For those who keg their beer, a necessary evil is cleaning your beverage lines routinely. On the homebrew level, the general rule of thumb I‘ve followed is cleaning every 6-weeks or at the very least, in-between each keg that will be on tap. Leaving the lines and faucets dirty can result in off-flavors as well as increase foaming, making dispensing more difficult. Why destroy all the hard work put into the beer you are dispensing?
The cleaning process involves running some kind of caustic cleaning solution such as Beer Line Cleaner (BLC), Straight A, PBW, or Clear Tap, through the lines and faucets to remove deposits, bacteria, and even mold, to guarantee the best quality beer. The most prevalent technique among homebrewers utilizes a spare keg with your cleaning solution of choice inside of it, putting CO2 pressure into the keg and connecting each beverage line to the liquid-out post to clean lines one at a time. This not only wastes CO2, but is not the best method to clean beer lines which benefit from continuous flow for a duration of time, typically 15 minutes.
Another method used is to disassemble the faucet and connect a hand pump to the faucet shank, and soak all the pieces in the cleaning solution. As you can expect this can be quite the task to perform often on a mutiple tap dispensing system. While a complete disassemble, deep clean and soak is recommended every so often, for routine beer line cleaning it does not have to be so thorough.
The best technique for cleaning beer lines utilizes a pump to push the cleaning fluid through your taps and beer lines. However, if you have multiple tap lines like most of us do, you may find yourself having to do one at a time which can also be time consuming. For folks with multiple taps, a properly setup manifold allows you to connect each of your tap lines to a pump, reducing the time it takes to perform this routine maintenance.
There are many ways to skin this cat depending on your kegerator’s connection types, what hardware you can source, and how much you are willing to spend. In my case, I use Bev Seal Ultra® beer lines with John Guest push disconnects in my 4-tap keezer. I was cleaning my lines via the push CO2 method. I eventually decided to pick up a submersible pump that allowed me to pump clean the lines. While this eliminated my CO2 waste, I started with cleaning one line at a time. Next I picked up three barbed “T” pipe fittings so I can split one flow off the pump to four. Voila! Now I was able to clean all four at once but because this design used pipe clamps to ensure no leaking (which was tricky at times), and I wanted something easier, that led to my current design with a manifold. For around $50, I have a system now that allows me to clean up to 6-tap lines at once with a setup that takes just minutes to connect all the plumbing.
• EcoPlus 290 GPM submersible pump
• SMC KM12-09-36-6 PBT Push-To-Connect Tubing Manifold with (2)
• 3⁄8” NPT female threaded inlets
• (2) 3⁄8” NPT male to 1⁄2” Barbed
• Hose/Tubing Connector
• 3⁄8” NPT male end cap
• 1⁄2” I.D. tubing, length as required
• (2) 5-gallon (19-L) buckets
• Beer Line Cleaner (BLC) or caustic cleaner of preference.
• Plumber’s thread seal tape