Updated January 7, 2019: Added instructions on how to clean spout and tube assembly in Step #5.
This article answers the age old question: Are Hopsy SUB Torps refillable? The answer is a resounding yes. But before we dive into the details, let’s briefly talk about Hopsy’s beer sub program and the SUB mini kegerator by Krups.
What is Hopsy and How Do Their Beer TORPs (Torpedoes) Work?
Hopsy is a Bay Area based start-up company that began by delivering craft beer-filled glass growlers to local customers in their early years. They have subsequently changed their business model to solely integrate the SUB system by Krups into their service and product offerings.
In doing so, they are able to deliver beers in 2 liter size plastic bottle that work exclusively with the SUB system. Hopsy and Krups call this plastic beer container a torpedo, or TORP for short. Torpedo goes into a Sub, get it?
Essentially, a TORP is really just a plastic beer growler that works with the Krups SUB system. It allows the SUB system to pressurize it by injecting the TORP with compressed air. It is also easier to transport locally or across the country. To learn more about the TORP, read the “Anatomy of a TORP and How They Work” section below. Just imagine your local brewery inserting a tube down a TORP and filling it with your favorite beer instead of a traditional glass growler, that’s really all what a TORP is. According to Hopsy’s Twitter feed:
Hopsy Beer Club
Hopsy ships beer across the country in these TORPs, and the beers they offer is pretty impressive with new breweries signing up quite frequently. According to Hopsy, they rotate their beer offering every week with seasonal favorites, featured and new brews. By doing so, Hopsy connect craft beer drinkers with breweries from across the nation, giving their customers the opportunity to try brews that were once inaccessible.
Their beer subscription service allows the subscriber to receive a set number of beer TORPs every month. Just like any other subscription service, this can be postponed, changed or canceled at anytime. If you are not a Hopsy subscriber and would like to learn how to get your hands on a SUB system, two TORPs and two limited edition Hopsy beer glasses all for $60.00, scroll to the bottom of this article and click on the link. Y You get the SUB system practically for free, I get credit towards a beer box for the referral. Cool? Cool.
Why Would You Want to Refill a TORP?
Three simple reasons:
1. To get the local craft beer of your choice that’s not available from Hopsy into the SUB for that perfect cold pour!
2. You find yourself in a TORP shortage during a party, you can easily run to your favorite local brewery and have TORPs on standby without waiting for delivery.
3. Or you brew your own beer and would like to mini-keg your homebrew.
Those are the only reasons to refill a TORP. Imagine having an ice cold glass of Pliny the Elder or an exclusive IPA from your local brew-pub restaurant straight from your counter-top beer tap and in the comfort of your own home!
This article contains information conducted on a Krups SUB mini kegerator purchased and operated by myself, therefore I assumed all risks that may compromise the performance of the SUB and its warranty. If you are going to follow these instructions, do so at your own risk. No warranty is expressed or implied in this guide and should be read from an educational standpoint.
Anatomy of a TORP and How it Works
If you cut a TORP open, this is what you’ll find.
- Outer shell
- Beer bladder
- Compressed air injection hole
- Tube topper assembly
Furthermore, if you cut open the beer bladder, you’ll see a hollow floating white cap. This white cap act floats as beer fills the bladder. When the beer bladder reaches capacity, the cap blocks the filler passage and forces any excess beer to spill.
When a TORP is loaded into a SUB, it is chilled until it reaches nominal drinking temperature, approximately 36° F, indicative of the power button turning green from red. Every time you pour a glass of beer, the compressor activates and injects compressed air into the hollow cavity inside the TORP, between the outer shell and beer bladder. In doing so, the beer bladder is continuously pressurized and pushes out of the faucet when the tap handle is pulled down.
The compressed air injector hole is located at the bottom of the TORP and doesn’t have a check valve, like a bike tire. This is why you hear the hissing sound of air releasing when you unload an empty TORP from the SUB. This also means that a TORP is shipped or stored depressurized. It is only pressurized when it is loaded into the SUB.
How to Open Up an Empty TORP
At first glance, it seems that a spent TORP cannot be refilled. You look at it, you rotate the topper collar, you think it’s constructed in such a way that it is a one-time-use contraption. I thought so too, until I gave it a shot using a seafood fork lying in front of me.
1 Seafood Fork / Pick
1 Food-safe funnel
1 Growler of beer from your favorite local brewery
To open up an empty TORP, pop off the rotatable black collar that sits at the top of the neck of the TORP, just below the spout tube.
This collar simply guides the tube away from the neck in an organized fashion and it rotates so the tube does not get tangled up. Simply place both your thumbs on the the collar and push it out of the TORP neck.
It should slide right off with a click. Easy right?
Next, take the fork end of a seafood fork, position it vertically and carefully jam one of the pointy ends between the white plastic cap (where the tube comes out of) and the neck of the TORP. You can also use a small flat head screwdriver.
Carefully push the white plastic cap up, just enough to release it from the TORP neck. Be careful not to damage the cap as it may compromise the seal on the TORP, which is why a seafood fork works best.
Once the cap is released, position the fork horizontally and continue to push up so about 5 mm of the tube topper is exposed.
Alternatively, you can grab on to the tube and yank it hard until the topper pulls out. I don’t recommend this method because the white plastic is pretty cheap and breaks easily. Plus you’re also straining the tube and the joint that connects the tube to the topper.
Use the paddle end of the seafood fork and wedge it between the cap and the TORP neck and push the cap up until 1/2″ of the TORP tube topper is exposed.
Using your fingers, pull up on the white cap carefully and out of the TORP neck to remove the entire TORP tube topper assembly. The TORP bottle should now be fully exposed.
Since it takes a day to completely dry a TORP, you may want to save and clean several empty TORPs simultaneously so you can fill them up at will.
This step is important! Blow air into the TORP until you cannot blow air into it. You will need to do this to expand the beer bladder so it’s back to full capacity. If you do not blow air into it to expand the bladder, then you can probably fill 1/3 of a 64 oz. growler at most. The beer bladder is a
collapsible hard plastic membrane that retains its shape when collapsed. It’s not a bag or balloon that automatically expands and takes the shape of whatever it is filled with.
Take this time to thoroughly rinse the empty TORP, drain completely and air dry. Make sure the bladder is fully inflated to ensure sufficient cleaning.
Thanks to Kevin in the comment section for the tip to clean the spout and tube. The spout is a 2-piece plastic assembly, that doubles up as a simple valve and spout. When the tap handle is pulled, the tap handle mechanism engages the spout and pushes the coupler to open the valve and allow pressurized beer to flow from the TORP and into your chilled beer glass. When the tap handle is returned to its resting position, the tap mechanism pulls the coupler back and closes the valve.
To clean the spout and tube assembly, simply hold down the base of the spout and pull the spout away from the tube, to open the valve. Once the valve is opened up, clean water can flow through the tube. To dry the spout and tube assembly, hold the assembly by the spout and spin the tube around. The centrifugal force will force the residual water out of the tube. Thanks again Kevin for the tip!
Refilling Your Empty TORP
A TORP can hold approximately 67 oz. of beer. Your typical large growler can hold about 64 oz. of beer. Take your empty 64 oz. growler to your favorite local craft brewery and have it filled up. Then place a food safe funnel into the neck of an empty TORP and slowly pour that growler full of beer down into the TORP.
Pour slowly. You will lose some beer from foaming, but minimal. I recommend doing this over the sink to minimize any mess.
Give your empty and cleaned TORP a rinse, then refill with your favorite local craft brew! I recommend using a 8″ rubber tube to attached to the funnel to assist with the pour.
Re-assemble the TORP and load it into your SUB as you normally would, pull down on the tap handle for a second to pressurize the TORP, wait until the power button turns green and pour!
Pro-tip: If you successfully transfer your favorite local craft beer from the growler into an empty TORP in one fell swoop, you retain most of the carbonation. If you don’t, you risk losing the carbonation, which results in a flatter than optimal beer.
Things to Consider
The bladder inside a TORP that stores the beer compresses and contracts as the SUB pumps air in the hollow space around it very time you pour a glass, effectively crushing the bladder. This is how a TORP stays pressurized. Over time, re-using and refilling a TORP will degenerate the quality of the bladder, causing it to become brittle and ultimately fail. What happens when you flex an object repeatedly for too long, say a piece of wire? It breaks. Same concept. I do not know how many time a spent TORP can be refilled, but I will keep an eye out for this number.
Another thing to note is the rubber grommet on the TORP tube topper assembly will also eventually fail from wear and tear from all the removal and installation process. This will wear down its structural integrity and eventually leak. As with the bladder, I do not know the failure rate but will keep an eye out.
My estimate is to not re-use a TORP for more than ~10 times. I personally would reuse a TORP for a maximum of 5 times. If you are subscribed to Hopsy Beer Club, there’s no reason to keep reusing a TORP for too long anyways since replacement empty TORPs should be abundant!
So next time someone asks you, “are Hopsy Krups SUB Torp mini kegs refillable?” Direct them here.
Get Yourself a SUB and a Hopsy Starter Pack
If you do not own a SUB mini kegerator and want in on the action, use the following link to get the SUB practically for free. $60.00 will get you a SUB mini kegerator, two beer TORPs of your choice and two limited edition Hopsy beer glasses. Use the link below and select a Hopsy location that is closest to your residence (San Francisco, New York, Chicago and San Diego) to check if they deliver to your area.
*Limited time offer, offer may change at any time. Be sure to read the fine print and beer delivery commitment requirement (you may be responsible for 3 beer club shipments, contingent on current Hopsy agreement).