughly chilled. How do you know when it’s ready? Pour a small glass and stick a thermometer in it!
Now the pressure is on…
The kegerator uses CO2 in a pressurized tank as a way to force the beer out of the keg, through the tap, and into your glass. It also infuses the beer with the frothy goodness that we savor, so it’s important to make sure the regulator on the tank is set correctly. Usually, this will be between 10 and 12 psi, but check with your keg distributor for ideal settings.
If you don’t have the pressure right, you’ll know it pretty quickly. If the beer rushes out of the tap too quickly, the pressure is too high. You’ll end up with tight foam with large bubbles in it, too. To make matters worse, if you leave the pressure set too high, the CO2 in the keg will be forced into the beer, making it over-carbonated and ruining the taste.
When the pressure is too low, you’ll end up with under-carbonated beer with foam that is loose or soapy looking, and small, quickly-dissolving bubbles. If the pressure is too low, you might find bubbles or foam in the beer hose, too.
The taste of freshness
There is great debate about how long the beer in a tapped keg lasts. While beer doesn’t “go bad” in a way that can make humans sick, it does attract bacteria that affect the taste. Keeping it chilled in a kegerator helps prevent that from happening.
Oxidation – the exposure of beer to oxygen – is another enemy of fresh-tasting beer. If you use a hand pump to tap a keg, then it will go flat and stale within 24 hours. But the C02 regulator on a kegerator protects the beer in the keg from oxidation. At the very least, you can expect beer kept in a kegerator to last a whole month – or even longer depending on how clean and well-maintained your system is.
Cleanliness is next to great beer
Over time, the build-up of yeasts and sugars in the beer you drink will build up in the dispenser’s hoses, faucets and components, affecting the taste and causing excess foaming. To prevent this, you should clean everything thoroughly each time you install a new keg.
You can get a cleaning kit with everything you need to keep your system in prime shape, including a handheld pump and a special beer line cleaning solution. Avoid abrasive cleaners, and sanitize everything to eliminate bacteria.
The “beer clean” glass
Connoisseurs know that beer glasses should never be used for anything but beer. Nor should they be cleaned with dishwashing liquid. Even the slightest residue of oil or soap in the glass will affect the way foam forms as the beer is poured. If you’re very particular, you can wash your glasses with a mixture of baking soda and salt, but a dishwasher with non-sudsing detergent will the do the job suitably.
As for drying, throw out that linty towel! Let your glasses air dry, and store them upside down so that no debris falls inside.
Pro Secret – Pre-rinse
Here’s one trick the average beer drinker won’t know – pre-rinse your classes in cold water right before you pour. This helps with the formation of foam. But don’t freeze your glasses. Frosty glasses look neat, but the iciness inhibits the full flavor of the beer.
The perfect pour
Here’s how the pros do it:
1. Hold the glass under the faucet at a 45-degree angle.
2. You can control the size of the foam head by adjusting the distance between the glass and the faucet heat – the larger the distance, the bigger the head of foam.
3. Open the faucet quickly and completely.
4. Let the beer hit the middle of the glass and slide down the slide. This prevents too much head from forming too quickly.
5. Straighten the glass when it’s about 2/3rds full and fill the glass the rest of the way.
Some bartenders dunk the faucet into the foam as they top it off, to stop the foam from overflowing. But if you’ve followed all the steps in this guide, that won’t be necessary.
Now you’ve got one perfect beer! Sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy the pleasures of having your favourite beer on tap, any time you want it.
Rae Eriksen writes about entertainment and home improvement for http://www.air-n-water.com, which offers a full range of home comfort appliances, including kegerators, beer fridges, and wine coolers.