Lazy Brewing: Cheap and Easy Hydro-Pneumatic Keg Cleaning

I like kegging.  I hate cleaning kegs. 

I like keg washers.  I hate spending money on brewing equipment.

I like DIY.  I hate when I DIY and make something more complicated and unreliable.

Sometimes – just sometimes – you find yourself a quick and effective fix for a common brewing task, and man, that’s really just the best. 

I think I have one of those this week, for those who love the convenience of kegging but hate slopping water all over to clean them and aren’t willing to invest in a keg washer (which I read can be kind of unreliable anyway).

Nothing Beats A Spare Parts Solution

My beef with keg cleaning is this: I want a clean (and maybe sanitized) keg, but I don’t feel like stripping it down every time.  However, I also don’t really trust that a healthy rinse gets the job done, so I often end up stripping it, filling the whole bastard with OneStep, then dumping it all out and reassembling (invariably spilling lots of oxygen-laden water all over the brewery). 

What I wanted was a simple solution (upcoming pun intended) that allowed me to hit most of the parts in the keg (nearly all of them, really) with some kind of cleaner and/or sanitizer while also not having to hoist and dump anything and, if I could avoid it, disassembling the keg.

My answer came when I was doing a little inventory on my “random brewing parts” drawers (we all have those, right?) and I noticed I had a lot of spare ball lock connectors and tubing of assorted diameter in lots of lengths.  A bit of inspiration and some lucky guesses later, and I had a fast and easy keg cleaning mechanism.

Homemade Hyrdo-Pneumatic Keg Cleaning

Rather than using a pump to cycle liquid into and through and around the inside of the keg, I just went hydraulic/pneumatic.  I connected about 36 inches each of tubing to one beer post connector (black/out) and one gas post connector (white/in), with nothing connected to the other ends.  Those two post-tube pieces and a hose barb coming off of my faucet (which I already had) are the only equipment needed. 

Step One: Bleed the gas off the keg and pop the lid.  One quick hit with the sprayer and the residual beer (and small amount of sediment) is gone.  Add the appropriate amount of OneStep (use your favorite no-scrub/no-rinse cleaner) into the bottom of the keg.

Step Two: Connect the posts, running the open end of the “Out” post to the hose barb on the faucet, and the open end of the “In” post to the sink. 

Step Three: Turn the hot water on and run about half a gallon into the keg (in through the out post), then pause to give the keg and good shake/swirl to help the cleaner dissolve.  Then run hot water in until you see water coming out the white gas post tubing.  At that point, I lifted the bleed valve on top of the lid until the keg filled to that level (you’ll get a fun little sprinkler effect when it “tops out”), but you may find that overkill.  In any case, once you’re full, leave it sit for half an hour and let the cleaner work.

Step Four: Remove the tubing from the hose barb – that’s a real “Out” again.  Connect a conventional CO2 line to the keg’s “in” post and push the cleaner/water out with the CO2, which also ensures that your “Out” dip tube is getting hit with cleaner. 

That’s it!  Once it empties, you have a clean, CO2-flushed keg.  Repeat with sanitizer if you want.  Then just set it aside for its next use.

Daisy Chain

Since I had a bunch of spare post connectors, I also played with building a “Daisy Chain” keg cleaning rig.  It’s the same as the single-kegger described above, but I built “jumpers” to connect one keg to the next in the chain (white to white, then black to black to the next keg, etc.).  Calculate how much cleaner you need for however many kegs you have chained together, and add that amount to the first keg.  Then run water through until it comes out the other end of the “keg chain,” let them sit, then blast clear with the CO2!

Nothing New Under the Sun

I feel pretty confident that others have already done this, but it was new to me.  Problems aren’t “problems” until we try to fix them, even if we don’t like what we’re doing, and this wasn’t a “problem” for me until recently.

I’m feeling pretty good about this one, though.  Yes, itexpends some CO2, but to be frank I’ve blown way more than this every time I get a has leak in the kegerator.  I’ll take the minor cost over the strain and slop of lifting and dumping kegs.

Keep it simple.

JJW