When beer pours from a draft beer system, and it tastes great. A big reason is because of clean beer lines.
One of the most frustrating experiences is getting ready to enjoy a delicious beer. Then find out it doesn’t taste right, or worse tastes horrible...because of dirty beer lines.
Trust me, I have seen draft beer systems that would give Mike Rowe’s dirty jobs a run for its money. That’s another story altogether.
After reading this article you will know how to clean beer lines. The different ways to approach it, and the best way to go about it with different draft beer systems.
Why You Need To Clean Beer Lines
First off, if beer lines aren’t cleaned properly they will compromise great tasting beer. Which ruins the experience for the consumer and hurt’s the reputation of the brewery, and beer.
The off-taste is usually due to one of these 4 culprits below:
- Yeast: Microorganism responsible for fermenting beer and influencing the flavor.
- Mold: Can be a few different colors. Found on beer equipment not cleaned.
- Beer Stones: Calcium build-up in draft beer lines due to dispensing beer.
- Bacteria: Microorganisms found around unsanitary beer conditions.
This is why it’s so important to clean draft beer lines routinely. Regardless if it’s a commercial establishment or a home kegerator. Clean beer lines will ensure quality and refreshing beer.
How Often Do You Have To Clean Beer Lines?
Beer lines need cleaning every 2 weeks. This is an industry-standard.
Other companies may clean every 4 weeks, however monthly cleans result in more yeast, mold, beer stone, and bacteria build-up in a beer system. Which, can compromise beer and give it an off-taste.
Casinos clean their lines monthly because their beer runs are hundreds of feet long and they don’t want to waste all that beer.
The same thing can be said about stadiums. For taphouses, breweries and pubs 2 weeks is the standard.
For Kegerator owners, I would recommend after every keg use. Clean your beer lines. If you’re dispensing ⅙ barrels it should happen more often than ½ barrel use.
If you go 3-4 weeks without a cleaning, I’d recommend cleaning the lines. Ultimately, if you can do cleanings every 2 weeks this would be best.
What is The Best Way to Clean Beer lines?
It depends on the beer system you are using. If you are using a kegerator...with 1-3 faucets a hand pump system would be a good option.
4 or more taps on a kegerator I'd recommend cleaning keg setup.
Which is better than a hand pump...and a re-circulating pump would be best.
We will go into depth about the 3 types of beer line cleaning later.
How do the Different Cleaning Styles compare
There are 3 different styles of cleaning beer lines.
- The Hand Pump
- Cleaning Keg
- Re-circulating Pump
The Hand pump is best with a kegerator. It’s powered by pushing the pump down on top of the solution bottle sending beer cleaner into the faucet and out the coupler into a bucket.
While using a hand pump the cleaning solution needs to sit inside the beer line for at least 20 minutes.
Next is the cleaning keg. Cleaning keg set-up is where you put your cleaning solution into the portable keg and you attach a beer coupler to it. Just like you would if you were dispensing beer.
The C02 pressurizes the cleaning keg so you can push the solution through the beer system. Just like the hand pump the beer cleaning solution needs to soak for at least 20 mins.
Lastly, the re-circulating pump. This is typically used on commercial systems and is the best in my opinion.
The Pump circulates a cleaning solution throughout the entire beer system. It will circulate for at least 20 minutes giving the beer system a proper clean.
The Overall Process of Beer Cleaning
Before Cleaning Beer Lines
- Shut- OFF C02 to the beer system.
- Untap the Couplers on the kegs.
- Release beer from the lines by opening the faucets and allowing excess pressure and beer to dispense into the bucket. Do this until the beer flow comes to a drip.
- Take a beer wrench and take off the beer faucets.
- Remove Couplers from the cooler, or where the kegs are being stores. Leave beer nuts and hose fittings. Unless you have a coupling to hook up couplers together in the walk-in.
Prepping Beer Cleaning Solutions
- Mix caustic/acid cleaner into water. Use water between temps of 80-120 degrees. Follow manufacturer’s instructions to get the right mixture needed for cleaning chemicals.
- Depending on the Cleaning Kit used: Attach Hand Pump Faucet Connection to the faucet coupling nut. If using a cleaning keg or re-circulating pump attach jumpers to faucet coupling nuts to get a loop in the beer system for cleaning.
- Pump cleaning solution through the beer system if using a cleaning keg...let it soak for 20 mins. A circulating pump for at least 15 minutes. 15 minutes is the least amount of time for circulating solutions.
- If you are letting the solution soak with a hand pump. Let it soak for at least 20 minutes as well.
After Beer Cleaning
- Pump water through the entire beer system to flush out the cleaning chemicals.
- Flush out for the same amount of time that the solution was circulating and soaking.
- Use pH Testing Paper to check pH level in the system. The system is good with 7-8 reading
- After faucets and couplers are cleaned... rinse with water.
- Hook Faucet and couplers back up to draft beer system.
- Turn gas back on to the system.
- Re-tap kegs of beer. You’re ready to start serving beer again.
Tools and Equipment Needed to Clean Beer Lines
Starting off you will need a list of things below to clean beer lines completely:
- Beer Wrench also known as a spanner wrench
- Couple 5 Gallon Buckets for mixing solution and carrying clean water
- Cleaning Kit/ CLeaning Keg/ Circulating pump
- Beer Cleaner/ Caustic or Acid
- Jumper Lines for the faucets if using
- Couplings for the couplers
- Extension Chord ( If using a circulating pump)
- Safety Glasses
- pH Testing Paper
Beer Line Cleaning Solutions
There are two different types of cleaning solutions that are used for draft beer systems. There is caustic cleaning solutions and acid cleaning solutions. You can find both here.
- Caustic cleaning takes place every two weeks. Kills molds, yeast, and bacteria in beer lines. Recommended for working draft beer systems of all kinds.
- Acid Cleaning takes place quarterly, every (3-4 months). This solution dissolves beer stones, and other harmful soils, salts, and hop resin in the beer lines.
- Reminder, acid cleaning is on top of the caustic cleaning every 3-4 months. And the chemicals should never mix with one another. Caustic cleaning flushed with water then acid cleaning flushed with water. Test the pH and reassemble the beer system.
- After cleaning the draft beer system, and flushing out the chemicals. It’s always a good idea to check the PH of the water with PH strips. This is a check to make sure the lines don’t have any harmful chemicals inside of them. PH reading between 7.0-8.0 is what we are looking for before we give the all-clear to pump beer back through the system.
Beer Line Cleaning Kits
Used with direct draw systems. Typical kegerators set up from 1-3 taps would be best for this cleaning kit.The hand pump works by filling the bottle with the right amount of cleaning solution and water ratio.Screw the faucet fitting with the faucet collar until tight.
Start pumping the hand pump with an up and down motion. This will push the cleaning solution through the kegerator unit.Take off coupler at the end and put into bucket leaving the beer nut and hose fitting on. Let the solution soak in line for at least 20 mins because it isn't circulating.
The cleaning Keg method actually uses the C02 from the beer system to push the cleaning solution through the beer system. Initially start with a cleaning keg. Mix cleaning solution inside keg with water. Close the keg, attach coupler to cleaning keg and dispense cleaning solution through the beer system as if you were pouring beer.Set Up and takedown is easy with this method.Be sure to still clean faucets and couplers after line cleaning. Both of these items still need cleaning.
This uses an electronic pump to push beer cleaning solution through an entire draft system.
Continues to recirculate the solution for an extended amount of time. Recommend circulation for at least 15 minutes. Overall the best method for cleaning beer lines.
How to Clean Other Draft Equipment
Draft beer equipment and parts need cleaning too. When it comes to proper cleaning.
- Couplers: disassembled completely. Soaked in a cleaning solution and scrubbed to get rid of mold yeast and other particles that could be on the coupler or inside of it. After proper cleaning. Wash coupler in water and reassemble. Done quarterly at the very least.
- Faucets: Faucets completely taken apart and put into a cleaning solution. Also brushed to get any impurities out of the opening of the faucet and back end. After proper cleaning. Wash with water and reassemble. Done every 2 weeks.
For Remote Beer System Cleanings
- FOBS: FOB is a piece of equipment found on remote beer systems. And unless you have a commercial system you won’t need to worry about these next 3 items below. But for the sake of information, these 3 items will still need to be looked at. Clean fobs with a circulating pump as you would pump beer. After circulating chemicals. Rinse with cold water and bleed the water through the drain line on the outside.
- Beer Pumps: Checked every cleaning. Look at the gaskets on the hose fittings. Make sure that there aren’t any cracks. Clean in-line with a circulating pump. Also, check the C02 Fitting gasket in front of the beer pump.
- Flojet reversal valves: Check hose fittings leading up to the Fob. Look at gaskets inside of the beer pump. Make sure the flow is flowing through the valve. Move the directional panel left to right so that flow can change proper direction.
Home Kegerator Cleanings
These two cleaning approaches will be the most popular for kegerators. The hand pump even more so because it’s simple and less expensive. With the hand pump, the operator will have to make sure that the beer cleaning solution sits inside the beer lines for at least 20 minutes.
This is a great video above that shows how to clean a kegerator with a hand pump. I would let the beer line cleaner sit in the lines for at least 20 mins instead of 5 mins.
If using a cleaning keg. Make sure to have enough solution to pour through the system and let it sit for 20 minutes as well.
Commercial Draft Cleaning Systems
This is the best approach to use for commercial beer systems. With the amount of the lines that need to be cleaned and how well re-circulating pumps are there’s a reason, professional cleaners use these systems.
Micro Matic makes a couple of different sized pumps one for smaller beer runs up to 300’ and one for over 300’.
Re-circulating pumps is the best way to clean a beer system, and most effective cleaning system on the market today. Here's a short 3 minute video going over what's involved in a commercial cleaning using re-circulating pumps below.
We talked about the different types of cleaning approaches.
- Hand Pump Systems
- Cleaning Keg Approach
- Re-circulating Pumps
What to do before cleaning, while cleaning and reassembling equipment for any draft beer system. Regardless if it’s a direct draw beer system or remote beer system.
Hand Pumps and Cleaning Kegs are best for simple direct draw systems. While re-circulating pumps are best for remote draft beer systems.
Cleaning done every 2 weeks if possible. Caustic cleaning every 2 weeks and acid cleaning done every quarter.
Draft Beer equipment needs to be cleaned and maintained every couple of weeks like couplers and faucets.
For more information about draft beer dispensing check back often on the blog and if you have further questions you can always reach out.