For beer lovers making the transition from enjoying beer out of a bottle or can to dispensing it straight from a keg, selecting the best draft dispense equipment for the job can be a daunting task. Here at Beverage Factory, we receive many questions from customers looking for the right coupler to unlock their favorite beer. Thanks to this handy guide, the answer is just a few simple questions away!
What is a keg coupler?
Before you can select the ideal keg coupler to fit your needs, you must first understand what a keg coupler is and how you will be using it. Keg couplers, also known as keg taps or keg keys, attach to the top of your keg, connecting it to the gas line and the beer line and allowing CO2 to flow into the keg and delicious beer to flow out of it. The most important factor in determining what type of keg coupler you will need is knowing what type of keg you will be dispensing.
How do I Know what type of keg coupler I will need?
In order to determine what type of keg tap you should purchase, you will need to answer the following questions:
Will you be dispensing Homebrew or commercial kegs?
If you will be dispensing home brewed beer, you will most likely be using a Cornelius (or "Corny") keg. This keg style was originally designed for soda dispensing and comes in two different types: Ball Lock Disconnects (manufactured for Coca-Cola) and Pin Lock Disconnects (manufactured for Pepsi). Unlike commercial kegs, which have one valve that requires one coupler, Corny kegs have separate posts for gas and liquid that each require their own coupler. These gas and liquid couplers are not interchangeable, and ball lock keg couplers are not interchangeable with pin lock keg couplers. If you will be dispensing commercial kegs, you will need to select the coupler that corresponds to the brand of beer that you are dispensing.
What brand of beer will you be dispensing?
Commercial kegs utilize a letter system to help you match the keg you want to dispense with the necessary keg coupler. To make this system a little easier to navigate, we've put together a short cheat sheet (for more information about specific brands and the keg couplers that we recommend for them, please see our compatibility chart).
- D SYSTEM: Fits Most North American Beers (E.g. Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Labatt, and Molson)
- S SYSTEM: Fits Many Import Kegs (E.g. Heineken, Becks, and Amstel Light)
- A SYSTEM: Fits Many German Kegs (E.g. Spaten, Warsteiner, and Paulaner)
- M SYSTEM: Fits Some German Kegs (E.g. Schneider, Aventinus, and Einbecker)
- G SYSTEM: Fits Some European Kegs (E.g. Bass, Boddingtion's, Caffrey's, and Anchor Steam)
- U SYSTEM: Fits Some European Kegs (E.g. Guinness and Harp)
Will you be switching between Homebrew and commercial kegs?
There's no need for beer enthusiasts to limit themselves to dispensing either store bought or home brewed beer. Quick disconnect fittings give you the freedom to quickly switch your air and beer lines from your home brew keg couplers to your commercial keg coupler and back again without the hassle of changing fittings or cutting beer lines.
How much space do you have to work with?
If your keg refrigerator is too short to allow you to tap commercial kegs using a standard size keg coupler, there's no need to despair! Low profile keg couplers are specially designed to take up a fraction of the vertical space of a standard keg coupler, making them perfect for tight clearance installations. You may even be able to use an elbow fitting with a standard keg coupler to allow the beer to come out at a 90 degree angle instead of straight out the top of the coupler, so you don't have to worry about kinking the beer line.
Other features to consider
Once you have determined the type of coupler that you will need to dispense your beer of choice, there are some additional features that you can consider to give you the very best keg dispensing experience:
- HANDLES: Most standard keg couplers utilize either a wing or lever-style handle. Lever handle couplers are generally preferred for their durability and ease of use. A wing handle coupler requires two hands to twist the handle and couple the keg, while lever handles can be engaged with one hand. Standard lever handles need to be pulled out before being pushed down or lifted up. For the ultimate in efficiency, you can get a coupler with an ergonomic lever handle that quickly clicks up and down to engage and disengage the keg.
- MATERIALS: Keg coupler bodies and probes are generally made of either forged brass or stainless steel. Stainless steel is more durable and sanitary than forged brass, so it's a worthy upgrade because it will last longer and be less likely to harbor bacteria.
- COLORS: Many keg coupler models are available in a variety of handle colors, allowing you to further customize your draft dispense setup. If you will be dispensing multiple kegs, you may wish to purchase keg couplers with different color handles to make it easy to tell your kegs apart.