Author Topic: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?  (Read 1680 times)

Offline mugwort

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How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« on: November 26, 2013, 10:23:12 AM »
I sometimes marvel at the extremes of practice and opinion in homebrewing that come up on this forum and elsewhere.  While a lot of the info can be hearsay and guesses, it's surely a good thing to have a wealth of differing experience informing the discussion.  I'm amazed at and grateful for the ideas I pick up reading the contributions.

What comes to mind today are home draft systems and the vastly different upkeep schedules people maintain.
I put draft maintenance behavior on a continuum, one end occupied by those who flush their lines weekly, take apart their taps for cleaning  frequently, and are generally draft sanitation obsessed.  The other side is held by those who seem to believe less is more or at least good enough.  Kegs are refilled and keg after keg go on with nary a line cleaning.

Neither of those extremes is for me.  Most of us are in what I think is the healthy middle.  Within that, there's a wide variety of beliefs and practices among homebrewers influenced by numerous sources.

So I'd ask, how thoroughly and often do you clean your taps, lines and kegs.  And why?  How does your setup and situation influence your regimen?


I'll start with my workflow.  It seems to work well for me but I am continually open to other practices and philosophies.

I brew small split batches, feeding a squad of 3 gallon kegs.  Depending on the quantity and style of the contents, a keg will last between 3 weeks and maybe 9 months.  Rarely do I switch kegs until blown since I have decent tap capacity.

Each time a keg blows I rinse it out, add a hot water PBW solution to shake and soak and then pump out through the line.  I follow this with BLC/LLC in hot water through the line which seems to eliminate stubborn yeast deposits that resist the PBW/Oxyclean.  Then a hot water rinse, shake and flush and it's time to pump StarSan through, leaving in for a few minutes of contact time and then allowing to clear from the keg while blowing the lines clear.  Now both keg and lines are CO2-flushed and ready to go.

Doing this when each keg blows for the last couple years I've only run across one real problem...a spout leak from a Perlick 525 SS faucet that developed in the middle of a keg dispense.  Started as a post-pour dribbling that made me think I wasn't pushing the handle back all the way, and later evolved into 2 or 3 pints on the floor before I noticed it.  I switched out that tap and plan to disassemble and clean/check washers.


Anyway if you survived that wordy intro, I'd love to hear what you do, especially if it's unique or innovative.  Also, are there any common practices that you believe unnecessary or even detrimental?
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Offline denny

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2013, 10:32:36 AM »
I use picnic taps.  Every time I clean a keg, I drop the lines and disassembled taps and QDs into the keg to soak.
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Offline dkfick

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2013, 10:34:50 AM »
I clean my lines in between beer.  Beer comes off I clean and sanitize the line (BLC - Rinse - StarSan).  New Beer goes on (if time in between I'll shoot some sanitizer though the line again).  When it comes off repeat.
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Offline Steve in TX

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2013, 10:43:11 AM »
Rarely. Guess I have a chore to take care of on Friday.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2013, 10:52:44 AM »
I use picnic taps as well, every time a keg kicks (with the exception of the water keg that just gets refilled) I clean it out, usually with just a good spray from the hose followed by hot PBW shaken thoroughly. If there are stubborn bits I have purpose acquired toilet brush to reach the bottom.

After a good 5-10 minutes of shaking I force the PBW solution out with co2, this cleans the posts, tubes, and taps pretty well. I rinse well with the hose and then sanitize with star san, fill it to the brim and force out with co2 through the taps.

I usually have two kegs to clean at a time so I push both the PBW and star san from one to the other.

Once in a while I'll get a wild hair and take the posts off pull the tubes, take the PRV apart, take the QDs apart, the picnic tap ends apart, the whole deal. But honestly, when I do everything is pretty clean inside.

The one exception is if I keg a really hoppy brew without being totally careful not to get gunk, then hops will sometimes foul the OUT post and I will take it apart to clear.
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Offline amh0001

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2013, 10:53:47 AM »
This might sound bad. I have 4 kegs and just use one picnic tap that I pull on and off. I clean it every once in a while =)

Offline mabrungard

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2013, 11:04:15 AM »
+1 to cleaning my picnic taps and lines as each keg is exhausted. Everything is in the fridge, so the opportunity to grow anything is minor. I always let the picnic tap drape down over the keg so that the outlet is generally pointed downward. Even so, I sometimes find a nice growth of mold on the stopper. I guess that is the main thing to worry about.
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Offline theDarkSide

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2013, 11:12:51 AM »
After a keg kicks, I flush the line with hot Oxyclean using this:
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/community/pimp-my-system/show?title=pimp-my-system-beer-line-cleaner

I will leave cleaner in the line overnight and then flush the line with star san, leaving that in the line until I hook up another keg.
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Offline kramerog

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2013, 11:14:15 AM »
I got picnic taps, one per keg.  After the keg kicks, I disassemble the lines and fittings and soak them in PBW or oxyclean overnight.  Sanitize with starsan typically by running starsan in a corny through the assembled lines.

Why do it this way?  So far it is working, appears sensible and doesn't require a lot of work.

I'm surprised at how many people of the regular posters use picnic taps.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 11:16:55 AM by kramerog »
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Offline denny

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2013, 11:20:10 AM »
This might sound bad. I have 4 kegs and just use one picnic tap that I pull on and off. I clean it every once in a while =)

The first time I disassembled the tap and QD I was amazed (and grossed out!) by what was in there.
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Offline Steve in TX

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2013, 11:36:40 AM »
I'm surprised at how many people of the regular posters use picnic taps.

After investing so much into the kegs, and a freezer, and a tank, and a regulator, picnic taps were the way to go. I have been using them for about 3 years now. Someday I will move to faucets, but that won't be for a while.

I tell myself that I am holding off for SS Perlick Flow Controls.  :D

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2013, 11:37:15 AM »
This might sound bad. I have 4 kegs and just use one picnic tap that I pull on and off. I clean it every once in a while =)

The first time I disassembled the tap and QD I was amazed (and grossed out!) by what was in there.

I've been known to switch them right to the new keg.  But Denny and Martin are correct, there's some nasty stuff what can grow in a picnic tap.  I did not realize it until I served a pint with a floating chunk of nasty in it.

I try to be good and change the lines with every keg.  Mostly, I will rinse them out and sanitize them regularly and give them a good soak in oxy clean once in a while.  I have a large handful of picnic taps, so I can change the plunger/stopper part pretty regularly.  IME, that's where the nasty grows. 

If you disassemble your QDs, be careful.  There are o-rings and other parts that can go right down the drain.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2013, 11:38:55 AM »
I'm surprised at how many people of the regular posters use picnic taps.

After investing so much into the kegs, and a freezer, and a tank, and a regulator, picnic taps were the way to go. I have been using them for about 3 years now. Someday I will move to faucets, but that won't be for a while.

I tell myself that I am holding off for SS Perlick Flow Controls.  :D

I have two single tap towers that I acquired a few years back.  They won't really fit where I currently have my fridge due to clearance issues (besides, I'd want a double tap not two singles) and I've never gotten around to building the rolling bar for parties.
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Offline thebigbaker

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2013, 11:43:52 AM »
I've got 4 taps and do something similar as you do.  When a keg blows, I clean the keg w/ hot PBW or Oxiclean solution, hook the keg up in the kegerator and run the solution through the line.  I then rinse the keg w/ warm water and sanitize w/ about 1.5 gallons of Starsan solution, then run that through the the line also.  This has been my routine for about 1 1/2 yrs before I decided to reconfigure the inside of my kegerator and swapped my lines out for shorter ones.  When I mad the switch, the old lines were clean and so were my taps.  I'll probably take everything apart, inspect and clean where needed every year or so just to keep tabs on it.
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Offline Pinski

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Re: How often and thoroughly do you clean your lines? And why?
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2013, 11:44:44 AM »
Almost always a hot water flush followed by startsan with every change out.  At least a couple times a year, I'll recirculate some PBW or BLC.  Once a year I disassemble the taps and lines.
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