Thinking of setting up a new business or looking to start a new hobby? Setting yourself up with a beer tap system can be rewarding, both personally, professionally, and financially.
Unfortunately, making sense of these systems isn’t easy, especially if you’re new to the game.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about beer tap systems, from how they work, to what you need to factor in before you buy one.
What Beer System Do You Need?
Before you go ahead and purchase a new beer tap system, you’ll need to figure out which type of system you’ll need.
There are two main types of beer systems: remote beer systems and direct draw systems. Let’s discuss the differences between the two, so you can figure out which one is best for your needs.
Remote Beer System
A remote beer system is ideal for those wanting to install a beer system in a limited space.
With a remote beer system, the kegs are stored inside a walk-in cooler, and the beer flows through designed lines in the tap handles of the bar.
So, if you want to have your bar in a separate area from your keg storage, this is the ideal solution!
Essentially, these systems use a designated beer trunk line that attaches the beer tower to the keg storage area.
This can be installed anywhere on the property and does not need any specific conditions, making it a versatile option, especially for those with a limited beer tap experience.
With a remote beer system, beer can be dispensed at up to 800’. The remote beer system (also called the long draw) is one of the most popular systems with the most benefits.
Some remote beer systems even include glycol, which flows through the coolant lines. This process is designed to keep the beer at a cool temperature, even when it’s transported through the kegs.
Direct Draw System
A direct draw system is another one of the most common types of beer tap systems, and they’re most often seen in bars. A direct draw system is versatile and can be changed to suit the needs of almost any business.
With a direct draw system, sometimes called a kegerator, draft beer is transported from the beer keg across a short distance.
Usually, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or CO2 (also called beer gas) is used in the system to encourage beer to be moved from the keg up the beer line to the faucet and draft tower.
When this happens, cold air from the system’s refrigerator unit of the keg moves up the draft tower and helps chill the beer.
If you’re on a tight budget, a direct draw system is one of the most simple and effective options.
It also wastes as little beer as possible in the process, saving you money and reducing the amount of cleaning you need to do in your beer lines.
Determine How Many Beers You Want to Serve
Before you choose a beer tap system, you’ll also need to determine how many beers you want to serve.
This may not seem like a big decision, but determining how many beers you want on tap will help you figure out how much space you need to free up in your bar and how much storage you’ll need for the kegs in your beer cooler.
So, how many beers do you want on tap? If you’re setting up a business, it’s a good idea to follow the lead of other pubs and restaurants.
Larger establishments can have as many as 20 beers on tap, but for smaller businesses, between 10 and 20 should suffice.
Giving your customers a wide variety of options will help your business thrive, so choose carefully.
However, there are other factors that will determine how many beers you can have on tap.
If you have a small establishment with limited seating or a specific food menu, you may not need as many options.
You should also remember that the more beers you offer on tap, the more kegs you’ll need in your cooler, so factor in your storage space carefully.
Cleaning Your Beer Lines
One of the most important things to factor in is maintenance and upkeep. If you own a beer tap system, you’ll be responsible for cleaning your lines.
As a general rule of thumb, your beer lines should be cleaned once every two weeks, but they need to be cleaned more regularly if you’re serving more beer or going through a busy business period.
Keeping your lines clean will ensure you’re serving clean, fresh beer with every pull. Keeping your lines clean will also help your beer pull better, so you can avoid that nasty, over-foamed froth on the top.
Your beer will also flow through the lines quicker – so, if your establishment is particularly busy, you won’t have to keep your customers waiting long to get a drink.
Keeping your lines clean is essential for business. Do NOT be tempted to cut corners with maintenance. Clean lines give better tasting beer and happy customers.
Here are some general tips for cleaning your beer lines:
- Keep an eye out for yeasts, beer stone, bacteria, limescale, and mold. These are the most common contaminants you’ll find in your beer lines.
- Unless you have brewery-approved equipment, we’d recommend cleaning your lines once every seven days rather than every two weeks.
- If you want to avoid manual cleaning, take the time to research automatic line cleaning machines. There are a few different options available on the market. Although they’re expensive, these can be incredibly useful, especially if you’re running a larger establishment.
Use The Right Dispensing Equipment
Beer dispensing equipment is pretty varied, and you’ll often find that your components can be made from a number of different materials.
However, if you want to choose the most reliable, effective, and cleanest dispensing equipment, we’d always recommend choosing 304 stainless steel for any component that comes into contact with your beer.
Stainless steel is the most sanitary material for beer dispensing equipment.
It’s easy to clean and reduces bacteria build-up, which will keep your beer safe and fresh and reduce the maintenance you need to do on your equipment.
If you want to use stainless steel, we’d recommend using it for your hose fittings, beer shanks, faucets, and even your beer couplers. It’s a worthwhile investment!
Will You Serve Drinks Other Than Beer?
Here’s a good question: are you serving beer exclusively, or will you have an expansive menu of wines, ciders, and other spirits?
If you’re not just serving beer, consider that these products will need some adjustments in your beer cooler.
Some beverages, such as nitro beers, for example, will require specific regulators which are different from those found in your regular beer setup.
For example, if you’re serving cider, you can’t ever mix lines – you’ll need to have designated lines for these drinks, as using the same lines for both beer and cider can contaminate your lines.
This isn’t just unsanitary, but it’ll also give your drinks an unpleasant taste, and that’s never good for business.
So, if you’re going to be serving more than just beer, remember to save space to accommodate extra, designated lines, and do your research to see if you need to install any extra additions such as special regulators.
Keg Racks Or Keg Stackers?
Let’s take a minute to think back to storage space. Even if you’re not setting up business in a small establishment, you’ll want to make the most of the room available to you.
This will involve using practical storage solutions to save space. This brings us to our next question: will you use keg racks or keg stackers, and what’s the difference?
Keg racks can help you to improve the accessibility and organization of your cooler.
Even better, keg racks can offer you the ability to stack your kegs, giving you even more storage space while preventing your kegs from toppling over.
However, if you want to use keg racks, we recommend choosing ones with durable materials that are built to accommodate both the size and weight of your kegs.
Using plastic racks, for example, will make it dangerous to stack multiple kegs. This solution will be best for those working in smaller spaces, especially if you’re working with twenty or less types of beer.
Keg stackers can allow you to tap around two kegs instead of one, which is an even better solution for those working with spacial limitations.
So if you’re on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know that keg stackers are often cheaper than keg racks, too!
The Bottom Line
If you’re thinking of setting up your own business or simply want to have fun and get into the hobby of pulling your own beers at home, investing in a beer tap system can be a fun and rewarding experience.
However, if you’re new to the brewery business, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the choices.
If you’ve made it this far, you should now have a firmer idea of the differences between the most popular systems and how to decide which one is right for you.
Remember: much consideration must go into choosing the right system. You’ll need to factor in your storage space, the types of beverages you want to serve, and more.
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