A keg coupler is a tool, responsible for unlocking draft beer from a keg. It's also known by other names such as, Tavern head, Sankey, Keg tap, and Sankey coupler. It is one of the most important parts of a draft beer system.
After reading this, you will know how to pick the right coupler, how to use a coupler and the best way to maintain your Tavern head. Let’s get started.
How Does a Keg Coupler Work?
The coupler is a piece of equipment where the airline, usually consisting of C02 or Nitrogen, and beer product line, come together to tap a keg. Beer exits the top of the coupler and the airline feeds the front of the sanke like this picture below.
What is The Most Common Keg Coupler?
The most common coupler in the US is the D coupler or “D” System Coupler. This coupler will fit most kegs in America, and if you aren’t sure about the type of coupler or sankey needed to tap a keg. The best thing you can do is ask your local distributor who carries that type of beer. They’ll point you in the right direction.
How to Change a Coupler?
When you need to change a keg of beer you're going to need to change a coupler.
First, you want to line the slots on the side of the tavern heard with the tag ends on the keg collar. They'll be opposite of one another. Match these two so that the tag ends on the collar of the keg slip between the notched out area of the coupler.
Next, turn the coupler clockwise until it stops rotating. This is usually about a quarter turn. Pull the lever out and push down until the lever locks in place. You now have a tapped keg of beer.
To take off a coupler you will do the opposite. Pull the handle back and up. You should hear the coupler unseat the keg. Next, turn the coupler a quarter-turn counterclockwise until the coupler disengages the keg.
Congratulations, you know how to change a keg coupler. Here’s a video below showing how to do this below with a D system coupler.
What Are The Different Types?
This is a picture of 5 different types of couplers below. You have the A system, D system, G system S system, and U system. Remember, the D system Coupler is the most used in America. Beers that need other keg couplers most of the time are European.
There are more types of couplers out there, but these are alternatives sankes you're likely to see.
For a complete list of coupler requirements for beer, check out this list from Micro Matic. Get the right coupler.
How Much is a Keg Coupler ?
It depends on the style of the coupler and what it is made of. I am always going to recommend stainless steel products. Couplers will range from around $ 30 dollars up to $ 100 dollars for some of the Euro couplers. Keep in the mind the benefits of a stainless steel couplers vs cheap chrome-plated ones are;
- Stainless Steel Equipment lasts longer
- More Sanitary.
- Can pour other products like wine, cider, cocktails, and coffee
- Won't chip and flake like chrome-plated products
Keg Coupler Options
Best Overall - Micro Matic 7485SS
My best overall coupler is Micro Matic’s Stainless Steel coupler. This is the coupler I use for all my installs. It’s reliable, last’s a long time and I can use it on any product, wine, coffee, cider, and beer. When you disengage this coupler from kegs, there’s no leaking from the probe of the coupler.
Some couplers will leak if you disengage from the keg causing a mess in your walk-in cooler, or kegerator. This coupler retails for about $ 40 dollars and is worth every penny.
Best Runner Up - Micro Matic 7485BS
I'm going to recommend another coupler from the same company Micro Matic. They are the industry standard when it comes to draft beer equipment. Most of my installs use one of the two couplers listed above. I trust both of these couplers on large casino projects and my brewery projects. They get the job done and are reliable. Which minimizes service calls to properties. More importantly, I can count of the keg coupler to do its job.
This beer coupler is chrome plated on the outside of the coupler, but still has a stainless-steel probe that penetrates the keg, and beer is in contact with the stainless part of the coupler. This coupler is a great alternative to the one above and has a price point just under $40 dollars.
Alternative Keg Coupler Option
This is the type of coupler you would use with a keg at a tailgate, party, or place without a conventional tap system. The Party pump pumps draft beer from the top of the keg through a hand pump. Very quick to set up. Tap the keg as you would with a regular coupler. Start pumping the keg to get beer flow, while opening the plastic faucet.
Separate Equipment Needed for The Keg Coupler
- Beer Hex Nut
- Beer Washer
- 3/8" Hose Fitting
- 3/16" Hose Fitting ( Use if setting up Kegerator instead of 3/8" hose fitting)
- These are not Included with a standard coupler and need to be purchased separately
For the hose fittings I recommend a 3/16 SS hose fitting. This is usually used in kegerators and Direct Draw systems. The second one is ⅜ SS hose fitting. You will use one or the other hose fitting on top of your coupler. More than likely it will be a 3/16 SS hose fitting. So, I'd recommend getting that. If you have a commercial beer system I'd recommend the 3/8" hose fitting.
The beer hex nut and washer are universal, but you will need these three items to complete your keg coupler before you use it. You will also need an otiker clamp or a hose clamp to lock the hoses, (one for beer side and one for C02.)
How to Clean Keg Coupler
Unscrew the beer hex nuts on top of the coupler and in the front, over the airline. Take the hose fittings out, the washer, and beer nut. Separate these pieces on a flat surface.
Next, take the beer nut, Thomas valve. Which is a plastic piece designed for gas to enter one way and block beer from entering the air line. Mix a solution of cleaner for the coupler.
I recommend Five Star PBW for this. It’s a well-known cleaner for beer equipment and parts.
Scrub the outside of the coupler inside the solution with a toothbrush to kill any bacteria that might be on the equipment.After that, place keg coupler and other parts in the cleaning solution and scrub with a toothbrush.
Once finished with that step. Rinse the coupler and coupler parts in warm water to rinse off the cleaning solution.
After drying the parts reassemble the beer nuts, gasket and hose fittings.
How to Connect a Keg Coupler to a Draft Beer System
Connecting a beer coupler to a draft beer system is relatively easy. First, you’ll need to connect the product line to the top of the coupler, or beer line and the red airline to the front of the coupler.
These connections are locked in with Otiker clamps or hose clamps. Personally, I prefer the oitker clamps because it's a very solid connection.
If you want to use hose clamps you can pick them up at your local hardware store, and I believe it’s the smallest size available.
We learned a lot about couplers and how they function, but more importantly you now know how to use it. We also talked about the recommended couplers to use.
Lastly, we talked about preventative maintenance. How to clean the coupler, solutions to use, and how to get all set up again.
If you would like to learn about Draft Beer Systems in General I encourage you to check out our Ultimate guide Draft Beer System Fundamentals it will give you the information needed to understand the 80% that's the most important.
Feel free to reach out if you have further questions Cheers!