Bars use strong cleaning solutions to keep their beer lines clean and free of “beer stone”, bacteria, and other nastiness. After I built my draft kegerator, I wanted to develop a system to keep my lines clean too.
I guess the usual method for homebrewers is to just put cleaning solution into a Cornelius keg, and use CO2 to dispense it like beer. I guess it’s also a good way to keep the keg valves clean too. But it doesn’t let me build something, so it’s not acceptable.
Bars use commercially-avaiable cleaning pumps. They have a fitting on them which matches the Sankey beer keg couplers in commercial use. They have a hand pump to force the solution into the beer lines. They are not directly suitable for homebrew use, because we don’t use the professional Sankey keg connectors. And they’re expensive, of course.
I wanted to build something similar, using Cornelius keg style connectors. My system uses “ball-lock” connectors.
I built my own beer-line cleaner using parts from Home Depot, and some keg parts. The cost was not much more than $20.
Here are the parts for the project:
- 1-gallon deck sprayer
- Ball-lock liquid-side tank plug
- Dip tube
- Ball-lock liquid-side valve
I got the deck sprayer from Home Depot. The particular one I got was a Chaplin Clean-N-Seal Model 2500. This turned out to be a fortuitous choice. The plumbing in this sprayer mated perfectly with the keg parts, to bring the project together very easily.
The keg parts may be hard to find. I got them from the very helpful people at R. D. Strickland, located in Erin, Ontario. They repair and recondition soda kegs for the soda industry (there are apparently still some people other than homebrewers using Cornelius kegs, I was surprised to learn), and generally have a large inventory of reasonably-priced kegs to sell. They have also been very friendly and helpful to me. They provided me with all the keg parts necessary to complete this project:
The sprayer comes with a dip tube, fittings, and hose that look like this. We don’t need the hose or the valve and nozzle. We need only the dip tube and the plastic nut that secures the hose onto the sprayer body.
The keg parts look like this. Shown here are the stainless steel dip tube (cut short, normally it’s long enough to reach to the bottom of a Cornelius keg), the tank fitting (which is normally welded into the keg wall), O-ring, poppet valve, and ball-lock tank plug.
I discovered that the dip-tube was of such a perfect size that it could form a good bulkhead seal on the sprayer body, using an O-ring and the plastic nut from the sprayer. I could have tried to cut and bend the keg dip-tube so that it would reach the bottom of the sprayer tank, but I also found that the plastic dip tube from the sprayer would fit tightly inside the stainless dip tube. So, I cut it to the desired length, and assembled the parts like this:
You can see, I cut the stainless steel dip tube quite short. The plastic dip tube was cut to such a length that it reached the bottom of the sprayer. The parts were then installed onto the sprayer, and the plastic nut tightened to compress the O-ring and form a seal.
So, now I can fill the sprayer tank with cleaning solution, disconnect the beer line from a beer keg, hook it to the cleaner tank, and use the air-pump to push the solution through the beer line.
Using commercially-available beer-line cleaners regularly, at the recommended strength, you can clean the lines without rinsing. Just pump the cleaner through, reconnect the beer keg, and then flush out the lines with beer (which you’ll want to dump out, not drink.) Quick and easy.
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