Keg Care and Cleaning PBW vs OxicleanSaturday, August 29th, 2009
Soda kegs, commonly used in home brewing draft systems, require regular cleaning and maintenance. Following is a brief description of keg care and cleaning requirements to assure optimum performance from these pressurized vessels. For an explanation of the keg components referenced below, see our article on keg anatomy.
Believe it or not, soda kegs do not always require cleaning between fillings. If a soda keg is emptied and is capable of being refilled with a similar beer prior to to the remnants of the previous brew going “sour” in the keg, cleaning is generally only required once every 2-3 batches.
- Leave the emptied keg in the kegerator until ready to refill.
- Lubricate all accessible seals with keg lube (a food grade lubricant) Fig. 1
- Rack your new brew into the uncleaned keg.
- Replace lid and pressurize.
Normal keg cleaning will be necessary when simply racking into an uncleaned keg is not possible.
- Thoroughly rinse the keg with water to remove most of the remnants from the previous brew.
- Fill with an OxiClean solution of (1) scoop OxiClean and 5 gallons water. Fig. 2
- With the lid secure, attach keg to your draft system to push about 1 liter of solution through the keg to fill the beer out dip tube and soak the poppet.
- Let keg sit for 24 hours, or for months, it is up to you.
- Rinse keg with water and then again with a sanitizer like Star San prior to filling again.
- Lubricate all accessible seals with keg lube.
Intense cleaning should take place once every 4-6 batches.
- Dis-assemble keg components, soak all components and keg in an OxiClean solution for 24 hours.
- During the dis-assembly inspect all components for wear and possible need for replacement. (poppets, seals, pressure relief valve)
- Once clean, reassemble keg components, making sure to lubricate all rubber seals with keg lube during re-assembly.
- Once assembled, rinse keg with water and then again with a sanitizer like Star San prior to filling again.
Typical trouble spots in keg cleaning/maintenance will include:
Poppets: These consist of springs and intricate parts that can trap hop particles. The seals on the tip, if worn, will lead to leaks in the keg post when assembled. Be sure to clean them thoroughly and lubricate the small seals on the tip of the poppet.
Dip Tubes: The internal surfaces of the dip tubes can be a hiding place for all sorts of nasties. The use of an effective cleaner such as OxiClean or PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) will rid these hidden areas of all organic matter, the use of a specialized dip tube cleaning brush can also put your mind at ease.
Dip Tube Seals: These seals are no more important than the other seals on your keg, but they are the most inconvenient to replace when the keg is full of beer and you realize a leak. Be sure that these areas are clean and that the seals do not show wear, of they do, replace them to save yourself a potential headache after the keg is filled.
The use of OxiClean (or its generic equivalent) has been referenced in this article. Following are some guidelines to keep in mind when using this, or any oxygen based cleaner in place of PBW. OxiClean is an attractive option as it costs anywhere from 50% as much as PBW, or 25% as much if using the generic equivalent. PBW is an excellent cleaner, but at $4 per pound there are other options that are much more wallet friendly for the home brewer, if you are so inclined.
Use OxiClean (or equivalent) if you answer yes to all of the statements below:
- I have relatively soft water (hard water reduces the effectiveness of OxiClean).
- I will not be cleaning aluminum (oxygen based cleaners will damage aluminum).
- I like to save money.
Use PBW if you answer yes to any one of the statements below:
- I have relatively hard water.
- I will be cleaning aluminum.
- Money is no object when it comes to brewing.