As a brewery with a taproom, we have lots of draft lines and they need to stay clean for the beer to taste right. We have spent some time putting together a simple line cleaning system and we figured we’d share our efforts for the homebrewers among you who are wishing to maintain a similar level of quality on draft lines.
The basic idea here is to have caustic line cleaning solutions running through the draft lines continuously for 15 minutes or so, in order to clean out any sticky stuff in the tubing or faucets. Then, a quick sanitary rinse leaves the lines good to go! To avoid having to clean each line separately (and take up several hours), we start with a decent centrifugal pump and use that to push the solutions through the lines.
For hardware, you’ll want to have a way to connect the pump outlet to a line splitter for as many draft lines as you’d like to hit (we chose 4).
Each line can then be attached to the end of the tubing you are using to carry beer from the kegs to the faucets. You’ll also need a tray to collect the liquid from the faucets, and return it back to your bucket of line cleaner (we poked a hole in ours so it drains into the bucket).
Once you’ve got this all in place, check that the pump flows through your lines without leaking (use water). The pump should be primed with water so it doesn’t cavitate, then pull into the pump from a bucket, run through all four lines (faucets open), and drain back into the bucket in a loop. If this is getting stressful and complicated, relax and have a homebrew (props to Charlie Papazian)!
It’s a good idea to flush with hot water first, then move on to caustic. After a five minute flush, switch to a bucket of caustic solution and run for 15 minutes to clean the lines. I’d recommend using gloves and safety goggles for this, as these line cleaners can be dangerous.
While this is happening, it’s a good idea to soak all of your fittings (e.g. keg connectors and accessories in contact with beer) in a cleaner such as PBW. For the line cleaner, we use BLC, which works very well. Everything should be rinsed with water afterward. We do two thorough flushes with water for the lines and fittings before using them. A five minute run per water flush should do. Once you’re done, just reassemble and enjoy your clean, sparkling beer!