How to Clean your Cornelius Keg

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.

Gas in fitting, poppet valve, and short gas dip tube
Gas in fitting, poppet valve, and short gas dip tube
Step 1: Disassemble the Gas-In Fitting

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
Long liquid dip tube, poppet valve and liquid-out fitting
Long liquid dip tube, poppet valve and 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
Flushing the system with cleaning solution
Flushing the system with cleaning solution (step 5) and then with sanitising solution (step 6)

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).

Shiny keg!
Shiny keg!

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.

Home brew beer fanatic and lover of all things Kölsch. Follow me on Twitter!

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Comments

  1. Ant says

    Great stuff (but I changed the pop it a few weeks ago before I found your great little tutorial!) cheers

  2. Mike says

    I’ve been using this same procedure and it works great. Simple and easy to do and well said. Kegging is a great investment. I don’t always take apart the keg each time its filled (monthly). But cleaning the keg and tap lines is very important
    One difference in my procedure is that I have always done a rinse step after the cleaner (PBW) and before using Star San. I do save the Star San and reuse it. I’ve questioned if the intermediate rinse step was needed. Do you reuse the Star San? Is there any fear of contamination with the cleaner?

    • says

      Hey Mike. Thanks for the comment. My thoughts are that the starsan flushes any of the cleaner, and this is why I do not flush between the cleaner and the starsan. That being said, I don’t reuse the starsan. I’ve simply started using a very small amount of starsan so that it doesn’t cost much. After all, all you need to do is flush the cleaner and have the starsan make contact with everything.

      One thing you could do if you are worried about contaminating the star San is manually clear the lines by pushing in the little pin on the keg adapter and holding it up in the air to start a siphon. Most should just drain out the tap. This works for me because I have my tap mounted on the front of my fridge – not sure if you could do this if you have them mounted on top..

      If you drain it manually, and then run star San though, I would hazard a guess and say that any left over cleaner that gets in your star San would be minimal and nothing to worry about..

      Best!

    • says

      Not sure about contamination myself. I don’t reuse starsan because I am not confident about its longevity once it has been mixed with tap water. I hear it lasts for a long time if you use distiller water, but I don’t have the means for that. You could drain the lines prior to using star San. If you did, I can’t imagine very much cleaner getting into the star San and I can’t imagine it becoming a problem (but don’t quote me on this!).

  3. Mike says

    Unfortunatley, I can’t manually drain the lines, since I fortunately have a tower. This what works for me:
    1. fill 1/2 the keg with hot water and pbw & push with Co2 thru the lines. let sit for 10-30 minutes then push the rest.
    2. fill 1/2 the keg with hot water & push with Co2 thru the lines.
    3. fill 1/2 the keg with star san & push with Co2 thru the lines.
    This allows me to clean the keg and lines at the same time. I have two lines, but when i change one keg I will hook up he 2nd line and clean that with the pbw, hot water, star stan from the first keg. Clean keg lines are vital to keeping good beer good.
    I know this way uses CO2 but I think it is small price to pay for the time saving (until i run out of Co2 at the wrong time…)
    I wouldn’t be opposed to skipping step 2 (hot water) if you rinsed the keg separately before adding the Star san. I would also throw out the first pint or so of the star san. At the end of the day, its important to not pinch pennies for cleaning when you are talking about all the time and effort that brewing requires.

    I do reuse my starsan. I store it in clear jugs and change it every other brews which includes at least 2 keg & line cleaning worth of use. I tested the ph recently and it was ~2.5 which is below the 3.0 ineffectiveness of starstan so my guessing has been correct.
    Good discussion and insight. Thanks!

    • says

      Yes – I agree. A few pennies for losing some star San is negligible. I don’t rinse myself – well, I do, but I rinse with star San. Then, when I pull the first pint I usually discard it just in case any star San is in it. Not that it’s in safe, but because the first pint is the best! How many lines do you have?

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