Breaking Down the Tap Handle, Keg and Cask
Updated: Feb 17
Tap Handles are an integral part of a whole system that delivers beer. We thought we'd break that system down and talk about the parts of the beer delivery mechanisms.
The Tap Handle, faucet handle or beer tap is the first thing touched (besides the glass) when dispensing your beer, wine, cider, coffee, or whatever delicious liquid your keg or cask holds. It is a valve that controls the release of beer (liquid), and made of any kind of material you choose. The tap handle is decorative, informative, functional, and of course we KNOW it is the most important part of the whole system, but we’re biased.
Often comprised of a Finial (top decorative knob), a middle portion (often made of wood, resin, ceramic, glass or metal) and a Ferrule (bottom ring or cap that strengthens the end of the tap handle, usually a standard 3/8” coarse thread in North America), the tap handle is a well known part of the entire beer equipment.
Beer Equipment Parts
After the tap handle, there are more parts to consider to get the beer to the glass.
The faucet is where the liquid comes out. They range in price and quality, and some nitrogen dispensed stout beers such as Guiness require a European specialty faucet. It is important to know that the most important part of the faucet is cleaning it regularly (as well as the rest of the tubing that the beer flows through.)
The shank connects the beer line to the faucet. It has external threading that runs through the hole in whatever you are trying to connect the faucet to (fridge, draft tower hole, wall…) The faucet then screws onto the shank, and the beer line attaches to the other end via a hose barb.
The beer line is a 3/16 diameter food grade plastic tube that connects the shank to the keg coupler.
The air line is also a plastic tube, but is 5/16 inch diameter and connects the keg coupler to the regulator and powers the liquid to dispense.
Compressed gas cylinders: Carbon dioxide or Nitrogen tanks are aluminum tanks that power the system.
Portable Keg Tap
The typical backyard party will have a portable keg tap that is run with elbow grease. The pump on the top of the keg allows one to hand pump air into the keg, giving the pressure it needs to force the beer out. The beer spoils faster due to the Oxygen exposure, but is normally consumed in a short period of time, so get drinking or get skunky!
Cask Beer Tap
Cask ales do not use artificial gas. The cask taps are simple taps that open and close the cask and the beer is poured out via gravity. If the beer is making a distance from a cellar to the tap, there may be need of a beer engine (normally manually operated, but sometimes uses electricity or gas).
Cask beer is unfiltered, unpasteurized beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide pressure. (Wikipedia)
Casks were eventually replaced with kegs, however casks are making a comeback for some brewers in small batches.
What’s the difference between a keg and a cask?
A keg has a central downtime and a valve that allows beer in and lets gas out while filling. Then while dispensing, the beer goes out and the gas comes in.
Casks and barrels are designed to allow sediment to be retained inside while a keg is designed to dispense all beer from inside.
More Trivial Information about Tap Handle Parts:
Dry decals vs waterslide
Tap handles are produced in many different ways and the process depends on the comfort level of the producer or artist.
Many tap handles that are mass created use waterslide decals because they are cheap and easy to produce, and easy to apply.
Dry decals are also easy to produce, and take only a little practice to apply. It’s easy to remove and replace a decal as needed. The colour is vibrant, and they are extremely hardy when it comes to scratching, cleaning and constant use.
Using the appropriate materials allows the product to live a full, long life.
- No damage to application surface (electronics, etc).
- No complications on white surfaces
- Easy to handleDurable
- Allow for true white
- Follow curves without quality loss
- Available in metallic
- Have an edge
- Potential water damage to surfaces not meant for water
- Yellow carrier material shows on white
- Messy, delicate, difficult to handle
- Unable to print true white on inkjet
- Difficult on curved surface - wrinkle, lose shape
- Scratch and damage if not lacquered or covered