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.
Here’s a look at the box for the EcoPlus 264Here’s what you get. The pump, a removable suction cup base and an assortment of connection options.For v2, I wanted to employ a stainless steel carbonation cap with dip tube (see below for links). Using this eliminates a good number of fittings compared to v1, 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.
The 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. 🙂1/4″ ID x 1/2″ OD tubing fits perfectly on the barb.A small length of tubing on the barbA small length of 1/2″ ID silicone tubing from Brew HardwareThe 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 SizeThe finished assembly… whammoI 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 AdapterThe pump assembly in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. This bucket acts as a reservoir for BLC, Water and Star San.The 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.Here is the tubing returning to the bucketThis 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.Measuring BLC with my Perfect BeakerOf course I used my trusty Rubbermaid 1 Gallon Pitcher [Review] to measure the water for the BLC solutionThe 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.A closer look at the bucket. I generally recirculate for 15 to 20 minutes per faucet.Here’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.Here’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.Final 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.
Components – except carbonator cap:
- EcoPlus 728305 Eco 264 Submersible Pump, 290GPH
- Stainless steel Carbonation Cap w/ 5/16″ Barb, Ball Lock Type – OR – Stainless Steel Carbonation Cap w/ Dip Tube
- Silicone Tubing from Brew Hardware
- 1/4″ ID x 1/2″ OD tubing
- Also Consider: 2 x Liner Clamp for Silicone Tubing – Choose Large Size
I purchased the carbonator cap pictured in this build, from AliExpress. As you can see for the photos, it works with both gas and liquid QDs. That’s important for this build. Since publishing, I have received word back that the AliExpress offering no longer works with both gas and liquid QDs.
Consider these alternatives, Specifications Can Change: Check product descriptions for current description and specifications to make sure these are designed to work with both liquid and gas QDs.
- Ferroday Stainless Carbonation Cap Counter Pressure Bottle Filling With 5/16″ Barb – I’ve used this one and I can confirm the one I received worked with both liquid and gas QDs – Hands on Review
- Stainless Carbonation Cap with 5/16″ Barb Ball Lock Type, Fit Most Soft Drink PET Bottles
- UP100 Line Cleaning Cap Stainless Carbonation Cap Counter Pressure Bottle Filling,w/ 5/16″ Barb
New offerings regularly pop up. Search Amazon for “stainless steel carbonation cap” to see what’s out there. Again, check descriptions to make sure these work for both gas/grey and liquid/black QDs.
- National Chemical Keg Beer Line Cleaner for Kegerators 32 oz Bottle
- LLC – Liquid Line Cleaner via MoreBeer
- Search Amazon for “Star San”
- Search Amazon for “PBW”
- Dawn Industries T100 1-1/4-Inch Original KwikCut PVC Cutter
- Search GFCI Adapter on Amazon
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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application. Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application. Always read and follow manufacturer directions.