For the most part, checking for keg Liquid and CO2 leaks is pretty straightforward. Is beer leaking? Then you’ve got a liquid leak. That one’s really easy to spot. If beer is shooting out like a geyser, you’ve got a… fast leak. 🙂 For gas, you spray the keg down with Star San or soapy water and check for bubbles. Pretty easy.
One of the more difficult spots to check is an engaged gas QD. Testing at this point using the spray bottle method is impossible (or at the very least difficult and messy). Leaks will only surface here when a gas QD is connected. The problem is, you can’t easily get to or see that area with a QD on. I have had people suggest immersing the entire gas QD in Star San. I’ve been told that leaks will produce bubbles and you will be able to see them. That just doesn’t sound like much fun to me. I don’t really want to soak my gas QD in Star San. I’m also concerned that I won’t get enough Star San in the mix to create bubbles that I can see.
I use a pressure gauge to do this check. I remove the gas line and put a pressure gauge on the keg. Then I use a China Marker (easy to remove wax) to mark the pressure and wait overnight. If the pressure doesn’t drop, the keg is leak free. It’s worth noting that if the beer is still carbonating the pressure may drop as part of the carbonation process. If that’s what’s going on with your beer, just leave the pressure gauge on the keg longer until it levels off. If it keeps dropping, there is a leak. If it levels off and stays, you’re leak free.
Another option is to attach only one keg to your regulator and turn of the the CO2 tank. This allows you to use the low pressure gauge to monitor the keg. The benefit of this method is that you’re testing everything – line, manifold, QD, o-ring and keg. The downside is you’re taking other kegs offline.
I’m not suggesting this as a replacement for the Star San spray method. I use it as a complement to that to check an otherwise difficult to check spot. I use the spray method when I keg a beer and use the pressure gauge method periodically or if I otherwise suspect a problem.
I’m also quick to replace o-rings, especially on the gas side. I have a couple full tanks of CO2 to a bad gas post oring. These typically cost just pennies (See: Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers). I would much rather be safe that sorry when it comes to the time, cost and inconvenience of replacing an empty CO2 tank.
- Pressure Gauge – Also Here
- Building a Spunding Valve
- Star San
- Wax Pencil – Dixon Phano Peel-Off China Marker Pencils, Thin, Black, 12-Count (00081)
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