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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 02:54:04 AM

Title: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 02:54:04 AM
Over the years, I've wondered how critical it is to sanitize the keg before racking in the finished beer.  It's fermented, so what's the risk?  To begin with, I'm not one of those types that takes everything apart after each brew.  In fact, at best the kegs get a good take apart cleaning every 2,3 maybe 4 or 5 years. 

My standard MO is that when a keg kicks, I just disconnect the CO2 and store it full of CO2.  When I'm ready to fill, I just release the CO2, rinse and sanitize.  Works fine for me.

I recently kegged 10 gallons of Beerfan's SNPA clone into 2 kegs with just a water rinse (no sanitizer).  It seems to have worked fine.  I did this about a month ago, in preparation for the Oregon Country Fair in Denny's backyard.  We killed that keg (plus 2 more) at the Fair and everyone loved it.  I just tapped the other keg and, again, it tastes fine.  I plan to try and keep this keg around for awhile to see if any off flavors develop, but I don't see it happening.

Anyone else do this?  Please share your experiences.

My methods have served me well for many years, so please don't bother telling me how I need to clean everything all the time.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: b-hoppy on July 22, 2010, 03:38:13 AM
over time, an unnoticeable layer of crud will eventually build up which you will finally notice after you accidentally spill some sort of alkaline cleaner into the keg as you are getting ready to fill it with beer.  once you see how shiny the area where the cleaner was spilled, you may think again as to not cleaning your kegs.  i'm sure that as long as you are sanitizing them after a 'good' beer has been dispensed, you may be able to keep this regime up for a while, but it's not a really good habit to get into.  just my opinion.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: jimbo44 on July 22, 2010, 06:30:46 AM
It's kind of like the huge swine flu epidemic.  Everyone walked around with masks on their face.  The funny thing is, the eyes are much more susceptible to germs, but no one wears glasses. 
Point being I would imagine as long as the keg is clean then that technique would work fine.  the beer is fermented and has hops.  All things that can keep germs from growing.  It also is in cold conditions and that slows any critters from growing.  If your drinking your kegs within 3-5 months I would imagine it would be hard for off flavors to show up.  Especially with hoppy or heavy beers.  I would think a pils might show flavors quicker. 
Personally I'm like the people with masks on.  I PBW and Sanitize the parts every time before new beer comes in.  Even if it would be hard for any germs to grow in the beer.  Just a peace of mind thing I guess.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: MDixon on July 22, 2010, 11:36:14 AM
My methods have served me well for many years, so please don't bother telling me how I need to clean everything all the time.

Sounds like you don't want anyone to respond... ;)

One day, perhaps soon, perhaps not, you will have an issue and will remember this thread. Let's look at what goes into making a batch of beer:
5 hours to brew
2 weeks to ferment
1-2 hours of cleaning before and after fermentation

Now how long to clean and sanitize the keg to be absolutely sure you never have a problem...15 min

Face it, you're lazy ::) ;D
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: tubercle on July 22, 2010, 11:42:40 AM
SBD, My routine is exactly like yours and I have never had a problem. About every 10th use I will give it an over night oxyclean soak.

 
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: vista on July 22, 2010, 12:11:48 PM
i've read various threads on this topic. i for one clean everytime i rack on a new beer....but i've read about people that will go through 4 or 5 batches in a row in a keg without cleaning. truth probably lies somewhere in the grey area of what is necessary and what you can get away with, a concept that probably applies to almost everything in this hobby...but for my sanity, i like to tread on the more anal side of sanitation...just in case :)
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on July 22, 2010, 12:27:08 PM
I'm with MDixon on this one.  It takes such a minimal amount of time to take the keg apart and sanitize.  That said, if you haven't had any issues with just rinsing kegs out with water, good on ya!
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: majorvices on July 22, 2010, 12:50:44 PM
Every now and then when I pop a keg and, as long as there is no yeast on the bottom, I will rack another beer right into that keg.  ;D That said, I usually sanitize and clean my kegs regularly, even running a brush up the dip tube. I also regularly boil my posts.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: bluesman on July 22, 2010, 01:12:25 PM
I am one to clean and sanitize after each use.  My maintenance is as follows:

1. rinse clean
2. PBW + hot tap water (overnight soak)
3. clean dip tube and posts
4. inspect o-rings
5. sanitize
6. rack beer to keg

All told an extra half hour (my time) of good cheap insurance.  ;)
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: dhacker on July 22, 2010, 01:38:17 PM
After ever keg blows, hot water and Oxiclean overnight, rinse, rack, relax.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: bearcat on July 22, 2010, 02:03:16 PM
I wait until I have bunch empty (let the empty kegs sit empty under pressure) then I will test for leaks,  break down and check o-orings if necessary and  then run cleaner through a jumper from one to another.  Then run Sanitizer through them and then store under pressure... I wait till a have a bunch cause I am lazy and it is not my favorite aspect of brewing but I know it is important.

I haven't seen any issues but eventually something will happen-- so what should I be on the watch out for?   what sort of off flavors etc?
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: babalu87 on July 22, 2010, 02:08:50 PM
Commercial brewers use steam and some use caustic after that..................... all I need to know.

But
I racked some beer last night that will be drank in the next week or so and did a hot water rinse and then Star-San
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 02:23:06 PM
My methods have served me well for many years, so please don't bother telling me how I need to clean everything all the time.

Sounds like you don't want anyone to respond... ;)

One day, perhaps soon, perhaps not, you will have an issue and will remember this thread. Let's look at what goes into making a batch of beer:
5 hours to brew
2 weeks to ferment
1-2 hours of cleaning before and after fermentation

Now how long to clean and sanitize the keg to be absolutely sure you never have a problem...15 min

Face it, you're lazy ::) ;D

It's not that I don't want anyone to respond.  I just envisioned the usual chorus of "you're nuts, I take everything apart, clean everything, every time........blah blah blah" While that's fine- I don't.  I never have.  I'm not envisioning this as my new SOP, but I admit I've wondered about it for a long time.  I finally had the balls to try and, it seems, my beer is fine.  I'm just hoping the sanitation police don't find me.

As for laziness- nah.  I'd just rather spend time w/ my wife and kids than wasting a bunch of time taking things apart.  I've been brewing for a very long time and my focus has become production (my wife drinks alot).  I brew about 10 recipes and I'm most interested in getting the most (good) beer in the least amount of time.  While I won't let the quality of my beer suffer, my procedures are very different from many of you.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 02:26:25 PM
Commercial brewers use steam and some use caustic after that..................... all I need to know.

But
I racked some beer last night that will be drank in the next week or so and did a hot water rinse and then Star-San

Interestingly, rinse and starsan is my usual method.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: denny on July 22, 2010, 03:24:21 PM
SBD, your process will be fine right up until it isn't.....
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 03:38:06 PM
SBD, your process will be fine right up until it isn't.....

Exactly.  We all learn by "pushing it" to some limit.  Just sharing my experience.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: denny on July 22, 2010, 03:40:38 PM
Exactly.  We all learn by "pushing it" to some limit.  Just sharing my experience.

I completely agree with your "pushing it" statement.  My own experience in trying what you're doing is what prompted me to make my previous statement!  ;)
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 03:53:53 PM
Please share Denny
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: euge on July 22, 2010, 04:11:54 PM
I clean my kegs every time. Takes 5 minutes to completely clean- including disassembling the posts. Hot water and oxyclean gets rid of the sludge that is always there.

Why risk beer that was carefully made at one of the most critical aspects of it's short life?

However, rinsing out kegs with hot water and racking is OK if it's going into a cold kegerator and will be drunk up soon. The cold temps and alcohol should retard any growing infection.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: denny on July 22, 2010, 05:18:00 PM
Please share Denny

Years ago, on rec.crafts.brewing, this very topic came up.  I started just rinsing out kegs (if even that) before refilling them.  My theory is that the low pH of the beer, along with the alcohol content, made the beer resistant to infection.  The flaw was "resistant" didn't mean "impossible"!  It worked fine for a few months, but then I started noticing off flavors in beers where the kegs had been reused several times without cleaning.  It finally went away when I tore all of those kegs down and gave them all a thorough cleaning and sanitizing.  Of course, it's possible that I had a run of bad beers caused by something else, but circumstantial evidence pointed to the lack of keg cleaning.  Since then, I always clean and sanitize kegs and the problem hasn't reappeared.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: piszkiewiczp on July 22, 2010, 05:32:31 PM
One problem could be the tendancy for bateria to form biofilms. These are aggregations of cells that adhere to surfaces and protect themselves with an extracellular slime layer that is resistant to simple rinsing or even the milder cleaners/sanitizers. Over time, these could become a source of off flavors or contamination. Biofilms won't necessarily for after the first skipped cleaning, or even the tenth, but eventually......
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: dbeechum on July 22, 2010, 06:43:11 PM
The only time I've ever done the whole rack a beer in is if
1) the beer is going to be gone in short order
and
2) I'm racking the second half of a batch into the keg.
Title: Re: Keg sanitation is over rated?
Post by: SwashBuckling Drunk on July 22, 2010, 07:25:29 PM
Please share Denny

Years ago, on rec.crafts.brewing, this very topic came up.  I started just rinsing out kegs (if even that) before refilling them.  My theory is that the low pH of the beer, along with the alcohol content, made the beer resistant to infection.  The flaw was "resistant" didn't mean "impossible"!  It worked fine for a few months, but then I started noticing off flavors in beers where the kegs had been reused several times without cleaning.  It finally went away when I tore all of those kegs down and gave them all a thorough cleaning and sanitizing.  Of course, it's possible that I had a run of bad beers caused by something else, but circumstantial evidence pointed to the lack of keg cleaning.  Since then, I always clean and sanitize kegs and the problem hasn't reappeared.

Makes sense and fits with what I'm doing/ plan to maybe do more.  I don't intend to keep refilling the same kegs over and over this way, but rather not sweat it occasionally. I'll never tear my kegs down after every brew.  Most beers don't last more than a few months around here (like I said, wifey likes to drink).

Thanks for some insight based on actual experience