How to clean your homebrew kegs
You've upgraded. You have a fancy new (well probably used) keg for your homebrew and you’re ready to fill it with your precious creation. But wait! Your keg smells a little funky! Here are a few quick steps to get your kegs clean and pouring tasty delicious homebrew.
1 - Rinse. I like to give a thorough rinse to my kegs as soon as they kick. The longer the residual sugars sit around, the more of a pain they will be to clean off. You don’t have to do a full cleaning as soon as the beer is gone, but give it a quick rinse to wash away sediment left at the bottom of the keg. If you aren't doing a full clean, just seal the keg back up and set it aside for a full cleaning later.
2 - Clean. Find your favorite brewery cleaner (we like PBW) and follow the recommended instructions. I like to toss in about 2oz of PBW with a gallon of very hot water and let the keg sit for 10 minutes. Completely seal up your keg and give it a good shake. I mean real good. I mean a look-at-me-everybody-I-am shaking-a-keg kind of shake! I then flip the keg and let it sit for another 10 minutes upside down. IMPORTANT: This will generate pressure in your keg--be sure to use the release valve before opening your keg.
3 - Rinse and Repeat. Okay, I only added the repeat because that’s what the formal directions on my shampoo say. You don’t necessarily have to pay any attention to that advice. But rinsing after using PBW is important. Completely rinse out the keg so it’s nice and fresh.
4 - Clean out the gadgets. There’s a bunch of little gadgets attached to your keg that will need a little love. All of them come off easily and are simple to get like-new-shiny. If you have a lot of hop material or some exotic special ingredients they can easily get trapped in the body connects or the quick disconnects.
- Dip Tube: This obviously named device is best cleaned out with a long line brush. Simply run the brush up and down the tube. Leave some PBW in the keg when you do this for the best results.
- Body Connects: Use a wrench to remove the body connects from the keg. Inside you will find a poppet (that spring thingy that jumped out after you unscrewed the body connect like one of those gag nuts cans!). The spring traps all kinds of junk. I once made a beer with orange zest and when I went to clean the poppet is was full of little bits of orange.
- Quick Disconnects: Take a flat-head screwdriver and open the top to unveil the mysterious inside. You’ll see a poppet that will collect some junk if not cleaned out.
5 - Seal it up. Unless you plan to use your keg right away seal it up to keep it clean.
6 - Sanitize. When it’s time to fill your keg, load it up with some Star San first and give the keg a good shake. You’re going to get a ton of foam when you do this, but just let the keg sit upside down for a while (sometimes a long while) and let gravity do the work for you.
7 - Load up your beer!
This may seem like a lot of steps, but compared to bottling...well there is no comparison. Kegging is just easier. If you’re in a rush you can skip step four. I have on occasion. But if you have a lot of material (hops or otherwise) in your beer you should be sure to clean everything.
Come back soon for tips on cleaning out your beer lines and taps!