Kegerator Not Pouring Correctly? Follow These 6 Steps
You pull the faucet on your kegerator, expecting a smooth stream of beer. Instead, you get a dribble that looks like it will take years to fill a glass. Or the tap spits out foam as though it thinks it’s a fire extinguisher. We know how irritating it is when your kegerator isn’t pouring correctly. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 5 key steps you can take to get it working again.
Before anything else, make sure you’re pouring correctly. If that’s not the problem, check the connections between the CO2 tank, the regulator, the coupler, and the keg. You might also need to adjust the CO2 pressure. Clean and balance your beer lines, and consider installing a fan to help keep them cool.
If you’re ready to get your beer flowing again, check out the simple steps we’ve laid out below.
The 6-Step Guide to Making Your Kegerator Pour Properly
Step 1: Double-Check Your Technique
A good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools. At least not without looking for his own errors first. Are you sure it’s the kegerator that’s pouring wrong, and not you?
One mistake is to pour too slowly, giving you a draft with no head on it that looks too flat. Don’t be shy – open the tap all the way. The other error is holding the glass upright when you start pouring. This makes your beer much too foamy.
Start your pour with the glass at a 45-degree angle so that the stream of beer hits the side first and runs down to the base. Once it’s about halfway full, shift it to an upright position. Deciding when to stop depends on how much foam you like. A good rule of thumb is to shut the tap when there’s still around an inch of space in the glass.
Your glasses should be clean, but not frosted over. You should also wait 24-72 hours for the keg to cool off after you put it in the fridge.
Step 2: Check the CO2 Hookup
CO2 is the fuel that drives your brew out of the keg and into your glass. It’s the first thing you should check if your kegerator’s pours are getting erratic.
Make sure that the CO2 line is attached securely to the regulator. It should be tight enough that you can’t turn the nut without a wrench. Then check that the line connecting the regulator to the keg coupler is snug at both ends. If either end is loose, slot it into place and attach a stepless hose clamp to keep it tight.
Once that’s done, confirm that the valves on your CO2 tank and regulator are open. Leaving the gas valves closed might sound like a rookie mistake, but it happens to the best of us! You should always confirm you’ve handled the basics before moving on to advanced issues.
Step 3: Inspect the Coupler
The next potential failure point is the coupler that links the gas, the keg, and the beer lines. Try giving it a clockwise turn or two to see if you’ve screwed it tight. If it’s loose, that’s probably where the pressure was escaping. And check whether the rubber washer between the keg and the coupler is torn or cracked. If it is, you’ll need to replace it.
What if the coupler is already tight? You should still confirm that you have the right type of coupler for your keg. A mismatch might cause your beer to pour in burps or stutters instead of a smooth stream.
If you’re getting no flow at all, check that the lever on the coupler is down. Otherwise, there’s no way for the beer to get out of the keg!
Step 4: Tidy Up Your Beer Lines
The beer lines are the tubes running between your keg and your tap. A draft that’s foamier or hazier than you want is often the result of a problem with the lines.
One issue is the length. Your beer loses pressure as it flows through the tube. So when a line is too short, the beer will be too carbonated, creating a pint with too much foam. When lines are too long, the beer may pour too slowly and seem flat.
For a CO2 pressure of 12 PSI, you should use around 7-10 feet of vinyl tubing with a diameter of 3/16 of an inch. That’s a very rough guesstimate, though. Use a calculator like this one to nail down the exact length.
The length isn’t the only potential problem with your beer lines. They could also be dirty, creating foam, haze, or off-flavors as the brew runs through. There could also be a leak or a kink in the line. This might make the beer “burp” as it comes out of the tap.
That’s why you should clean the lines. Remember to turn off the CO2 and regulator before disconnecting the coupler and line. Then scrub it out with a thin wire brush and some PBW cleaner. You can also get a cleaning kit that lets you pump the solution through the hose to make the process a little easier.
While you’re cleaning, watch for tiny leaks in the beer line. If you spot any, you’ll need to get some fresh tubing.
When you replace the beer line, take care to coil the excess on top of the keg. Letting it hang down to the side can let CO2 escape from the solution while the beer sits in the line. That’s another way to get a super-foamy draft.
Step 5: Check Your CO2 Pressure
When the CO2 pressure in your keg is too high, your beer pours way too fast. When it’s too low, it may not pour at all. To make sure it’s at the right level, you’ll need to check the regulator.
Take a look at the dial sticking out to the side first. This is the gauge that tells you how much gas remains in your CO2 tank. A zero or near-zero reading means you need to swap in a new tank. This is why your beer is coming out at a trickle. The only thing pushing it up is whatever CO2 is left in the keg.
Now inspect the top dial. This is the output gauge that shows how much pressure you’re putting into your tank. Different styles of beer call for different settings – here’s a chart that will tell you the right level for your keg. 10-14 PSI is a good starting point.
If you need to adjust it, here’s how:
- Close the shutoff valve on the regulator.
- Open the valve on the CO2 cylinder all the way.
- Rotate the adjuster knob or screw. A clockwise turn will increase the pressure while going counterclockwise will lower it. Watch the output dial to see the pressure setting shift.
- Open the shutoff valve. Make sure to engage the keg coupler. You’ll see hear a brief hissing sound and see the output needle drop for a moment as the keg pressurizes.
- Pull the pressure release valve on the coupler for a moment. Again, you’ll hear it hiss as the excess gas escapes. Wait 12-14 hours for the pressure in the keg to adjust. If you’re setting it to a lower pressure, you’ll need to let the spare CO2 out a few times
- Repeat until the pressure is where you want it.
Step 6: Cool the Tower
Foamy pours can also come from the beer getting too warm while it waits. This often happens because your kegerator has little or no air circulation. Warm air builds up in the top of the unit, raising the temperature in the tubes and the upper part of the keg.
If there’s no fan inside the fridge, you should add one. This will help spread the cold around evenly. It’s often helpful to attach a pipe or tube to the fan and slide it up inside the draft tower. Get a ready-made blower fan from a kegerator supply company. Or build your own from a cell phone charger you don’t use anymore and a 12-volt muffin fan.
Adding some insulation around the beer tower can help too. You can buy a nice-looking neoprene wrap for the outside, or line the inside with a layer of closed-cell foam. Be sure to leave some space for cool air to move around inside.
Nobody likes waiting around for a pathetic trickle of beer to fill up their glass. And you definitely don’t want your tap to spew and spatter out until two-thirds of your pint is foam. When you run into one of these issues, check your CO2 pressure and the connections between the tank and the keg. And make sure your pouring technique, beer lines, and glasses are all spotless!
Now that you’ve run through our troubleshooting guide, your kegerator should be pouring as smoothly as the taps in your favorite bar. We’re flattered that you came to us for advice. As long as you’re here, why not stick around and browse the related articles below? There’s always more to learn about troubleshooting kegerators and other home goods.