The cleaning of your home draft system is paramount to maintaining a flow of clean and healthy beer. Without this regular maintenance between each keg, one runs a high risk of microbial infection that could change the flavors of the beer. Here we will go over the various details of disassembling a kegerator for the regular maintenance it needs. If you own a home draft system, we recommend that you follow these steps to insure proper cleaning and sanitation.
Regular cleaning and sanitation of your home draft system lines, faucets and regulators is essential for keeping your beer flowing bacteria-free.
There are two stages to the cleaning of your home draft system: cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning means getting all the large chunks of yeast and malt residue away from the surfaces of the kegerator, or home draft system, while sanitizing means going after the microbes and performing a deeper clean.
Step 1 - Surface Cleaning
The first thing you want to do is wipe down all surfaces. So go ahead and unplug your kegerator, turn the CO2 off, close off the regulator, and disengage the keg tap and remove the keg.
Start cleaning all surfaces - this includes your CO2 tank, regulator, keg tap, all beer lines, any spill tray you have, the inside of your cooling unit, and the outside. Basically, it is a good idea to give the whole area around your draft system a good cleaning. This is because microbes such as vinegar bacteria, rouge yeast, or colonies containing both (i.e. Kombucha) can live in puddles of spilled beer and waft into your cooling unit or up your spigot to cause further contamination.
We suggest using unscented soap and warm water for this initial surface cleaning. The use of unscented soap allows you to smell if the surface is actually clean or not, as the perfumes in scented soaps can be strong enough to overpower scents that are clues to dirty spots.
Once you have cleaned all the surfaces you can reach, you will want to clean the surfaces you can't reach. This is the inside of the beer lines, the spigot or draft tower, and the keg tap.
|Make sure you have the following tools available before disassembly:|
|• Quart Bottle with pump assembly (You can make this yourself with some household items or buy it along with a beer line cleaning kit.)
• Faucet Wrench
• Faucet Brush
• Cleaning Solution (BLC is a good one)
• A 2-5 gallon bucket
• A small bowl
Step 2 - Sanitizing
Now, you are ready to begin the process of Sanitizing the beer lines. You will want to disassemble the faucet by unscrewing it with the faucet wrench. The faucet wrench is a specialty wrench that should have come with your kegerator for this purpose - also called a spanner wrench.
Completely disassemble the faucet once you remove it from the draft system. (Below you will see a perlick style faucet dissassembled on the left and a regular style faucet on the right. )
Let the various parts soak in a mixture of cleaning solution and warm water in the bowl.
While that is soaking, connect the quart bottle with the pump assembly to your faucet shank coupler. You can use the faucet wrench to get a snug fit, but don't forget the washer that is supposed to go in between the cleaning hose adapter and the faucet shank. Just like on your garden hose, if you forget this, the joint will leak a lot.
Most cleaning solutions are concentrated, so you will not have to put much in the quart bottle - usually just a cap full or teaspoon full. You can also use a soda keg instead of the quart bottle that comes with the cleaning kits. One Kegerators.com staffer uses a soda keg with an adapter made from a broken bicycle tube. This allows them to use a regulation bicycle tire pump to push the cleaning solution through. This can accomplish cleaning and sanitizing the dispenser tube from your soda keg at the same time as cleaning your beer lines, but you should still take the dispenser tube out for cleaning and inspection as well as part of cleaning and sanitizing your keg.
The other end of the beer line should be attached to the keg coupler. This part should also be disassembled and set to soak in the bowl while you pump the beer lines to clean and sanitize them. Be careful to remember how the tap comes apart and to not lose any parts. You will have to put it all back together.
Below is a sanke tap modified with a threaded fitting to easily switch back and forth between sanke and homebrew style couplers.
Below is a look at a dissasembled homebrew style fitting.
After removing the keg coupler, the other end of the beer line goes into your bucket, which should be at least two gallons and no more than five, ideally. It is worth noting here that you should NOT use bleach for this process. Bleach reacts poorly with stainless steel, and there are probably some stainless steel parts in your draft system. This is why oxidizing cleaners are preferred, such as BLC or Oxyclean. A solution of water and Iodine will work as well.
Pump soapy water through the beer lines first, then oxidizing cleaner, then flush the lines three times with warm water only. Make sure you flush the beer lines properly, because you do not want to be drinking cleaning solution.
After this, it is a good idea to check that there is no residue of foam or beer inside your CO2 gas line. As improbable as this sounds, it can happen if the gas is off and the keg gets jostled. That beer or foam may surge backwards up the gas line, so make sure this is also clean. If there is a residue, you should clean the gas line in the same way that you did the beer lines.
After the beer lines have been cleaned and sanitized, use the faucet brush to scrub out the faucet and keg tap. Once these are cleaned, you should inspect all of the parts, especially the rubber gaskets and O-rings. These are the parts of the draft system which most often fail. If they are worn or flattened, you should replace them as soon as you are able. If the gasket is in a location where threads are present, you may be able to use with thread tape, but you will want to replace the gasket eventually.
Now you are ready for reassembly and possibly for a beer if you have another keg on hand. Remember to let the keg settle and get to temperature before drawing beer from it.
Related Kegerator Articles :
Cleaning Your Kegerator -- Learn why cleaning your kegerator is vital to keeping beer tasting fresh and efficiently flowing.
Maintaining Beer Lines With A Beer Cleaner -- Learn how to maintain your kegerator beer lines with a beer cleaner like iodophor, BLC or Power Punch 22.
Kegerator Maintenance Tools -- See the kegerator tools you need to keep your kegerator sanitized and clean to keep beer flowing properly.