Corny Keg VS Sanke Keg: What is the Difference Between These Two Keg Types?

Corny kegs vs Sanke kegs are two distinct types of kegs with their own unique characteristics and applications. Depending on your specific needs, one may be better suited for you than the other.

Let's delve into a comprehensive comparison between Corny (Cornelius) kegs and Sanke kegs (AKA commercial beer kegs), which are two distinct types of kegs commonly used for storing and dispensing beverages. This in-depth breakdown will cover various aspects of these kegs, including their history, design, applications, advantages, disadvantages, and differences.


Kegs play a vital role in the storage and distribution of beverages, particularly when it comes to carbonated liquids like beer, soda, coffee, kombucha and more. While there are various types of kegs available, Corny kegs (short for Cornelius kegs) and Sanke kegs are two of the most well-known and widely used options. Each type has its own set of characteristics, uses, and advantages, making it important for beverage enthusiasts and professionals to understand their differences and choose the right keg for their needs.

History of Corny Kegs and Sanke Kegs

Corny Kegs

Corny kegs have their origins in the soft drink industry. They were initially developed by the Cornelius Company, a manufacturer of soda fountains and related equipment. The company introduced these kegs in the mid-20th century as a means to store and dispense soda, making it easier for establishments like restaurants and soda fountains to serve carbonated beverages.

Over time, the use of Corny kegs extended beyond the soda industry, and they became popular among homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts for kegging their own brews. The convenience, portability, and small size of Corny kegs made them a practical choice for smaller-scale brewing and home use. As well as having a large lid on top, this allowed the home-user to easily open the keg to fill and clean without industrial equipment. 

Sanke Kegs

Sanke kegs, on the other hand, have a longer history and are deeply rooted in the beer industry. They are named after the Sankey Brewery Equipment Company, which played a significant role in standardizing keg connections. Sanke kegs have been used for decades by commercial breweries, and they are the standard keg type used in most bars and restaurants for serving draft beer.

Design and Construction

Corny Kegs

Corny kegs are typically made of stainless steel and come in two main sizes: 5 gallons (approximately 19 liters) and 2.5 gallons (approximately 9.5 liters).  Although more sizes have been introduced more recently, these are the two main sizes. They are known for their small and compact design, which makes them easy to handle and transport.

The key features of a Corny keg include:

  • Lid: Corny kegs have a removable lid that can be sealed tightly to prevent gas and liquid leakage. This lid often has a pressure relief valve to release excess pressure.  This allows for very easy of filling and cleaning the kegs without pressurized equipment.
  • Posts and Connectors: Corny kegs are equipped with two posts: one for gas (inlet) and one for liquid (outlet). These posts have specific connectors, known as disconnects for hoses and fittings.
  • Handles: Many Corny kegs have integrated handles or rubber grips on the sides, facilitating easy lifting and carrying.
  • Ball Lock or Pin Lock: There are two common types of Corny kegs based on the type of connectors they use: ball lock and pin lock. These connectors are used to attach hoses for gas and liquid.
    • Ball Lock Posts: These posts have smooth sides and the disconnects work the same as a standard quick disconnect, where you pull up on the outer lock ring, press the disconnect down onto the post and it will lock on. 
    • Pin Lock Posts: These differ from the ball lock posts because they have small pins that stick off the sides of the posts.  The pin lock disconnects have cutouts in them for these pins.  When installing the pin lock disconnect onto the post, you press down and twist the disconnect to lock onto the pins, securing the disconnect to the pin lock post. 

Sanke Kegs

Sanke kegs, typically larger than Corny kegs, come in various sizes, with standard volumes of 1/2 barrel (15.5 gallons or approximately 58.7 liters), 1/4 barrel (7.75 gallons or approximately 29.3 liters), and 1/6 barrel (5.16 gallons or approximately 19.5 liters) being common in the beer industry. They are also constructed from stainless steel and have a robust design suitable for commercial use.

The key features of a Sanke keg include:

  • Single Connection: Sanke kegs have a single connection on top, which serves both the inlet (gas) and outlet (liquid) functions. This simplifies the keg's setup and reduces the risk of incorrect connections.
  • Spear and Valve: Inside the Sanke keg, there is a spear with a valve that controls the flow of liquid. This valve is engaged when a tap is inserted into the keg, allowing for the dispensing of beer.
  • Safety Features: Many Sanke kegs include safety features like pressure relief valves and vents to prevent over-pressurization and ensure safe operation.


Corny Kegs

Corny kegs find applications in a variety of settings, including:

  • Homebrewing: They are a popular choice among homebrewers for kegging small to moderate batches of beer, cider, or other carbonated beverages.
  • Soda Dispensing: Originally designed for the soda industry, Corny kegs are still used for serving carbonated soft drinks in some establishments.
  • Portable Dispensing: Their compact size and ease of use make Corny kegs suitable for portable setups, such as at parties, picnics, and outdoor events.

Sanke Kegs

Sanke kegs are primarily used in commercial settings, including:

  • Bars and Restaurants: Most bars and restaurants rely on Sanke kegs for dispensing draft beer due to their standardization, durability, and ease of handling.
  • Breweries: Large-scale breweries use Sanke kegs for packaging and distributing their products to bars, restaurants, and retailers.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Corny Kegs


  • Homebrewer-Friendly: Corny kegs are well-suited for homebrewers, as they are easy to clean, fill, and maintain.
  • Variety of Sizes: They come in various sizes, accommodating different batch volumes.
  • Compact and Portable: Their small size and handles make them portable and suitable for small gatherings.
  • Customization: Corny kegs allow for easy customization, including pressure adjustments and flavor infusions.


  • Limited Capacity: Corny kegs are not practical for large-scale production or commercial use due to their relatively small volume.
  • Multiple Connectors: Different types of Corny kegs (ball lock and pin lock) require specific connectors, which can be confusing for beginners.

Sanke Kegs


  • Standardized: Sanke kegs use a standardized system, simplifying connections and ensuring compatibility.
  • Durability: They are built to withstand the rigors of commercial use and are less likely to leak or require frequent maintenance.
  • Ideal for Commercial Use: Sanke kegs are the industry standard for draft beer service in bars and restaurants.
  • Safety Features: They often include safety features to prevent accidents and ensure safe operation.


  • Complex Setup: Setting up and maintaining a Sanke keg system can be more complex than using Corny kegs, particularly for beginners.
  • Size: Sanke kegs are larger and heavier, making them less suitable for homebrewers and portable applications.

Differences Between Corny Kegs and Sanke Kegs

Now that we've explored the characteristics, applications, advantages, and disadvantages of both Corny and Sanke kegs, let's summarize the key differences between these two types of kegs:

Origin and History: Corny kegs originated in the soda industry and are commonly associated with homebrewing, while Sanke kegs have a long history in the beer industry and are the standard for commercial draft beer service.

Design: Corny kegs are smaller, with two separate connectors for gas and liquid. Sanke kegs are larger and have a single top connection that serves both functions.

Applications: Corny kegs are versatile and suitable for homebrewing, small gatherings, and portable setups. Sanke kegs are designed for commercial use in bars, restaurants, and breweries.

Complexity: Setting up and maintaining a Sanke keg system can be more complex, requiring specialized tools and knowledge, while Corny kegs are simpler and more user-friendly.

Size: Corny kegs come in various sizes, accommodating different batch volumes, whereas Sanke kegs are available in standard commercial sizes.

Customization: Corny kegs offer more opportunities for customization, such as adjusting carbonation levels and infusing flavors.


Corny kegs and Sanke kegs are two distinct types of kegs with their own unique characteristics and applications. Corny kegs are favored by homebrewers and those seeking smaller-scale, customizable solutions, while Sanke kegs are the standard choice for commercial establishments serving draft beer.

The choice between these kegs depends on factors such as the scale of production, level of expertise, and intended use. Both keg types have their place in the world of beverages, ensuring that a wide range of enthusiasts and professionals can enjoy their favorite drinks on tap, whether at home or in their favorite bar.

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