How Many Beers In A Keg?
If you’re just getting started in kegging your home brew, or firing up your kegerator to pour some fantastic craft beer and wine, sometimes it’s hard to know not only how many pours to expect, but how to troubleshoot pouring beer, carbon dioxide pressure, and what kind of coupler to use.
This week, we’ll cover what kinds of kegs there are, how many pints to expect from what size, and the different kinds of connections that you’ll see out there as you find your favorite beers and kegged wines. For troubleshooting your keg system for homebrew or commercial kegs, see our Kegging Your Homebrew: The Complete Guide article on BrewCranium! Check out our video, How Many Beers In A Keg on BrewChatterTV!
How Many Beers In A Keg?
Let’s cut right to it for those who are trying to figure out how many beers you can get out of a keg. Below is a list of standard keg sizes, small kegs to full kegs, and how many pints, imperial pints and 12 ounce pours that you can expect from each.
We usually assume approximately 10% beer loss due to foam, overpours, pouring a pint glass before the beer is cold enough, and selective service systems that are not properly calibrated. You’ll have to play around with your draft system to see what your losses are, but 10% is a really good baseline.
We’ll use these 3 standard beer glass sizes for our measurements:
- Imperial Pint = 19.2 ounces (568 mL)
- Standard Pint = 16 ounces (473 mL)
- Standard Can or Bottle = 12 ounces (355 mL)
These are the most likely keg sizes that you will find, both in home brew and in commercial craft beer. Keep in mind, these are just sizes - we’ll talk about couplers and types a little later in the article! These numbers reflect the total number of potential beers in your keg before calculating losses.
- 1.5 Gallon Ball Lock Keg - Torpedo makes a very convenient small keg that is perfect for small gatherings and BBQ's, as well as 1 gallon Small Batch mead, cider and hard seltzer! It's not a ton of beer, but it makes throwing it in a backpack or fridge at your friends house super easy! Check out our Mobile Pressure Kit for easy pouring!
- Imperial Pints - 10 pours
- Standard Pints - 12 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 16 pours
- 2.5 Gallon Ball Lock Keg - Torpedo also makes a handy 2.5 gallon keg that is also great for mobile pouring! This gives you a little bit more for that group of friends that 3 growlers worth just isn't enough.
- Imperial Pints - 16 pours
- Standard Pints - 20 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 26 pours
- 5 Gallon Keg - this includes Corny Kegs and Sixtel Kegs, which can range from 5 to 5.2 gallons, and also cover the average of 19 Liter and 20 Liter wine kegs.
- Imperial Pints - 33 pours
- Standard Pints - 40 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 53 pours
- 6 oz Pours (for wine kegs) - 106 pours
- 7.5 Gallon Keg - Also known as a Pony Keg. These come in both a ‘slim quarter keg’ which is taller and fatter than a sixtel but the same shape, and the BMC ponies, which are literally a 15.5 gallon keg cut in half at the middle.
- Imperial Pints - 50 pours
- Standard Pints - 60 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 80 pours
- 30 Liter Keg (7.9 Gallons) - These are mostly seen from European, and primarily Belgian, breweries. It is very rare to see anything from American craft brewers in these kegs.
- Imperial Pints - 52 pours
- Standard Pints - 63 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 84 pours
- 13.2 Gallon Keg (50 Liter kegs are usually from European breweries, but many of our favorite American craft breweries, like Heretic Brewing Company, use them in lieu of 15.5 gallon kegs.
- Imperial Pints - 88 pours
- Standard Pints - 105 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 140 pours
- 15.5 Gallon Keg - Also known as a half keg, full size keg or a half barrel keg, this is the most commonly used size worldwide, and especially by American craft breweries
- Imperial Pints - 103 pours
- Standard Pints - 120 pours
- 12 oz Pours - 165 pours
You’ll run into several kinds of kegs and keg sizes, especially if you are pouring commercial beer. For home brewers, we use cornelius kegs, usually called corny kegs. These come in a small range of types and sizes.
There are two main types of home brew kegs, Ball Lock and Pin Lock. Ball lock kegs are slightly taller and skinnier, and the style was originally developed by Pepsi (you’ll hear these called Pepsi Kegs or Pepsi Cornys) back in the days before bag-in-a-box soda serving systems. The pneumatic style coupler connections give you a better seal on the gas side, and they are easy to use and efficient, especially with a built in pressure relief valve (PRV) for the lid!
Ball Lock Kegs come in these sizes:
- 15 gallon keg (Torpedo Keg)
- 10 gallon keg (Torpedo Keg)
- 5 gallon keg
- 2.5 gallon keg
- 1.5 gallon keg
If you can find them, there are many used versions of 1.5, 2.5 and 5 gallon ball lock kegs. There are also new ball lock kegs around due to high demand of all of us homebrewers. The Torpedo brand kegs have rolled stainless steel handles, come in a slimline form, and have a huge variety of sizes, which gives us homebrewers tons of versatility depending on batch size and what we’re doing.
Pin Lock kegs are shorter and fatter, and do not come standard with the PRV in the lid. While pin locks are better than not having kegs at all, we’ve found that the gas side couplers can be somewhat finicky and, once in the fridge, if the gas line moves the coupler at all, it’s easy to lose a tank on accident and freak out thinking that you have a gas leak in your kegging system, when really it’s just the base design of the kegs you’re using. Pin lock kegs only come in the 5 gallon version.
Commercial Kegs And Keg Couplers
The easiest way to decide what kind of commercial keg that you have is by figuring out what coupler it takes. As you see above, we even classify homebrew kegs by the coupler types, so it’s not a far stretch to use the same system for commercial kegs.
First and foremost, commercial kegs are almost always designated as ‘Sanke Kegs’ because all of the different couplers are sanke type couplers. We’ll throw some pictures in below for easy identification of each type so you have a quick reference for each.
Most American breweries use Sanke D, and you’ll find that many import kegs will be kegged in the same coupler system for ease of use and sales stateside. With few exceptions, the vast majority of craft beer is done in the sanke D system, again for ease of use and sales. That being said, there are rebels that use antiquated Sanke types, like Guinness and Bass, and some that use the same keg types that they have forever, like many of the German and Belgian beer brands.
KeyKegs as a great alternative to sending heavy, stainless steel kegs overseas. They take a different coupler type, shown below, but are lighter and recyclable, which is a great alternative for many wineries that want to serve their products in kegs, as well as breweries sending beer overseas.
Sanke D Couplers
Sanke D is the most common type of keg coupler used stateside, and comes in a super convenient Low Profile model for kegerators with low ceiling clearance.
Sanke D Keg
This is what you see on a Sanke D Keg itself. To couple the keg (or tap the keg), simply insert the coupler and twist clockwise. If it is a standard style couple, depress the handle so the probe is down and pour a beer! If you're using the Low Profile model coupler, make sure that your lines are attached when you couple your keg, because it's ready as soon as you turn it!
Sanke A Coupler (Mostly German Beers)
The Sanke A Type Coupler is commonly known as the 'German' coupler because many German breweries use this system. Instead of inserting a probe and spinning the coupler, with the A system, tapping a keg is as simple as sliding it on and depressing the handle. You'll need one of these if you want to tap a keg from Franziskaner, Hacker-Pschorr or Hoegaarden.
Sanke A Keg
Sanke M Coupler (Mostly German Beers)
Sanke M Couplers, also known as the 'German' or 'Polish' couplers are seen a lot in both Germany and Poland. The coupling mechanism is very similar to Sanke A, simply slide it on and depress the handle to get the good stuff out. Prominent breweries that use the M system are Einbecker and Schneider.
Sanke M Keg
Sanke S Coupler (Most of Europe uses these)
Sanke S Keg
Sanke U is a specialized, almost Ireland specific coupler that is used exclusively by Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny, Magners Cider, Smithwicks and Abby. While it's not used as much, I'd be willing to bet that every Irish Bar needs one of these! To use, slide it in and twist clockwise, then depress the handle.
Sanke U Keg
Sanke G Coupler (Bass)
The Sanke G system coupler is very similar to the KeyKeg style, and famous breweries like Bass, Boddington's (a personal favorite) and Fuller's use it. To use it, slide it over the top, depress the handle, and pour a pint!
Sanke G Keg
Key Kegs are one way kegs - you’ll usually see Euorpean beers and most wine in this style keg. Similar to the G style coupler, simply put the coupler on the keg, turn it clockwise, and depress the handle. KeyKegs are cool because instead of adding CO2 to the product, they add CO2 to the container around the bag that the product is in, squeezing the bag. This system is ideal for wineries going to bars or homes because there is no need for special nitrogen draft systems.
Hopefully this article will help you feel more confident not only with what kind of keg you have, but how to get the proper couplers and connections to set up your ultimate draft system! Use it as a reference for when you aren’t sure, and be sure to check us out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date with what’s happening at BrewChatter! Like and Subscribe to BrewChatterTV on YouTube, and hit the bell if you’re into it! We’ll keep the fun and educational videos coming! Brew On!