If you’ve ever attended a keg bash, you’ve probably seen beer being drawn from a tap. And if you love ice-cold beer, you can turn your own home into a party den by purchasing a decent kegerator
with a functional faucet. The beer service system is simple but can mess up your party if you get a low-quality model that requires a lot of elbow grease to operate. Some are difficult to clean and maintain, which can ruin the quality of your beer.
Home brewing flourished several years ago when enthusiasts realized they could make the beer of their choice in the comfort of their homes. The home brewing industry started declining due to the rise of legit brewing companies, although some people still enjoy the unique craftsmanship of homemade beer. A beer tap system is not for home brewers only but also for those who own a home bar and stock it with purchased kegs. Using a keg pump system is simple, especially if you purchase the right equipment, do the correct setup, and keep it clean at all times. Stock a few quality beer mugs
to complete the home bar setup.
Based on the order of flow, the main components of a typical draft system include a cooler, keg, coupler, gas, tubing, and faucet, although advanced models could be more complex. The six parts coordinate systematically to ensure the beer that gets to your glass is well chilled and carbonated. If one of the parts stops working, the whole system fails. But today we’ll focus on the tap or the faucet.
Remember that this is not like the keg systems used in college parties, which are manually pumped for consumers who are not interested in the quality of the drawn beer. This is a keg system that is decent enough to be set up in restaurants since they ensure that the beer is not over-carbonated and has a crisp taste. Just like a beer growler
, a properly working keg pump system delivers fresh beer that will leave you craving another glass.
With that appreciation, it’s time to delve deeper into the features to look for in a keg tap, and then you’ll be ready to jump to our top picks. Read on!
Keg taps vary widely in functionality, and that results in the wide variation in prices. Generally, a modest tap will cost you about $30, while high-end models will cost as much as $100. Of course, the price will depend on the material the tap is made of, as well as the extra functionalities it offers. Copper or brass taps tend to be more expensive, while aluminum and stainless steel taps are more affordable. We strongly discourage you from purchasing very cheap keg taps out there, since they’re often made of low-quality materials that will snap at the slightest provocation. Some models even accumulate dirt and impurities, making them impossible to clean.
The choice of a beer tap system depends on your drinking needs. Some brewers prefer simple equipment, while others insist on premium equipment. Some of the factors to consider when choosing a beer tap system include:
- The Type of Tap – Most of the domestic beer taps you’ll find on the market feature the American "D" system, but it is important to confirm the type of the tap with the seller, since some equipment might require a different tap. Other types include the European "U" and "S" systems, the Grundy "G" system, and the German "A & M" or Slider systems.
- Time – If you want your beer to be ready quickly, consider equipment whose components are compressed into one beer tap kit. If you are concerned about quality, it is better to purchase the separate components and connect them accordingly.
- Quantity – Depending on the quantity of beer you want, you can tap as many beer kegs as possible. However, you have to keep all of them cooled and purchase equipment for each of them. At times, several small kegs can fit in one cooler.
- Materials – Copper, brass and aluminum work very well in beer tapping, since the oxide layer which develops on them protects the metal and is easy to clean. Avoid materials such as stainless steel, since they tend to rust and lose their coating easily when heated, bleached, or scrubbed.
- Beer Faucet Control – The beer faucets determine how customizable your home draft system is. If you intend to set up the system in a clubhouse for all ages or at home, choose the key-lock faucet to keep those who are not authorized from drinking. Some types of beer go well with particular types of faucets. However, faucets with a flow control setting can be used to dispense all types of beer, since they allow you to adjust the flow of the beer.
Construction and Design
The faucet is the most important part of a beer tap since it controls the flow of beer. The tap should be opened completely and smoothly to avoid creating turbulence, which causes foaming in the glass. Now, there are various types of beer taps, each type with its own advantages and disadvantages as discussed below:
- Cask Beer Taps – These are just on and off valves used in traditional beer barrels to draw beer from the casks without application of external pressure or supplying gas.
- Pressure Dispense Bar Taps – This is the common model used in most of the modern beer taps. They exist in many variations, such as those set up on walls or refrigerators.
- Portable Picnic Taps – Portable picnic taps are small and less expensive. These plastic taps are usually attached to the keg for use with a carbonator or a hand pump. They are designed for use in portable setups for serving beer, though some brewers use them in their home beer pump systems to avoid expensive options. However, these taps develop mold if not properly and frequently cleaned.
- Rear Closing, Front Closing, and Creamer – In most faucets, the handle closes a valve positioned at the rear side of the faucet, thus rear closing. Although it reduces the possibility of some drops of beer being left in the faucet, some are still left behind, causing yeast growth. Front-closing faucets close a valve at the end of the faucet. They are more expensive than rear closing and rare to find but require less frequent cleaning. A creamer faucet is a type of rear-closing faucet which works in both forward and backward directions. When it operates in the forward direction, it pours the beer just like any typical faucet. The backward direction is applied at the end of pouring to create foam by sucking additional air, thus creating a creamy head.
Performance and Ease of Use
A keg tap should be pretty straightforward to set up and operate. Additionally, you need a model that requires little maintenance, so it should be easy to clean. For each glass of beer to taste great, a lot of maintenance has to be done on the keg tap system. The draft systems should be cleaned frequently and its components replaced regularly to prevent your beer from developing funky off-flavors. Parts that are not cleaned for some time become susceptible to buildup of dirt, which favors the growth of yeast or bacteria. Yeast or bacteria-infected beer tastes sour, buttery and musty – something a beer lover would not want to experience.
As the beer is traveling from the keg to you, it passes through a tube made of vinyl or polythene. The tubing should be chilled to keep the beer ice-cold as it gets to you, especially in systems whose distance from the keg to the tap is long. Kegs have lines that trap some beer, and if they are not cleaned frequently and properly, they could develop mold, yeast or bacteria. No matter the type and number of beer taps you have, they all should be cleaned. The less frequently you use your system, the more frequently you should clean it. The most recommended cleaning schedule is after every two to six weeks. Some people flush the system with water every week, and this works as well.
For you to pour out a good tint of beer, you need to pull the faucet open in a smooth motion. Turning off the faucet after every draft can be tedious for busy bartenders. In such a case, you should consider the spring-back faucet, which goes back to the off position immediately after letting go, thus minimizing spillage during busy nights. Faucets with long spouts eliminate excess foam in the beer.
In terms of cleaning, the best way to clean a beer faucet is by disassembling it completely and washing it in a solution of sanitizer. Built-up dirt is cleaned by scrubbing with a brush. Keg lines are cleaned by flushing them using a cleaning solution and rinsing with running water.
When thinking about buying a keg tap for your party, it may seem pretty simple, but there are actually many factors to take into consideration. Every pump is different. Some have more faucets which make them more efficient, while some are more durable due to the material they are made of. Others are easy to transport, making them great for traveling and for outdoor parties. With that information, you should be ready to dive into our top picks and grab a model that suits your needs and budget.
The best keg taps are designed to make beer dispensing easier and more enjoyable. Forget about the lines at the party or struggling to take the beer out of the barrel – grab one of these keg taps we’ve reviewed! If you didn’t find a perfect match, feel free to browse other options by these same brands. There’s always something for everyone.