Filling a KeyKeg manually couldn’t be simpler: all you need to do is order a KeyKeg filling head, follow the online instructions and voila, you’re filling. It’s how many breweries started out. However, the demand for beer in KeyKegs is increasing dramatically. What do you do once your few hundred KeyKegs become a few thousand?
Laurent Engel, technical sales manager, sees many brewers running up against the limits of manual filling. ”One good example is the Brewdog brewery. They began with just a few hundred KeyKegs, and now they’re filling tens of thousands. Recently they decided to switch to machine filling. That decision didn’t take long, since besides being faster and more efficient, machine filling can also guarantee more consistent quality than manual filling. That’s especially important if you’re shipping beer to far-off places with warmer climates.”
Peter Mackenrodt, CEO of m+f KEG-Technik, a major supplier of KeyKeg filling machines, is also noticing this trend: ”Machine filling minimizes the chances of excess oxygen uptake and hygiene problems. We give KeyKeg customers intensive support in their transition from manual to machine filling. Small- and medium-sized breweries don’t always know how to make a filling machine fit in with the rest of the brewery. That’s why we always give advice about the utility plan, from hose diameters all the way to suitable compressors. We also equip filling machines with remote-readable and programmable PLC’s, which enables us to support KeyKeg customers quickly and efficiently.”
Thornbridge also recently put a KeyKeg filling machine into operation. Head brewer Rob Lovatt tells why: ”We switched from manual to automatic filling a few months ago, and it’s worked out very well. We now fill on average three days a week. We had a few issues with manual filling, and machine filling has eliminated them. Given how quickly demand for our beers in KeyKegs is rising, I’m happy we took this step at an early stage.”
Along with the many advantages, Laurent also sees potential traps in automatic filling. ”Filling machines deliver a more consistent quality. But the brewer needs to get the right meter and parameter settings from the beginning and check them every month, and also check how the machine is working. Unfortunately, we have noticed that in practice, people aren’t that careful. This lack of care has a direct influence on the shelf life of the beer. You’re not getting everything that KeyKeg has to offer and you’re running an unnecessary risk of oxidized beer.