Draft Beer Systems

Draft Beer Systems: A Comprehensive Guide for Optimal Performance

November 6, 2023
Draft Beer Systems: A Comprehensive Guide for Optimal Performance

Draft beer systems are essential to maintaining the quality and freshness of craft beer, making them popular both in pubs and homes alike. These systems work by dispensing beer from a keg without any contact with the outside air, preventing contamination, and ensuring a carbonated, great-tasting drink, every time. A fundamental understanding of how beer systems operate and the different types available is crucial to a successful draft experience.

There are several types of beer systems, ranging from basic kegerators for home use to more complex glycol-cooled systems designed for commercial establishments. The components within a draft system can vary but typically include a keg, coupler, CO2 tank, regulator, beer lines, and a tap for dispensing the beer. Maintaining and cleaning these components is key to preventing off-flavors and ensuring a consistent pour. It's also important to manage the temperature and pressure settings on these systems to ensure the perfect pour every time.

Basics of Draft Beer Systems

A draft system is designed to provide a consistently delicious and well-balanced pint of draught beer. The main components of a draft beer system include the keg, tap, draft tower, and refrigeration unit. There are different types of draft systems, with the most common being direct draw, air-cooled, and remote glycol-cooled.

Air Cooled System

Direct draw systems are the simplest and most commonly used in home kegerators and bars with limited space. In this setup, the keg is stored in a refrigeration unit beneath or directly adjacent to the draft tower. Beer is drawn from the keg and dispensed through the tap by using carbon dioxide or a mixture of nitrogen and CO2 known as beer gas. Cold air from the refrigeration unit helps maintain the optimal beer temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Direct Draw System

An air-cooled beer system is designed for situations where the keg needs to be stored further away from the tap, typically up to 25 feet. In this setup, a forced air blower sends cold air from the cooler through a conduit containing the draft lines to the draft tower. This cool air ensures that the beer remains at a consistent temperature throughout the system.

Air Cooled System

Remote glycol-cooled systems are used when the distance between the keg storage and the draft tower is too large for an air-cooled system. These systems utilize a glycol coolant solution along with a refrigeration unit to maintain consistent beer temperatures across longer distances .

Regardless of the type of draft system used, it's essential to maintain the proper temperature and pressure balance within the system. Draft beer should ideally be dispensed at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, as colder temperatures can minimize beer flavors, and warmer temperatures increase the risk of foaming. In addition cooler temperature, proper cleaning and maintenance of the system components, such as the keg, beer lines, and tap, can make a significant difference in the overall quality and taste of the draught beer served.

In summary, understanding the basics of beer systems and their various components, including the keg, tap, draft beer tower,, and draft systems, can help ensure that every poured glass of keg beer is of optimal quality. Keeping the temperature and pressure of the system well-balanced, combined with regular cleaning and maintenance, will ensure that customers and guests enjoy a perfect pint of draught beer every time.

Types of Draft Beer Systems

Draft systems enable beer to flow from the keg through the tap into the glass, providing a superior drinking experience. There are various types of beer systems suited to different venues and commercial settings. Here, we highlight three common types: glycol-cooled remote beer systems, air-cooled systems, and jockey boxes.

Glycol-Cooled Remote Beer Systems A popular choice for long-draw dispensing, glycol-cooled remote beer systems are often used in commercial draft systems, where the keg and tap are more than 25 feet apart. They use a glycol solution running alongside the beer line to maintain a cold temperature, ensuring that the beer remains chilled throughout the entire dispensing process. This type of remote beer system is common in large venues, such as sports stadiums and bars, which need to deliver cold beer over long distances.

Remote Cooled System

Air-Cooled Systems Alternatively, air-cooled systems use a walk-in cooler to keep the beer chilled. The beer line runs from cooler wall through an insulated conduit alongside a high-powered fan, which circulates cold air around the beer line. This cooling method is ideal for shorter distances between the keg and the tap (usually under 25 feet). Air-cooled systems meet the needs of smaller commercial beer systems, where space is often at a premium.

Jockey Boxes Lastly, jockey boxes are portable beer systems designed for outdoor events or temporary setups. A jockey box consists of a cooler with a tap mounted on top, a keg coupler, and tubing connected to the keg. Inside the cooler, a stainless steel coil or a cold plate acts as a heat exchanger, quickly cooling the beer as it flows through the system. Jockey boxes are popular in catering businesses, festivals, and outdoor parties where conventional draft systems may not be practical.

Jockey Box

In conclusion, there are various types of beer systems, each catered to different environments and commercial settings. Glycol-cooled remote beer systems are suitable for long draw dispensing, air-cooled systems are ideal for close range dispensing, and jockey boxes provide a portable solution for temporary events or outdoor settings.

Components of Draft Beer Systems

Draft systems are complex and involve various components working together to deliver fresh, cold beer from the keg to the tap. We'll discuss the main components of these systems, which may include the beer lines, cooler, kegs, faucet, coupler, towers, CO2, air line, and more.

Starting with the keg, this is the storage container for the beer. It's connected to the keg coupler, which attaches to the keg valve and allows the compressed gas (either CO2 or a blend of CO2 and nitrogen) to enter the keg and push out the beer. The type of coupler depends on the specific beer keg.

The gas used in the system is stored in a CO2 tank or a mixed beer gas tank. A primary regulator is responsible for controlling the pressure of the gas entering the keg. In some cases, a secondary regulator may also be used, especially in long draw systems.

Pressure is crucial in maintaining the proper carbonation level in the beer. Too high pressure may cause over-carbonation, resulting in a foamy pour, while too low pressure may cause the beer to go flat.

Beer lines transport the beer from the keg to the tap and can be made of vinyl or other suitable materials. These lines should be properly cleaned and maintained to ensure the best quality and taste of the beer.

Mobile Direct Draw System

The beer travels through a cooling system before reaching the draft faucet. There are different types of cooling methods, such as glycol-cooled remote beer systems and air-cooled systems. The chosen cooling method depends on the specific draft or beer cold system setup and the distance between the keg and the tap.

Draft towers are essential components that allow the beer to flow through the faucet. They can be air-cooled or glycol-cooled, with different styles and designs. The faucet, sometimes called a draft faucet or tap, is what dispenses the beer into the glass. It's connected to a shank, which links the beer line to the faucet.

The tap handle is the part of the faucet that the bartender or server uses to control the flow of beer. It can be customized to represent various beer brands or designs.

Lastly, proper installation and ongoing maintenance of the draft beer system are crucial to ensure excellent performance and quality of the beer being served. This includes regular inspection, cleaning, and replacement of components as necessary. Overall, understanding the components and functions of draft systems helps ensure a smooth and enjoyable beer-drinking experience.

System Maintenance and Cleanliness

A well-maintained draft beer system is crucial for preserving the quality and taste of the beer served. Maintaining a consistent temperature of around 38°F, monitoring pressure settings, and ensuring cleanliness are three key aspects of a well-functioning system.

Temperature management is essential, as the quality of draft beer depends on keeping it chilled. Setting the applied pressure according to the beer's carbonation level, temperature, and serving altitude is important to maintain the right carbonation balance and flow rate. Normally, at sea level, this should be in the range of 12-15 PSI.

Cleaning the lines should be carried out every two weeks to avoid the buildup of organic and inorganic deposits on beer contact surfaces such as lines, tavern heads, and faucets. These deposits not only affect the taste of the beer but can also lead to contamination by bacteria or mold. Additionally, using an acid-based cleaning solution once per quarter can help remove beer stone (calcium oxalate) that can cause excessive foaming, altering the beer's taste, and wasting profits.

Beer Line Cleaning

A consistent cleaning routine should include:

  • Flushing the lines with water, followed by a cleaning solution, and then water again.
  • Removing and cleaning faucets, couplers, and other removable parts.
  • Checking for wear and tear, and replacing damaged components if necessary.

Lastly, it is worth noting that each draft system is set up and used differently. This means that the cleaning process should be tailored according to localized variables. Always ensure to follow the system's manual for specific recommended maintenance practices and temperature settings. By adhering to these guidelines, bar owners and operators can keep their draft beer systems running smoothly, providing their customers with the best possible beer experience.

Cooling and Temperature Control

One of the critical factors in maintaining the quality of draft beer is the effective cooling and temperature control of the beer lines. There are two primary methods used in beer systems: glycol cooling and air cooling.

Glycol Cooling: Glycol cooling is the preferred method for long-draw beer systems, where the beer needs to be transported over distances more than 25 ft from the keg. This system utilizes a glycol power pack that circulates food-grade antifreeze through cooling lines alongside the beer lines. The glycol absorbs heat from the beer lines, maintaining a consistent temperature and preventing fluctuations that could affect the taste of the beer.

The glycol cooling system requires a temperature-controlled environment—usually a walk-in cooler or refrigerator—to house the kegs and glycol power pack. This ensures that the beer remains at an optimal temperature, usually between 36 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Air Cooling: An alternative to glycol cooling is the air cooling, or forced air, system. This method uses a forced air blower to push chilled air from the keg cooler through PVC tubing or duct containing the beer lines, all the way up to the draft tower. The tubing or duct is wrapped with foam insulation, keeping the cold air cooled beer system from escaping. Air cooling systems are best suited for shorter draw distances and can be a more cost-effective option for smaller setups.

Although air cooling systems may not be as efficient as glycol systems over long distances, they still maintain the necessary temperature control for shorter runs. It is essential to ensure that the forced air system is adequately insulated to prevent heat from entering the lines and affecting the beer's temperature.

Dispensing Draft Beer

Dispensing draft beer involves a system that effectively transports the beer from the keg to the glass while maintaining its quality and taste. One of the key factors in dispensing draft beer is ensuring a consistent and optimal flow. The correct balance of pressure and temperature ensures a well-poured glass of beer with reduced foam and maintained flavor.

The most common types of draft systems include direct draw, a long draw system/glycol cooled, and long draw air-cooled systems. These systems have some similarities, such as the use of CO2 or a CO2/nitrogen blend to force the beer out of the keg and through the beer lines. However, each system also has unique components that cater to its specific requirements.

In terms of tap solutions, there is an array of options, such as air-cooled, beer lines cold top towers and stainless keg couplers, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Ensuring an appropriate tap for your particular draft beer system is essential in achieving a consistent and high-quality pour.

Foam is often a concern when dispensing draft beer. While some foam is expected and desirable, excessive foam can be an indication of an imbalance in the system. Factors like improper temperature, low pressure, or unclean beer lines can contribute to excessive foam. Regular maintenance and monitoring can help mitigate these issues and provide a better beer-drinking experience.

An alternative method for dispensing draft beer in casual settings is the use of a keg pump. This portable solution uses a manual pump to create pressure and push beer, pushing the beer from the keg through a faucet. However, it's essential to note that using a keg pump can introduce air into the keg, which may affect the beer's taste and quality over time.

Advanced Draft Beer System Design

An advanced draft beer system design ensures that a quality draft system delivers the perfect pint consistently. The design of delivering draft beer well revolves around several components, including temperature control, proper line balancing, and the use of high-quality materials.

Temperature control is essential in maintaining the integrity of the beer and preventing excessive foaming. Ideally, the draft system utilizes glycol-cooled components, which maintain the temperature of the beer as it travels from the keg to the faucet. A remote or long-draw glycol-cooled system is designed to deliver cold draft beer at the same temperature as the walk-in-cooler over long distances using a glycol power pack.

Line balancing ensures that beer flows consistently from the keg to the faucet without excessive turbulence or resistance. This process involves calculating the proper length and diameter of the beer lines, as well as determining the appropriate level of applied pressure. A well-balanced draft system is critical for serving beer with the correct carbonation levels.

High-quality materials, such as 304 stainless steel, are vital in the construction of a commercial draft beer system. These materials ensure durability, longevity, and minimal contamination, resulting in a reliable and uncompromised draft beer tower dispensing experience.

In addition to these components, an advanced draft system design provides versatility by accommodating a variety of beverage options beyond beer. With state-of-the-art equipment, the system can be customized for dispensing wine, coffee, cocktails, and even tea.

Collaborating with an expert team, such as Renny's Draft Solutions, can significantly contribute to the design, installation, and maintenance of a custom advanced draft beer system. By incorporating these essential elements, an advanced draft system design guarantees that establishments can consistently serve the perfect pint to their customers.

Costs and Profits

Draft systems are a popular choice among many bars and restaurants, offering customers a consistently cold and fresh product, leading to increased customer satisfaction. The initial costs associated with these systems may seem high, but the potential long-term profits and overall benefits make them a cost-effective solution for many establishments.

A draft beer system's main components include a kegerator, faucets, and gas cylinders. Direct draw beer dispensing systems, also known as kegerators, are self-contained and thermostatically controlled refrigeration units that store kegs at an optimal temperature of 38° F. These systems are ideal for limited spaces and provide a cost-effective way to serve draft beer.

As for profits, let's consider a 15.5-gallon keg of beer, which contains approximately 1,984 ounces. Depending on the size of the glass and the amount of head, each keg could yield around 130-140 16-oz pints. If a pint is sold for $6.00, it could generate a gross profit of $780-$840.

In recent years, the popularity of craft beers has increased, often delivered in smaller 1/6-barrel kegs known as "sixtels." A 94-inch kegerator can hold up to 12 sixtels, thus accommodating the growing variety of craft beers. Although the cost of a kegerator with four faucets may be around $5,000, the potential for higher profits with a diverse product range justifies the investment.

However, a key element to maximizing profits from a draft system is to maintain an efficient dispensing process. Optimizing your draft system could yield up to 95% of the keg. To achieve this, regular cleaning, proper gas pressure management, and temperature control are crucial. By paying attention to these factors, establishments can ensure customers receive a consistent, high-quality product, leading to repeat business and increased revenue.

The Impact of Draft Systems on Beer Quality

A well-designed and properly managed draft beer system is essential in maintaining the quality and taste of beer. Beer is a carbonated beverage, and the level of carbonation plays a critical role in its taste and consistency. Draft beer equipment serves multiple functions, such as maintaining the ideal temperature, protecting the brew from any contaminants, and ensuring the correct carbonation levels at the moment of serving1.

Draft systems provide better quality and freshness compared to canned beer. In a draft system, beer is dispensed directly from the keg, which is typically kept at an optimal temperature of 38°F. This method of serving ensures the ideal carbonation levels and protects the beer from light exposure, which can lead to skunking. In contrast, canned beer can be susceptible to temperature fluctuations and light exposure, affecting the taste and overall enjoyment of the beer4.

However, maintaining draught beer systems requires regular cleaning and maintenance to avoid the buildup of bacteria, mold, beer stone, and other impurities. The presence of any contaminants can lead to off-flavors or spoilage, which would negatively impact the drinking experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Mobile Draft Beer Systems Work?

Mobile draft systems are portable units designed for dispensing draft beer at events or locations where permanent installations are not feasible. These systems typically include a beer cooler, CO2 tank, regulator, keg coupler, beer lines, and a dispensing faucet. The CO2 gas is used to maintain the pressure within the keg and push the beer through the lines, ensuring a proper pour Provi.

What Components Are Essential to a Commercial Draft Beer System?

A commercial draft system requires several components to dispense beer properly, maintaining its quality and taste. Essential components include a keg or other beer storage container, a refrigeration unit, a CO2 or mixed gas tank, a regulator, beer lines, keg couplers, faucets, and a drip tray. These components ensure that the beer stays cold, is dispensed at the correct pressure, and provides a clean pour.

How Much Does a Commercial Beer Tap System Typically Cost?

The cost of a commercial beer tap system can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type of system, components used, and installation requirements. Basic, direct draw beer system systems can start around $1,000, while more complex long draw systems can cost several thousand dollars. The cost of a commercial beer tap system depends on factors such as installation, type and quality of components, and number of taps.

What Are The Differences Between Direct Draw and Long Draw Beer Systems?

Direct draw beer systems are typically used in smaller establishments where the keg storage is close to the point of dispense, usually within 25 feet. In these systems, the beer travels a short distance through the beer lines to reach the dispensing faucet. On the other hand, long draw systems are used when there is a longer distance between the keg storage and the faucets, often in larger establishments. These systems utilize either glycol or air cooling to maintain the temperature of the beer as it travels longer distances through beer lines Micromatic.

How Do You Properly Maintain and Clean a Draft Beer System?

Proper maintenance of a draft system involves routine cleaning of all components, including faucets, tap handles, seals, gaskets, and beer lines. Line cleaning should be performed every two to four weeks to remove buildup of yeast, beer stone, and bacteria. This can be done using a cleaning solution specifically designed for draft systems, along with specialized cleaning equipment like a faucet brush and a recirculating pump. Regular cleaning helps maintain the quality and taste of the beer being dispensed.

What factors influence the quality of draft beer dispensed?

Several factors can impact the quality of draft beer, including temperature, pressure, gas type, and cleanliness of the system. Beer should be stored and dispensed at the proper temperature, typically between 34-38°F (1-3°C) to ensure optimal taste and carbonation levels. The right balance of CO2 or mixed gas pressure is also required to maintain carbonation and prevent foaming. Finally, regular cleaning of all components helps prevent off-flavors and contamination.


Commercial draft beer systems are an essential component of many bars, breweries, and restaurants, providing fresh, cold beer directly from kegs to customers' glasses. These systems come in various configurations and designs, but they all work based on the same fundamental principles. The primary components include CO2 tanks, regulators, lines, and faucets, which work together to maintain the optimal temperature, pressure, and flow of beer from keg to glass.

There are three primary types of draft beer systems: the direct draw system, long draw glycol cooled, and air cooled. Direct draw systems are the simplest, featuring a kegerator or single tap straight from the keg. They are most commonly used for home bars and small commercial establishments where the keg is kept very close to the point of dispense. The glycol cooled remote beer system is popular for long draw dispensing setups, typically running 25 ft or longer. This system maintains a cold beer over long distances by circulating glycol coolant through lines alongside the beer lines. Lastly, the air cooled system is another option for shorter draw systems, using forced air to maintain the beer's temperature as it travels from keg to tap.

Understanding the key factors of draft beer dispensing variables, such as restriction value, temperature, and applied pressure, is crucial for maintaining the desired flow rate, flavor, and quality of the beer. Properly balanced draft beer systems ensure that the beer maintains the right level of carbonation and is dispensed at the correct flow rate, leading to the perfect pour time and time again.

Proper maintenance of a draft beer system includes regular cleaning, inspection, and replacement of components when necessary. Keeping lines, faucets, couplers, and other equipment clean and sanitized ensures that draft beer remains free from off-flavors and contamination. In addition, monitoring the CO2 pressure and adjusting the regulator as needed helps maintain the ideal carbonation levels and minimizes the risk of over or under-carbonated beer.

In conclusion, draft beer systems provide a convenient and efficient way to serve fresh and cold beer on tap, enhancing the overall experience for customers and generating greater revenue for establishments. Ensuring the system's proper setup and maintenance is crucial for delivering consistently high-quality beer and maintaining customer satisfaction.

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