One problem that I ran into when I started kegging was sharing my beer. Sure, anyone who visits me at home can help themselves but other than that, I was limited to growler fills. A growler is great to take to a party but what if you want to give someone a few bottles you’re out of luck. There are a few commercial counter pressure fillers available but they run $50+. What about a DIY alternative? Somewhere in the $5 range? YOU GOT IT!
What you’ll need:
- Plastic Racking Cane
- #2 Rubber Stopper
- Picnic Tap, hose and disconnect (You should already have all of this if you’re kegging)
- A way to relieve CO2 pressure from the keg (if using Pin Lock with no release valves. You should already have all of this if you’re kegging)
The first thing you’ll need to do is cut the bottom of the racking cane at a 45 degree angle. This will allow you to stick the cane to the bottom of the bottle and still have a gap enough to fill the bottle. I just used a hack saw to do mine. It’s a little sloppy but it works well.
What makes this method work is the fact that a racking cane will fit nicely into the end of a picnic tap. Next, slip the rubber stopper onto the racking cane and adjust it so that it is a nice height for the bottles you will be filling. If you are bottling into several different bottle types, you can easily adjust this as you fill them.
You will want to bleed off all the pressure from your keg and then set your regulator to 5 PSI. This will give us a nice slow pour, minimizing foam, and the carbed beer will maintain it’s carbonation for the duration of the bottling.
Hook up the picnic tap to the keg, and stick the racking cane into the first bottle. I use a big German stein glass to balance my bottles so they don’t tip over with the top-heavy contraption sticking out of them. Adjust the stopper so that you have a nice fit in the neck of the bottle, but don’t shove it down in there too far. Flip on the picnic tap and let the beer flow.
As the bottle fills, make sure there is no sound. First of all, any slashing sound is bad because that could mean you’re oxydizing your beer. Make sure the cane is resting on the bottom of the bottle to avoid this. Second, you don’t want any sound coming from the stopper, because that means you’re losing pressure, which could lead to a less than carbed bottle. Adjust the stopper to make a good seal to avoid this. You’ll want to hold the picnic tap on the top to help balance everything, which will help keep a good seal with the stopper.
As the bottle fills, the flow will begin to slow down and then stop. When this happens, you will need to “burp” the stopper. Simply press your thumb on the side of the stopper and this will release pressure and the flow will begin again. As the bottle fills, you will need to do this more and more to keep the flow going. I always fill the bottle until it overflows a little, purging out all oxygen. Take out the cane, put it into another bottle and cap the first.
The setup and clean up time for this process can take a bit of time, but once you get bottling you can fill up a 12-pack in 10 minutes. It’s a pretty cheap and easy method to