Dialing In - Draft System Temperature

Dialing in your home draft system can help eliminate over foaming of beer, and also ensure that the beer you are dispensing from your kegerator maintains the taste and carbonation that it was intended to be drunk with. A lot of beer drinkers have a favorite temperature range that their beer is served at, but this may not be the correct temperature for every beer.

Experts say that a difference of only two degrees up or down from the ideal serving temperature can cause a noticeable difference in the taste and consistency of the beer. If you are not aware of the specific recommended serving temperature and push (CO2 pressure) of the beer you are serving, this is a good place to start to understand how you can get rid of issues like over foaming and wasted beer when serving from your home draft system.

To understand this relationship between temperature and taste in beer, you should understand the relationship between temperature and carbonation. The basic jist of this relationship is that the lower the temperature of the beer, the easier it absorbs CO2. The higher the temperature, the more easily CO2 escapes from the beer, causing extra foam.

This is why it is so important to maintain the correct temperature recommended for serving the beer that is being dispensed from your home draft system. The focus of this article will be adjusting the temperature of your kegerator to best suit the specific type of beer that is being served. If you would like to learn more about the volume of CO2 present in different types of beer, please reference my article entitled "Using a Carbonation Table Pressure Chart".

If the type of beer you are serving from your kegerator is of a commercially made variety, finding out the recommended serving temperature comes hand in hand with the discovery of the idea CO2 push that is associated with the beer as well. The CO2 push must equal the push back of the beer, and then exceed it slightly. This is the secret to eliminating excessive foaming in your beer: ideal temperature and pressure.

This chart should give you a good starting point for understanding the relationship between temperature and pressure when serving beer:

Type of Beer CO2 volume CO2 PSI Temperature
Lager 2.8 17 PSI 45 d. F
Pale Ale 2.6 16 PSI 45 d. F
Amber Ale 2.4 16 PSI 50 d. F
Brown Ale 2.2 11 PSI 40 d. F
Stout 1.8 11 PSI 55 d. F
Porter 1.5 6 PSI 50 d. F
Belgian White 2 9 PSI 45 d. F

This chart is just a very basic guideline. CO2 volume measures how much CO2 is ideally in the beer. The CO2 PSI is the amount of push you need in order to keep the CO2 that is already in the beer from coming out of the beer. Any more pressure than that and you will have the beer gushing out a little too fast and foaming. Any less pressure and you will have beer that foams at first and then begins to taste flat after the first round of draughts. All that is based on the beer being served at the right temperature, however. If you are not sure of the ideal serving temperature, be sure to contact the brewer and ask. The place that sold you the keg should have all of the information you need to serve the beer correctly.

If you are a home brewer, serving at the ideal temperature becomes a little more complicated. You can't just call up the brewery and ask them the ideal serving temperature if you are the brewery. If this is the case, it is even more important that you understand both the relationship between the CO2 volume and temperature and also how to attain that volume of CO2 in your beer. You can carbonate naturally, or, if you either are in a hurry or prefer to work with gas, you can force carbonate your beer. Force carbonation is the process of using CO2 exclusively to attain the CO2 volume you are shooting for in your beer.

For more information on the proper carbonation levels for different beer recipes, I suggest reading the book Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer. This book goes into great detail with 80 exacting recipes, and a useful appendix with charts that can help you determine all the factors involved in attaining the CO2 saturation level you want. The book includes information about the length of time necessary for thorough carbonation, whether via the natural process or force carbonation. One of the important factors in the carbonation process is, of course, the temperature the beer is stored at while undergoing this change.

Some kegerators are harder to dial in than others. Fortunately, there are many ways to control the temperature of your kegerator, even if the kegerator does not already come with an accurate thermostat built in. There are thermostats available in both mechanical and digital varieties from Johnson Controls and other manufacturers which are, basically, plug and play units. There are more complicated units as well, such as the Ranco Digital Temperature Controller, which require some wiring in and electrical component ability on the part of the installer.

One often overlooked aspect of serving beer at the right temperature is the glass that it is served in. There are, of course, many types of beer glass, from pint glass to frosty mug, to Chimay's custom glass. Often, people like to serve beer in a frosty mug, but this is not ideal. It can initially bring down the temperature of the beer past the ideal serving temperature. The best way to keep beer glasses is to keep the in a refrigerator, at a temperature that is about the same as the serving temperature of the beer - or just a little colder.

Related Kegerator Articles :
A Review of Temperature Controllers for your Home Made Kegerator -- A Kegerators.com Review of Temperature Controllers for your Home Made Kegerator.
Draft Beer Temperature -- Get the facts on why draft beer temperature can make or break your beer's taste.
Temperature Monitors -- Use a remote temperature monitor when brewing beer at home.