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May 17, 2022

Using a Beer Engine | The Ultimate Beginners Guide

What if we told you that there was a device that could help you pour beer from traditional cask-conditioned ales? Pouring the perfect beer every time. And all you had to do was follow a few simple steps with a hand pump? The Beer Engine is just that device, and this guide will show you how to use it like a pro. Whether it's mounted to the bar top or used with a clamp on.

The engine is a hand-operated pump that is used to draw beer from a cask or keg. Dispensing real ale. It is also known as a beer “handpump”, and is a common sight in British pubs. With a few bars using them today in the states.

The beer engine was invented in the early 19th century and has been used in pubs ever since. It gives the beer a distinct texture and feel from modern-day dispensing systems you see today. We're going to talk about this fascinating piece of equipment. So let's go.

What is a Beer Engine Device?

The pressure created by the pump displaces the beer from the barrel or cask and into the glass.  When using a hand pump it takes about a minute to pour a perfect pint this is because when using the hand pump you'll be pulling beer from the cask and you're gonna have to let the beer in the pint settle before adding more beer to it. This was the way to pour beer before we started using co2 systems and Nitrogen dispensing systems.

Picture of a Beer Engine
Counter Mount Engine

How Does a Beer Engine Work?

A beer engine is a hand-pumped device. Pulling the handle sucks the beer or ale from the cask, and back in the day, one would need to vent the cask because a vacuum would be created otherwise. This also meant that the beer would need to be consumed quickly because of contact with oxygen.  Now a days, you can use an engine with a cornelius keg or other keg. Hook up a low c02 pressure line around 5 psi. This way you can serve beer from an engine that will last awhile and still give you that magical taste.

The engine will serve about a quarter of a pint with each pull. Guests will enjoy this style of beer and it's been around since the 19th century. The swan neck of the engine is distinctly visible from any part of the room. Customers will be wowed by this marvel if it's the first time they've seen it in use.

How Do I use a Beer Engine?

In the past beer was poured into the cistern through a hand pump or beer engine. The brew engines are dispenser devices geared to traditionally made beers in cask conditions. The device allows the beer to be stored beneath the bar, pulled out of the bar, or poured into the barrel.

Attach the engine to the cask or barrel. Make sure the tap is in the closed position. Pump the handle of the beer engine until you feel resistance. This means that the pressure has built up enough to start dispensing beer. Open the tap and allow the beer to flow into your glass. When you're finished, close the tap and release the pressure on the beer engine by depressing the handle.

What Are The Benefits?

There are many benefits of using a beer engine. One benefit is that it helps to maintain carbonation in the beer. Another benefit is that it can help to dispense cask-conditioned beer and cask-conditioned ale. Additionally, using an engine can also replace the nostalgia and campaign for real ale dispensing it like people did back in the day.

What are Some of The Drawbacks?

One drawback of using an engine is that it can be difficult to clean. Additionally, if not used properly, a beer engine can cause foam and over-agitate the beer, which can lead to a loss of carbonation. Finally, beer engines require regular maintenance and care in order to function properly.

Parts of an Engine

Here is a list of the main parts in an engine below. As well as, how it operates.

Parts of an Engine
Step 1 with an Engine
Step 2 With an Engine

Piston Pump and Cylinder

Located on the back of the beer engine. This is where the beer pulled from the cask ale and pulled into the piston pump and dispensed.

Sparkler

A sparkler is a device which is positions in nozzles in brewery engines. In some cases, a sparkler may be used to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the beer before it is dispensed. This can help to improve the flavor and aroma of the beer. Sparklers are also used to prevent the formation of foam on the surface of the beer. By using a sparkler, brewers can help to ensure that their beer maintains its carbonation and has a pleasing appearance.

Swan Neck

This is the unique dispensing head of a beer engine the swan neck and usually at the end of the swan neck you can attach a sparkler to the end of the nozzle

Beer Line from Cask

Do you want to add 3/8 ID half inch vinyl beer line to connect from the end of your cylinder to the beer engine so I can pull beer from your cask or ale

Pump Handle

The pump is used to pull the handle forward to start the flow of beer from your cask or keg we need to use this so it operates the pump piston pump connected the cylinder of your beer engine

Drip Tray

Drip trays used to collect the beer from the engine wants to poured and make sure it doesn't make a mess on your counter or floor

Cask Check Valve

When extreme gravity situations or a gas pump is installed, it is important to have a check valve in place in order to keep the beer from flowing out of the engine. This wall mount installation will provide the necessary security for cask (firkin) dispense on the first floor. Simply install the check valve and it will allow for free flow of beer when extreme gravity or a gas pump is present. This is an essential component for any engine, and will ensure that your beer is kept fresh and flavorful. 

Cleaning a Beer Engine Device

It's important to clean your engine after each use to prevent bacteria from growing. Start by disconnecting the beer engine from the cask or barrel. Remove the tap and disassemble the parts. Clean all of the parts with water and a cleaning solution. Caustic solution of 2 to 3% would be suitable to clean a beer engine and it's lines.Soak and Rinse the parts well. Allow them to air dry. Reassemble the beer engine and connect it to the cask or barrel.

Where Can I buy One?

You can buy a beer engine online. I'd recommend the ones you can find on Micromatic if you are here in the states. They are made by a company called Angram, or you can go directly to the Angram site and order one. 

One, you can get a clamp-on engine for your countertop or two you can get one and mount it. Make sure to select a model that is made specifically for dispensing cask-conditioned beer, as this will ensure the best results.

Once you have selected the perfect beer engine for your needs, be sure to clean and maintain it on a regular basis to ensure that your beer always tastes its best.

Summary

In this blog post, we have discussed the beer engine. Benefits and drawbacks. . Finally, we have outlined the steps necessary to clean an engine device. We hope that you have found this information helpful and informative.

If you have any questions about beer engines or would like to learn more about them, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any of your questions. Check out the rest of my educational topics at my blog here.

Cheers!

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About the author

I've been a draft beer technician for over 10 years  building, designing, and installing large commercial beer systems. Through the years I've worked on breweries, tap houses, casinos and stadiums around the country.

I enjoy sharing my passion for draft beer dispensing by talking about it, recommending dispensing equipment I've used in commercial installs, or private settings. 

Cheers!

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