Cleaning beer lines
Cleaning your draft beer lines at home.
If you have a draft beer system in your home, don’t forget to regularly clean you beer lines to ensure good tasting beer. Left un-cleaned, the hose in your draft system can quickly develop growths of bacteria, mold, and yeast, or beer stone deposits that will ruin the flavor of your favorite beer. Lines should be cleaned every time you switch kegs, or every 2-3 weeks at a minimum. The entire process will take only a few minutes to do a thorough job and will ensure your equipment is in good working condition for years.
You will need a few items to do the job properly, and there are alternatives when it comes to purchasing and using a beer line cleaning kit. The size of you system will dictate how you go about the cleaning process. If you have a refrigerator converted into a kegerator and can easily remove all the hoses, the process can be simple soak in cleaning solution while you disassemble and scrub the faucet. If you have a more complex draft beer refrigerator, or if your beer lines are very long and not easily accessible, you should purchase a beer line cleaning kit to flush out the entire system with cleanser and rinse it completely.
Items you will need:
- Faucet wrench
- Nylon brushes
- Clean bucket
- Beer line detergent
- Fresh Water
- Beer line cleaner kit (optional but recommended)
- Rubber gloves and safety glasses
For all types of systems, cleaning the faucets will be the same. With the keg disconnected and the gas turned off at the regulator, remove the entire faucet assembly and disassemble. Use a nylon brush to scrub all parts, paying special attention to the bends within the faucet itself. Wild yeast and mold often collects in the intersections of home systems and reinfect after cleaning is complete. Place all the parts into a clean bucket for a soak in the detergent. Once the faucet has been soaked in detergent for the manufacturers recommended time, thoroughly rinse and scrub again in fresh water before reassembling. For more stubborn beer stone deposits, a stainless steel brush can be used. If you use a simple picnic tap, just unscrew the top and gently scrub the rubber plunger and plastic housing before and after soaking.
Disconnect beer hoses from the keg coupler and use a nylon brush to scrub the inside as you did for the faucet. Let the coupler soak in the detergent as well before rinsing and scrubbing a second time. It may seem unnecessary to scrub the parts before and after soaking, but this will allow you to loosen most material before the soak, making the detergent more effective. Then after the cleaner has worked it may have dislodged more deposits that can be completely removed with a second scrub and thorough rinse.
If you can easily remove all your beer lines, do this and add them to the soaking bucket. A long handled nylon brush is often enough to clean the inside of shorter lengths of hose. Make sure you scrub all fittings too, these can act as growth repositories if left untouched. Rinse everything clean before reassembling and tapping your keg.
If you have a system that has very long runs of hose, or uses a draft beer tower with hard to reach fittings, a hand or electric beer line cleaning pump is essential. You will want to follow all instructions supplied by the maker. The general technique is the same as above. Start by removing and cleaning the beer faucet and keg coupler. While these are removed, hook up the cleanser pump to the tap end of the hose. If you are cleaning just one line, put a bucket under the keg end to catch the detergent. If you are cleaning two lines at a time, join them together and use the bucket to collect the cleaner at the second tap. Pump the cleanser through the system allowing it to soak before flushing with plenty of clean water to remove all residues.
As you reassemble your system, inspect rubber gaskets and fittings for wear and use a high quality commercial food grade lubricant on moving parts. Pay particular attention to the o-ring and bottom seal of the keg coupler, if these fail it will result in leakage of you beer and can quickly make a huge mess overnight.