How to clean a homebrew keg
Kegging beer is very simple. Fill the keg, connect gas, then drink. Once the keg is empty, cleaning a keg seems a bit more daunting. Cleaning a keg is very simple once you know the steps.
Gather your equipment
First assemble the equipment that you will need:
• PBW cleaning powder (or equivalent)
• StarSan sanitizer (or equivalent)
• 7/8 inch wrench
• O-rings if you plan on replacing them
• 1 dirty keg
A 7/8 inch wrench is used to remove the posts. You can use an adjustable wrench, but this one makes it much easier.
To start, rinse out the keg with water. This will remove any larger particles or left over beer.
Clean Keg With Cleansing Solution
Prepare a gallon of PBW solution using one gallon of water and 2 oz of PBW powder. If you are using another cleanser, refer to the directions for the correct amount. Put this solution into the keg. You can mix the solution directly in the keg; just make sure you don’t add too much power. It can be difficult rinsing out the power crystals that don’t dissolve. Seal the keg back up, and shake the keg hard. If there were solid parts near the top, you can store the keg for 30 minutes upside down. This should dislodge any stuck particles near the top.
Next pour out the PBW solution. Save some of the solution in a bowl or jug. You will use this solution to clean the keg posts. Unfasten the keg posts and place them into the bowl. It is ok if the poppets come out, but be careful not to lose them. Rinse out the keg with water. Make sure there are no particles stuck to the inside walls of the keg. Rinse the keg until you no longer smell any chemicals.
Rinse off the keg parts. Make sure you rinse the parts inside and out. The dip tubes should be rinsed inside and out.
Clean and Lube Keg Parts
Remove the rings on the dip tubes. Place a small amount of keg grease on the rings. You can buy this grease at most homebrew stores local or online. Place the rings back on the tubes. If you are replacing the o-rings, toss out the old ones and replace with new ones. Most homebrew stores will sell the o-rings individually, or you can get a great deal on the o-rings if you buy 100 of them online from McMaster-Carr.
Make sure there is still some grease on the ring. You can be a bit liberal with the grease. The grease is odorless and tasteless, and it does not dissolve in beer or water. (You will discover just how well it doesn’t dissolve when you try to wash it off your fingers later) Remove the poppets from the keg posts and apply a bit of grease to the tops of these.
Place the tubes back into the correct locations. The short tube is the gas tube, and should be placed in the “in” spot. The longer dip tube is for the beverage, and should be placed in the “out” spot. Replace the poppets into the posts and secure the posts back onto the keg. You’ll notice that one of the posts has (should have) notches in the sides of the post. That post is the gas post. The other is for the beverage.
Clean and lube keg lid
Remove the o-ring on the lid, and clean both thoroughly. Liberally apply grease to the o-ring. Make sure the grease covers the o-ring. The grease will help seal the lid to the keg, and make it less likely for leaks.
Sanitize and pressurize keg
Create 1 gallon of a sanitizing solution using StarSan, or some other no-rinse sanitizer. You can create this solution in the keg. Seal the keg, and again shake the keg. Wait for about a minute after shaking.
Push the sanitizing solution out of your keg using your CO2. This will make sure that the sanitizing solution touches everything. Once the keg is sanitized, it is ready for use. Keep the keg under pressure until you plan to use it. Keeping the keg under pressure will protect the keg from mold or bacteria until you are ready to use it. It will also help you spot any slow gas leaks that you might find.
Once you’ve filled the keg with beer and carbonated it, your next step is to empty the keg. Happy drinking!
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Credits and Links
I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!