Cornelius “Corny” Kegs for Homebrewing

by Bruce Kish | Last Updated: August 29, 2018
corny keg

“For a quart of ale is a dish for a king,” an appreciative William Shakespeare wrote in A Winter’s Tale.  And yet – while Bard’s father was an official ale taster, and he enjoyed an occasional pint at The Windmill when not inserting drinking references into his plays – neither Shakespeare nor his characters home brewed.

Had Prince Hamlet taken up the hobby when not plotting revenge against his uncle, he would have stared at the carboy of his first completed batch of ale and rhetorically asked: “To keg or not to keg – that is the question.”

Why a beginner should consider corny kegs for beer packaging

Determining how finished beer will be packaged is the second most important decision a novice brewer will make after selecting a brewing system and its components.  Many start with bottling, usually as a cost-saving measure after an expensive outlay for equipment. 

After a batch or two, however, the time-consuming processes of washing and sterilizing bottles, and filling them, has some brewers wishing for a faster, more efficient system.

This article is written with the beginner in mind to help demystify the corny keg by providing some background information, explaining its anatomy and function, and examining some advantages of using them.

The corny keg is a fairly recent invention, known originally as a “beverage transfer tank,” created by the soft drink industry in 1957.  Coca-Cola invented a system for restaurants called a “Post-Mix” in which a tank of syrup mixed with water and CO2 for carbonation as the drink dispensed into a cup.

While the first tanks were manufactured by the Firestone & John Wood Company, and later Spartanburg Steel Products, the vast majority were produced by Cornelius, Inc., from Osseo, MN, and so all of these tanks came to be known as “corny kegs” regardless of make.

Homebrewers flocked to these immediately, purchasing surplus tanks and modifying them for beer.  It’s purely coincidental that corny kegs hold 5 gallons and the typical homebrew batch is the same volume.

Today, the corny keg is obsolete in the soft drink industry and has been largely replaced by the drink fountain syrup bag-in-box, yet it continues to thrive in home brewing.  Many brewers prefer pre-used soft drink kegs as a reliable, cost-efficient alternative to new kegs that are more expensive.  Refurbished older tanks are becoming scarce on the market and sell quickly when they appear.

Set of Corny Kegs at Homebrew Academy
What is the corny keg?

The corny keg is a stainless steel upright cylindrical tank with rubber gaskets constructed to hold pressurized liquid up to a maximum of 130 psi.  It is 8.5 or 9 inches in diameter and from 22 to 25 inches tall, minus the draught line and gas line quick disconnects.  It comes in a variety of sizes, including 2.5, 3, 5, 10, and 15 gallons.  An empty 5-gallon corny keg weighs roughly 10 pounds and a little over 50 pounds when filled.

The corny keg’s anatomy has three main components: the lid, the gas-side post, and the draught-side post.  The oval-shaped lid provides access into the keg.  It is held in place through tension by a thick wire handle that folds over.

The lid has a shallow lip to hold a gasket ring that seals the gas and liquid in.  The lid has a pressure valve, enabling the user to depressurize the contents.  Most have a manual value, operated with a wire ring.  A few have an automatic type, known as a “Hansen valve.”  The Valves screw into the lid and can be swapped out.

The gas-side post screws onto the keg, using an 11/16 or 7/8 star wrench socket. It provides the link to the CO2 gas line through a gray connector.  The post also houses a spring-enabled poppet and a 1-inch gas dip.  O-rings are located on the post and the dip tube makes contact with either the gas line quick disconnect or the keg itself.

The draught-side post is identical in size to the gas side but uses a hex socket.  It also has a poppet and a long liquid tube going to the bottom of the tank and O-rings to prevent leakage at either the base of the keg or with the quick disconnect to an inline smart keg monitor.

Corny kegs fall into one of two categories, pin lock and ball lock (the more common)

Corny Kegs in the Beer Fridge at Homebrew Academy

This is a distinction dating back to the soft drink days when Coca-Cola pioneered the former and Pepsi Co, which wouldn’t be caught dead using its rival’s method, adopted the latter.

Pin lock tanks are roughly 2.5 inches shorter and a half inch wider diameter than their counterparts.  Pin lock quick disconnects use a connecting mechanism of horizontal pins on the posts to attach.  Of note, the gas side has two pins and the draught three, so the lines cannot be confused.

Ball lock posts, on the other hand, have ridges which ball in the connectors grip.  While there are conversion kits, pin lock and ball quick disconnects are not interchangeable.

The keg’s function is a simple application of physics.  Carbon dioxide pumps into the tank headspace until an equilibrium is reached.  As the keg is tapped, the gas presses on the liquid, forcing it up the liquid dip tube and into the draught line.  Like using a drinking straw, the liquid pours from the bottom up.  When the tap is shut, the CO2 flow stops when the new equilibrium is reached.

In addition to the time savings of cleaning, sterilizing, and filling one tank versus 53 bottles, there are other advantages to using corny kegs, including:

Force Carbing.  Kegging provides the flexibility to artificially carbonate, allowing the brewer to control the CO2 volume and completing carbonation in a fraction of the time as natural.

Lagering and FermentationStainless steel conducts cold well, enabling low temperatures to be maintained.  An airlock can be installed in place of the pressure release valve.  As the beer is already packaged, it is ready to serve at the end of conditioning.

The benefits of corny kegs are worth considering for packaging and serving your homebrew.

The Top Corny Kegs You Can Buy To Make Your Beer Last Long

Brewing is one of those hobbies you can’t get enough of. While you’re sure you will enjoy your time brewing or having a party with your friends, are you ready to get started? 

When introducing yourself into brewing, you need to start soaking up about all the different types of equipment you might need or want to use.

One of the most important ones is the keg. These small barrels are where your beer or drink will be protected and will wait for you or your customers to drink it. The keg keeps your beverage protected and free of impurities that might be in the air or around the area where you have your beer sitting. 

What is a Cornelius Keg?

A ‘corny’ keg, also known as Cornelius keg or soda keg, is a stainless-steel canister used as containers, mostly by the soft drink industry. They can hold up to 130 PSI, and has three different openings. The first opening is a large central hole which can only open when the barrel is not pressurized. The other two are the integral poppet valves. These last ones can be open when you use a hose that fits and attached to them. 

Why do you need a Corny Keg?

You love one because of its performance. Remember that how you package your finished beer is the second most crucial decision you can make as a novice brewer. 

The first is selecting a brewing system and all its components. You can avoid the time-consuming action of washing and sterilizing bottles and filling them by using your corny keg. No more worry about your drink not tasting the same a few days later. You know what you need in your home. 

Reasons You Will Love a Corny Keg for Homebrewing

As we said before, a Cornelius keg has three openings. The central hole and two ports with poppet valves which open when a hose with the right fitting is attached.  These two ports are the ones that dispense the beverage, on does the job of keeping the gas in and the other the task of getting the liquid out. 

The majority of these comes with a metal lid for the central opening, which provides a clamp mechanism that closes and seals the top of the keg with a large rubber O-ring. 

This keg also has quick-connector fittings. These enable the hoses to easily attach and remove from the ports. 

Advantages

When using a corny keg, you have some definite advantages. With a corny keg forced carbonation has never been easier. You don’t have to do all the waiting for the bottle conditioning to begin. You need to fill the barrel and charge it with CO2 to begin your forced carbonation process. 

Also, kegging beer saves a lot of troubles of maintenance and cleaning like the ones you have to go through when you choose to bottle instead.  Also, corny kegs don’t break or develop scratches. 

Moreover, these kegs are perfect for saving up more space. 

Factors to consider before buying one

The main factor you need to consider when it comes to purchasing a corny keg, it’s the expense. A stainless steel corny keg can be very expensive for a new homebrewer. Besides this kedging doesn’t have any other factor to consider besides all the advantages that you will enjoy when moving forward with a corny keg. 

As we said before you will no longer need to separate bottles. You won’t need to clean them and store them and then put them in the fridge. With a corny keg, all you need to do is save your drink inside and the process is over. 

Best Corny Kegs for Home Brewed Beer

Wondering which are the best options for you to start things off right? Here is a look at a few you can pick.

KegWorks ball lock Cornelius keg

Specifications 

Made of stainless steel, it has dual rubber handles for increased portability. Plus, it does come with a ball lock style connection, which we are sure you will love. 

Pick the size you want up to five gallons – all excellent for kegging homebrew. The NSF-approved comes with a Height of 25″, and a diameter 9″. 

It also comes with a durable rubber bottom and other two rubber carrying handles. This last addition makes it a lot easier to transport or move around without hurting your hands. 

This is a brand new model, and not be mistaken as refurbished. The 5-gallon version is the best seller and top popular option for home brewing. Most users describe this keg as five out of 5 on quality and durability. 

Advantages.

This keg is made out of stainless steel which makes it more durable and hard to damage. Also, it is designed to prevent scratches that can hold bacteria and ruin your beer later on. 

It comes with very comfortable and convenient rubber handles for easy transportation. This is something a lot of kegs and kegs manufacturers don’t keep in mind, and you have to deal with a right barrel with uncomfortable ways to move it around. 

It is NSF-approved, which means that it has been tested and approved to use, especially when handling drinks and beverages. 

The cylinder shape makes it easy to fit almost anywhere without issues.  The two valves work correctly too. You won’t have time to mess up with the easy instructions.  

It is easy to clean after, and as we said before, it won’t scratch and leave bacteria behind.  

It is easy to transport and to work with, thanks to its shape and the rubber bands.  It’s ideal for smaller homes, and you need less space around your kitchen or the room you use to brew. Move more and work efficiently than before! 

Disadvantages

The product doesn’t fit the standard kegerator, or at least some standard models. A lot of users got their brand-new keg to find out later that they couldn’t set it up comfortably at the chosen spot. 

This issue comes from the fact that it is advertised to fit your brewing space quickly, but it doesn’t tell you to check the size of the keg you are getting. For this reason, we always recommend reviewing the size and the measurements before buying a new barrel. 

KegCo KM175G-RBT

Specifications 

KegCo is the one company behind this new corny keg. It measures 11″ tall and 8.5″ in diameter. The most popular one is 1.75 gallons.

This keg has a permanently moulded rubber skirt, and top handle that helps makes it easy to carry around and even stack. It was constructed with durable 304-grade stainless steel, and the best part is that it is designed for use with ball lock keg couplers. 

Stainless steel lid fits the body perfectly, and it does include a pressure relief valve, and ballock fittings are easily accessible. 

Advantages

Known for its sanitary stainless steel construction, this one is made from hygienic 304-grade stainless steel. This material is very durable, easy to clean and sanitized. Also, the content is very resistant to rust and corrosion.

You will love it for storing and dispensing homebrewed beer and other beverages like wine, soda, kombucha or even cold-brewed coffee. 

With a design made for brewer convenience, this product has a permanently molder rubber bottom skirt and a top handle to make it easy to carry around and stack. It is ideal for smaller breweries and home breweries and home brewers with limited available storage space. 

The stainless-steel lid that fastens tightly to the body of the keg and features an integrated pressure release valve that enables you to depressurize the keg easily. 

There are also ball lock fittings that are designed for use with ball lock keg couplers. The ball lock fitting can be easily accessed to make cleaning and maintenance fast and simple. 

Disadvantages 

There really aren’t any to add on to this list – this one has one of the best reviews around.

Varies AMCYL CKN3-SH

Specifications

You can get this keg in various presentations, including a two-pack, three-pack or a 3 gallon. It comes with a single metal strap handle, and it is suitable for beer, soda or tea. If you get 3 gallons, this keg weighs about 6.9 pounds, and it is approximately 16.9 inches tall. It is a simple metal keg to use when home brewing. 

Made to fit your fridge and space where you want to accommodate it, it is also straightforward to clean and work with it. 

You will love the simple metal design. Add valves to it if you want if you buy the right equipment for it. 

The size of it fits where you want, and the design is simple and not overwhelming. Something some people still appreciates when we talk about beer equipment and home brewing. 

Advantages 

The metal material it is made out of doesn’t get gunked up like stainless steel because it is a brushed metal material. The material itself brings the right color and design to the overall look of this keg which is always a plus. 

The simplicity of it makes it easy to use and get started; there is no hard mechanics or new methods or equipment’s you need to learn how to use. It works just like a standard metal keg, and it does it entirely. 

It will keep your brewing game up mainly because you can take it everywhere, it has a very comfortable size and way of moving it around. 

It fits almost every kegerator or fridge where you want to store it. 

It is not only perfect for beer. You can use this keg correctly for soda, hard seltzer and tea. Even cold coffee brew

Of course, this keg gives you the main advantage of every keg. You don’t have to worry about cleaning bottles for hours because you will have this keg to store your beer instead. A barrel that works and delivers the right job and keeps your drink safe from the outside impurities. 

Disadvantages

The main problem from this keg is the material. It is in some points better than stainless steel, but at the same time, it is easier to scratch it by accident. Scratches on your keg mean there are places where bacteria can hide and ruin your whole beer without you even noticing until it is too late. 

  • Also, it doesn’t come with rubber handles which makes it a lot harder to move around and hurtful when you try. The metal against your hand can be very painful. 

Kegco Pepsi Cornelius Keg

This Kegco kegs can be found in various presentations, three-pack, four-pack or 3 gallons alone. It is called the Stainless Steel Ball Lock Kegs or Pepsi kegs or Cornelius Kegs. The body, just like many other KegCo kegs, is made out of 304-grade stainless steel. 

You can also get this product in the 5-gallon keg presentation that comes equipped with a lid that fastens tightly to the body of the keg, and it also has a pull-ring style pressure release valve.

This keg includes one liquid plug and one gas plug, so you can keep the gas inside while taken some liquid out. This keg is also NSF, and NSDA approved. 

This keg’s body is constructed with an upper part which is the handle top, a lower portion known as the rubber bottom and a shell. On top, you will find the oval opening that allows the closing of the tank by the lid. 

The lid is also constructed with stainless steel and comes with a handle and pull-ring relief valve, as we mentioned before. 

On the outer side of the tank, you will find information about the capacity of it, the identification number and about the manufacturer. 

On the bottom, you will see a sump to enhance the draining process.

The inside superficies of the kef is smooth to prevent possible contamination from staying inside after it has been washed and sterilized. The top and bottom are deep-drowned from a stainless steel disk with a thickness of 1 mm. 

Advantages

This keg is NSF approved, meaning it has been tested positively to used it for handling drinks and beverages safely and with no worries. This kegs are made in Italy and are perfect for homebrew beer makers. 

This keg is fantastic for storing and dispensing wine, soda, coffee, and kombucha as well as beer. You can even store cold coffee brew inside without any issues. 

On top of the tank, there is a stainless steel handle and an oval opening that allows the container to get closed by the lid. On the bottom, there is a sump to enhance the draining off. 

You also get all the information you need about your keg on the external body of it. There you will find that the data is printed there and ready for you to read it. It includes the tank capacity, identification number and manufacturer. The stainless steel lid fastens tightly to the body and has a pull-ring style pressure release valve. 

The whole body of this tank is made out of sanitary stainless steel type 304 with No. 2B mill which fulfils ASTM A240 specifications. 

The inside is very smooth to prevent any dirt or contaminations from remaining inside after washing and sterilizing. 

The best part of these kegs is that they don’t react to magnetic attraction and its colour does not change due to cleaning or even hard sterilizing. 

This keg also comes with a rubber bottom skirt. The bottom of each tank is covered with black hot vulcanized natural rubber bonded into the steel. You will also find four openings in the bottom skirt that enhance the drain of water when the keg is upside down. This feature also allows the barrel to be rolled. 

Disadvantages

The possible disadvantages from this might be the potential shipping problems, and that stainless steel has it minimal cons when it comes to home brewing. 

Old Ale Home Brew Keg

Old Ale homebrew & beverage supply is a very trustworthy brand when it comes to kegs. They have in stock a 5-gallon homebrew keg made out of stainless steel. It comes with double rubber handles, and it is brand new. 

ISO 9001 and the NSF also certifies it. 

All the information you need about the keg is printed on the outer side of the tank. There you will find the tank capacity, the brand name and manufacturer and all the identifications number of the model you got. 

It also comes with a rubber bottom for easy stacking and storing. It is ideal for homebrewed beer, small batches, pubs, bars, coffee shops and more. The measurements of this keg are 25″ tall and 8.5″ diameter. 

The keg also comes with two dip tubes, one for gas and one for liquid. 

Advantages 

You can get this keg in a variety of different sizes; the most popular is the 5-gallon version and the 3-gallon version. Both of them are perfect for home brewing small batches or even offering some on your coffee shop.

The 3-gallon version fits in a regular fridge without having to deal with any modification.

The best part of this product is that it is brand new; you are not buying a rebuilt or a piece of used equipment. 

It is perfect for beer, tea, coffee, and even seltzer. 

This keg is very easy to clean and sterilized without any issues or having to go on for hours with it. 

Disadvantages

Some user complaint about the ball locks coming up as the wrong size and having to apply a lot of pressure to get connectors in. Also, for some people, the stainless steel material might not be the best or what they were expecting by the time it arrived. 

Conclusion

Buying the right equipment for your home brewing space is the most critical decision when you want to take this step. 

One of the key pieces of equipment is a keg. With the right keg, you make the best beer possible without having to struggle with bottles or cleaning for hours. A corny keg is a right and comfortable solution if you are looking for the perfect keg that fits your needs.