Sunday, December 16, 2012

EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator

I guess I was good this year, SWMBO decided to get me the EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator & Draft Beer Dispenser as a gift and at first I was a bit skeptical. I've done a lot of reading about kegging systems, kegerators and beer taps but I've never even heard of this one before. I've seen those giant sized Heineken and Newcastle five liter beer cans at the liquor store many times but I never gave them a second glance since I hadn't heard much about them before. After giving the idea of owning yet another beer delivery system and what new possibilities it had to offer so thought I decided to keep the new beer dispenser, do a little bit of research and figure out how to use it.

EdgeStar TBC50S Deluxe Mini Kegerator and Draft Beer Dispenser
I drove over to the liquor store and picked up a five liter mini-keg of Newcastle Brown Ale to use as the first draft beer to test out my new dispenser. Once I got home with the mini-keg I put it in the refrigerator while I did a quick read of the instructions to figure out what I needed to do in order to get the setup working. To set up the dispenser for a first pour I flushed out the beer line with a dilute solution of Oxi-Clean and water by pushing a cupful through the beer line, out the tap and into cup. They give you a small plastic bottle that snaps onto the beer line connector all you do then is squeeze the bottle to force the cleaning solution, followed by clean water, through the lines and tap.

The min-keg I bought was already cold, it's recommended to refrigerate the mini-kegs for 10 hours before loading them into the dispenser because the dispenser is better at retaining the beer temperature at 38F than at cooling a warm keg down to it. Although the beer in the keg lasted only a little more than an hour it did manage to pour perfect beers at a cold temperature the entire time it sat on our counter. The real cooling capabilities test would be to plug the dispenser into a car's lighter socket for power and serve beer outdoors on a hot day.

EdgeStar 5-Liter Mini Keg Beer Dispenser Tap Conversion Kit
It seems that for such a really cool device, the design resembles that of an espresso maker, there would be more brewers committed to using the new DraughtKeg with a wider selection of beer styles to choose from.  Although I did enjoy the taste of the Newcastle Brown Ale, which was the first DraughtKeg beer I tried, so did many of the guests at my latest party. So far I've only seen Heineken and Newcastle beer packaged in the DraughtKeg but I'm already on the prowl for the other beers too, which may or may not require the optional Co2 conversion kit. And according to the Beer Tap Systems website the following beers are now being packaged in 5 liter mini-kegs using the newly patented DraughtKeg technology.

Heineken
Heineken Premium Light
Newcastle Brown Ale
Coors Light
DAB Original Lager
Spaten Premium Lager 5 Liter
Warsteiner Premium
Paulaner Hefe-weizen
Bitburger
Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale mini-kegs
Molson Canadian
George Killians
Bell’s Oberon

Having the optional mini-keg and Co2 gear gives me another reason to drive over to a local pub and have my mini-keg filled, fresh from a newly arrived 'Firkin of the days' craft beer. If the 1.25 gallons of beer seems like a lot of beer don't worry the min-kegs will keep beer fresh and ready to pour for up to a month, which is a relatively long time in beer years.

My Imported 5 Liter  Mini-Keg
So setting up and using the pressurized Heineken and Newcastle DraughtKegs was child's play but the next two items remaining for me to master are still the most challenging. Using the min-kegs and the Co2 conversion kit instead of a growler for taking home some draft beer from a local pub and using the mini-keg and Co2 conversion kit for my home brewed beers. In either case the main thing to get right will be the carbonation and Co2 serving pressures needed to pour the perfect beer.

Sanitized With 1.3 Tbsp. Priming Sugar Added
When calculating how much sugar to use to naturally carbonate the mini-kegs it's recommended to use 50% less sugar than you would normally use when carbonating a 12 ounce bottle to hit the same carbonation volume. Example: To hit 2.5 volumes of Co2 for a 12 ounce bottle using a bottling bucket filled with 5 liters of beer you would add 7.5 teaspoons of pure cane sugar to the bottling bucket and fill the bottles to about an inch below the cap. When using a single 5 liter mini-keg you would fill the keg to one inch below the top of the keg and add only 3.75 teaspoons of sugar to get the same 2.5 volumes of Co2 into solution.

Filled Mini-keg With Rubber Plug Inserted
Using a small funnel I poured 1.3 tablespoons (4 teaspoons) of pure cane sugar into each mini-keg, after first sanitizing the kegs and funnel. By adding this amount of sugar and filling the kegs what I hope to be about an inch below the top of the kegs this should give the beer between 1.8 and 2.0 volumes of Co2. From everything I've read so far about refilling the min-kegs to prevent over carbonating the beer and ending up in foamy pours. Most information I've read by homebrewers suggest starting off using half the amount of priming sugar typically used when batch priming for 12 ounce glass bottles.

Bottoms Up Brown Ale FG 1.012
I have to admit the next time I refill these min-kegs I'm ether going to give them a 10 minute soak in OneStep to reduce foaming or buy a small digital scale the reads up to 15 pounds accurately. By using StarSan to sanitize the mini-kegs this time it was nearly impossible to view how far below the top of the keg the beer level was. There was so much foam from the StarSan and the hole in the top of the mini-keg is so small that even when using a flashlight it didn't help see how high the level was getting. The best thing would be to fill the mini-keg up on a small digital scale and stop once the scale read around 10 pounds.

Bottoms Up Brown Ale First Pour
 I poured my first glass from the unit yesterday into a clean tulip glass and got quite a lot of foam in my DogFish Head Palo Santo recipe brown ale clone. The foaming issue was easily resolved by just pouring some beers and after about four pours the foaming had been reduced to normal levels. The two mini-kegs I bough cost about $22.00 apiece and they don't have a built in relief valve used to release any excess Co2 pressure that builds when naturally carbonating the beer.

Cool Looking, Compact And Quiet
When naturally carbonating the mini-kegs I added 4 teaspoons of pure cane sugar, or half the amount I would have used for 12 or 22 ounce bottles, to each 5 liter min-keg to target 2.5 volumes of Co2 and the carbonation level in the beer itself was perfect. When I get to tap my next mini-keg I'll use the piercing tube to release all of the built up Co2 pressure before hooking it up and attempting to pour a beer. I give this unit two beers up, it's a nice compact quiet unit that is very cool to look at and easy to setup and use.

27 comments:

  1. Good morning Screwy, Thanks for the review on the 5L dispenser. I'm still working in Mr Beer size quantities and I saw these and thought they might be a great intro to some form of kegging. Have you had a chance to do any more experimenting with the 5L kegs and the Co2? Any update would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for all of your valuable insihts!

    Pat Mc

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  2. After naturally carbonating my initial two min-kegs the next time I would note how much liquid it takes to fill the kegs up to 1 inch below the top of the keg and write it down. Next I would use only 3 tablespoons of pure cane sugar to prime each keg. Then I would pour in the amount of beer noted earlier to make sure there was an inch of headspace in the keg.

    The biggest problem I had when filling the kegs was not being able to see the top of the beer as the keg filled, there was too much foam from the StarSan and the hole in the keg top was too small to tell how high the beer was getting.

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  3. Screwy Brewer,

    I'm so happy to see your post about the EdgeStar mini-keg system. I recently purchased one and am having foaming issues. Before I attempt the system with my home-brew, I've been experimenting with store-bought kegs. Keg #1 was an Einbecher Mai-Ur-Bock http://greatbrewers.com/product/einbecker-mai-ur-bock and it was tasty. However, it was way too over carbonated. I read the directions, connected all the lines, and turned the gas on till it read about 10 PSI. However, over the next 30 minutes (note: keg already at 40-45 degrees before tapping) the pressure gauge kept climbing until it went off the scale. I turned the gas all the way off, but wasn't able to get the beer to calm down until pretty much all the way gone. All pours were mainly foam, and by the time they settled, the beer tasted flat. The first keg chewed up an entire 16g CO2 cartridge btw. The second keg was a kolsch. I tapped it, connected the lines, pierced the cartridge, but kept the handle turned all the way off (counter-clockwise) on the regulator. After 30 or so minutes, the pressure spiked again and I still haven't turned it open. All pours are straight foam. Do I have a broken regulator? I don't hear any gas coming out Do you know what the black piece of plastic is with an insert that looks like a hex wrench could fit in it?

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  4. I've only used the New Castle Brown Ale commercial beer kegs and they didn't require using the Co2 adapter, they come pre-charged with Co2, are self regulating and poured perfectly.

    With my naturally carbonated homebrew I used the Co2 adapter and found that pulling the piercing tube out to relieve the excess pressure seemed to calm the pours down even though the keg was over carbonated initially.

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  5. I noticed you used the mini keg with the spout at the bottom. Have you come across any accidents with that while carbing your beer?
    I found a deal on CList for an Avanti single mini keg system and 24 co2 cartridges for only $50. It's identical to your Edgestar. I had to break the entire thing down and clean it all out with a bleach solution to get rid of the mold. I think the guy was getting rid of it b/c the beer tasted bad...go figure. Either way I'm mold free AND ready to start using it.
    I made the mistake of purchasing a Newcastle keg... I'm guessing I'm not going to be able to refill that one with my own brew unless I can get the exisiting top off and replace it with the bung from the kit. I went for the New Castle b/c I saw the pour spout at the bottom of the other and thought it wouldn't hold pressure. I guess I'm wrong??
    One last thing regarding priming/carb in the keg. Before reading your post I was imagining using my typical amount of priming sugar in the bottling bucket, filling a mini keg or 2 and then bottling the rest. I guess that's a recipe for mini bombs instead of mini kegs of beer?

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  6. I would recommend using only 3 teaspoons of pure cane sugar the next time you have to naturally carbonate a mini-keg. I would also recommend using OxiClean FREE or any non scented oxygen cleanser followed by a good StarSan flush instead of bleach too.

    I also advise following the directions that come with the machine to flush the lines out before storing the unit away to prevent mold and other beer buildup that will clog the lines and affect the beer pours.

    I fill the min-keg to within an inch of the top with water, then empty it into a container and mark the water level. When it's time to fill the mini-keg add the pure cane sugar then sanitize and fill the container with beer to the same level you marked with the water.

    When naturally carbonating these mini-kegs it's important to be consistent with the beer volume and then tweak the sugar amount according to the Co2 levels you're targeting. Hope this help and good luck with your new kegerator, I really like mine too.

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  7. Yeah, the mold was merely an annoyance left over from the previous owner but for $50 I'll buy it all day long! I think there's $20 worth of food grade CO2 alone!
    Based off your experience, if the 3 teaspoons isn't up to my liking, is the CO2 pressure enough to make up the difference via force carbing without damage to the mini keg?
    The problem I'm having...well there are 2 but one was my fault. 1st problem was that in my excitement after my purchase, I rushed out and bought a Newcastle Beertender keg... still works with the adapter but I was expecting to use the full function as designed. Minor set back...I'll just have to buy more beer, ho hum.
    The 2nd issue is that it doesn't keep the beer cold for long. The digital display shows 38 but that's not the beer temp after a day or 2. Unless someone knows a way to get in to alter the internal settings I think I'm stuck with moving the mini keg back and forth from the fridge for each drinking session.
    I'm anxious to brew my next batch and test the carb suggestion.
    Thanks!

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  8. I think force carbonating with those little Co2 cartridges is way too expensive, even if the regulator allowed you to set the pressure high enough.

    I have to admit after storing my min-kegs in the refrigerator for a few days my units kept them at 38F for up to four days, by then the kegs were empty.

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  9. Hey brother, nice post. Wish I read it last week. Just filled my first mini-keg last weekend. Used 2 tablespoons of Honey to condition, so we'll see how the CO2 turns out. Any other advice before I tap this sucka next week?

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  10. Have you ever carb'd in the mini-keg using the bung with the hole with the support of the co2 in the draft system? I don't know if the question is clear enough. I have not purchased the sealing bung (kept forgetting/putting it off) and today will be the only day I have to bottle/keg my brew. I was thinking of priming with 3.5tsp sugar and then introducing co2 from the draft system and then just wait for it to carb up for a week or 2...maybe 3. Am I on the doorstep of disaster or am I carving a new path that people are interested in seeing what happens?
    For what it's worth from my previous post re: temps... I just took some duct tape to the temperature sensor. The tape keeps the sensor insulated a little but still functions and regulates temps. My beer is now colder longer.
    -D3ling

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  11. I would go with 3 tablespoons of pure cane sugar and find a way to measure out just enough beer to fill the mini kegs to 1 inch below the inside top of the keg and go from there.

    I would fill a mini keg with water until it was an inch from the top of the keg, then pour it into gallon and a half bucket and mark that level on the side of the bucket.

    Calculate the volume of beer then add in the priming sugar, seal the keg and try it in 2 weeks. Force carbonating using 16 gram Co2 cartridges is way too rich for my blood.

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  12. Howdy Screwy,

    Have you happened to have issued with tapped mini-kegs going flat? I'd like to buy one of these but I'd prefer to be able to leave my home brew in the machine for 5-10 days.

    Also, are the lines to the tap refrigerated?

    Thank you for any info you can share!

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  13. I'm still drinking beer from a mini keg I tapped 7 days ago and it's still fine. I have noticed with the latest pour that the head is a bit thinner than it was two days ago. I would think 10 days would be about the absolute maximum time one of these will stay fresh. The beer line is short and it's mostly inside the cooling compartment with the keg, expect to get perfect pours without worry.

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  14. Screwy, Trollby from the Beer Borg.

    Just wondering how many cycles have you run through the unit and how is it holding up?

    Also what is the duty cycle on the bungs and kegs before needing replacing?

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  15. I've run about 6 kegs through the unit so far, 2 of them were my own home brew. The mini kegs have some sort of liner inside the to prevent them from rusting and the rubber bungs are very durable. I don't see any issue getting several years of use out of them at all.

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  16. Are you using C02 cartridges or can it be converted to C02 bottle?

    I thought I read that they stated the 5L mini kegs were only for 5 uses before replace. Maybe that was just a sales gimmick

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  17. I'm in the process of converting my 5 pound Co2 tank to work instead of the little cartridges. As for how many times the mini's can be reused time will tell, since so far I've only used them once.

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  18. Hey Screwy, This is a fantastic post with tons of great information! I am also kegging my homebrew in a few 5L mini's. I have a rotation of 2 generic mini's that were shipped for a supplier and 2 Bell's mini's that I purchased along the way. Prices for the empty ones ran $17-$22 and the Bell's (with BEER!) ran $20-25... if you don't mind a printed mini, I highly recommend re-purposing a commercial beer keg :) I've refilled mine 4-5 times each so far... no sign of corrosion or leaks. I did make a mistake with one of them in that when cleaning/sanitizing I used hot water and then capped it. As it cooled and the cleaner contracted it pulled the walls of the keg in. I didn't want to risk cracking the interior seal and contaminating my beer so I pitched it.
    One Question. Have you upgraded your tubing to a wider diameter or a longer length of the same diameter tubing to cut down on headiness/foam? -Jason

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  19. I haven't made time to tinker with the tubing sizes at all. The commercial minis have just the right amount of carbonation to eliminate foaming so I figured the issue I had was due to over carbonation not tubing lengths or diameter.

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  20. Any photo's or updates on your 5lb Co2 tank? I would like to make this alteration as well.

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  21. Unfortunately not yet. I should be tinkering with it in the coming months though, putting together a parts list and posting pictures as I go along. It mostly about adapting the smaller diameter tubing that comes with the unit to the gas out line on my Co2 regulator.

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    1. Any updates on this? I blew through 3 co2 cartridges in 2 mini kegs. Changing the cartridges is a pain and I feel like I lose some co2 when piercing the cartridge. A tank would solve a lot of issues.

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    2. Unfortunately not yet. I agree with you though, the Co2 cartridges are the weakest link in the chain with this otherwise great product. I use a small Co2 injector for serving beer from a corny keg, it doesn't have a regulator but it doesn't waste as much Co2 as the EdgeStar design.

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    3. My cooling plate stopped functioning so I simply yanked out all the tubing ect and mounted the existing tap in my mini fridge. I also purchased "the adapter" from the LHBS (seen it on Amazon too $14-$18) and used a painball CO2 tank. I put my 5l keg with my homebrew amber in for 24 hours to get down to temp and then force carb'd (no priming) at 10psi. 3 days later I'm sitting back and enjoying!
      Now there's pro's and cons to this. Pro, It's easy. Con, you have to wait to drink it once you tap the mini keg. You can speed the process up by increasing preasure and shaking the mini keg. Another con is that if you Prime the mini keg beforehand it will pressurize as you wait for the previous keg to empty...with force carbing you'll have to finish one, then wait another couple days to carb the next. Inconvenient if you're having guests over (but that saves the next round of your delicious HB for yourself, HB hoarder!)

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    4. if you want to use a paintball c02 with the edgestar tap consider checking out http://www.instructables.com/id/Krups-Beerteender-Conversion/

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  22. Just noticed the post about Paintball C02, be sure to ask the refiller if they use the lubricated C02.

    Gun oil beer is NOT good beer

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  23. Yes that's true, beer and oil don't mix. If you buy your cO2 cartridges from any home brew supply store you'll get the correct ones to use for beer.

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