Bottling Vs. Kegging – A Showdown
When it comes to packaging craft beers, brewers have two main choices to choose from – bottling or kegging. The difference between the two is a classic example of the competition between time and money.
Bottling beer is a time-consuming process, but the overhead costs are pretty low. Kegging, on the other hand, requires investing in some expensive equipment but reduces the time spent during the final stages of packaging your brew.
What happens in bottling?
The basic idea behind bottling is to move your final brew from a large container (the fermenter) to several small bottles. While doing so, you have to be careful so as not to introduce any oxygen, wild strains of yeasts or bacteria to the brew. Oxygen reduces the life-span of the beer and makes it turn stale faster. Yeast and bacteria, on the other hand, can cause off-flavors to the final drink.
Additionally, for brews that are bottle conditioned, you have to ensure that the adequate levels of carbonation occur.
The four main steps involved in bottling include:
- Preparing the brew
- And, finally bottling
Some of the equipment required for bottling include bottles, bottle caps, capper, filler, tubing clamp, etc.
What is Kegging?
It’s the process of storing brews in large kegs. With kegs, you don’t have to repeat the same process over and over again. For instance, if you have to fill a gallon of beer in bottles, you’ll have to repeat the filling process again and again for over 50 – 355ml bottles. With kegging, you have to clean and sanitize a single keg to store a gallon of beer.
Another significant advantage of kegging is that you can force carbonate your beer. This leads to carbonation with lesser sediments, and you can serve your beer within a few hours of brewing. Additionally, you have precise control over the levels of carbonation in your brew.
However, one major drawback of kegging is that you have to find a unique way to chill your carbonated beer. Unlike bottles, that can be stacked in regular fridges and coolers; you need massive chillers to store and cool kegs.
So, how do you choose between bottling and kegging?
That’s what today’s post is all about. Here, we do a head to head comparison of both these packaging methods on various counts. Let’s get started. Mind you this is all subjective and what works for us may not work for you. We think bottling or kegging; a great brew is a great drink.
With that said, let’s dive into the showdown.
Round 1: Clarity
One of the biggest advantages of kegs is that you rarely move it. Once you have placed it in the fridge or other cold places, you are unlikely to move it. This means the yeast can settle quickly without being disturbed.
After the first couple of pints, kegs always provide clearer beer when compared to bottled brews. This is true until the very last pint, which contains yeast particles.
We think that the winner in this round is Kegs.
Round 2: Transportation
In this round, we have a clear winner. Bottles win hands down when it comes to transportation. You can carry them wherever you want – to hikes, beaches, and even ship them to far off markets. Brew from tap has one major drawback – it cannot be transported and has to be consumed at the place of manufacture.
Round 3: Complexity and Costs
Kegging requires plenty of equipment when compared to bottling. With bottling, you can bottle your brews directly from the primary fermenter. But for kegging, you need to have to deal with a lot of extra equipment like tubing, clamps, gas cylinders, faucets, O-rings, lubricants, wrenches and lot more. All these equipment end up requiring huge investments.
Bottling, on the other hand, is simple and doesn’t require a whole array of sophisticated equipment.
Round 4: Time Saving and Convenience
We don’t want to beat around the bush. We think kegging saves a whole lot of time and make the entire packaging process as hassle-free as possible. In fact, once most craft and home-brewers have tried kegging, they never want to go back to bottling. To package and carbonate your brew, all you have to do is rack the keg to an entail.
Round 5: Carbonation
With kegging, you can precisely monitor carbonation levels. This is not possible with bottling. For several brews like sour ales to high-gravity imperial stouts, turning a dial to set the carbonation levels is way easier than conducting repeated experiments with different priming sugar and yeast levels.
Additionally, you needn’t worry about over carbonating. Kegs are equipped to handle several times of pressure when compared to bottles.
Round 6: Cellaring or Ageing
This round goes to bottles. You can quickly place a large number of bottles in cellars and let them age. While this is possible with kegs, you would need massive cellars to store it all.
Round 7: Aesthetics
This is the final round. This one’s highly subjective. While some love drinking their brews right out of a tap, others believe that nothing beats the charm of opening a rustic brew bottle to watch the foam rise.
So, we guess this round’s a draw.
So, that’s three points each for bottles and kegs and one draw. That ties it up! Ok, so we can hear you asking, what’s the conclusion? As we stated before, both bottling and kegging have their pros and cons. Deciding one over the other depends on several factors like your personal preferences, specific requirements, etc.
What are your thoughts? Do you prefer drinking beers from a bottle or directly from the tap? Let us know in the comments below. If you have any further queries or would love to start a brewery on your own, all you have to do is click here to get started.