Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Build

recirculating draft line cleaner

The directions on most line cleaners call for recirculating the cleaner for some period of time.  Most affordable cleaning setups that are out there include a hand pump.  Operating one of those for 15 to 30 minutes, for each faucet, doesn’t sound fun.

To really clean your draft lines, you need to keep solution flowing for a length of time, not just fill and wait.  Initially I tried to clean my system by pushing line cleaner out of a keg.  This was a waste of CO2.  I also found it tough to keep solution running slowly enough to get the required amount of contact time.  It’s easy to quickly push a cleaning or sanitizing solution through your system under CO2 pressure, but I found it to be a pain to try to do so slowly.  This also requires quite a bit of cleaning solution versus a recirculating pump.

I decided to put together a recirculating draft line cleaning pump setup.

Note: This is an update to a build I put together in 2012.  The purpose of this re-design was to reduce overall costs and, in response to comments received, increase the flow rate of the setup.  A link v1 can be found toward the end of this post.

The Pump.  I have a utility pump that I use for various tasks around brewery.  I decided that that pump was too powerful.  I didn’t want to deal with foaming issues that I thought may be caused by the high flow this pump would produce.  I wanted something with less power that could slowly circulate liquid through draft lines.  Version 1 of this build used the EcoPlus-132 Submersible Pump.  That pump moved a steady stream that I was happy with.  Still, the top critical feedback I received back about that setup were complaints about flow rate.  For this build, I went to the EcoPlus-264 Submersible Pump.  That provides more than double the stated flow rate (290 GPH vs 132 GPH) compared to the original pump.

cln_img_0553Here’s a look at the box for the EcoPlus 264cln_img_0555Here’s what you get.  The pump, a removable suction cup base and an assortment of connection options.Free shipping Stainless steel Carbonation Cap w/ 5/16" Barb, Ball Lock Type, fit soft drink PET bottles, Homebrew KeggingFor v2, I wanted to employ this SS carbonation cap [Alternate Source: Stainless Steel Carbonation Cap w/ Dip Tube] .  Using this eliminates a good number of fittings, some complexity and a good bit of cost.  This carbonator cap has a couple unique features… First, it has a 5/16″ ID barb on the inside.  Second, it’s designed in such a way as to work with either liquid or gas ball lock QDs.  Typically carbonator caps would just work with gas QDs.  The fact that this also works well with liquid QDs makes it perfect for this application.

cln_img_9644A carbonator cap would typically work with a gas QD and this does.cln_img_9642However, it also works (easily) with a liquid QD.  This is an important feature for this build.

cln_img_0556The problem with this plan is the 5/16″ barb on the SS carb cap isn’t easily compatible with the smallest barb option that comes with the pump.  Sure, I could get a reducing fitting of some sort, but the reason I wanted to use the carb cap was to reduce cost and complexity.  I ended up solving this with a couple short pieces of tubing.  As with most problems… randoms bits of tubing are the solution. 🙂cln_img_05581/4″ ID x 1/2″ OD tubing fits perfectly on the barb.cln_img_0560A small length of tubing on the barbcln_img_0562A small length of 1/2″ ID silicone tubing from Brew Hardwarecln_img_0565The 1/2″ ID silicone tubing fits well both on the outside of the 1/2″ OD tubing and on the smallest available barb that came with the pump.  I secured each end with trimmed zip ties.  This resulted in a reasonably firm connection although you may want to use tubing clamps.  See: Liner Clamp for Silicone Tubing – Choose Large Sizecln_img_0567The finished assembly… whammocln_img_0573I also used a switch [Similar: GE Handy Switch] to turn this on and off easily.  Now is a good time to remind you to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for this pump.  The directions I received said to make sure and use a GFCI Outlet.  Search Amazon: GFCI Adaptercln_img_0577The pump assembly in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket.  This bucket acts as a reservoir for BLC, Water and Star San.cln_img_0582The only thing that’s left is routing the faucet discharge back to the recirculation bucket. I’ve found 1/2″ ID Silicone tubing works great for this. The silicone is stretchy enough to easily fit on my Perlick faucets.  You really only need 2 or 3 feet, just enough to get from the faucet down to the reservoir bucket.  Of course, you can use any size ID/length of tubing that works well for your setup.  Also Pictured Mashed.In Tap Handlescln_img_0584Here is the tubing returning to the bucketcln_img_0586This is an initial test of the tubing/ss carb cap assembly.  The pump is powered on with the faucet closed.  That puts pressure on the assembly.  Mine did not leak.  I’m using zip ties.  Tubing clamps will make this setup even more solid.cln_img_0570Measuring BLC with my Perfect Beakercln_img_0571Of course I used my trusty Rubbermaid 1 Gallon Pitcher [Review] to measure the water for the BLC solutionrecirculating draft line cleanerThe entire setup in operation.  The bucket contains BLC solution.  My ball lock beer line and QD connect to the SS carb cap assembly.  The pump moves solution through the ball lock QD, beer line, shank and faucet.  Solution is returned to the bucket via the silicone tubing.cln_img_0589A closer look at the bucket.  I generally recirculate for 15 to 20 minutes per faucet.cln_img_0596Here’s a picture to give you an idea about flow rate.  This is going to vary based on how much tubing you’re using, how much solution you have in your bucket, where you’ve placed your bucket and pump and more.  With my setup, this pump produces a nice steady flow of solution.cln_img_0605Here’s the rinsing step.  For rinsing, I just use another bucket.  I no longer see a need to recirculate water.  Just run a good bit of water through each line to flush the BLC solution.cln_img_0607Final step… recirculating Star San

This design cleans your whole draft system.  This design cleans the faucet, the shank, the quick disconnect and the tubing.  Some designs that I’ve seen have you removing the beer nut and placing the hand pump apparatus directly on the shank.  That’s some work disassembling and reassembling and it also skips a lot of your setup including the beer line and quick disconnect.

Alternative for Pin Lock and Sankey Systems.  The setup outlined here is for ball lock systems.  I know of no similar Pin Lock carbonator caps or fittings.  You could replace the SS Carbonator Cap with this 1/4″ Male Flare to 1/4″ Barb Fitting.  Remove your FFL based Pin Lock QDs or Sankey Taps and attach to this fitting and in turn the pump.  This should work for any setup that employs 1/4″ flare, (FFL) swivel connectors on beverage lines.

Feedback from HBF Reader Jake [8 Ways to Connect with HBF]: “I bought all the stuff to make this about six months ago and finally got around to using it. This thing makes life so easy. Hook it up, set a timer, walk away. Time goes off, switch taps, and repeat. Then just go through and do the same with water and sanitizer. Makes cleaning draft lines a sinch. Thank you for the guide, very well put together.”



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23 thoughts on “Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Build

  1. Jake

    I bought all the stuff to make this about six months ago and finally got around to using it. This thing makes life so easy. Hook it up, set a timer, walk away. Time goes off, switch taps, and repeat. Then just go through and do the same with water and santizer. Makes cleaning draft lines a sinch. Thank you for the guide, very well put together.

    1. Matt

      Follow up…. I also use my Chugger pump instead of going to Harbor Freight to buy a cheap pump. I can easily roll my Chugger over, hook it up with my stainless QD, prime it, and I’m cleaning in seconds.

  2. Tom

    has anyone with 10 foot lines got a successful pump going? just noticing some people have not from the comments – i’d like to know before i attempt this

        1. admin Post author

          Well… the product description on that continues to say that it will fit both gas and ball lock QDs I would try another QD. If that doesn’t work… I would get with the seller and request a replacement.

  3. Zack

    I went with the 396GPH version of the pump, and it’s unfortunately just about worthless with my setup. I have 10ft liquid lines, and using this pump with a bucket yields only a tiny trickle of water flowing through the tubing, not even enough to fill the 3/8″ line.

    Am I doing something wrong here, or is it really just not strong enough to move water that distance?

    1. admin Post author

      Is the beer line filled? What kind of distance is there between the pump and the top of your shanks? Decreasing that distance should help flow rate?

  4. Aaron

    I tried using the 132 gph version of this pump and the flow rate is pretty anemic if the beer line is elevated more than about a foot. I think it’ll work if I lift the bucket to be higher and closer to the faucets, but that’s not super convenient.

    1. admin Post author

      The 5/16″ barb fitting does come off and that reveals the inner workings of the QD, but it only exposes it, I don’t see where i can actually disassemble it.

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