Have you ever went to a bar and ordered a beer that you know you love, just to be disappointed with the end product in your glass? There are many different things that can cause a beer to taste different from place to place, but chief among them is dirty beer lines. Dirty beer lines can cause infections in your beer and result in various off flavors; diacetyl is a common infection caused by dirty lines and imparts a buttery or butterscotch flavor.
So what can you do to prevent this from happening to your kegged beers? Having a consistent cleaning schedule for your kegs and beer lines is an important part of having your beers taste as good as possible. The easier it is to clean your lines the more often you will do it, and your beers will taste better as a result.
Using the right cleaner – LLC vs. PBW vs. OxiClean
Powdered brewery wash (PBW) and OxiClean Free are both great cleaning products for your brewery. Leaving a solution of either of these to soak in a keg or a carboy is one of the best ways to get rid of side-clinging krausen or hop gunk, and for a quick clean of your beer lines after a keg that didn’t last long, one of these products may be all that is needed. However if you suspect you are having issues with your beer due to dirty lines, or if it has been a while since you have done a full clean, nothing is better than liquid line cleaner (LLC).
Liquid line cleaner, also known as beer line cleaner, is the best way to ensure clean lines. Unlike the other cleaning products you likely use in your home brewery, LLC is a caustic solution. It is extremely efficient at removing calcium buildups in the line known as beer stone, as well as any other organic material that may be sitting in the line. A word of warning however: LLC is a powerful chemical; make sure you read any warning labels, and be especially careful with the undiluted stuff.
Making beer line cleaning as painless as possible
I know that when it comes to my homebrewing, the more tedious a process is the less often I am going to do it. For years I would put off line cleaning for as long as I could and then when it started to present a problem I would usually just end up buying new lines. This was all thanks to me not having a simple process to circulate cleaner through my beer lines.
To make this as painless as possible, we need just a few parts. When you are finished you will be able to make a gallon or so of diluted LLC, put it into a bucket along with a modified pump and hook your beer line up. After that you can let the cleaner recirculate for as long as you feel is needed for your beer lines to shine. Here are the parts we need:
This submersible fountain pump is strong enough to push beer line cleaner through any reasonable length of beer line. My beer lines are 10 feet of 3/16” ID tubing, with a rise of 5 feet from the pump to the tap, and the pump has never had an issue. Another important part of this pump is the removable threaded nozzles; this lets us install our own fitting directly into the pump.
This fitting will fit directly into the pump, and the other side is the right size for our keg post. Any 1/4″ male flare fitting will also fit the keg post, so you can buy a 1/2″ MPT to 1/4″ male flare adapter locally as well.
To make cleaning as simple as possible, we attach this liquid out keg post to the other side of the fitting. This way you can simply take your beer line off your keg and connect it directly to the pump, with no tools or extra disconnections. I’ve linked a ball lock post, if you use pin lock then get a
You should use this on the threads of the parts to help avoid any leaks.
Optional – Wall outlet switch
Since the pump doesn’t have a switch on it, this will allow you to turn the pump on and off without unplugging it and plugging it back in.
Once you have all the parts you need, wrap the threads with the teflon tape and screw them together. Put the pump into a bucket of beer line cleaner, and make sure there is enough diluted LLC to completely cover the pump so that it will never run dry. Attach your beer line to the pump, and position the bucket under your open tap. Plug in the pump and let the cleaner circulate!
It is recommended to let the LLC circulate in each line for five minutes to ensure cleanliness. After all of your lines are clean, you need to rinse your lines well with clean water; LLC is not the kind of thing you want left in your lines to drink. After a thorough rinse, I like to run a bit of sanitizer through each line to prevent any infection.
I like to perform this cleaning every time I rack a new beer into a keg. With this pump cleaning only takes about 10 minutes, and it ensures that I won’t have any problems or off flavors because of my lines. Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips on making this process even easier? Just let me know in the comments below!
Looking for a tap to attach to these newly clean beer lines? Check out my review of the Intertap Flow Control Faucets!