Bottling Vs. Kegging

New homebrewers spend a lot of time considering the style of beers they want to brew, but another question to consider early in the process is what to do with your beer after it’s done. With respect to Shakespeare, “To bottle or to keg, that is the question.” Both have their advantages and drawbacks.

Financial Investment

If saving money is the most important factor for you, bottling is the way to go. The initial investment in equipment for bottling (most of which is included in a homebrew starter kit) includes a racking cane, bottling bucket, tubing to transfer the beer from the bucket to the bottles, a bottle filler, and a capper.   Continued expenses for each batch are bottle caps and priming sugar. Assuming you are buying commercial beer, there is no added expense for the bottles that can be reused.

To keg your beer, at the minimum, you’ll need a 5-gallon (19-L) soda keg, a carbon dioxide tank with a regulator, gas and food-safe beer lines, disconnects, and a dispenser. The primary reoccurring expense is refilling the CO2 tank. A 5-gallon (19-L) keg can be kept in a refrigerator, but most commonly it is kept cold in a kegerator, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, but with an old dorm fridge or chest freezer you can make your own for less (check out the November 2008 BYO or the March-April 2011 issue for two different approaches).

Time and Ease

Maybe convenience is more important to you? In that case, kegging may be the way to go. Often the most frustrating chore in homebrewing is cleaning and sanitizing bottles so any bacteria left in them does not contaminate your homebrew. The process is made easier if you clean each bottle immediately after it is emptied so yeast sediment does not harden at the bottom, but no matter how you cut it, cleaning 50 bottles or so is more work than cleaning one keg and its detachable parts. Of course, you can purchase new bottles for each batch, which increases your cost but eliminates the tedious chore of cleaning. After cleaning and sanitizing the bottles, it also takes more time and effort to fill and cap each bottle than it does to rack your beer into a keg. After the bottles are capped there is generally at least a two-week waiting period for your beer to carbonate in bottles. Kegs, on the other hand, can be force-carbonated in a day or two thanks to CO2.


Which option is better for space is a matter of opinion. Because of their size, kegs can often be burdensome without a kegerator, as much of your refrigerator is filled when you put a 5-gallon (19-L) keg in it. With bottles, you can keep a small amount in the fridge and replenish your supply as you drink. However, if you are brewing large batches, or multiple batches, bottles can take up a lot of space where you store them.


If you want to bring some beer to a buddy’s house, bottles are much easier. Dragging a keg and CO2 tank obviously gets cumbersome when all you really need is a six-pack. Bottles are the only option when submitting your homebrew into a competition or giving homebrew away as a gift.

Other Factors

Any homebrewer can recall the batch they bottled with excitement only to be let down weeks later when they opened a bottle and a fountain of foam erupted, or, almost as bad, when there was barely a trace of carbonation. With a keg, carbonation is something you can control and adjust.

Whether you bottle or keg, the choice must be made based on what’s best for you and what you can afford in your homebrewery. Either way, if you brew beer you enjoy drinking and are proud to serve, you can’t go wrong.

Issue: November 2013