Types of Kegs and Their Differences

You may be thinking of getting into kegging, and want to know about the different types of kegs available to you. It seems there is a lot of information to learn about kegging your own beer, and it’s all explained using language that assumes you already know everything about kegging. This isn’t very helpful to a prospective kegger, so this article is here to help inform you about your kegging options, the difference between them, and what you’ll need for each.

First we’ll look at the three different types of kegs available to you.

Types of Kegs And Their Differences

There are three styles of kegs that you can use. There are Ball Lock, Pin Lock, and sankey kegs. Ball and Pin lock are very similar, but their small differences do set them apart. Sankey kegs are most used by commercial breweries, but can be used by a homebrewer just as well.

types of kegs - corny kegs Ball Lock and Pin Lock style kegs are both types of "Corny" or "Cornelius" kegs.

Ball Lock Kegs: These are the most common of kegs available to homebrewers. They use a “ball lock”, hence the name, to connect the gas and liquid lines. When buying disconnects for these kegs, make sure to get the correct disconnects (they will include ball lock in their description). Ball lock kegs were taller and skinnier than pin lock kegs.

Pin Lock Kegs: These are very similar to ball lock kegs. In some cases, pin lock kegs’ lids do not have a manual pressure relief valve (PRV), but replacement lids for homebrewers usually include them. Pin locks use a different format for securing gas and liquid disconnects. This feature makes it impossible to mix-up which end was for gas, and which was for liquid.

Sankey Kegs: Sankeys are the odd one in the bunch. They only have one port (in the center of the keg), that features a gas in as well as a liquid out in the same unit (called a coupler). They do take more work to take apart, but are less prone to gas leaks due to there being less potential escape points for gas. They also come in larger sizes, like half barrel (large batch brewers rejoice).

types of kegs - sankey kegs Sankey Kegs are mostly used by commercial breweries, but their popularity is growing among homebrewers

Let’s go over what you need for each type of kegging setup. This will be in two sections. First the Cornelius kegs (pin and ball lock), and the other for sankey kegs.

What You'll Need For Corny Kegs

 

corny_kegs

Working from the start to finish, you need a CO2 tank, which is connected to a regulator. Regulators control the amount of pressure in the keg, which will maintain carbonation, and push the beer out of the keg on demand (when you pull the tap). From the regulator you run gas line to the gas disconnect (remember you need a style specific disconnect for ball and pin lock kegs). The gas disconnect will attach to your keg. Don't forget hose clamps on all your gas and liquid lines.

On the other side of your keg, you have a liquid disconnect. Then you lave liquid line leading from the disconnect to either a picnic tap or an actual tap handle. And out comes your beer!

types of kegs - corny setup

What You'll Need For Sankey Kegs

Sankeys work in a similar fashion in the sense that they need CO2, a gas line, and liquid line, but the huge difference is in the setup of that combination. Instead you have a coupler which houses the gas in line (side of the coupler) and the beer out line (top of the coupler) in one unit. The coupler links to your spear which is like a dip-tube, but it allows gas in as well (same entrance remember?). There are different types of couplers which are classified by a letter. Most United States sankey kegs use the D-Coupler and other countries typically use different “letter” couplers.

 

shop sankey kegs

One drawback of sankey kegs is that disassembly is more of a hassle than with corny kegs. After depressurizing the keg (always depressurize your kegs before disassembly), there is a metal ring that has to be removed to get the spear out of the keg for cleaning. Having a keg wrench is a good start, as it does take some work to remove, and a screwdriver and pliers can work in a pinch.

types of kegs - sankey setup

To maintain your kegs functionality, you’ll need to replace the O rings every once in awhile to keep a pressurized seal.

Let’s Run Down What You’ll Need for Different Types of Kegs One More Time

Ball Lock Kegs: A type of corny keg, which is slightly taller and skinnier than a pin lock keg. They need ball lock specific liquid and gas disconnects, and O-rings should be replaced periodically to prevent leaks.

Pin Lock Kegs: Another type of corny keg. Pin locks are slightly shorter and fatter than ball lock kegs. They’ll need pin lock specific disconnects. O-rings should be replaced periodically. Older pin lock keg lids will not have a manual pressure relief valve, but a new lid (with a manual PRV) can be obtained.

Sankey Kegs: Sankeys will require a coupler (usually a “D” if in the United States), which acts in place of corny kegs’ gas and liquid disconnects. They do require some extra work when assembling / disassembling. If you already have a corny keg set-up, but want to use the larger sankey kegs for homebrewing, you can pick up a conversion kit which will allow you to convert the coupler to fit gas and liquid disconnects.

If you are looking to start kegging, check out our keg starter kits which come with a regulator, beer lines, gas lines, the disconnects, and more. They are a great jumping off point for kegging your own beer.

written by David Doucette

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6 comments on “Types of Kegs and Their Differences”

  • Do You sell a keg wrench?
    And how much Will cost
    Thankyou

    Reply
  • 89 bucks for a 1/6 barrel sankey keg @ homebrewsupply might be a good price? idk. I got a 1/4 barrel keg from the local beer distributor, and it came with 7.75 gals of yummy beer in it. Cost $54 for the beer, and a $30 deposit on the keg. I just didn't return the empty and started using it for my homebrew. I adjust all recipes to 7gals instead of 5. If you have a kegerator system, this is the way to go. if I ever upgrade to a double tap on my kegerator, I'll just go get another keg full of beer, pay the $30 deposit, keep the keg. net cost of the keg is technically $30, cause your getting 7.75 gals of beer also.

    Reply
    • David Doucette

      True, however this practice is frowned upon heavily, even among many homebrewers.

      Reply
      • I'm kind of new to homebrewing, so I was not aware of this being heavily frowned upon even among many homebrewers. I had a kegerator for years, and stopped using it. Hadn't put a new keg in for well over a year. Still had an empty in it, so when I transitioned from wine making to beer brewing, I figured, hey I got a keg I can clean out and then I don't have to worry about messing with bottles and capping, etc... sorry I suggested something not appropriate on your website.

        Reply
        • David Doucette

          No worries. Just think when you don't return a keg, it's the brewery you're hurting as they have to eat the cost of the keg and the deposit does not cover the cost of a new keg even in bulk environments. If it happens on accident or by some other means, but doing it intentionally with the end-goal in mind can be a point of contention.

          Reply
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