How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:32 pm

Or... How to get homebrew into your BeerTender-brand countertop tapper/refrigerator.

So... For Christmas, I got one of those T-fal BeerTender machines, which is a countertop kitchen appliance that refrigerates and serves beer, but ONLY out of the little 5-liter Heineken or Newcastle DraughtKegs (i.e., other mini-kegs are a no-go). My first thought, of course, was how to get my homebrew in there! They (the naysayers) said it couldn’t be done. And my having zero experience with kegging could have been another setback... or was it?

Well... against all odds and uncertainty, I am very pleased to announce that as of about a month ago, it appears that my wee bit of research and ingenuity paid off. Yes, this baby was designed specifically to fit comfortably and function adequately inside the BeerTender, even with the little Presta valve attachment intact (which I will describe in more detail later). And, it wasn’t too difficult or expensive to put together -- you might even say it is elegant in its simplicity. So without further adieu, here’s what I ended up with. You’ll notice -- that ain’t no Heineken coming out of the tap!

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Below is a closer look at my IPA, the guinea pig of brews. Note how dark it is -- that is MY idea of a good IPA. Tastes like Cascadey grapefruit goodness up front, with a smooth peanuttiness in the finish, and doesn’t finish too harsh or metallic or sulfury or anything off like that, as one might anticipate after drilling holes in metal and whatnot. But no, no off-flavors detected (hooray!). It is indeed a bit cloudy, but that’s fine -- it was keg primed just 10 days ago using 1 tablespoon of table sugar, and has only been in the refrigerator for 24 hours. So, the yeast no doubt needs a few days to settle out properly. Yet it did have enough natural pressure to easily push out 2 pints and then some.

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So now, yes, I have proven that I will be able to serve my homebrew from the convenience of my kitchen counter! And with reduced hassle of having to bottle all those beers... ugh, bottling does get tiring after 70-some batches, let me tell you. Obviously I haven’t hooked up all the hoses correctly yet, but if you’re familiar with the BeerTender at all, yes, absolutely, it will work. The only snag I foresee will be having to open the lid of the Tender every couple of pours in order to get more CO2 in to push out the beer. Here is a view of my BeerTender, prominently placed right next to some clean glassware by the sink. Nice, cute little machine. I like it. Really just a refrigerator with a special tap connection.

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How did I do it? Like I said, all it took was a little research. My primary source of information was http://www.angelfire.com/cantina/carbon ... System.htm. So I cannot say this is 100% my idea. But as far as I know, I’m the first guy to waste enough time playing with the Heineken kegs to successfully push out homebrew.

The first step, obviously, was to drink a couple kegs of Heineken, which actually is quite good if you get it on draft, nothing at all like that skunked garbage they serve in the green bottles. So, as soon as you drink all the Heineken, drill a 3/4-inch hole in the keg at the flattest portion, file down the edges a little so it doesn’t cut up your bung too bad, consider painting the exposed steel if desired? (I didn’t do that yet), clean and sanitize, and set aside. I actually left my keg for a few weeks full of StarSan. I even blew in a little CO2 to push sanitizer through the permanent beer line that you can’t clean in there otherwise. I figured, this way, the keg and beer line and the CO2 canister that is permanently stuck inside are all in contact with the sanitizer, and everything would just be better off soaking in the sanitizer solution for a while. I also rubbed a bit of Vasoline on the newly exposed steel on the 3/4-inch hole in the hopes that this will help prevent corrosion.

Otherwise, for parts, it is as simple as: a 2-piece mini-keg bung, a bicycle inner tube with a special valve known as a Presta valve, and a CO2 charger. And that’s seriously about it! Not terribly expensive or difficult. Drill a little hole in your bung, cut the Presta valve down so it fits inside, clamp her down with the little nut that comes with the Presta valve (yes, it comes with!), and you’re basically done. The biggest expense from here on out will be the CO2 refills. From what I’ve gathered, it might take one canister per keg or two. Buy them in bulk if possible and you can probably save a few bucks. I haven’t investigated paintball shops yet but suppose I should look into it.

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And finally, setup -- you’ll of course need to saw off one third of the green part on top of the keg in order to drill your hole, and to get the bung/Presta valve setup on there nice. For the rest of the bung setup, I really just followed the first third of http://www.angelfire.com/cantina/carbon ... System.htm. It worked like a charm. Here are some closer looks at the top of the keg.

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And showing how to get the CO2 in.

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I filled with brew to within 1/2-inch of the top, with a tablespoon of regular table sugar to prime (boiled first in a little water, of course). Getting the bung to fit in the 3/4-inch hole was a royal pain in the thumbs! I ended up having to coax it in using a screwdriver, being very careful not to tear the bung to shreds. Vasoline also helped, but couldn’t get it in all the way (sounds like a personal problem!?). The screwdriver did the trick.

Let 'er sit for 10 days, then chill, and the rest is history.
Last edited by dmtaylor on Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)
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dmtaylor
 
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:14 pm

AWESOME! Although I don't have one of the T-fal dispensers, a good friend of mine is a huge fan of New Castle, and he has 8-10 of the little kegs sitting around. We have been curious about how we could repurpose them for home brew purposes. I think we now know! Thanks for the in-depth how-to. I have a pale going now, and I'll likely try this out. I have a couple of questions, if you wouldn't mind answering them, here goes:
How much did the bike tube valve cost you?
Could you point me in the right direction of vendors that cary that valve & the 2-part bung plugs?
Has the built-in carbonation canister caused any difficulty?
Thanks again!
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daneurysm
 
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:34 pm

excellent work, finally a way to give beer to friends without having to fill bottles
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:20 pm

Very nice!

Now do the fucking dishes. :)

Mills
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:21 am

Here's where I got the bungs: http://www.thegrape.net/browse.cfm/4,7856.html They are 99 cents each.

You can find Presta valves on eBay, just search for "36mm presta valve". They run about $10.

And you'll also need a CO2 charger: http://www.brewersdiscount.com/item5049.ctlg Could run you from $15 to $25 depending where you get it.

And extra CO2 cartridges run a buck apiece and are available at any LHBS. You'll need about two per keg every time you fill -- I figure a couple bucks is no big deal for saving all that hassle of otherwise having to bottle.

It is really as simple as that.

If you have older kegs that you have kept empty for months, it's possible that nasty things might eventually grow in there. Probably not, but who knows. So if possible, I'd go ahead and drill a 3/4-inch hole right away, and fill with sanitizer. Then I think you can ignore the fact that there is a CO2 canister inside the keg -- it will just be empty in there, and sanitized, so who cares. Fill right away with sanitizer and let 'er soak, and even blow in a little CO2 to coax sanitizer through the permanent draw tube, and you should be set.

By the way, the pop-on tappers that Heineken provides are all easily removable and reusable. You just need to pop three clips with a small screwdriver -- you'll see them and be able to figure it out. Just go real gentle, it takes barely any force to get the tappers off.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)
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dmtaylor
 
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:20 am

Mills wrote:Now do the fucking dishes. :)

Mills
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This!

Seriously.

Somehow I question your sanitation practices.
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atomicpunk
 
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:47 pm

You guys are going to make me cry! :cry:

Taste my beers, though, and your fears of my sanitation practices will be squelched. :drink
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)
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Re: How To Reuse Your Heineken Mini-Kegs

Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:09 pm

There's got to be a way to get a regular CO2 tank to push through a presta valve. I know there are lots of DIY's out there for making your own carbonator cap and they use a presta valve pressed through the cap of a standard 2 liter soda bottle.

I would assume the guys that make their own carbonator caps to save $10 don't then go out and drop coin on a CO2 charger and the disposable CO2 cartridges. That seems a bit contradictory.
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