Everyone who owns and runs a pub, bar or restaurant with a draft dispense system should regularly clean their beerline system. This is because over time deposits of limescale, beerstone, yeast, hops and proteins that have not been filtered out properly as well as bacteria can build up on the walls of the dispense lines.
Why should it matter if they get dirty?
Because someone’s going to drink it! Dirty beerlines can taint beer. Beer is a food and while no one has been seriously harmed from drinking bad beer they can be made very ill which will impact your public image, reputation and ultimately your sales.
Each type of beer has it’s own colour, clarity, aroma and taste. If contaminants are allowed to establish themselves then they will ruin your beer. More information on what makes beer turn bad can be found in the article ‘That ‘Taint Right’
What are the main contaminants that can build up in my lines?
Limescale – This comes from the fresh water you use to rinse lines and will mostly affect Cask Beers (because keg lines are not usually flushed after each keg is emptied), you will also see it on taps and in your kettle as a white solid layer.
Beerstone – This is a generic term for Calcium Oxalate and looks a little like limescale but is a beige/brown colour. Beerstone is formed from a chemical reaction of Oxalic Acid (produced during the brewing process) and calcium from water hardness. Because of modern purification and filtration systems beerstone is less of an issue than it traditionally was and mainly effects Cask beer lines as these are unfiltered live products.
Yeasts – These can either occur from brewery yeasts left over from the brewing process or even wild yeast which are found floating around in the air of the cellar (Some beers such as Lambic styles use wild yeasts in the fermenting stage to give a sour taste). They are usually found on the outside parts of the beer line system such as the couplers, spouts, sparklers and drains. If wild yeasts are on the couplers then there is a chance they can get into the system during cask/keg changes and cause an infection. Usually they look white or grey in colour and can have a sandy or stringy appearance.
Mould – Comes from the air in your cellar and are all around us, they like to live in damp conditions exposed to the air, so will grow on cellar walls, couplers, cleaning sockets, the tops of kegs and casks, spouts and drains. Moulds are usually black or brown in colour but can sometimes be red, they can get into the system when changing kegs & casks or even when beer is being dispensed.
Bacteria – Not the sort of bacteria found in your kitchen which can cause food poisoning or in cases of extreme contamination death. The bacteria which can infect a beer line system can cause an upset stomach due to the taste, smell and change in mouthfeel of the beer they have contaminated.
How often should I clean the beer lines?
Unless you have special brewery approved equipment then you should clean (or if you employ a cellar services technician have them do it) at a minimum of every 7 days. Breweries and line cleaning companies have spent many years looking into line hygiene and how to keep dispense systems clean so it is always best to follow their recommendations.
What about automatic Line Cleaning Machines
There are a few models available on the market, each works in a slightly different way. Some are more effective than others so it is always best to research each unit thoroughly to make sure that they will work for your establishment.
The Essential Guide for a Manual Clean
- Always perform the beer line clean when the pub or bar is closed – This gives greater safety to customers and staff (People have been seriously injured drinking beer line cleaner) and it will also reduce the pressure on you to get the line back in service, allowing you to do a thorough clean.
- Switch off the remote chiller units the night before – Beer line cleaners are not designed to be cooled below 0ºC and will freeze causing you issues and delays in waiting for the lines to thaw out. Frozen beer line cleaner can also cause flavour taints to the beer lines which can be difficult to remove.
- Use warning signs on the beer engines and fonts to show line cleaning is being performed – This is another safety plus as it lets other staff who may be around the area know that the beer line will contain cleaning fluid. Signage can be made by yourself using a printer or some breweries will provide them.
Cleaning the Beer Lines
- Make sure the cleaning vessel is free from dirt and other contaminants, then fill the cleaning vessel with clean cold water.
- Turn off all of the gas taps to the kegs.
- Disconnect all Keg Couplers and give them a spray with a cellar hygiene spray. Use a brush to get remove any built up dirt deposits.
- Spray each Cleaning Ring Main socket and attach each coupler to the cleaning ring main.
- Turn on the gas or compressed air supply to the cleaning pump.
- Bleed each FOB detector until all of the beer has been replaced with water.
- Pop to the bar and open each tap in turn until all of the beer in the lines has been replaced with water, before closing again.
- Head back down to the cellar and add the correct amount of beer line cleaner to the cleaning vessel (The manufacturer will have the correct dosage on the back of the bottle).
- Fill the cleaning vessel back up to the full mark with cold water.
- Bleed each FOB Detector until the water is replaced with beer line cleaning solution.
- In the bar open each tap until all of the water in the lines is replaced with beer line cleaning solution, before closing again.
- Leave the beer line cleaner to soak in the beer line system for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer – Have a cup of tea or bacon sandwich to pass the time! (wash hands before handling food).
- Open each beer line tap again to remove the used beer line cleaner, and allow each one to fill with fresh solution.
- Check the FOB detectors in the cellar are still full to the top and bleed any which have dropped or have any air bubbles inside.
- Leave the lines to soak again for the recommended time. – Have another cup of tea!
- Open the taps and remove the used beer line cleaner, replacing with fresh, once more, check the FOB detectors are still full and leave for one final soak – More Tea!
- Rinse out the cleaning vessel thoroughly with clean cold water and fill it to the full mark with water.
- Bleed each FOB Detector until the beer line cleaner has been flushed out and replaced with water.
- Pop back to the bar and open each tap in turn, replace all of the beer line cleaner in the lines with water, and then pull through at least 2-3 pints extra to ensure all of the beer line cleaner has been removed.
- Head back down to the cellar, empty out any water from the cleaning vessel.
- Turn off the gas or compressed air supply to the cleaning pump.
- Disconnect the keg couplers from the cleaning ring main and reconnect each one to the correct keg, give each cleaning ring main socket a spray with a cellar hygiene spray.
- Turn on the gas supply to each keg.
- Bleed each FOB Detector until the water is replaced with beer.
- Head back to the bar and open each tap in turn, replacing the water with beer.
- Check the beer for clarity, colour and taste.
Your Beer Lines Are Now Clean! If you would like any further advice about cellar and bar management, just Ask CellarCraft