Keep it Clean, Boys!
The other day I was reading an article on the Homebrew Hedonist‘s blog called Homebrew Myths Busted. One of the ‘myths’ he tackled was ‘Kegging is Superior to Bottling’. According to the Homebrew Hedonist,
You probably won’t save a lot of time kegging than you would bottling. With kegging, you have to clean lines, the keg, recharge CO2 tanks and clean other equipment that you wouldn’t have to worry about with bottling.
Whilst I agree with the Homebrew Hedonist that the choice between bottling and kegging is a personal preference, I do not agree that kegging will not save you time. In this two minute tutorial, I will show you how to clean your cornelius keg and lines directly prior to racking.
Take the top off of your keg, and place aside. Using a 22mm combination spanner, remove the ‘gas-in’ fitting from the ‘gas-inlet’. After removed, take out the ‘poppet valve’ and ‘short gas dip tube’. Whilst the poppet valve is located inside of the gas-in fitting, It is likely that the short gas dip tube will need to be pulled out from the keg. Set the gas-in fitting, poppet valve and short gas dip tube aside. Important: make sure you keep these parts together, as the poppet valve from step 2 is slightly different and both will need to be re-installed using their corresponding fittings.
Step 2: Disassemble the Liquid-Out Fitting
Using a 22mm combination spanner, remove the ‘liquid-out’ fitting from the ‘liquid outlet’. After removed, take out the poppet valve and ‘long liquid dip tube’. Set the liquid-out fitting, poppet valve and long liquid dip tube aside.
Step 3: Disassemble Lid
Unscrew the ‘pressure release valve’ from the centre of the lid. Remove the ‘large rubber o-ring’ from the rim of the lid. Set the pressure release valve and the large rubber o-ring aside.
Step 3: Soak Parts in Cleaning Solution
Place the gas in fitting, poppet valves, short gas dip tube, pressure release valve, lid and large rubber o-ring in a container filled with cleaning solution. I like to use Oxi Clean. Place the long liquid dip tube inside of the keg. Fill the keg with warm cleaning solution. Let the parts soak for 15 minutes or so.
Step 4: Reassemble the Keg
Put the large rubber o-ring back on the top, and screw in the pressure release valve. Place the short gas dip tube into the gas-inlet. Place the poppet valve inside the gas-in fitting. Using the 22mm combination spanner, tighten the gas-in fitting onto the gas-inlet. Then, place the long liquid dip tube into the liquid outlet. Place the poppet valve inside the liquid-out fitting. Using the 22mm combination spanner, tighten the liquid-out fitting onto the liquid outlet. Lastly, fasten the top back onto the keg and seal. At this point, the keg should still be full of cleaning solution.
Step 5: Flush Keg Lines with Cleaning Solution
Attach the CO2 to your keg. Attach the Beer line to your keg. Pressurise the keg with CO2. Place a bucket under your tap, and open. The cleaning solution should be flowing through your beer line, out of the tap and into the bucket. I leave this open until the bucket is full with cleaning solution. Shut off the tap once complete.
Step 6: Rinse the Keg and Fill with Sanitising Solution
Detach the beer line and CO2 line from your keg. Slowly release the pressure from your keg by unscrewing the pressure release valve from the lid. Unfasten the top from the keg, and pour out the remaining cleaning solution. Rinse the keg well using tap water.
Half fill the keg with sanitising solution. I use Star-San. Attach the top to the keg, and seal. Swish the solution around so that it makes contact with all surfaces inside of the keg. Attach the gas line, and beer line, and pressurise. Again, with a bucket placed under your tap, open the tap so that the sanitising solution flows through your beer line and into the bucket. Continue this until the keg is empty (or your bucket is full).
At this point, I detach the beer and CO2 lines, and release the pressure from the keg by unscrewing the pressure release valve from the lid. Remove the lid, and drain any excess sanitising solution from your keg.
Step 7: Fill with Beer!
All in all, kegging has saved me time, and effort. It fits in side-by-side with my preparations for racking time; the cleaning solution and sanitising solution can be used to clean and sanitise your auto siphon and any other equipment needed for transferring. After doing the process a few times, I can easily clean my cornelius keg within 30 minutes or so. Sure, you need to keep the keg / lines clean, and a kegerator to serve from. But, in my opinion there is no contest between that and perilously cleaning a multitude of bottles, priming, and storing prior to drinking. I do still bottle condition some of my beers, but it really depends on how often I plan on drinking them.
As always, if you have any questions on this process please ask.
NB – there are small o-rings on the top of the short gas dip tube and the long liquid dip tube. If you want, these can be removed for cleaning as well. There could be some crud located between the o-rings and the dip tubes. I do this once every few cleans to be extra thorough, but you can do it on every cleaning occasion if you feel so inclined.