Advice- Kegging system or brewing equipment?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by IPAdams, Jun 11, 2013.

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  1. IPAdams

    IPAdams Disciple (336) Jun 10, 2013 Illinois

    I am a relatively new brewer, have only brewed a handful of batches but I know that this is a hobby I want to pursue. So I am in the market to purchase some new equipment and am debating whether I want to purchase a kegging system and build a kegerator or buy better brewing equipment. I currently brew in a 36 qt stock pot, mash in a 50 qt coleman cooler and ferment in Pail Ale buckets. Any suggestions?
  2. IPAdams

    IPAdams Disciple (336) Jun 10, 2013 Illinois

    Budget is around $300.
  3. OddNotion

    OddNotion Devotee (478) Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    do you have a good way of controlling fermentation temps? that would be my suggestion if you do not. your tun and kettle look to be large enough for 5 gallon batches so i would go keg setup if you already have ferm temps under control
  4. IPAdams

    IPAdams Disciple (336) Jun 10, 2013 Illinois

    I don't have anything specific to control temps but I keep my batches in a corner of my basement that has very little fluctuation in temperature.
  5. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (295) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    A kegging system doesn't have quite as many options (read: decisions to make) as a brewing system, IMO. It's fairly cut and dry. It also yields immediate, tactile results. A brewing system, on the other hand, gives you all sorts of exotic options that you will be better able to sort through as you gain experience with brewing, watch others brew, discuss, etc. You'll also find yourself spending a tad more than $300 over the years on brewing equipment. I would recommend that you first spend your money on a kegging system.
    rlcoffey and NiceFly like this.
  6. mugs1789

    mugs1789 Initiate (184) Dec 6, 2005 Maryland

    You want to purchase kegging equipment. Plenty of successful homebrewers brew with equipment very similar to what you have. Brewing equipment doesn't need to be fancy and once you have the basics, you don't need to add too much more. Over time, you will collect small pieces of brewing equipment (an auto-siphon, a bag of gypsum, a good thermometer, etc...) but you have everything you need now to brew good beer.

    Add a immersion chiller to your brewing equipment and buy a two keg setup. It will change your life.
    GreenKrusty101 and NiceFly like this.
  7. clearbrew

    clearbrew Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2009 Louisiana

    I based my decision to start kegging on my beer turn-around. Once I was going through a batch or so a month, I started kegging. I would rather have a variety of beer in bottles rather than in kegs (unless all of the kegs can be tapped). Now I keep two kegs on tap and bottle anything that I want to age, or anything "weird" that might not be drunk quickly.
  8. leedorham

    leedorham Defender (699) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    Your mash tun and primary fermenters are the same thing I use and I have no problem brewing pretty much anything in a 5-6 gallon batch size. I would say the need I see is a bigger kettle, some secondary fermenters (carboy or BB), and a kegging system.$300 is a little tight, but here's what I'd do

    Kettle -
    Ball valve -
    Couple Carboys -
    And, if you need it, a propane burner -

    Add in the propane tank, shipping, etc, and you're probably not going to fit much more in the budget. Keep bottling, save your money, and keep an eye on craigslist for the fridge & kegging setup. Kegerators are some of the most common homebrewing items you see for sale.
  9. nozferatu46

    nozferatu46 Initiate (142) Mar 24, 2008 Indiana

    I'd look at it this way. If I was happy with the way my beer has been coming out, I'd go kegerator. If I felt equipment was in the way of the quality of my beer, I'd go equipment.

    My brewing equipment set up is... cheap. BUT... my beer is pretty good. So I invested in kegging this past year.
    xgeneralzodx and JackHorzempa like this.
  10. IPAdams

    IPAdams Disciple (336) Jun 10, 2013 Illinois

    I have a few secondaries, thermoworks thermometer, burner and a siphon. I was able to find a complete system with 2 kegs and a mini fridge I can convert for $280 total so I think I'm going to go with that. Thanks for all the input guys.
    JrGtr likes this.
  11. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (460) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    IMO the single most important part of the brew process is understanding and controlling your yeast/fermentation. This is what will make your beer taste the best and it's where I recommend emphasis.

    Understanding: pretty cheap, some reference books and studying. Controlling: a few bucks involved, flask, stir plate, ferm fridge/wrap, temp controller.

    You have the good fortunate of a basement with a steady temp, but this locks you into that temp range. You are unable to adjust temp to correct for the heat of fermentation or to raise the temp for a rest. If you ever wanted a style of beer outside your basement's range you are out of luck. This is where a controlled area really pays off (fridge/chest freezer). I would (and did) put a mini fridge to work to control fermentation before kegging.
    pointyskull likes this.
  12. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,352) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Hmmmm...that's only temp control if the style/yeast strain you happen to be brewing has an optimal fermentation temp a few degrees higher than the ambient temp in the corner.
    I would add positive temp control before I would add kegging.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,971) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Wrapping a fermenter in blankets does an excellent job in getting the fermenter a few degrees warmer than ambient. If you need more than a “few degrees”, then a different approach is needed.

    Warming can be achieved with a brew belt (controlled by a thermostat).

  14. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,592) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    It depends (a favorite answer!).

    • Are you satisfied with batch size? If not, you'll need equipment to go big.
    • Is bottling such a nuisance that you let it limit your brewing? If so, get a kegging system.
    • Are you satisfied with the quality of the fermentation of the beers you are brewing at ambient temps, and OK with the limitations that might be presented (e.g., inability to properly lager, inability to drive the fermentation temp of a Belgian ale to achieve awesome esters, phenolics, and attenuation)? If not, get some temperature control.
    Ultimately depends on what you want out of your brewing. I've had the same no-frills mash and boil operation for almost 8 years, probably fewer frills than what you have now, actually, if it were possible to count frills. While I still sometimes brew ales at ambient temps, I did get a temp controller system about 3 or 4 years into it, mostly so I could brew lagers and ramp up saisons. Two years ago I bought a kegging system, consisting of two cornies, a dual regulator, and a 5lb CO2 tank. I've upgraded the kegging operation a little, replacing the 5lb tank with 10 lbs and getting an extra corny keg. I've bottled several batches since getting the kegging system, either because my cornies were occupied or because it was otherwise convenient or appropriate. If I were to do it all over again, I'd probably do it the same way, maybe I'd try to get to where I am a little faster. Your mileage may vary.
  15. IPAdams

    IPAdams Disciple (336) Jun 10, 2013 Illinois

    I will definitely look into some temp control equipment. I have done mainly ales and my basement stays around 68-70 degrees so luckily that is within range for the yeast but its definitely something I will check out for when I do expand to different types of beers
  16. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (396) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    One thing you could do is double a kegorator for temp control.
    If you don't have anything on tap at the moment, a double controller would let the keeze4r itself cool things down if needed, and a heat pad or some such to warm up.
    Again, you wouldn't be able to keep things on tap at the same time, but it's an option, and reasonably affordable if you already have the kegorator / keezer.
  17. bulldogbrewhaus

    bulldogbrewhaus Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012 Virginia

    Aside from craigslist scores and luck, it will be pretty hard for you to get a solid keg system for $300. Keezer, kegs, c02 tank, regulator, manifold, tubing, temp controller...etc. However you have pretty much the same brewing set up as me and I get by just fine. So my long winded answer is go for the best deal you can find right now. One thing I will mention is that I built a kegging system and dismantled it after about 2-3 months. I couldn't get people to come over and drink my beer...for free...pretty sad. So I went back to bottling and I can now share my beer more easily.
  18. xgeneralzodx

    xgeneralzodx Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2009 California

    I agree that if you are happy with your beer then go for the kegging setup. I pretty much brew on a bunch of beg, borrowed and not necessarily stolen equipment and I am quite happy. I think if you want to go with a kegging setup, you could use that $300 to go a loooong way. A pair of ball lock corny kegs, a 5# co2 tank and a picnip tap would cost you half or less than half of your budget. You dont have to "build" a kegerator. With the setup I suggested you could get away easily with a nice small fridge to hold the keg(s) and maybe later down the road add a tower and tap.
  19. MADhombrewer

    MADhombrewer Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2008 Oregon

    Kegging system.
  20. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Defender (688) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Depends on how vigilant you are and how often you are home. Temp control can be accomplished with your current setup pretty easily, but kegging is a go/no go proposition. Kegging system also.
  21. psnydez86

    psnydez86 Disciple (363) Jan 4, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Fermentation temp control is a must for making great consistent beer. You can make good beer without but it's all a crap shoot without control and a temp controller will allow you to do more styles of beer no matter if its winter or summer. I love this thing.

    You can hook this thing up to a fridge/chest freezer for lagers or hook it up to a space heater/electric blanket/ferm wrap for heating the ferment up if need be.

    That being said kegging systems are very nice, and I highly suggest a blichman beer gun to go with your keg so that you can bottle from the keg when you wanna get another beer on the gas.
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