Your beer tap or faucet serves two very important purposes.
First, it is the last stop before your home brew makes it into your glass or growler. Second, it is likely the first thing your beer-drinking friends and fans will see when they enter your personal bar or brewing area.
This guide offers the info you need to make the perfect choice for your home bar.
Table of Contents
The Difference Between a Beer Tap and Faucet
While similar, it’s important to know that a beer tap and a faucet are not exactly the same.
The beer tap is the piece that connects the keg to the line. The faucet serves as a valve, which dispenses the beer whenever you are ready for a glass.
A lot of home brewers refer to tap and faucet together as the tap, but it’s important to understand the difference, especially when it comes to ordering parts for either.
Types of Draft Beer Faucets
There are two types of faucets that can be used to dispense beer:
Both work in similar ways, by using a rubber washer to create a seal when the tap handle is closed. The flow of beer that is cut off is helpful to creating a seal. A rubber washer keeps the beer in place.
These faucets are usually the first type of beer faucet that most homebrewers utilize. They close near the back of the faucet, instead of the front. Specifically, the rubber washer is close to where the faucet connects with the shank.
In fact, most kegerators will often come with a rear-sealing faucet. Rear-sealing faucets are efficient and will get the job done, but there is one issue: leftover beer.
When you turn off the faucet, a slight amount of residual beer will still remain in the faucet on the exposed side of the seal. If you use your tap and/or clean it regularly this usually won’t be a problem.
However, if you are a casual beer user these leftover droplets can dry up and lead to bacteria or mold growth. Neither of those you want in your next beer pour.
A lot of experienced home brewers move to a forward-sealing faucet for several reasons.
Most forward-sealing faucets are constructed of stainless steel which is more durable, and won’t add any unwanted flavors to your beer. Also, a number of home brewers believe the design is prettier, and as mentioned above the faucet is often the first and only part of the brewing process that your drinkers will see.
And third, these faucets are more sanitary as there is less opportunity for mold or bacteria to grow. The big disadvantage is that a small amount of the beer remaining behind the seal will be in the nozzle and will no longer be cold.
This can cause a small amount of beer to be foamy and warm when it is dispensed. This is why you see bartenders and commercial brewers immediately dump out the first bit of foam with a pour.
Styles of Beer Faucets
Faucets will come in three basic categories:
- Nitro Stout
These majority of these faucets are rear-sealing, are easy to use and swap out, and are compatible with most systems including standard taps
and keg towers.
These can be used with different attachments that are also standard in size. Most options of standard faucets are available in brass and steel.
There are two basic options, a flow-control model, and a self-closing model.
The flow-control has a manual valve which allows you to control pour speed and flow. The self-closing model automatically closes the tap and seals the beer once you let go of the handle.
The most noticeable feature of a European faucet is the longer spigot, which allows for the beer to pour slower. This faucet is more compatible for those who prefer European beer, as it will produce less foam with the slower pour.
Another plus is that these faucets are easier to fill growlers, so no need for a special attachment. One disadvantage is that European taps will need European accessories and replacement parts, which can be slightly harder and more expensive to purchase.
Beers like stouts and porters are meant to be heavier and served warmer with less carbonation. These types of beer are dispensed using Nitrogen, rather than CO2.
To preserve these elements, a special stout faucet is recommended. This faucet has a special disc that makes for a longer, slower pour which eliminates much of the carbon dioxide. This leads to that creamier head and distinctive feel of stouts and porters.
Most nitro stout faucets can be easily converted to a traditional CO2 dispensing system by removing the disc from the tap. This will allow you to serve your other ales and lagers.
Taps and faucets are generally made of one of these three materials:
- Stainless steel
- Chrome-plated brass
This is the classic faucet. Stainless steel is long lasting and will not negatively affect the flavor of your beer. A faucet and tap made from all stainless steel will also not pit or tarnish.
The biggest drawback is that the stainless steel faucets are usually more expensive than similar styles made from other materials, but for the durability it might be worth spending a few extra dollars.
Chrome-plated faucets are shiny and eye-catching, and are relatively inexpensive. The main issue is that chrome, which is plated brass, can chip, pit, and scratch.
Not only will that affect how it looks, but sometimes the brass can alter the flavor of your beer, especially if you do not use the right cleaning solution.
Although not very common in commercial establishments or on a home kegerator, plastic faucets are available.
They are cost effective, extremely durable and won’t break down. As long as you get a plastic faucet that utilizes food grade materials, then you won’t notice any taste difference.
The big problem is that when the plastic does eventually scratch, it can give a place for bacteria and mold to hide. Regular cleaning is a must if using a plastic tap and faucet.
These specialty faucets have certain traits which you might find appealing to your specific home bar needs:
- Flow control
Self-closing faucets can cut down on wasted beer, especially when being used in a bar or pub.
It looks and feels like your average stainless steel bar tap, with one exception: a spring inside quickly closes the tap once you let go of the handle.
But for most homebrewers who are only filling pint glasses and the occasional growler, a self-closing beer faucet isn’t really needed.
As you might expect, there is an adjustable valve that allows you to control the flow of your beer.
This feature comes in handy when frequently changing out kegs from one style of beer to another. The valve will let you adjust the amount of foam for a particular style of beer.
It is perfect for pouring small beer flight samples or filling up a growler, and gives you the best control when dispensing high carbonated beers, kombucha, and carbonated cocktails too.
This is a specialty item that adds a little finesse to your pour.
Just like most beer faucets, you dispense the beer by pulling the handle forward, but when you push the handle backwards, you will get a generous amount of foam in your glass. You control the amount of head on your beer, leaving exactly what you want without overflow or not having enough.
Home brewers strive to control every aspect of their brew. That control should extend to the last possible moment, which is when the beer enters the glass.
Being able to serve the beer as it is intended is the final touch, so check out our list of the best draft beer taps and faucets here. You’ve worked hard on crafting your beer, so make sure you enjoy the fruits (and hops) of your labor the right way!
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