I periodically get questions along these lines… can I keg without a refrigerator?
Well, the answer is, sure you can. But, as with many things, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Balancing an Un-chilled System
The warmer your beer is, the less apt it is to absorb CO2. As temperature rises so does the pressure required to maintain carbonation. Let’s say your storage area is your basement and it stays at about 64 degrees Fahrenheit and you want something like 2.2 volumes of carbonation. A reasonable carbonation level for an American ale, Considering this example, you’d need to keep your CO2 regulator set to about 18 PSI. If you use 3/16″ ID tubing, you’d need somewhere between 6 and 12 feet of tubing [See: Step by Step Balancing Your Kegerator Draft System] to offset that pressure for a decent pour. I haven’t tried it, but my gut feeling is you’d be closer to 12 feet if not more. Lots of tubing. If there’s much of a temperature differential between the bottom and top of the keg, it may result in CO2 coming out of solution in that long length of tubing, causing excessive foaming, even if your system is balanced. This can happen even in a chilled kegerator [See: Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan] so it’s certainly a possibility for a room temperature setup.
Of course you can tweak this scenario with different numbers and maybe it looks better for you.
Temperature Swings = Bad Pours
If temperature varies in the spot that you’re keeping your un-refrigerated keg the setup will be even more temperamental especially at points when it’s warmer. Something like.. It’s hot outside today, my beer is going to be all foam.
Why do it? I’m sure some people are doing this and it’s great. They like warmer beer at lower carbonation levels. If that’s you, awesome.. good for you! If not, I’d say pass, Stick with bottling until circumstances allow for a complete kegerator setup with chilling capabilities.
No Chill and No CO2 Kegging
Let’s take it a step further… I’ve also gotten this question – Can I keg without a refrigerator and without CO2? Well, maybe. You can prime and naturally carbonate a keg. One big issue with this is a lot of kegs don’t fully seal without pressure. So, you may need at least a small CO2 source to seal the lid. Beyond that, you’ve got the same issues outlined above with the additional problem of not having pressure to serve your keg. This beer is going to be relatively warm and as it’s served using pressure generated via natural carbonation it will become less and less carbonated. To the point that it may not completely vend under pressure. My general recommendation is going to be the same as above… Stick with bottling until circumstances allow for a complete kegerator setup with chilling capabilities.
Additional Resources and Related Products
- Recent Keg Finds – our most recent keg finds
- Our Top Draft and Kegerator Resource Pages
- Upgrade Your Kegerator – 6 Improvement Ideas
- Home Brew Keg Roundup – New & Used, 5 and 2.5 Gallon & More!
- What’s the Difference Between Ball Lock Kegs and Pin Lock Kegs?
- Tips & Gear for Your Kegerator Resource Page – a collection of tips and gear for putting together your kegerator
- Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan
- Portable Draft Serving Options
- The Draught Quality Manual
- Ball Lock Kegging System via Adventures in Homebrewing
- Review: Inkbird Dual Stage Temp Controller
- Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers
- 5 Gallon Ball Lock Keg – via AIH
- Draft Landing Pages: More Beer – AIH – Keg Connection – William’s Brewing
- Review: Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer
- Step by Step: Finding and Fixing Keg CO2 Leaks
- Build A Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump
- Mark II Keg & Carboy Cleaner… As a Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump
- The BJCP’s Style Guidelines
- EJ Beverage Tubing
- Kegland Keg King Homebrew Kegerators – Hands on Review
- Eva-dry E-500 for Kegerator Condensation – Hands On Review
- Checking for Draft System CO2 Leaks – Using The Pressure Gauge Method
- Tips and Gear for Growler Filling
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