Hello. Last month I went down this road so here are my thoughts. There is a quick learning curve when understanding corny kegs but once you understand how it works, you don't have to "relearn it". Also, you have to understand that you are dealing with very high pressure gas that can asphyxiate you so have respect for that little bottle.
I decided to use 5 gallon corny kegs instead of bottling my wine and SPee. After it is clear, campden added, sorbate added and then flavored/sweetened to taste I auto-siphon the SPee into corny kegs. So far I have 2 SPee Kegs, a batch in primary and 2 carboys in secondary. That would be a lot of bottles and I don't like cleaning / sanitizing bottles. Also, you never will have any "bottle bombs" using a keg. Plus I look forward to showing up at a summer gathering with a keg of SP.
Since SPee is really Lemon Wine, I decided to use Argon instead of Carbon Dioxide CO2 to pressurize and purge. The difference (as I have read) is that CO2 permeates into the wine liquid, much like it makes beer carbonated. Argon ever so slightly gets into the wine liquid so when it comes out of the keg it is a little bubbly for a couple minutes. Basically I use the argon to push the SP out of the keg. When I keep a 2 quart container in the fridge and when I want more SP, I simply fill it from a keg using a simple "picnic tap". I don't have to worry about the affects of air getting into my wine.
Now Julie, Arne and others on this forum use the CO2 and they get carbonated sparkling wine / SPee which they like and sounds good to me too. But I use the Argon for all my wine making purging so it's just personal preference. But I also have a CO2 tank.
To answer your questions...
Initial Set Up Cost?
So far my "initial setup" has been around $330 but I am about to order 4 more 5 gallon kegs which will cost me $140 and some elbow grease to clean them up. Again, these are one time initial costs with the exception of refilling the Argon bottle. No wait, I am hoping to spend another $80 to make a Keezer but that's a different story.
I am new(er) to wine making so figure it is either purchase Corny Kegs or Carboys and corny kegs are sooooooo much easier to store (smaller footprint, don't break) and are so much easier to carry (they have big rubber handles on the top). Plus they work great for aging.
Q: What is the Best place to purchase equipment?
If you are going with an all inclusive kit for CO2 I would say http://www.learntobrew.com/store/category/fd3s/Homebrew_Kits.html
is the best. For $155 plus $8 shipping you will get the whole darn set up for 1 keg. All you have to do is rinse the corny keg out with Starsan and get the CO2 filled at your local welding store for $18. I bought one of these before I decided to go the Argon route. Nice regulator.
Buying Corny Kegs - The prices vary so much. There are some overpriced on ebay. and the net. Depends on what shape you want them in. Also for whatever reason, Pepsi Ball Lock kegs are more expensive than Coke Pin Lock Kegs (so I chose coke because I am cheaper but I also had to buy a special socket for $12 to unscrew the valves). From most expensive to least there are 1 .New; 2 .Totally Reconditioned with new gaskets; 3. Will Hold Pressure and 4. No Guarantees - just a Used Corny. I am willing to save a little and get the least expensive. Plus I also factor in the cost of shipping and sales tax. So my total target price per keg is under $35. Check out mceverdistrib.com
I purchased my Argon regulator from Harbor Freight for $35. It can be used for Argon, Nitrogen and CO2 as it comes with different tank fittings. They also have good prices on 20 size cylinders.
I found my 40 argon cylinder on Craigslist for $30 - it was empty but the Hydrostat testing date was current so I just did an even swap at the local welding supply shop and was only charged the cost of a fill - $20.
I purchased extra tubing from my local home brew shop but it is available all over the internet.
Q What is the process for Kegging?
There are many corny cleaning / kegging youtube videos.
Clean and sanitize the keg - do not use bleach - suggest bbright / starsan. Make sure it holds pressure by filling with water and pressurizing to 10 psi or so. Then simply siphon fill it through the oval top (leave air space under the short gas in tube). Then pressurize to a low pressure. All you need is enough pressure to "seat the rubber gaskets". Someone on a forum had a leaking "liquid out" poppit valve so I would suggest storing the kegs on some newspaper or an old towel until you know there are no leaks.
Q Do you have to keep the keg cold?
NO. This is lemonade wine. Same temp as if it was in a secondary carboy or bottled. When it's time to serve, it is best chilled but that's what a tub of ice / pitcher is for or ice cubes. I drink it at any temp but I like wine that way also.
However... keeping multiple kegs cool in the garage is a desire of mine so I found a used $20 johnson control plug in thermostat and have my eye on a $60 7 cubic foot chest freezer to make into a Keezer.
Does the pressurized gas have to be on at all times?
NO. Unless you have really good seals at all points, it will slowly leak from somewhere and you will find yourself with an empty CO2 or Argon cylinder. Just pressurize until it is seated. All you are trying to do is keep outside air outside. I have found that 5 psi is fine but there are others here with much more experience and knowledge.
Hope this helps.
PS - just saw this on the daily homebrewfinds e-mail... $115 for a kegging set up minus the CO2 cylinder which you can get locally. http://www.homebrewfinds.com/2012/03/great-deal-115-kegging-setup.html
Originally Posted by ffemt128
So after our first back sweetening of skeeter pee (partial gallon) last night and Julie being so kind as to bring up kegging on FB. Seriously considering it. I have 10 gallons of pee now and another batch started. Here are my questions....
What is the intitial cost of a kegging set up?
Where is the best place to purchase?
What is the process for kegging?
Do you have to keep the keg cold? (I don't have an extra refridgerator)
Does the CO2 need to be connected at all times or does the pee liquid inside stay carbonated?
Inquiring minds want to know.