The containers we call Ball Lock and Pin Lock Kegs come from the soda industry. Also called Cornelius Kegs, Corny Kegs and Corney Kegs, they were originally intended to store and distribute soda pre-mix. The big soda companies decided on different style containers for their pre-mix. Pepsi landed on the Ball Lock style while Coke uses the Pin Lock style.
Homebrewers have since re-purposed these as homebrew beer kegs.
Are Used Kegs Running Out?
Keg retailers purchase lots of used kegs from various sources. Bottlers that have moved away from pre-mixed soda tanks, resellers who have come across lots of kegs and… wherever they come from.
For years we’ve been hearing that supplies of used kegs would be drying up. Up until recently this hasn’t been much of an issue. Although we’ve seen a slow uptick in pricing, kegs were seemingly plentiful and regularly well priced.
I attribute this mostly to the availability of high quality new ball lock kegs. Makers of new kegs upped their game as far as quality and price. To the point where new ball lock keg prices can, at times, be similar to used ball lock keg prices. I think new keg price and quality have helped stave off the disappearance of used kegs. I think the threat was real, but new ball locks helped to stretch out used keg supply
And then… Pin Locks…
The first real shake up we saw in 2022. It was a quick reversal in keg pricing. Pin locks had always, generally, been cheaper than ball locks. As the year progressed, this flipped.
- MoreBeer’s Pin Lock offering has sky-rocketed to $85 per keg
- Keg Connection’s Pin Locks have gone up. They used to sell for $30 to $35
AIH’s pin lock prices have gone up as well, but are still generally the best deal going on especially if a coupon is available.
- Pin Lock Keg (Used) – 5 gallon < shipping sweet spot (for me, will vary based on location) is 3 of these kegs. This beats the delivered cost per keg of 1,2 and 4 kegs.
- Set of Four 5 Gallon Kegs, Pin Lock (Used)
I’ve also heard directly from one major seller that used kegs are getting harder to find and pin locks in particular are extremely difficult to find in bulk.
New pin lock kegs are not coming into the homebrewing market and I believe we’re finally hitting an availability wall.
Rumors and Guesses…
An anonymous tipster – Let’s be friends! 8 Ways to Connect with HBF – shared a tip with me that according to one of the top people at one of the largest homebrew shops in the country… Used corny kegs will be sold out within the next year.
From the tipster: ‘[company name redacted] owns the largest and one of the only remaining warehouse/stockpile of used corny kegs. They have searched for and have been unable to locate a new source for bulk used kegs. Unless a few trailers of abandoned kegs are found in a corn field somewhere, 2023 is likely to be the last year large quantities of used kegs will be available at retail.”
This is second hand information and I don’t have a named source. Even if I did this is a guess on that person’s part.
I don’t think anyone is saying that used keg availability will go to 0 within 1 year. What I’m talking about is the era of large caches of used kegs becoming available for resale. Something like what we’re seeing with MoreBeer’s pin lock offering. Do they have pin locks available? Yes. How much do they cost? $85.
Considering everything, I think that supplies are tightening up and I would not be surprised if this insiders rumored opinion comes to pass.
Within two days of this article going live, AIH, one of the best places to get a keg deal, increased their ball lock prices.
- 5 Gallon Cornelius Keg (Ball Lock) Used – was $45, now $54.98 + free ship eligible
- Set of Four 5 Gallon Ball Lock Kegs – Used – was $180, now $199 + free shipping
Pin locks haven’t change yet.
- Pin Lock Keg (Used) – 5 gallon < shipping sweet spot (for me, will vary based on location) is 3 of these kegs. This beats the delivered cost per keg of 1,2 and 4 kegs. – these usually work with coupons
- Set of Four 5 Gallon Kegs, Pin Lock (Used) – these usually work with coupons
I believe that we’re hitting a crossroads when it comes to used kegs. This is the best ball lock keg deal going on as of this posting. It’s my guess that used keg pricing will continue to trend upward. I think we’ll see used kegs in the $60 range in 2023. All that to say, in my opinion, now is the time to buy kegs.
Update #2 – 12/9/22:
Update #3 12/25/22:
As of this update ALL used ball lock keg offerings at MoreBeer are SOLD OUT. One offering is available for purchase, but it’s a presale. Complete Lineup of Kegs at MoreBeer << for current availability
If you’re a pin lock user. I think now is the time to stock up.
- Pin Lock Keg (Used) – 5 gallon – at Adventures in Homebrewing
- Set of Four 5 Gallon Kegs, Pin Lock (Used) – at Adventures in Homebrewing
- Pin Lock Keg (Used) – 5 gallon – at Austin Homebrew Supply
- Set of Four 5 Gallon Pin Lock Kegs (USED) – at Austin Homebrew Supply
- Used 5 Gal. Pin Lock Kegs KEG432 – at MoreBeer
- ***SPECIAL*** Tall Pin Lock “Coke Style” Cornelius Keg – or Firestone, 5 Gallon, for Homebrew/Soda | CLEANED – note that these are 1″ taller than standard pin locks
- Pin Lock “Coke Style” Cornelius Keg – or Firestone, 5 Gallon, for Homebrew/Soda, Used | CLEANED
Whatever happens, great deals are still available as of today…
Rebuild Your Kegs!
What to Look for When Buying Used Kegs
Buy from a quality supplier that pressure tests kegs and guarantees kegs will hold pressure. Used kegs can come in a variety of conditions, some with soda residue still in them. You’ll definitely want to clean and sanitize the kegs, but also plan on installing new o-rings if your seller hasn’t already done so. Even if they are free of cracks, they will have a soda smell that won’t go away with cleaning.
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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application. Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application. Always read and follow manufacturer directions. top:kegsrunningout tag:tpr