Sunday, June 7, 2015

Setting Up The Blichmann BeerGun™

Over the years I had read plenty of mixed reviews about the Blichmann BeerGun™ before actually pulling the trigger and getting one for myself. It seemed that the two most common BeerGun™ complaints posted by brewers had to do with its overall cost and how under some conditions beer bottled using the BeerGun™ could be under carbonated. I had been interested in finding an alternative to bottle carbonating my beer using priming sugar for years, but I had put off using a BeerGun™ for a very long time. That is until I toured the Triumph Brewery in Princeton NJ and saw that they had been using a Blichmann BeerGun™ to fill up their new line of 750ml bottles! I figured if the BeerGun™ was good enough for a commercial brewery to use to package their beer then it had to be good enough for me.

Blichman Beer Gun Ready To Go
The BeerGun™ and it's accessory kit, which I highly recommend you order when ordering the BeerGun™, a new two way wye fitting and a shut off valve currently retail for under $150.00 USD. For the installation in my brew room I decided to add a wye fitting to my existing Co2 gauge in order to add a second shutoff valve and gas line to the gauge. The second line would then be used to push Co2 to the gun for purging the bottles and when the gun wasn't in use the second line could be used to carbonate or serve a second keg of beer that was in the refrigerator. For me that was a win/win since I often carbonated two kegs at the same time by frequently switching the Co2 line between the gas in post of both kegs until they were both carbonated. The addition of the second gas line would allow me to truly set and forget once and for all when force carbonating two kegs at the same time.

The Blichmann Beer Gun Package

The Blichmann BeerGun™ comes with the gun, a ten foot length of 3/16 inch ID vinyl beer line and a beer line brush for cleaning the rigid metal tubing of the gun. The beer gun I received was already assembled when I opened the box. All I had to do was clip the flat metal handle of the beer valve onto the rigid metal inner beer tube on the gun and clamp (included in the accessory kit) the vinyl beer line to the end of the same tube. To make the remaining connections needed in order to use the Beer Gun I used the additional parts that came with the Beer Gun Accessory Kit.

Blichmann Beer Gun Accessory Kit

The Blichmann BeerGun™ Accessory Kit comes with a five foot length of 1/4 inch ID vinyl gas line tubing (I wish it were 10 foot long). The gas line tubing had two 1/4 inch stainless steel swivel connectors clamped to the ends. A threaded brass flare connection is included too. The brass threads get wrapped with Teflon tape and then carefully threaded into the Co2 valve on the Beer Gun and tightened. Once the brass flare connector is installed on the gun the gas line tubing is used to connect the Beer Gun to a threaded flare connection on a ball lock gas line connector (sold separately).

Swivel Connectors To Beer Gun And Gas Line Connector

The use of swivel connectors in the line allows the beer and gas line configurations to be changed a lot easier than I had been used to. With the twist of a wrench the connectors can be switched over from the ball lock gas connector to the gas valve on the Beer Gun without having to use a screwdriver on any clamps or a knife to trim the vinyl tubing. With the Beer Gun assembled and all of the required connections made it was time to add another gas line to my gauge to be used by the gun to purge bottles with Co2 before filling them.

Beer Gun, Corny Keg And The Three Connections Needed

Making The Connections to the gun is a little different than when connecting a keg to a beer tap using a single gas in and a beer out line. I plan on leaving my kegs of carbonated beer inside the refrigerator to keep cold the entire time I bottle my beer. I chose for my installation to run a new 10 foot length of gas line from the Co2 gauge through the refrigerator wall and to put a swivel connector on the end. The new gas line supplies the Co2 to the gun that it then uses to purge air out of the bottles before they're filled with beer.  

Co2 And Beer Lines Run From Inside The Refrigerator
The existing gas line supplies the Co2 to the keg that's used to push beer out to the gun. The new beer line is connected to gun and the beer out post of the keg inside the refrigerator. With the keg of beer kept cold inside the refrigerator and the new gas and beer lines connected and tested the Beer Gun is ready to sanitize and use for filling bottles. When using the gun I tie the beer and gas lines together using twist ties and then run the lines outside of the refrigerator through the small gap created when the door is left slightly open.  

Adding The Second Gas Line provided my first installation surprise when I tried to remove the existing shut off valve from the Co2 gauge. I quickly found out that I would need a bench vise to hold the gauge body in place while I unscrewed the parts from it. Luckily I found an old bench vise on a shelf in the brew room and after a bit of wrench muscling and gently applying Teflon tape to some threads I was able to reconfigure the Co2 gauge using the new wye fitting and shutoff valves.

Co2 Gauge Modification For Second Gas Line

After removing the shut off valve from the gauge body I wrapped Teflon tape around it's threads and the threads of the second shut off valve and then put the wye fitting snugly into the vise to hold it steady. As I tightened both shut off valves into the wye fitting I made sure they were both squarely aligned with each other, this was done mainly for aesthetics to make the installation look as neat as possible.

A Bench Vise Makes Fitting Changes Much Easier
I was fortunate enough to find a spare gas line shut off valve beer parts cabinet and I used that to screw into the wye for the second gas line. With all of the parts on hand I carefully removed the existing gas line shut off valve from the Co2 gauge body using an adjustable wrench. A bench vise was needed to hold the gauge body from turning as I applied a good deal of torque needed to unscrew the shut off valve from the gauge body.

Threading The Two Shut Off Valves Into The Wye Fitting

With the shut off valve removed I wrapped the male end of the wye fitting with Teflon tape and carefully threaded it into the gauge body. I removed the gauge from the vise and tightened the wye fitting in its place and then wrapped the threaded ends of the shut off valves with Teflon tape. Next I carefully threaded both shut off valves into the wye fitting and tightened them snugly. Putting the gauge back into the vise I used the adjustable wrench to tighten the wye fitting snugly into to gauge body.

Co2 Gauge With Wye Fitting And Shut Off Valves

Once all of the fittings were tightened onto the gauge I connected the gauge to the Co2 tank and then marked out the side of the refrigerator where the hole for the second gas line would go. I found that the 5 foot length of 1/4 inch ID tubing that came with the Beer Gun accessory kit was too short for my installation and I bought another 10 foot long length to use instead. Thanks to the swivel connectors on the ends of the Beer Gun lines I can now unscrew the keg end gas connector from the new gas line and in its place screw on the gun's gas connector. Now that the beer line and the gas line are both 10 feet long I have plenty of slack in the lines to reach my makeshift filling station where I can easily fill my bottles.

Second Gas Line Modification Completed

As luck would have it my Blichmann BeerGun™ installation coincided with my nearly running out of kegged beer. But I did manage to sanitize and refrigerate a few 12 ounce bottles and test out the new installation by filling them with cold beer. It takes a little time to get used to maneuvering the gun around the brew room when filling bottles but I did find it easy enough to use, clean and sanitize it though. The beers I had filled I later opened after 3 days and they were perfectly carbonated, I should point out that the beer was force carbonated to 15 psi at the time of filling the bottles. Installing and using the Beer Gun was a fun project to install and use and I look forward to having the ability now to bottle my beer without ever having to use priming sugar again.

Blichmann BeerGun™ Manual

The manual is very well written with plenty of pictures that show exactly how the gun and Co2 gauge should be configured to work together. When I received my gun I found that the main tube and connectors were already assembled and I could skip over the pages that explained how that part of the assembly should be done. It's good to have those steps included in the manual though in case you ever need to disassemble the gun for cleaning or repair. I'm in the habit of cleaning up my gun as soon as I'm done using it. I run a mild solution of OxiClean FREE and warm water through the beer line to the gun followed by a warm water only rinse before storing it away. Doing this will prevent any buildup of of dried beer inside the dispensing tube and keep the gun working like new.


5 comments:

  1. I've had the beer gun for some time and I've always really liked it. From time to time, that little black top will come off in a bottle. That is the biggest negative for me.

    When I use the fun, I will usually try to remember to chill the bottles and the fun in the fridge for a couple hours. The colder the whole system is, the more CO2 stays in solution.

    I also find this the most convenient way to full growlers.

    I do understand the complaint about the cost. When I got mine, I had gotten a small bonus and decided to use part of it to splurge on some "nice to have" brewing equipment.

    I am glad I have mine.

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  2. Great article. Thanks Vince!

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  3. I guess we all get sticker shock at times, especially when we don't 'think' that something should cost as much. Needless to say based on your feedback and on what other Beer Gun owners have said to me everyone who has a Beer Gun loves it.

    My mind is still racing with ideas on how else to use a Beer Gun in the brewroom. Filling up some 5 liter mini-kegs for use in my Edgestar Deluxe Mini Kegerator is in the works now along with filling up the standard fare of 12 and 22 ounce bottles. Now that I've taken the time to hook the Beer Gun up in the brewroom I don't know how I ever got along without one.

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  4. I love my Blichmann beer gun and use it mostly to bottle beers off my legs for competitions. I have won awards with beers I've bottled off of it. Setting it up is a bit of an ordeal but no more involved than bottling by hand with priming sugar. I have a single CO2 regulator and use some extra tubing to make it work. Low carbonation has never been a problem. I won't go back to bottling any other way on my homebrew setup.

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    1. Ever new process seems like more work, until it becomes part of your typical brew routine. I agree the benefits of bottling carbonated beer using the beer gun far outweigh the time spent setting up.

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