How much does a sixtel hold?

A sixtel is a keg that holds one sixth of a barrel, which is equivalent to about 5 U.S. gallons or 18.9 liters. So a sixtel holds approximately 5 gallons or 18.9 liters of beer or other liquids.

What is a Sixtel?

A sixtel, sometimes spelled as “sixth barrel”, is a stainless steel keg used to store and transport draft beer. It is one sixth the size of a standard beer barrel, which holds 31 gallons or 117 liters.

Some key facts about sixtels:

  • A sixtel holds 5 U.S. gallons or 18.9 liters.
  • It is a quarter keg, as it holds a quarter of the volume of a standard quarter barrel keg.
  • Sixtels are commonly used at bars, restaurants, catering companies, and other establishments that serve draft beer.
  • They allow for smaller quantities of beer to be kept on tap instead of having to tap a full size half barrel or quarter barrel keg.
  • Sixtels are cylindrical in shape and approximately 23.3 inches tall with a diameter of 9.25 inches.
  • They are meant to be stored and dispensed vertically using a compatible tap system.
  • Sixtels are reusable and returned to the brewery to be cleaned, refilled, and redistributed.

So in summary, a sixtel is a small stainless steel keg that holds exactly 5 gallons or 18.9 liters of draft beer. It allows for flexibility when tapping and serving beer.

History of the Sixtel Keg

The sixtel keg was introduced in the 1960s as a smaller keg size than the standard half barrel. It was designed to provide greater flexibility for taprooms, bars, and restaurants that wanted to offer a variety of draft beers but did not have the space for multiple full size half barrel kegs.

Some key events in the history of the sixtel keg:

  • Pre-1960s – Half barrels were the most common draft beer vessel. Serving a variety of brands required a lot of space.
  • 1960s – Introduction of the sixtel keg, holding 5 gallons of beer.
  • 1970s – Popularity grew as taprooms embraced craft beers and variety.
  • 1980s – Use expanded with growth of microbreweries needing smaller vessels.
  • 1990s – Brewpubs relied heavily on sixtels for in-house brews.
  • 2000s – Continued growth along with quarter barrel kegs.
  • Today – Widely used by breweries, bars, restaurants and other vendors.

The sixtel offered the flexibility to serve different beers while using less space. This allowed the growth of microbrews and craft beers to flourish. Sixtels are now a standard keg size alongside half barrels and quarter barrels.

Standard Dimensions and Specifications

Sixtel kegs have specific dimensions and capacities that are standardized across the beer industry. The key specifications for a sixtel keg are:

  • Total Volume: 5 U.S. gallons or 18.9 liters
  • Height: 23.3 inches or approximately 59 cm
  • Diameter: 9.25 inches or approximately 23.5 cm
  • Empty Weight: Approximately 22 pounds or 10 kg
  • Full Weight: Approximately 44 pounds or 20 kg
  • Opening Diameter: 2.44 inches or approximately 6.2 cm
  • Pressure Rating: 130 psi or approximately 9 bar
  • Material: Stainless Steel – Usually Type 304 or Type 316

There can be some variation among sixtel kegs from different manufacturers, but they adhere closely to these standard dimensions. This ensures consistency with the fittings used to tap and dispense them. The specifications allow sixtels to be efficiently stacked, stored, and transported.

Common Brands and Manufacturers

There are a handful of major companies that manufacture sixtel kegs and supply them to breweries and beverage companies around the world:

  • American Keg Company – One of the largest keg manufactures in the U.S.
  • Blefa Kegs – A German company and one of the largest keg suppliers in Europe.
  • Kegco – An American company focused on innovative keg technology.
  • Micro Matic – Global supplier of beverage dispense equipment including kegs.
  • Schaefer Kegs – An American keg company with over 100 years in the industry.
  • THIELMANN – German keg manufacturer and known for their high quality stainless steel kegs.

In addition to these major manufacturers, there are also some smaller regional keg companies throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. But the brands listed above make up a significant portion of the global sixtel keg production and supply.

Common Uses for Sixtel Kegs

Sixtel kegs have some common applications in commercial beverage supply and service:

  • Taprooms – To allow a variety of craft beers on tap without needing full size kegs for each brand.
  • Restaurants and bars – To rotate different draft beers on taps as selections change. Easy to swap sixtels.
  • Catering and events – For mobile draft beer service at weddings, festivals, conferences, etc.
  • Beer samplers – Allow patrons to sample four to six different draft beers in smaller servings.
  • Small batch brews – For microbreweries and brewpubs, sixtels allow small batch one-off brews.
  • Homebrewers – Some hobbyist homebrewers utilize cornelius sixtels for Five-gallon batches.

The flexibility of the small size and lower volume of beer in a sixtel make it ideal for many commercial settings. It facilitates variety, experimentation, and efficiency in draft beer service.

Basic anatomy of a sixtel keg

Sixtel kegs have a simple cylindrical design, but contain some key components:

  • Stainless steel walls – Made from type 304 or 316 stainless for durability and cleanliness.
  • Top lid and opening – Allows the keg to be filled, cleaned, and sealed.
  • Spear assembly – Internal component that dispenses the beer using gas pressure.
  • Coupler grooves – External grooves that allow a coupler to attach to the keg opening.
  • Pickup tube – Internal tube that draws beer from the bottom of the keg.
  • Vent hole – Hole that allows gas to enter and pressurize the empty space.
  • Bottom drain hole – A small drain hole for cleaning and emptying.
  • Pressure relief valve – Safety device that releases gas if over-pressurized.
  • ID tags and markings – Identifies brand, production info, and other details.

These components allow a sixtel keg to safely contain, preserve, dispense, and transport draft beer. The simple and durable stainless steel design makes sixtels reusable over many years.

How to Tap and Dispense from a Sixtel

Tapping and dispensing from a sixtel keg requires some specialized equipment and proper technique:

  1. Obtain a compatible sixtel coupler, regulator, hoses, and faucet tower.
  2. Secure the full sixtel vertically and pressurize to around 12 PSI using CO2 or nitrogen gas.
  3. Connect the sixtel coupler over the opening and rotate to lock into grooves.
  4. Connect gas and beer outlet hoses from the coupler to regulator and faucet.
  5. Turn regulator knob to around 12 PSI pressure for balanced dispensing.
  6. Open the faucet to allow beer to flow. Dispense into glassware only.
  7. When finished, turn off and depressurize the gas lines.
  8. Rinse all lines, close faucet, and detach coupler.

Proper personal protective equipment like gloves and eye protection should be used when handling and tapping sixtels. Date and label each sixtel to track age and rotation.

Serving and Glassware for Sixtels

When serving and dispensing beer from a sixtel, here are some guidelines on glassware and serving sizes:

  • Use a 12-16 oz tulip pint glass. Or a 14 oz mug for ales and stouts.
  • Clean glassware is essential – should have no residual detergents or debris.
  • Chilled glassware helps keep the beer cold and slows foaming.
  • Only fill glasses 3/4 full to leave room for foaming head.
  • Use beer cleaners and rinse agents to prevent beer stone buildup on glassware.
  • Clean faucet and tap lines regularly to minimize contamination.
  • Portion sizes are typically 12-16 oz pours. Can adjust coupler for specific pour sizes.
  • A sixtel can typically pour 55-65 12 oz servings when taking loss and foam into account.

Following proper glassware and serving practices helps ensure the optimal flavor and presentation of draft beer from sixtels.

Storing and Caring for Sixtel Kegs

To maintain the quality and shelf life of beer in sixtel kegs, proper storage and care is essential:

  • Store kegs upright and immobilized to prevent damage from falling over.
  • Keep refrigerated at 38°F if not being immediately dispensed.
  • Do not let beer come into contact with direct sunlight, as this skunks the beer.
  • Clean, sanitize and re-pressurize any tapped kegs immediately.
  • Check lid seals and pressure relief valves periodically for defects.
  • Rotate stock to use oldest kegs first following FIFO methods.
  • Rinse kegs with water immediately after tapping to prevent dried beer residue.
  • Return empty kegs promptly for cleaning, refilling and redistribution.

Following best practices for sixtel storage and care will help maximize shelf life and maintain optimal beer quality.

Troubleshooting Common Sixtel Issues

Some common issues that can arise with sixtel kegs include:

Issue Potential Causes Solutions
Flat beer Insufficient gas pressure
Empty CO2 tank
Reset regulator to 12 PSI
Refill CO2 tank
Foamy beer Gas pressure too high
Dirty faucet or lines
Lower PSI to 11 or 12
Clean lines and faucet thoroughly
Slow or no flow Empty keg
Kinked line
Jammed coupler
Replace with new keg
Check and straighten lines
Disassemble and clean coupler

Always start by verifying proper gas pressure. Cleaning the lines is also commonly required. Follow troubleshooting guides and contact manufacturers for other technical issues.

Maintenance and Sanitation

Ongoing maintenance and sanitation is critical for sixtel systems:

  • Take apart and clean tap lines weekly using a line cleaning kit.
  • Disassemble and sanitize couplers and faucets monthly or as needed.
  • Use a cleaning/sanitizing solution like PBW and Star San.
  • Replace worn gaskets and o-rings as needed to prevent leaks.
  • Check CO2/gas tanks and ensure backups are on hand.
  • Monitor refrigeration units and temperatures.
  • Lubricate any threaded parts regularly.
  • Inspect all connections, valves, regulators for wear.

Well maintained equipment prevents contamination, extends equipment life, and results in better quality beer.

Sixtel Vs. Quarter Barrel Comparison

Sixtels offer some advantages and disadvantages compared to quarter barrel kegs:

Sixtel Quarter Barrel
Volume 5 gallons 7.75 gallons
Height 23.3 inches 23.3 inches
Diameter 9.25 inches 16.2 inches
Weight (full) 44 lbs 160 lbs
Shelf life 6-8 weeks 8-12 weeks
Uses Flexibility, variety Volume, events

In summary, sixtels offer smaller volume and shorter shelf life but more flexibility. Quarter barrels have greater capacity but heavier, bulkier, and more expensive.


A sixtel is a popular-sized stainless steel keg that holds exactly 5 gallons or 18.9 liters of beer. It enables efficient and flexible draft options for bars, restaurants, breweries, and events. Proper handling, dispensing, storage, and cleaning practices are key to maintaining great draught beer quality when using sixtels. While requiring some unique equipment like couplers, sixtels can be an extremely useful and versatile container for professional beer service.

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