Beer line cleanliness is one of the most important parts of beer service. If your beer line is not clean, you will have problems with foam retention and off-flavors in your beers. In this blog post, we will discuss how to clean beer line, how to keep your kegerator clean, and how commercial breweries and taphouses maintain their beer lines for a great tasting product!
Why Clean Your Beer Lines Anyways?
You want to clean beer lines because yeast and bacteria will start feeding on the beer in your lines as soon as you start dispensing beer. Unfortunately, you can't stop this. Also, biofilm deposits will begin to build up inside clean beer lines. If they aren't contained the deposits will soon fester, affect the flavor of the beer and undermine the draft beer system altogether. So cleaning beer lines is a necessity, and should be taken seriously.
How To Clean A Beer Line
If you have a personal kegerator, the first step to maintaining clean beer lines is to clean your equipment after each use. You can do this by running water through all of the pieces and gently scrubbing with PBW. This is a good place to start, but it's not enough on its own.
Here's a 11 Step guideline to clean beer lines on your kegerator or small beer system:
Shut of the Gas to the kegerator or beer system
Disconnect the coupler from the keg, and open the beer faucet to release beer from the line.
Use a spanner wrench to take off the beer faucet. You want to turn this clockwise to loosen
Take a crescent wrench and loosen the beer nuts on the coupler. The product side and airside will have beer nuts attaching them to the coupler. When loosening the product side make sure to watch for the beer gasket inside the beer nut. These will sometimes fall off when you disconnect. Make sure to take out the Thomas valve on the air side.
Take the Beer Faucet and Coupler and soak in a caustic solution with hot water. The ratio is usually 2-3% depending on the brand of caustic. Most solutions will have directions on them for the right ratio to use. Let the equipment soak in the solution for at least 15 minutes.
Make caustic solution to clean kegerator beer lines. Again follow the instructions on the bottle or container for the right ratio to add to water. Note you always want to add the solution to a bucket of warm water. Not the other way around.
Before adding Caustic to the beer system or kegerator. Fill the bottle with warm water and flush the beer from the entire beer system. There are many different cleaning kits available. If you are using a kegerator the simple pump and plastic bottle with be fine. It's nice to use a small bucket you can run water and caustic into.
After flushing the beer from the system fill plastic bottle with a right mixed cleaning solution. Screw the end into where the faucet goes by tightening the faucet collar. Also, make sure the end has a gasket/washer so it doesn't leak all over the place when you pump the solution through the system. Pump the caustic solution through the beer tower and out the product line end that would connect to the coupler. Again, nice to have a little bucket there so you don't make a mess. Pump the solution until it empties into the bucket. Now, let the solution sit in your beer system for 20 minutes.
Go back to your small bucket with your beer faucet and beer coupler. Rinse the coupler and Faucet with fresh water getting rid of the caustic solution. It's nice to wear latex gloves when you do this by the way. After you've rinsed the coupler and faucet take apart the beer faucet and scrub with a cleaning brush. Get inside the faucet, on top where the collar is to get any particles of yeast or bacteria out of there. Rinse in cold water and reassemble.
It's nice to do this with the coupler too. You don't have to do it every time you clean your beer faucets but I would clean them every month. Just my personal preference.
After the solution has settled in the beer system for 20 minutes. Take the bottle and fill with cold fresh water. Flush the caustic solution out of the beer system. You will do this multiple times. After your 4-5 time check the ph level of your tap water and compare it to the water in your draft system. You can use PH Strips or a PH Meter to do this. It ensures you got all of the solution out of your beer system. When the PH Strip or meter read 7 or match your tap water PH. You are ready to retap kegs.
Here's a PH Meter Below. I use this for cleaning beer lines and it's better than strips in my personal opinion. Quick reads and precise. You can pick them up from Amazon.
Reattach the beer faucet, The beer coupler by tightening the beer hex nuts for the product and airside. Turn your gas back on, Re-tap your keg and you should be pouring beer!!
Here's a guide from MicroMatic on how to clean your kegerator
How Often Should You Clean Your Beer Lines?
The industry standard is every 2 weeks in the commercial field. I am talking about breweries, taphouses, and regular bars. However, not all abide by these rules. Some establishments do a once-a-month cleaning, but I would always recommend every 2 weeks. The biofilm, bacteria, and yeast will be back in the beer system shortly. The longer you go without cleaning the more of that stuff festers, affecting how your beer taste and compromising the beer dispensing system.
Every 3 Months an acid clean should take place on top of a caustic clean. The acid clean helps get rid of beer stones in your system, and every 6 months the beer equipment should be taken apart and cleaned like couplers, FOBs and other dispensing equipment. Personally, I prefer to clean couplers monthly because yeast, bacteria still grow on a daily basis.
When it comes to your personal kegerator. I would clean the lines after every keg is tapped. This way you can clean the lines before you put on the next beer.
In closing we talked about why you need to clean your beer lines. Yeast, bacteria and mold will find their way into your beer system sooner or later. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule. Will help mitigate the festering of these microbes and keep beer tasting fresh.
Secondly, we talked about the steps to clean a beer system, and wrapped it up with how often you should clean your lines.
If you are looking for any beer dispensing equipment. I recommend checking out my recommend products page. Second, I talk about more draft beer dispensing topics in my blog and encourage you to read it.
Lastly, if you have any further questions you can always reach out to me.