TOM’S BREW SHOP, owner Tom Schurmann has over 25 years experience converting soda beverage tanks into ultra durable portable liquid dispensing systems. Our products have sold in 50 states and 30 Countries. We got into the Home-Brewing business by accident. In the fall of 2010 I was hunting for more 5 gallon tanks and came upon a local ad on Craig’s list for hundreds of used Ball Locks. I jumped and responded immediately, buying almost 400 tanks. Once we had them, we noticed something unusual. All of them had shortened dip tubes of about an 1 inch. Having never seen this before I asked one of our suppliers if they had any knowledge of why this would be. We found out that some Home-brewers cut the dip tubes to avoid picking up sediments from their fermenting process. This caused a problem, as our portable sprayers need to be able to empty the entire contents when used. The fix would have been to replace every dip tube with a full length version, which made the cost higher than we could work with. Moments later an idea popped up that these could be sold to Home-brewers, so we placed an ad on Craig’s list and started selling them like crazy. The demand was so great, that we saw the potential for a new business.
I will be honest and state, that I have not brewed much so far and do not pretend to be an expert on brewing. I will say that I have as much or more experience dealing with these tanks than anyone in Colorado or several surrounding states. We can not only tell you almost anything about these tanks, who made them, what fittings work and how many ways we can swap, convert, fix & repair them. Our connections with tank suppliers is extensive throughout the US and Canada, as well as Europe and Asia. When everyone else is out of stock, we usually have a large supply on hand. This being said it is now 3 years later and the supply of used 5 gallon kegs has become extremely limited to the point that finding any source is pure luck now. 25-30 years ago I could buy these or was even given these for as low as five dollars each. Now we pay multiple times as much to find that many if not half of them are in need of serious repairs, including cracked welds, rubber tops and bottoms loose or falling of, massive dents, unable to hold pressure and filthy from sitting in fields for years with nasty smelly old soda syrup still inside and years of old decals petrified on the exteriors. the amount of work involved to offer these as usable for your brewing needs if huge. we started by checking to see if they are holding pressure when we receive them. Next is dumping out the old rotten syrup which can be quite and experience (GAG), next rinsing and scrubbing the insides, after that we use heat guns and razor blades to remove old brand labels. We then scrub the exteriors with and adhesive remover to clean all the old stickiness from the old labels and lightly polish the stainless using Scotchbrite. Depending of the color of the rubber tops, black being the easiest to clean, the blues, reds, or other light colors are almost impossible to clean up. After 30 years we just recently found a military grade adhesive that actually works to re-glue the tops or bottoms back on. We had tried at least 3 dozens brands and types over the years, luckily our friend Todd over at Keg Connection told us about finding this great adhesive for which we are very grateful. While checking pressure holding ability, we check high and low pressure specifically in order to be sure the lids seal when you only have 3-10psi as well as making sure your kegs hold no less than 80psi for safety. All of these kegs were designed to hold up to 130psi with the safety relief valves usually letting pressure escape at 100psi or more. The keg posts/plugs get a thorough check for leaks and sticking. A large percent have bad internal poppet valves, needing to be replaced. You can easily see why these kegs no longer sell for 20-30 bucks like they did for so many years. In the past I would make a quick call and have 100-200 completely refurbished, tested with the dents removed and even polished, kegs delivered within a week for less than we pay now for absolutely any keg. The prices you see now are not a ripoff and we hear from time to time. They are priced due to the tremendous amount of work it takes to make them usable for your brewing experience. we spend as much and 15-20 dollars after buying these kegs in parts and labor. You will also find that the large stashes in the US and Canada are pretty well gone with the only choice of finding reasonable priced new kegs. 2 years ago we brought in several kegs from Chinese manufactures and were very close to purchasing large quantities. Due to thorough testing we found that the materials did not meet NSF or FDA standards, the 304 stainless steel was of an inferior quality and was most likely recycled stainless. The welds were hand done with shoddy workmanship covered up by grinding the welds smoother to hide pinholes and defects. The tanks that were sent had a layer of rust visible by the time they arrived. Testing proved the material was barley 301 stainless and careful measurements showed the metal to be inconsistent in thickness and uniformity. Unfortunately these kegs have made their way into the US and are being sold as quality replacements for used kegs. Our ties to the industry have shown us that at this time we would only recommend new tanks from a company in Italy or a new copy that is being produced in India, with both meeting NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) Standards. I have also chatted with the original US manufacture that farmed out the kegs overseas years ago. There is a possibility that this US company may begin producing these kegs once again and bring a great high quality alternative to brewers in the future. I will update this upon hearing any news.
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