Beverage Equipment

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An Overview of Beer & Wine Dispensing Equipment

Beer and wine dispensing equipment supply drafts in conjunction with refrigeration equipment. In the case of beer, these systems keep the beverage temperatures at the optimum 36 degrees F during storage and between 38 degrees and 40 degrees F while serving.

Kegs hold the equivalent of 26 bottles of wine, speeding up service and saving labor, since staff do not have to pull corks. Also, because dispensed wine is exposed to a limited amount of air, unlike bottled wine, there is often less waste and fewer quality issues. These systems can hold 2 different white wine varieties at required temperatures in the low 40s to low 50s and 2 reds between 55 degrees F and 65 degrees F.

The type and size of these systems depends on how much beer and wine will be on tap; the distance between the bar and kegs/cooler; and if beer or wine will be dispensed with nitrogen. Kegs for both beverages typically last 90 days and can be easily changed in and out.

Types of Systems

In terms of equipment types for beer and wine, operators can choose between two options. The first type, direct draw, is a simple, self-contained system with between one and four doors, in addition to a dispensing tower and beer and/or wine taps on top. These systems are typically located behind the bar, which means they require a dedicated spot. Because these systems offer limited storage space, direct draw units are geared for operations with fewer beer and wine selections. Also, with these units, operators may need to change kegs more often.

The growing popularity of brewers supplying beer in one-sixth size, also called skinny kegs, makes it easier for establishments to offer more diverse beer selections. With a smaller diameter of about 9 inches, as many as four skinny kegs can fit into one door of a direct draw cooler compared to one standard-size keg.

Larger operations and those with more extensive bar service may be best served by remote beer and wine dispensing systems. Unlike direct draw, these units house the beverages in a dedicated walk-in cooler, which is not directly adjacent to the serving area. Insulated trunk lines installed in the floor or ceiling carry beer and wine from the containers in the cooler directly to the tap. The number of lines varies, depending on the different types of product served and includes separate lines circulating chilled glycol through the bundle to keep it cold. A separate refrigeration unit, called a line chiller or power pack, chills a bath of glycol and includes a pump to circulate the glycol through the line set. Because kegs can be run in a series with these units, these don’t have to be changed out as often as with direct-draw systems.

With a remote-draw system it is important to maintain balance between the pressure and temperature or the beer can become over carbonated and foamy and wine flavor can be compromised. The carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange during drafting also must remain consistent or beer can become flat over time. As a rule, any air taken out of a keg must be replaced. Also, the distance between the keg and tap determine how much pressure needs to be applied to get the beer and wine to properly tap. During installation, calculations need to be made in terms of the length of the lines and power pack size to achieve the optimum balance.

In addition to being more expensive, remote-draw dispensers require more equipment and greater logistics when installing. The benefits with this type are that valuable space behind the bar is preserved and operators can accommodate more extensive beer offerings.

Wine dispensing systems with storage for bottles and kegs provide from one to three doors. These hold three 1/6 kegs in each tapping compartment and some models store up to 48 wine bottles.

Another type has individual compartment temperature controls and storage drawers for up to 30 wine bottles.

Underbar storage wine dispensing units have two compartments with independent temperature zones that fit two 1/6 slim kegs.

Because wine is acidic, all kegs, connectors, faucets and anything it comes in contact with must be 304 stainless steel. Otherwise, the metal or material will become reactive and impact the flavor.