Draft Line Cleaning

>> Monday, December 10, 2018

One thing I hate doing is cleaning draft lines on my keezer and jockey boxes. It's just not a whole lot of fun, it's time-consuming, and it can be messy. Long story short, it's probably the one homebrewing task that's an all-around pain. That said, it's also crucial if you don't want your homebrew riddled with off-flavors and off-aromas due to dirty lines.

My solutions to this chore have evolved over time, and I just added a new piece of equipment that should make it less of a pain. In the spirit of sharing ideas, I've listed the solutions I've employed, along with some pros and cons of each.
  1. Garden Pump Sprayer - Basically you fit a ball-lock post onto a handheld garden pump sprayer, fill the reservoir with beer line cleaner, pressurize and run it through your lines.
    • Pros - It's a pretty cheap solution.  It does a halfway decent job...at least it's better than not cleaning your lines at all. It's portable so it's still what I use to flush out my lines after pouring at festivals and such.
    • Cons - The best cleaning happens with constant fluid movement, aka recirculation. The process for me was flush the line with hot water, fill line with hot line cleaner, let it soak, then finally flushing repeatedly with more hot water. In between, you're refilling the sprayer, pumping, etc. If you have more than one tap, it gets old quick.
  2. Keg Jumpers - I got these nifty little items from BrewHardware.  Essentially these are double-ended liquid ball lock posts used to join two ball-lock disconnects. They work well, and if you pair these with sections of hose on your faucets, you can daisy chain all your faucets together and clean all your lines at once. The way I use them, it requires a pump, but I already have a pump in my equipment arsenal.
    • Pros - Ingenious little gadgets that work well and are affordable. Leak-free connection at ball-locks. Allows you to recirculate cleaner for better cleaning.
    • Cons - I have a mix of faucets (Vent-matics, Intertap, stout faucet) and the spouts are slightly different diameters which makes it hard to daisy chain them. Inevitably, a hose slips off a faucet and line cleaner gets pumped all over the place. Also, there's a huge pressure drop from daisy chaining five taps and their 3/16" lines together. It definitely restricts flow and reduces the benefit of recirculating.
  3. Keg posts with manifold - This is my latest solution for line cleaning. This is also based on a gadget from BrewHardware. On one end you have a keg post similar to their machined jumpers and the other end is a standard 1/2" male NPT threaded fitting. I partnered these with a 1/2" manifold from Home-Flex and a camlock disconnect. The manifold is intended for use in CSST installations but it's made from 304 stainless, so it should work just fine for this application. All ports are 1/2" female NPT so all it takes is a little bit of Teflon tape to seal up the threads. All faucets flow back into my reservoir (bucket) for recirculation.
    • Pros - All stainless manifold so it should hold up to caustic-based cleaners and acid-based sanitizers. Less pressure drop and much higher flow compared to daisy chaining. All lines cleaned at once.
    • Cons - Not really any. The only one I can think of is the posts are one-piece, so no poppets. I actually consider this a positive to because there aren't any moving parts or seals to wear out (other than the exterior post o-ring). However, unless I block off one or more ports, I always have to clean all five lines at the same time.  Again, kind of a pro because there's no excuse for not cleaning all the lines.
Here is the parts list for my build in case you're interested in doing something similar:
Brew Hardware fitting
One thing worth mentioning, the body of the manifold is made from stainless tubing so it's much thinner compared to stainless tees and crosses, but it seems heavy enough.

As for assembly, just screw the threaded fittings into the manifold. I chose to install the camlock at one end of the manifold and the keg posts on the middle four and opposite end. Don't forget to use Teflon tape on the threads; this will eliminate leaks and galling of the threads.

Using it is pretty self-explanatory. You need a reservoir to supply the pump with line cleaner or sanitizer.  I use the same silicone hoses to make the connections that I use on my brew system. Pump gets connected to the manifold, then each line is connected to the manifold. Then turn on the pump and open the taps. Make sure you follow the instructions on your cleaning and sanitizing chemicals. Here are a few pictures of the setup.
Parts ready for assembly

Manifold in action