How to get the Most out of Your Draft Beer – An Introduction to Beer Taps for Sale
When it comes to serving high quality draft beer, there are more factors to think about than meets the eye. Every piece of equipment that you use to dispense your favorite craft beer or pour an ice cold draft affects the quality, flavor, carbonation level, sanitation—and more. Some set-ups require a substantial level of preparation, while others can be brought and set up almost instantaneously in a ‘plug-and-play’ fashion. Whether you are gearing up for a family gathering (which you couldn’t make it through without several glasses of your favorite draft beer) or you are getting ready to promote your brewery’s newest addition at a craft beer festival, choosing the right option from all of the beer taps for sale on the market is an absolute necessity. So which tap should you affix to your favorite brew? Let’s find out.
The Traditional Hand Pump
It’s 1 a.m., and you’re stepping over pizza boxes, beer cans, and the occasional unconscious friend. You stumble your way to the kitchen and are surrounded by red solo-cups decorating the counter top and floor. We’ve all been to that party—and chances are the keg was topped by a hand pump, which is the typical entry-level option among the different beer taps for sale or rent. You want another beer, but you’ve got to work for it and hope for the best. The picture isn’t a particularly pretty one, and the traditional hand pump isn’t a particularly effective method of dispensing beer.
How it Works
The traditional hand pump delivers draft beer by using ambient air pressure, forcing the beer out of the keg with physical force. To use the pump, it must first be tapped and the faucet opened to relieve all of the pressure. To begin pouring, activate the faucet and pump until the desired flow rate is attained. Only pump when the faucet is open, and stop pumping when finished.
This is not a very sanitary method of delivering beer because the oxygen and the bacteria that are pumped into the keg from the outside will cause a reaction that will rapidly spoil the beer and cause it to lose its carbonation. Generally, the beer with spoil within 12 to 24 hours and as a result, it will become stale and flat. You can keep your beer cool and tasting better (best served between 35-38 °F) by keeping it out of direct sunlight and iced in a keg bucket. This will also reduce unnecessary foam production. However, with this type of equipment, there is no way to prevent spoiling.
The pros for the traditional hand pump are limited and mostly come down to convenience and cost—even though in the long run, it does not tend to be the most convenient method.
Cheap and Available — The traditional hand pump is cheap, and it can often be found at party stores or beer suppliers (much like my ex-girlfriend). This makes it a convenient, last-second, readily available method for use with your keg of beer. It will do the job at a moment’s notice, but it does not do it very well.
Quick Setup — You do not need any special equipment, and everything you need should be readily available to you. Just tap the keg, open the faucet to relieve air pressure, and the rest can be done by your beer-drinking buddies.
The cons definitely outweigh the pros for a hand pump. It falls under the cheap category, but I wouldn’t call it a value buy. If you are looking to host a memorable event or if you want a group to truly taste the subtle flavors of a new beer you’ve brewed, you should avoid a hand pump. Here are a few reasons why the hand pump can’t hold a candle to a quality CO₂ beer tap.
You lose flavor fast — Some beers can go stale as fast as 8 hours into a tapped keg with a hand pump. Bacteria penetrate your brew and spoil it, and there is no reversing that process. If you want to keep a delicious draft beer for months, you need to use a different piece of equipment.
Lack of Choice — Unfortunately, you don’t have the same flavor to begin with, even with a fresh keg. You won’t be able to use your favorite high quality draft beer faucet to dispense your beer from a hand pump. Instead you’re stuck with their standard, plastic dispenser. A high quality tap is customizable to fit beer faucets that enhance pour, control, and flavor. You’re stuck with low-quality pour and taste with your run-of-the-mill hand pump. Let’s move on to better options.
The Jockey Box
You’re starting to get away from the limited mobility of the hand pump, and it has become little more than a college memory sans nostalgia. You’ve begun researching your options, and you stumble upon the jockey box. Upon closer inspection, it is a bit more than just a cooler with faucets, and you’re intrigued. How can the jockey box benefit your search for the ultimate tap? How can it hinder you?
How it Works
The name jockey box comes from its mobility, as it is often jockeyed from place to place. The jockey box and your keg are set up near one another, and the beer line from the keg enters through a shank at the back of the jockey box. It progresses through the inside of your jockey box by a set of coils (or plates) and out of the front of the box where it is then poured through the draft beer faucet of your choice. You can choose a larger coil in a larger jockey box for bigger events, and a smaller coil for lesser gatherings that do not have continuous pouring.
The coils must be covered in ice and water inside of your jockey box to maintain temperature and promote proper pouring. As the ice melts, drain some of the water and replace it with more ice. These coils act as a flash chiller for your beer. The keg must be kept cold as well to maintain a perfect temperature. Unlike the hand pump which uses the pump for pressure, the jockey box introduces us to our first CO₂ tap, which uses the CO₂ tank and regulator to funnel the beer into your glass. In a jockey box, beer generally pours at around 25 PSI.
The mobility of your jockey box is definitely a plus. In addition, you can make it look more professional and presentable than a hand pump with added attention to detail and customization.
Finally, some options — The jockey box allows you to choose a custom faucet, enhancing the taste and pour of your favorite draft beer. You can add your brewery’s logo to the box, decorate it, and do any number of things to make it feel like your own. This can give your method of beer dispensing a much cleaner, more grown-up presentation when compared with the hand pump. Add that to the ability to move your box alongside your kegs, and you may be in business.
Faster Chill, Faster Pour —Through the coil mechanism, your beer can get colder faster than with just a traditional on-ice keg. Ice cold beer is definitely one of our best sells. Additionally, the jockey box works well for larger gatherings with its continuous pour and coil size options.
Does the ‘how it works’ section sound a bit complicated? The jockey box, while effective, is one of the most complex beer taps for sale. In addition, while the box is mobile, it isn’t nearly the most mobile choice we have, nor is it the easiest to assemble or put together. If you aren’t experienced with building a jockey box, it can prove cumbersome and meticulous at best, and it may ruin or spill your entire brew at worst.
Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That — The setup and takedown require substantially more time than other tap options, and the whole thing can become a mess with beer-line everywhere. With all of the parts required, it can also become expensive fast—especially if you want better quality, which is why we ditched the hand pump to begin with.
Sustainability —how long will the jockey box hold up? Even with proper construction, the box and its multiple parts are very difficult to keep clean. Even the slightest contaminant can ruin the taste of our brew, and that’s almost a given if you’ve used your box long enough. You’ll begin to taste the difference no matter how hard you scrub.
Waste Not, Want Not — With all of the beer line coming in and out, there is a large potential for waste. Drips and leaks can often cost you an entire pint of beer and valuable time spent cleaning up. Not to mention the professional look you’re going for doesn’t involve your work area becoming a sloppy mess.
The Stainless Steel QuikTap
The QuikTap is a CO₂ draft system designed by brewers for functionality, ease of use, and customization. It was brought about as an alternative to the jockey box by being a system which maintained the mobility of a jockey box without the cumbersome, expensive setup and build time required. It combines the ease and convenience of the hand pump with all the customization, continuous pour, and utility of the jockey box, making it one of the best beer taps for sale in the industry.
How it Works
The QuikTap draft beer system is a quality beer tap that dispenses beer with a continuous supply of CO₂ pressure. The CO₂ in the cylinder is forced into a small space, pushing the molecules together and slowing them down, and as a result the CO₂ becomes colder. It then becomes cold enough to take on liquid form, allowing more CO₂ to fit into a small container. The high-pressure liquid stored within the cylinder is released and a portion evaporates, turning into a gas and powering your draft beer system. It is managed to a safe pressure level by the regulator.
This CO₂ system prevents the kind of oxygen exposure we see with a hand pump, and a result, the beer coming from the QuikTap stays fresh and carbonated for months. QuikTap’s CO₂ cylinder is made of 304 food grade stainless steel and stays uncompromised by any contaminant. Unlike the jockey box, the setup is simple. Tap the keg, adjust the regulator to the desired pressure, and open the faucet to pour your beer. There are no additional tubes required for setup. Like the jockey box, the QuikTap is easily customizable. You can choose from a wide variety of different faucets for your setup like the Perlick 650SS. The Perlick650SS is a stainless steel beer faucet with enhanced flow control that stays strong and corrosion free even after years of use.
The QuikTap stands out from its alternatives with a powerful list of positives. It was designed to combine the great attributes of other draft systems, and it does so admirably. It doesn’t sacrifice any flexibility or mobility, but it still provides ease of use and simplicity.
Keep it Simple — The QuikTap is as easy to set up as the hand pump, but has none of the drawbacks. It is convenient, portable, and simple to use. It takes less than 5 seconds to tighten onto a keg and lock the handle into place. Adjust the regulator to the desired pressure, and you’re ready to drink.
Customizable to Fit Every Possible Scenario — One of the biggest draws of the jockey box is in its versatility, but the QuikTap dwarfs it in this regard. Do you like nitro beers? You can convert your QuikTap into a nitro beer system within minutes, complete with a stout creamer faucet to control your beer’s head. Do you need to expand your operation? The QuikTap has a bulk CO₂ adapter to keep things organized with multiple kegs and a large supply of CO₂. You can even choose a QuikTap for European/import kegs with an S, G, or A coupler.
Wasting Beer is a Crime —You don’t have to worry about finishing everything in one night or dumping your hard-earned or brewed beer. Your beer will last you all the way to the date set by the brewery and it is good to the last pour. The keg can easily be tapped and untapped. Just return the pressure to the proper level (approximately 10 psi for most beers, and 20-25 psi for sodas) before removing the tap.
Less time cleaning, more time drinking —There isn’t much to clean up with the QuikTap. You will rarely lose a drop of beer as the tap is only 12 inches long. There are no hoses to clean or disassemble, no coils to rinse, and packing it up only takes a few moments.
From a functionality standpoint, there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to the QuikTap. The design is meant to give brewers and weekend warriors alike a solid draft beer system, and it does that. There are still a few factors to consider when choosing this system against others.
It’s Not for One Time Use —If you are just looking to host one party and then never purchase a keg again, this may not be a good purchase for you. It is meant to be durable for extended use, and that is where its value comes from. If you’re looking for a one-time gig, the hand pump may be more bang for your buck—even if your guests don’t think so.
Going in for a refill — Unfortunately any serious beer system, including the jockey box, will consume CO₂ with each use. If you don’t have a CO₂ fill system, it can be a chore to go fill up. The hand pump is your alternative, but you’ll be sacrificing a lot of quality as a concession.
What’s the best draft beer system for me?
You should be able to take all of the above factors into account and choose the right beer system for your needs. Your choice should depend on what you are looking to do with your tap and what level of quality you want to attach to your event or brew. A good keg can elevate any occasion, and if you’re brewing your own beer, you undoubtedly want to go with a quality system. I’m certain that your passion for good beer will guide you in the right direction.