- Wait fifteen minutes (good time for a cuppa now) and repeat the process of drawing cleaning fluid through the lines. By drawing sufficient cleaning fluid through the line you can tell when the line is clean if the solution, when viewed in a glass has a “milky” appearance, or if using a dyed solution when the solution will stay the same colour as it was when you started.
- If necessary, and your lines are heavily soiled (some lines soil more than others) then repeat the process. In any event do not leave cleaning solution in the lines for longer than the cleaning fluid manufacturer recommends … under no circumstances should you leave cleaning fluid in the lines over-night in an attempt to save time in the morning.)
- Once you are satisfied that your beer lines are clean you can begin the flushing out process. If you have cask lines you will have cleaned them between cask changes. (I have always retained the unused cleaning solution in a stainless steel bucket to keep any dirty cask taps immersed in to clean them before leaving them thoroughly rinsed in their storage rack – you can also use retained cleaning fluid for scrubbing stubborn beer drips and spills on the cellar floor).
- Thoroughly rinse out the cleaning container with cold running water until all traces of cleaning fluid are removed and then fill with cold water to the level indicated on the cleaning container.
- Now you can flush each line with 10 litres (2 gallons) of fresh water to remove the yeast that will have been dislodged by the cleaning fluid solution in the line. Don’t forget to flush out the cellar buoys and fob detectors too! Once again check each line is clear of all traces of cleaning solution by using your litmus paper strips.
- Drain the cleaning container of all water and turn off the cleaning line gas supply.
- Re-connect keg couplers to their respective kegs, turn the fob detectors from their cleaning setting to their dispense setting and turn on the gas to each beer line.
- Bleed the fob detectors of all water until full of beer.
- In the bar, replace all sparklers and diffusers on their respective taps and draw off each line until beer is running clearly and looks and tastes good.
- Finally remember to turn on the remote cooler in the cellar and all “flash coolers” under the bar.
What Does Beer Line Cleaning Do?
The sugars and yeasts in beer are growth mediums for a number of bacteria, which, if allowed to accumulate will affect the taste and quality of the beer being dispensed through your beer line. Their growth will cause a “bio-film” that not only causes quality problems within beer, but also increase the degradation of the lines themselves. The four main types are:
This type of bacteria produces large quantities of acetic acid and is used to make vinegar. In beer it can cause a sour taste and discolouration.
This type of bacteria, of which there are about nine different species, produce lactic acid causing a sour taste.
This type of bacteria causes probably the most easily detectable of problems by the average consumer – the dreaded rotten egg smell!
It produces acetic, lactic and propionic acids, which, help cause mould in bread. As well as hydrogen sulphide and dimethyl sulphide. Beer that has been broken down by these acids will taste foul, be cloudy and have that rotten egg aroma.
This type of bacteria causes the production of diascetyl, a compound that is used to flavour beers. Beer will take on a buttery/butter scotch aroma with higher levels of this compound.
Alternative Cleaning Technology
Best practice calls for a weekly chemical beer-line clean, this means this ‘traditional’ beer line cleaning method is wasteful, not only of stock and chemical, but more importantly time; however this is a necessary waste, or more accurately put is “just the cost of doing business”. The amount will obviously vary according to the size and number of bars a pub operates, however, a typical figure can be around 240 pints of beer/lager/cider a month.
Fortunately modern technology is coming to the rescue, for example, there are now multiple innovations on the market which automate the process to enable much less beer to be wasted, less chemicals consumed in cleaning (both lines and associated kit) and, of course, they save time in comparison to the manual process (detailed above). They also often allow one line to be isolated and cleaned at a time, thus ensuring remaining taps remain fully operational.
In addition to automating the process other systems reduce the need to clean lines as often. As much as three in every four scheduled cleans can be cut, automatically reducing potential wasted stock by up to 75% and as bacteria are inhibited for longer periods associated mould problems in the cellar can also be reduced. Once again, the cost of installing such as a system can often be recouped very quickly, sometimes in as little as one month. After that, every drop saved is money in the coffers that would otherwise be literally, poured down the drain.