A big part of what we do here at Tiny House is setting up nitro cold brew coffee for offices and restaurants. We have set up hundreds of these systems, and we’ve seen all the things that can go wrong and have heard every question from interested parties wanting coffee on draft, but just not quite knowing where to get started. So in this blog I wanted to give you a quick rundown of the kegerator / draft system for nitro cold brew coffee, and establish a common language for the parts needed.
A kegerator in itself is quite simple. It’s a cooler with a hole in the top, through which a tube carries liquid (the beverage line) leaving a keg to a faucet. It’s usually just semantics that confuses folks when they start to talk about the system. So here are all of the parts for a kegerator.
The Cooler (The fridge)
All this is is a simple mini fridge with a pre-drilled holes for the draft tower. In fact you can pretty easily use any other fridge you have. Those are commonly referred to as keezers.
On top of the fridge is the draft tower. This is just a pretty housing to carry tat the liquid from the keg up and out of the cooler to the faucet. If you are wanting to run two different beverages, you’ll need what’s referred to as dual tower, one that can hold two faucets.
This is where things start to be a little different for nitro cold brew. Nitro products are almost always run through what’s called a stout faucet. What makes this different from a regular faucet (for beverages such as beer, kombucha or sparkling water) is the restrictor plate. This is simply a small metal disc nested in the tip of faucet that allows the coffee be pushed through at a higher pressure and dispersing the coffee in a slowed control way, it also helps create the breakout of the nitrogen in the coffee to create that beautiful cascade made famous by Guinness Beer commercials.
The Coupler (Connection to the keg)
This is the piece that actually fits on to the keg, and allows flow of the liquid through the beverage line to the faucet. In the US you will typically see this in one of two ways. Be sure to ask your vendor what sort of kegs they use, because if your system is set up for one and not the other, you or they will need to plan accordingly.
Sanke- this is the more industrial style and the type that Tiny House Coffee uses for all of our in-house kegs. Shown above.
Quick Connect- these are more thought of as homebrew type connections, but many small and medium companies use them as well, we in fact use these quite a bit up until recently.
The regulator is the piece that fits onto your gas tank and connects the tank to your keg. This gas comes in at a regulated pressure based on the beverage (35-40 psi for nitro coffee and tea; 10-12 psi for beer / kombucha / sparkling water). The gas tanks (or gas cylinders) are filled to a higher PSI, which equates to more volume or quantity of gas so that one cylinder can be used for multiple kegs. The job of the regulator is to capture that high pressure from the cylinder and regulate it down to the desired serving pressure. The high pressure part of the system can be intimidating for many, but rest assured that both the coupler (for snakes), the keg and the regulator all of PRVs (pressure release valves) for additional safety.
There are two types of regulator that we commonly see, and much like the coupler, this is something that should be discussed with your vendor to ensure your setup is done correctly, or so that the vendor can bring the necessary components. Keep in mind that if you have a dual tower, and are running two different products with two different gasses, adequate space in the kegerator will be required for the two cylinders and two kegs.
CO2 Gas vs Nitrogen Gas
CO2 Cylinders have a male fitting for the regulator to fit onto, and therefor have a different fitting on the regulator. It will look very similar to the nitrogen regulator shown above, with a female fitting to attach to the gas tank. Nitrogen Cylinders have a female fitting for the regulator to fit onto.
Well that’s about it for the components of the kegerator system. In a future blog post I’ll walk through how to assemble a kegerator for nitro cold brew, and discuss a few trouble shooting steps if the office is on the bring of mutiny with coffee not flowing.
If you have any interests in setting up a kegerator at your office, restaurant or home, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org