My home draft system likes to pur foamy beer!
July 26, 2005 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Beer At Home becomes Foam At Home. As a wedding gift, Banjo and I recently acquired a Sanyo home draft system. The problem is that it dispenses at a foam-to-beer ratio of 3-to-1. What to do? [Pour Inside]

Beer - full keg (1/2 barrel) of Smuttynose Portsmouth Lager, picked up cold from liquor store and kept cold until placement in cold fridge unit.
Temperature - 36-38 degrees. A full pint of water left in the keg over night will get a bit of ice in it.
CO2 Pressure - Over the past week, I've tried it from 4 - 12 psi. I've let the keg run and given time between each pressure fiddle.
Pouring - Glass pint glass, held to tap and tilted.
Gas lines - Sealed. No discernable leaks.

Sometimes when pouring there's a 'glop' of air/foam when the tap is first opened.

The only variables I have control over are the temperature and the pressure. I've experimented with both, so don't know what else to do. Options, please!

As a bonus question, what should my next keg be when the Smutty kicks?
posted by robocop is bleeding to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
We had one of these in my dorm room, senior year - it was a Sanyo, too. Thinking back to my college days, I seem to recall that the first thing out of any keg was about 10-20 pints of mostly foam. After that, several hundred good pints would come out.

The memories are hazy, though. Hmm. Maybe that could be the alcohol.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:27 AM on July 26, 2005

Make sure you're pulling the tap all the way open. On my homemade system, if you half pull the tap, you get all foam. Once you pull it all the way, beautiful brew pours forth. Even then, usually the first pour is foamy.

What happens if you open the tap and let it run? Like, into a pitcher or something? Does it just start out foamy and then clear up or does it stay foamy?
posted by bDiddy at 7:37 AM on July 26, 2005

From my experience as a bartender this used to be very common with specific brews. We also, for each pint as I remember, would let it run until the foam transformed, and then it was fine. However it would also only be foam when it was empty, so it may have something to do with the pressure; something like you have it set to something similar to what it would be when it is empty. But I don't know the technology at all. Have you tried contacting the manufacturer?
posted by scazza at 8:36 AM on July 26, 2005

I second the recommendation to open the tap all the way, even if that seems a bit counter-intuitive.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:46 AM on July 26, 2005

I'm not sure why it's gushing, but don't screw with the pressure. You need to keep it in the 12-14 psi range or risk losing the lager's natural carbonation as the keg is depleted.
You might try contacting Smuttynose or your beer distributor for more help
As for the next keg, think about gearing up for Oktoberfest. Otter Creek makes a decent one.
posted by sixpack at 9:05 AM on July 26, 2005

On my home-made system I know that the line length between the CO2, the keg, and the tap was a factor in the inital system setup. Since you're dealing with an actual consumer kegerator I'm guessing they got the line lengths right for you, but it's worth searching around to see if others have had success in shortening the lines or getting newer longer ones if the problems persist.

Also, I'm thirding the open the tap all the way recommendation. If I don't I just get a glass of foam.
posted by togdon at 11:35 AM on July 26, 2005

Is there a way to ensure that my tap can open all the way? I've been pouring at beershows for years, so I'm pretty sure I have the draw down.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2005

How long between pours? And does this only really occur with the first pint pulled? If I'm remembering the Sanyo's right, they don't have force cooled towers, which will allow the beer in the relatively uncooled line to warm up and CO2 to outgas from solution. When you first open the tap, you'll get an explosive gas release and foam, which should settle out after a pour or two.

Otherwise, what length and ID of beverage hosing do you have? There's a long annoying science to balancing a draft system that I go through periodically with the 14 taps I have on at home.

And for replacement beer... go to CBC and get a keg of the Red God. Failing that, get something from one of the many new breweries. See if maybe Offshore's available to you (the brewer's a good guy) or maybe Watch City or Berkshire, etc.
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2005

I think you may be on to something, drewbage. It's usually the first pull that belches out foam. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to get some of those flexi-ice packs to wrap the tower in when the keg will be pouring frequently over the course of the evening?

As for the length and ID, I'd need to either find the instructions or look up the specs online. I've seen the horrible balancing math and quiver in fear.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:19 PM on July 26, 2005

The reason you want to open the tap all the way is to avoid narrowing the passage the beer is flowing through as it comes out -- that'll speed it up, and the effect is the same as if you had increased the pressure. drewbage1847's point about outgassing in the tower is a good one. Length of line can certainly be a factor, but primarily in terms of its relationship to the temp and pressure you want -- there should be a good combo for your line length; the trick is finding it.

I'd probably keep the temperature pretty constant -- that is, serving temp -- and primarily change the pressure. Pouring a pitcher or two to clear foam is a good idea. Another one for the counterintuitive but sometimes effective list is to increase the pressure slightly. The physics on that one is complicated and I'm not sure I can recall it correctly (though it may be something about making sure the headspace in the keg isn't lower than the pressure at which the beer was carbonated, or maybe something else entirely) -- but I've found it an effective trick from time to time with my Cornelius kegs.
posted by nickmark at 3:27 PM on July 26, 2005

The best thing you can do for your tower is find a way to rig up a draft into the tower. A lot of your better kegerators already have a hose rigged from the fan output of the cooler to the top of the interior of the draft tower.

If I remember the Sanyo's right, they don't use forced air cooling. It's just a wraparound cold plate. In that case you'd want to rig a fan right at the base of the tower.. anything will do like a little muffin fan from a computer, etc.
posted by drewbage1847 at 7:44 PM on July 27, 2005

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