Welcome to the exciting world of home brewing! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of cracking open a cold home-brewed beer—unless you’re looking to lager, that is.
Lagers require longer and colder fermentation processes, which can be difficult to achieve without special equipment.
That’s why so many homebrewers are turning to corny kegs for their lager-brewing needs.
But there’s a lot more to it than just sticking your brew in a keg and hoping for the best.
That’s why we’re here to answer the burning question: “Can I lager in a corny keg?” Let’s dive in and find out!
What Is a Corny Keg and Why It Matters
A Corny keg, short for Cornelius keg, is a stainless steel container initially designed for holding and dispensing soft drinks.
However, it has become increasingly popular among homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts for its convenience, ease of use, and versatility.
The reusable nature of Corny kegs offers an eco-friendly alternative to disposable bottles or cans, while also providing a more cost-effective option in the long run.
The overall functionality and practicality of Corny kegs have made them an invaluable tool for homebrewers and small-batch beer producers, contributing to the continued growth and development of the craft beer community.
Is Lager Possible With a Corny Keg?
Lagers are indeed possible to store and dispense using a Corny keg, making it a convenient option for homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts alike.
While lagers require a longer fermentation and maturation period at colder temperatures compared to ales, a Corny keg can be easily integrated into this process.
Once fermentation is complete, the lager can be transferred to the Corny keg for the maturation phase, also known as lagering.
By maintaining the appropriate temperature within a controlled environment like a refrigerator or a temperature-controlled chamber, the lager will develop its characteristic flavors and clarity.
When the lagering process is complete, the Corny keg can then be used to serve the beer directly, utilizing its built-in dispensing system.
This seamless transition from maturation to serving makes the Corny keg ideal for those looking to enjoy lagers crafted in the comfort of their home.
How to Clean and Sanitize Your Corny Keg Before Use
Cleaning and sanitizing your Corny keg before use is essential to ensure the best possible flavor and quality of your homebrewed beer.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean and sanitize your Corny keg:
Disassemble the keg
Start by releasing any pressure in the keg by pulling the pressure release valve.
Next, remove the lid and both the gas-in and liquid-out posts using a wrench or socket.
Take off the dip tubes, poppets, and o-rings.
Clean each part
Fill a sink or large container with warm water and a non-abrasive cleaner, such as PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) or OxiClean Free.
Soak all the keg components in the solution and then scrub them.
Rinse all parts with warm water to remove any leftover cleaner.
Make sure to flush the dip tubes and posts to remove any trapped cleaner.
Inspect the o-rings
Check the o-rings for any signs of wear or damage.
If necessary, replace them with new ones.
Air-dry the components
Allow all parts to air-dry on a clean drying rack or towel.
Sanitize the keg and components
Once dry, reassemble the keg, and prepare a sanitizing solution using a no-rinse sanitizer like Star San.
Mix the sanitizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pour the solution into the keg, ensuring it covers the bottom. Seal the keg and shake it to make sure the sanitizer reaches every part of the keg’s interior.
Drain the sanitizer
After the recommended contact time (usually around two minutes), drain the sanitizer from the keg through the liquid-out post into a container.
You can save the sanitizer for use on other brewing equipment.
Purge the keg with CO2
Before filling the sanitized keg with beer, purge the keg with CO2 to remove any remaining oxygen.
This helps prevent oxidation and ensures the beer stays fresh for an extended period.
Now your Corny keg is clean, sanitized, and ready to be filled with your homebrewed beer.
What is the difference between a lager and an ale?
The primary difference between lagers and ales is the yeast strain used during fermentation. Lager yeast strains ferment at colder temperatures, typically between 9 to 15°C (48 to 59°F), producing a cleaner and crisper flavor profile.
Ale yeast strains ferment at warmer temperatures, usually between 15 to 24°C (59 to 75°F), resulting in a more robust and fruity flavor.
How long should I lager my beer in a Corny keg?
The lagering time varies depending on the specific beer style and personal preference.
Generally, lagers require a minimum of four weeks at a cold temperature (around 0 to 4°C or 32 to 39°F) for the flavors to fully develop. Some lagers, such as doppelbocks and Baltic porters, may benefit from extended lagering periods of up to several months.
Can I use a Corny keg for fermenting my lager?
While it is possible to use a Corny keg for fermentation, it is not recommended due to the limited headspace and potential for clogging the dip tube with sediment.
Instead, use a fermentation vessel with ample headspaces, such as a carboy or bucket, before transferring the beer to the Corny keg for lagering and serving.
What pressure should I use to carbonate my lager in a Corny keg?
Carbonation levels vary depending on the beer style and personal preference. Generally, lagers require a CO2 pressure of 10 to 14 PSI at cold temperatures (around 0 to 4°C or 32 to 39°F) to achieve proper carbonation.
Consult a carbonation chart to determine the appropriate pressure and temperature settings for your desired level of carbonation.
Can I naturally carbonate my lager in a Corny keg?
Yes, you can naturally carbonate your lager in a Corny keg using priming sugar. Mix a calculated amount of priming sugar (usually dextrose or corn sugar) with a small amount of boiled water, then add the mixture to the keg before filling it with beer.
Seal the keg and let it sit at room temperature for about two weeks to allow the yeast to consume the sugar and produce CO2, which will carbonate the beer.
How long does homebrewed lager last in a Corny keg?
When properly stored and maintained, a homebrewed lager can last several months in a Corny keg. Factors such as proper sanitation, minimizing oxygen exposure, and maintaining a consistent cold temperature will help ensure the beer’s freshness and quality.