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How to Build a Keg Washer

 

        

 

References

Keg Washer Build Sites:

Commercial (homebrew) Keg Washer for Reference:

Why Build a Keg Washer?

 

I was bored the other day, so I decided to clean a bunch of my dirty/used kegs so they were ready for the next time I need to keg a couple beers.  A couple hours later and a store back, I had cleaned and sanitized kegs, but I realized that it's time for a more automated and less labor-intensive way to accomplish this task.  After talking to a few fellow homebrewers, I realize that my process is a bit more thorough than theirs, as a lot of them don't take off the keg posts and fully clean and sanitize those, which boggles my mind.  Here's what I'm currently doing to clean and sanitize my kegs:

  1. Add 1/2 gallon hot water to keg to clean out most of the sediment, shake, and dump

  2. Add 1/2 gallon hot PBW, shake, scrub with toilet brush (dedicated to brewing, not the toilet)

  3. Add 1/2 gallon hot water, shake, dump

  4. Add 1/2 gallon StarSan or Iodophor, shake

  5. Remove keg posts & poppets and clean with hot water and soak in sanitizer

  6. Remove dip tubes, clean with brush, and soak in sanitizer

  7. Add dip tubes, poppets, and posts to keg

  8. Dump out sanitizer

  9. Repeat for remaining kegs - I usually line up several at a time, so this goes a little faster for multiple kegs, but still not super efficient.

As you can see, there is a lot of bending, shaking, cleaning, and overall effort involved in this process.  So I decided to do a little online research on various keg washer builds and see what I could put together based on my needs.  A lot of the sites I found were also using this keg washer to clean & sanitize carboys as well.  I use mainly buckets and only do primary fermentations on the majority of my beers, but I do have a few Better Bottles for long-term aging and for use with my sour beers, so this wasn't as big of a factor in my build.

 

NOTE:  After doing some testing, my keg washer works with Better Bottles and the CIP ball fits through the neck just fine.

 

Parts List

Even after getting a good idea of the parts I needed by looking at several other sites online, I still spent about an hour at Menards just putting various pieces of PVC together to see what I thought would work best.  I ended up buying a few extra parts here and there, but the list below should be pretty close to what I actually used on the build.  I wanted the keg washer to screw apart in a few places, in case I want to store it more disassembled in order to dry better.  I still haven't figured out the best way to dry this out after use to prevent mold from potentially growing inside, but I'm sure I'll come up with something after I use it a few different times.

 

Quantity Part Link or Location
1 Superior 1/4 HP Submersible Pump Amazon
1 1/2" Stainless Clean-in-Place (CIP) Ball Amazon
1 3/4" PVC Swivel Adapter (Male)

* I had a harder time finding this part at my local store during the winter, but I found a couple links online to order from

Amazon or Lowes
1 3/4" PVC Female Adapter Menards
1 3/4" PVC Cross Menards
2 3/4" x 1/2" PVC Female Elbow Menards
2 1/4"ID x 1/2" MIP Hose Barb Menards
1 1/2" x 3/4" PVC Male Adapter Menards
1 1/2" PVC Coupling Menards
1 1/2" x 18" PVC Riser Menards
1 3/4" x 5' PVC Pipe (cut to different lengths for project) Menards
1 (each) PVC Cleaner & PVC Cement Menards
1 1/4"ID x 10' Vinyl Tubing Menards
1 (each) Liquid & Gas Keg Disconnects (Ball or Pin Lock) Amazon
4 Hose Clamps Menards
1 Old Homebrew Bucket & Lid Home or store
1 GFCI Adapter Amazon

 

Build, Assembly & Testing

The first thing I did once I had all my parts together was to lay everything out to make sure there wasn't anything missing.  I still needed to cut some pieces of 3/4" PVC to size in order to join various parts together, so I figured out how much overlap between parts was needed and tried to cut the PVC as short as I could to get things to fit tightly together.  I used a reciprocating saw (Sawzall) to cut the PVC to length.  You could use a hand saw for this as well, but it will take a little longer.  I lightly sanded each piece afterwards to remove any plastic burrs left from cutting.  After that, I applied the purple PVC primer to the outside of the PVC pieces and inside of the various other parts.  As you can see from the pictures below, this stuff is messy and will stain anything it touches.  It's best to use a piece of cardboard or something to cover your workbench so you don't end up with a permanent stain like I did.  Once the pieces are primed, you can apply the PVC cement to the outside of your PVC pieces and inside of your female parts.  This stuff sets up very quickly, so be sure to use enough pressure to quickly get the pieces together and wipe off any excess PVC cement.

 

After the spray wand is put together and dry, it's time to get it hooked up to the pump, attach the tubing and disconnects for cleaning out the keg dip tubes, and cutting the bucket lid.  I used about 4' of 1/4" tubing for each side of the T used for cleaning out dip tubes.  This is longer than some other how-to sites, but I wanted there to be enough extra length so I wasn't having to hold the keg up in the air to connect the quick disconnects.  If you've ever put together a kegging system, this part should be pretty easy.  After that, it was time to cut the bucket lid.  The hole you cut will need to be large enough to allow cleaner & sanitizer to drain back into the bucket, but not so large that the keg handles fall through.  My cuts definitely aren't the prettiest, but they get the job done.  I also needed to cut a notch in the side of the lid to allow the pump power cord and tubing to fit through.  I just used a pair of sheet metal cutters for this.  I could have probably used power tools, but it was easy enough to do by hand.

 

Once everything is hooked up and ready to go, it's time to test it out.  I filled my bucket with 2 gallons of hot PBW solution, put the pump and spray wand in the bottom of the bucket, and then put the lid on, being careful to get the power cord and tubing through the notch in the side.  I connected the gas and liquid disconnects to my dirty keg, and flipped the keg on top of the spray wand.  At this point, I was ready to turn it on and see what happens. **Make sure you are using a GFCI outlet, or better yet, a GFCI adapter since you're working with electricity and water**  My outlet was already GFCI, but I like the adapter because I can turn the power on and off easily to the pump for switching out kegs without needing to physically unplug the pump.  Luckily for me, everything worked pretty well for the initial test.  Some of the PBW was draining outside the hole in the lid, but not a ton.  I'm planning on running this in my brew sink, so that's not a big deal.  I also found that the pump with the spray wand attached was unbalanced and really didn't want to stay upright.  As a quick workaround for that, I found a long plastic twist-tie and used the existing airlock hole in the lid to secure the wand to the bucket lid.  Just to test that enough water pressure was coming out of the CIP ball and disconnect tubing, I put the keg on the floor and covered the CIP ball with a plastic pitcher and turned the pump back on.  There was a good amount of water pressure coming into the kegs through the disconnect cleaning tubing, and the CIP ball was spinning around like crazy inside the pitcher.  That's how I ended up with a good amount of water on my basement wall, so I think we're good to go there.  And there you have it...a completed keg washer build that's about the same price as the commercially available model, but much more powerful and adjustable for your needs.

 

 

Video of the MikeBeer Keg Washer running for the first time

Possible Future Fixes:

  • Consider shortening the spray wand - I noticed the spray wand is long enough that it almost hits the top of the keg.  Ideally, I think this should maybe only go 3/4 of the way up the keg to provide better cleaning.  I'll have to play around with this or maybe try a taller bucket if I can find one.

  • How to steady/hold the keg on top of the bucket - The keg will sit on top of the bucket as of now, but it's not the most sturdy.  Maybe a bungee cord over the top of the keg and hooked to the side of the bucket?

  • Better way to center spray wand in the bucket - As mentioned above, I currently need to use a long twist-tie to keep the spray wand centered through the bucket hole, otherwise it seems to want to tip over.  There may be a better way to do this, but a twist-tie seems to work fine for now.

 

 


Contact Information:  MikeYoungHB at gmail.com


 
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