Cleaning Kegs

Posted on 10.28.09 10:02PM under Kegging, Sanitation

Two KegsKegging is great. It is so much easier to transfer the beer one time – from fermenter to keg, as opposed to fermenter to bottling bucket, preparing priming sugar solution, sanitizing dozens of bottles, filling them, and capping them.

Yet kegs still need to be cleaned. In fact, cleaning kegs is a rather time consuming process. Many espouse the rare cleaning schedule, but I just can’t do it. I just have to clean them in between uses. Not right away, but before reuse cleaning and sanitizing is a must.

Once a keg is kicked, it comes out of the fridge, and sits in the brewery for an indefinite time until it is needed again. This is likely to be several months. Fortunately, during this time, the keg is full of CO2 and generally clean and sanitary anyway. Nothing horribly evil grows in there during this time, but dregs of yeast and whatever else doesn’t make it into my glass sits in there at any old temperature for a while.

This is a fun little game come cleaning time. What will the keg smell like? It always smells not good, or at least not like I would drink it as beer. At the same time, it never smells terrible, or at least not like it would kill me just by smelling it.

So first I rinse the keg and try to get most of the junk out of the bottom of the vessel. Then I fill it with warm PBW solution, soak it for a few minutes, and rub it out with a sponge. Then I dump the PBW into the next keg to clean and rinse the newly empty keg a bit with hot tap water. I also can’t help myself, and take off all the fittings and give them the same cleaning treatment.

When all the PBW’s rinsed off I hit it with a dose of Iodophor for sanitation sanity. Then I pour that out a few times, leaving it as dry as I can before closing up the keg and reapplying 10PSI for storage until filling.

Given that I have an IIPA and RIS due to be kegged this weekend, the keg cleaning chore confronts me soon. I just have to wait for a night when all the kids are asleep reasonably early so that I can complete my task before it’s too late for me to make a reasonable wake-up for work the next morning. The problem is that I have to use the laundry room to get my hot tap water, and sometimes that’s too close to sleeping kids.

In the end, even though cleaning kegs can be a pain, it’s still easier to package beer in a keg than in bottles.

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