A few years ago I made the leap from bottling my beers to a corny keg setup. I'm glad I made the jump as it definitely made one aspect of my brewing easier. There are a lot less bottles to clean and sanitise!
With that said, I still bottle certain styles of beers that I like to keep for a longer period of time such as Saisons, Barleywines and strong beers.
As you can imagine, it is still really important to ensure that your kegs (and beer draft lines) are kept clean and sanitised as you don't want to risk spoiling all your beautiful beer. Over time bad stuff such as mold, bacteria, and wild yeasts can find their way into the lines and potentially contaminate the beer. Personally, I try to clean my beer draft lines every time one of the kegs gets emptied.
In this article I will show you the equipment and steps that I take to keep my beer draft lines clean and shiny.
Choosing a cleaning solution
Before we talk about how to clean your beer draft lines, let's talk about what cleaning solution to use. For a long time, I used to mix VWP with the required amount of water and push it through the lines. I have also read that many people use Oxi Clean which works well too, however it won't remove beer stone which builds up over time.
Lately I have switched to using Pipeline Beer Line cleaner.
The great thing about Pipeline Beer Line cleaner is that lets you know when the lines are actually clean. The solution itself is purple and when it passes through the line it will change colour (to a green) if the line is dirty, and then it will turn back to purple when it is absolutely yeast and bacteria free. There is also no caustic soda involved, so it is a bit gentler and safer to handle. This has been a game changer to help know when everything is clean and take the guesswork out of the process.
Kegland Gas Free Line Cleaning Kit
My usual method of cleaning the beer lines is to fill a corny keg with a cleaning solution, pressurize it with a little bit of CO2, connect the ball lock valves and open the taps to push the cleaning solution through it.
I have been doing this for a while now, but I have realised how much CO2 ends up getting wasted using this process. I recently came across a gas free ball lock Line Cleaning Kit from Kegland which allows you to clean your beer draft lines without the need for CO2. The idea is that you fill a PET bottle with a cleaning solution and pump it without any gas using the trigger on the side. I used an old 1 liter soda bottle and the lid just screws onto the carbonation cap.
This is what it looks like filled with a diluted Pipeline beer line cleaner solution.
From there, I just connect the existing ball lock disconnects to the carbonation cap, open the taps and pump the solution through it.
It can sometimes seem like a bit of a chore, but keeping your beer lines clean will ensure that you serve the best quality beer possible. I highly recommend trying out both Pipeline beer cleaner and the Kegland gas free line cleaning kit. In case you were wondering, I paid for both of these products myself - this is no advert!
In terms of the beer lines themselves, I try and replace them once a year to ensure that they don't degrade too much.
If you are thinking of making the leap to kegging - do it - you won't regret it. I've also previously written about how I built custom tap handles for my kegerator, so if you are interested in doing something like this for yourself, please check out the article here.