Draft Beer System Cleaning Overview
All beer systems require cleaning and maintenance due to the nature of the product. Additionally, state authorities require draft beer system cleaning on a regular schedule to meet health code requirements. Different types of beer systems will require various methods of cleaning and multiple processes.
Required cleaning is the minimum required to keep a draft beer system clean. However, it typically falls short of what a draft beer system needs to be kept clean and trouble free for the life of the installation.
We will outline the requirements for cleaning and maintaining a draft beer system and the additional needs to keep a fully functional draft beer system over the life of the system.
Due to the buildup of organic products in beer and caused by organisms feeding on the beer like bacteria, yeast, microbes, and proteins, your draft beer systems need regular cleanings. The buildup will eventually affect the flavor and reliability of the draft beer system.
Guidelines for Draft Beer System Cleaning
We do not recommend draft beer system cleaning using a sonic cleaning system. Although sonic cleaning can clean the beer line, it does not have the ability to clean the hardware or fittings correctly.
Three Types of Buildup Common to Beer Systems
Common Issues of Draft Beer System Cleaning
Beer line cleaning requires dangerous chemicals. These beer line chemicals should be used with caution and proper safety procedures.
Always wear proper safety equipment such rubber gloves and safety eyewear. Additionally, aprons keep chemicals off clothing if it spills or contacts work surfaces.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals used should be on file and available. These sheets will outline proper use of the specified chemical and the correct operating procedures to use. Additionally, know the rules and procedures to perform if a spill or skin contact occurs.
When diluting the chemicals with water ALWAYS ADD CHEMICALS TO WATER and never add the water to chemicals. Adding water to chemicals may cause a rapid rise in temperature and volatility. This volatility can lead to splashes, spills, and eruptions of the chemicals.
Beer systems should always be designed with the shortest possible system length. Keeping beer lines short reduces operating and maintenance costs. As line length increases, the potential maintenance issues increase proportionately.
Beer waste due to cleaning is directly proportional to the length of the beer line. The beer in the line is typically wasted, as it must be removed from the line before cleaning starts. Therefore, this beer waste is one reason for using the shortest beer line needed in a draft beer system.
Draft beer system designs need to consider and verify the hardware, fittings, and lines are compatible with the cleaning method recommended. All components used in the system also must be consistent with the cleaning process and chemicals recommended.
Additionally, replace all beer lines on a regular basis.
You should have line replacement performed after a routine cleaning or, the line replaced should be taken out of the cleaning loop. There is no need to clean a freshly replaced line.
Replace all beer lines when:
- Replace vinyl jumpers and direct draw lines every year.
- Changes to the chemical cleaning process are not compatible with existing hardware.
- Replace beer lines after pouring non-beer product and flavored product as such beverages will permanently flavor the beer line. These flavors can contaminate adjacent lines in the same beer line bundle.
- Replace beer lines after using chlorine in the beer line cleaning.
Replace long draw beer lines when:
- The beer system is 10 years or older.
- Impaired beer flavor
- Adjacent beer lines change Beer flavor.
- You detect chronic alteration of beer flavor.
Frequency of Draft Beer System Cleaning
The frequency of cleaning a draft beer system depends on the type of cleaning required. Systems require caustic cleaning every two weeks. It requires acid cleaning once a quarter. These two types of cleaning should occur in opposite flow directions to provide optimal results.
Every Two Weeks (14 Days)
- Systems require caustic cleaning every two weeks to keep buildup inside the beer lines to a minimum.
- Remove, disassemble completely and clean all faucets.
- All keg couplers and tapping devices should be cleaned by scrubbing.
- In-line clean all FOB-stop devices, beer savers, and foam detectors with the cleaning solution vented out the top of the apparatus.
Every three Months (Quarterly)
- Systems require acid cleaning every three months or once a quarter. (This is known as de-stoning a beer system.)
- Cleaning direction should be opposite of the two-week cleaning direction.
- Completely dissemble and clean all keg couplers and tapping devices.
- Completely dissemble and hand clean all FOB-stop devices, beer savers, and foam detectors.
Caustic Based Cleaning
Caustic cleaning is designed to remove organic material from a beer system. The caustic chemistry prevents the buildup of beer spoiling bacteria from the interior surfaces of a beer system.
Most recommended caustic solutions are based on sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or a combination of both for their cleaning process. EDTA or similar chemical agents provide significant cleaning benefits and help remove calcium oxalate (beer stone) from beer lines.
Industry standards recommend a cleaning percentage of a 2% solution for most cleaning tasks. We additionally recommend a 3% solution for troublesome or older system, heavily soiled systems, and systems starting to show altered beer flavor.
The cleaning solution is necessary and should be measured following the chemical manufacturer recommendations. Additionally, the operating temperature of the chemical solution is critical for optimal cleaning.
The temperature should be between 80°F – 110°F and should remain in contact with the system for a minimum of 15 minutes for flow cleaning and 20 minutes for static or pot cleaning.
Acid Based Cleaning
Acid-based cleaning removes inorganic materials such as calcium oxalate (beer stone) and calcium carbonate (water stone) from the inside walls of a beer system. Acid-based cleaning solutions contain phosphoric acid as the active chemical.
Studies have also shown routine caustic cleaning with EDTA additives will reduce the calcium oxalate buildup in a draft beer system.
Some acid-based cleaning solutions can contain acids that will harm your beer system. These include, but are not limited to, a Hydrochloric acid which corrodes stainless steel, and Nitric Acid which is not compatible with nylon products including beer tubing.
Mix acid cleaners to the manufacturer’s recommendations with a water temperature between 80°F – 110°F and let remain in contact with the system for a minimum of 15 minutes for flow cleaning and 20 minutes for static or pot cleaning.
Finally, you should complete all cleaning with a thorough flushing of water. Always use fresh water to flush a draft beer system after any cleaning procedure. Continue flushing until it flushes all solids from the system, the cleaning removes chemicals, and the pH balance of the water returns to normal.
Check the water pH with a pH strip to verify the balance returns to pre-cleaning standards before completing the cleaning session.
Remember to NEVER clear the cleaning chemicals from the lines with beer. Using beer to clear the lines is not only wasteful of product; it will impair the flavor of the beer and allow chemicals to remain in the beer system.
Three Types of Draft Beer System Cleaning Processes
Now that we have addressed the frequency of cleaning, we will detail the process for cleaning using each process. We also cover this in more detail in Part Two: Equipment and Procedures.
Flow Cleaning (Recommended Method)
Flow cleaning is the preferred method of cleaning beer lines. This cleaning is 80 times more effective than static cleaning. In flow cleaning, the chemical is pumped through the beer lines using an external pump system. The movement of chemicals during cleaning is in the opposite direction of normal beer flow.
The flow rate of the cleaning solution should be twice the normal beer flow rate. In some systems, doubling the flow rate during cleaning is not realistic. To double the flow rate, larger pumps may be used, or system pressure may be increased. However, the pressure of a flow cleaning should not exceed 60psi to achieve the flow rate.
It is acceptable to extend the cleaning time of the chemicals from the standard 15-minute cleaning time to 20 minutes.
Static or Pot Cleaning
Additionally, static cleaning of beer lines is an alternative to flow cleaning and requires longer contact with the chemicals to achieve similar results. However, flow cleaning is the preferred method of cleaning beer lines as the chemical movement acts as a mild abrasive that static cleaning cannot mimic.
Static cleaning is useful for some aspects of the cleaning process. When removing the faucets before the line cleaning process, we recommend soaking the faucets in the chemical cleaning component until you can disassemble and clean them thoroughly.
Use sponges and brushes to scrub beer system components physically. These mechanically cleaned components include couplers, faucets, beer pumps, FOB-stops, beer savers, and other miscellaneous items.
The abrasiveness of mechanical cleaning is acceptable for cleaning the external surfaces of components. However, take care when considering mechanical cleaning of internal surfaces as the abrasions introduced may cause a quicker buildup of organics.
Additionally, scratches introduced through mechanical cleaning may affect beer flavor.
Additional Information for Draft Beer System Cleaning:
- Brewers Association
- MicroMatic Beer Cleaning Tutorial
- How to clean draft beer lines: Circulation Method