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HOW-TO: Cleaning beer lines

 
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 8419
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: American Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, Janet's Brown, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison, Kölsch

Working on: Kölsch, Janet's Brown Ale


PostLink    Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:16 pm    Post subject: HOW-TO: Cleaning beer lines Reply with quote


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Videos:

Cleaning the 8 basement bar lines (start to end, all steps): https://www.instagram.com/p/BGiILgLoKvk/
Cleaning the 8 basement bar lines (flushing the beer out): https://www.instagram.com/p/BUZUhsdFZbh/
Cleaning the 8 basement bar lines (recirculating cleaner): https://www.instagram.com/p/BbuDxR6gqoj/
Cleaning the 2 tap kegerator: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbFe9G2AHut/

Parts:
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I've been asked a few times how I clean my lines so I've put together some quick information here.

Beer lines should be cleaned regularly to get rid beer stone (calcium oxalate) and other deposits that can accumulate over time. Beer stone harbors spoiling bacteria, and can create tiny nucleation sites that promote gushing and poor head retention.

How often to clean depends on usage. A busy bar most likely has (or should have) someone in every other week or so to clean the lines. This is usually contracted out to companies that make the rounds and do nothing but clean lines. At home people can go ~6 weeks but many will go longer without any issues. There's no harm in cleaning more often of course. I aim to do this 3-4 times a year, but this seems to slide to usually twice a year. Wink

I have 8 taps in the basement bar so cleaning the lines individually would take an inordinate amount of time, so I link them all together in a giant loop and recirculate cleaner exactly how the pros do it when cleaning the lines in commercial restaurants and bars.



The general cleaning steps I follow to clean my 8 taps are:

1. Connect the beer lines on the quick disconnect keg side together with the QD adapters between lines 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, and 1-8.
2. Remove the faucets on the serving side using a faucet wrench.
3. Install short vinyl hose jumpers on the serving side between taps 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6. Connect a return line hose to tap 7. Connect the pump to tap 8 using the brass 1/2" hose barb to female garden hose swivel coupling. Everything is now connected in one giant loop.
4. Fill the bucket with water and drop in the pump. Leave the tap 7 return line in the sink to allow it to drain. Turn on the pump by plugging it in and the beer already in the lines is flushed down the drain by the pump using the water in the bucket. Removing all the beer from the lines first means the beer line cleaner has less work to do.
5. Once the lines only have water in them, turn off the pump and fill the bucket with hot water and liquid line cleaner. Follow the instructions for the amount of cleaner to use. It usually takes only an ounce or so of cleaner per gallon or two of water as it's really caustic stuff. The tap 7 return line is placed in the bucket, the pump turned back on, and the water with cleaner is recirculated for ~30 minutes.
6. While the cleaner is recirculating, disassemble, soak, and clean the faucets that were previously removed in Oxiclean. Re-assemble.
7. After ~30 minutes of recirculating remove the tap 7 return line from the bucket and place it back in the sink to allow the cleaner to go down the drain. As the bucket empties fill it once or twice more with water to flush all of the cleaner out of the the lines.
8. Remove all of the jumpers on both the keg and serving sides, and re-install the faucets back on the tower. Once installed, make sure to push them all the way back to turn them off.
9. Reconnect the quick disconnects to the kegs. Hint: Don't reverse the order of the last two steps unless you like beer all over the floor). Wink
10. Drain the water in the lines by pulling from each line until beer starts to flow again.
11. And there was much rejoicing...

Check out the videos above for more information.

Hints:

- If you have less lines then you'll obviously need less jumpers/QD adapters. When cleaning the 2-tap kegerator lines I only need to use one QD adapter to join the two together, and no jumpers on the serving side.
- Don't try to remove faucets with anything other than a faucet wrench. You'll only end up scratching/mangling things if you try to use (say) a pair of vice grips. A faucet wrench is specially made for removing/attaching faucets.
- Don't have a tap tower yet? Stay away from the really cheap bar/draft towers. Some of the junkier stuff is softer metal and won't hold up over the years to constant faucet removing/attaching. I recommend and use a commercial grade tower from Micromatic. It's the same stuff you'll find in many bars around the world and will last you a lifetime.
- Beer line cleaner is very caustic. Avoid getting any on your hands or other surfaces. Heed the warnings on the bottle.

Other links:

Bar/draft equipment list I use
How the bar taps, beer lines, and glass rinser are connected



Cheers!

Kal


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Last edited by kal on Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:35 pm; edited 18 times in total
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dp Brewing Company



Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 372
Location: Midwest

Drinking: Lagunitas IPA Clone, Belgian Waffle Strong Ale, The Pale Lady, Robust Porter, Choco Porter, Chocolate Taco, Strawberry Wheat

Working on: Farmhouse Cider


PostLink    Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've done something similar but keep the faucets on the towers and run my loop with some 1/2" silicone hose. It slips over the end of the faucets and doesn't seem to leak.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 8419
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: American Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, Janet's Brown, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison, Kölsch

Working on: Kölsch, Janet's Brown Ale


PostLink    Posted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How clean are the insides of the faucets after doing that? I find that over time some gunk does accumulate so I like to take them apart for a thorough cleaning.

Kal

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dp Brewing Company



Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 372
Location: Midwest

Drinking: Lagunitas IPA Clone, Belgian Waffle Strong Ale, The Pale Lady, Robust Porter, Choco Porter, Chocolate Taco, Strawberry Wheat

Working on: Farmhouse Cider


PostLink    Posted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're 100% correct. After I recirculate for 15-20 minutes I then take the faucets off and break them down. They do have gunk in them from time to time that the recirculating is not going to get out
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Creepy



Joined: 04 Feb 2014
Posts: 122
Location: North Chicago Burbs


PostLink    Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting your techniques Kal. Honestly I've never taken apart my taps. I'm feeling mildly convicted that I should. When I empty a keg I use the keg cleaning process as an opportunity to clean that individual line/tap. I first rinse my keg with hot tap water and then put a little pressure on it and push a gallon or two thru the line/tap. Then do a PBW soak and afterwards push a couple gallons of that thru the line/tap. Then a quick rinse and fill the keg with Star San and I'll push some Star San thru the line then. Each step of the way I try to modulate the tap handle opening to get some turbulent flow in the tap to hopefully clean it out well within. Bottom line, I try to get some extra use out of each cleaning step during keg cleaning and each line is cleaned after every keg. Anyone else do something similar?

Cheers Mug
Creepy
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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 8419
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: American Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, Janet's Brown, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison, Kölsch

Working on: Kölsch, Janet's Brown Ale


PostLink    Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Time to put away the sunroom kegerator, but first the taps and lines are cleaned.

A video: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbFe9G2AHut/

Kal

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