Keg cleaning is an ongoing job in a brewery. There are always kegs in various stages of cleanliness.
Kegs aren’t just to be cleaned either. They also have to be sanitized. And filled. And they are emptied at an amazing rate which starts the cycle all over again.
When we first started home brewing, we used old soda or “corny” kegs because they were fairly simple to disassemble for cleaning. As a microbrewery, we have a bunch of brand spankin’ new, shiny “Sanke” kegs that are waiting to be put into the brewery rotation.
Sanke kegs are not that simple to disassemble and clean. A device known as a “keg cleaner” is available for Sanke kegs. Keg cleaners come in three basic styles–manual, semi-automatic and automatic. When the brewer and the keg cleaner got their loan, the keg cleaner convinced the brewer that her time was money and AT LEAST a semi-automatic keg cleaner was in order. A lovely one arrived from Premier Stainless several weeks ago.
Enter “Harvest Ale”, the first batch brewed on our 7-barrel brewhouse. It’s an amber ale, not our “McKinneyEddy Amber Ale”, but still very good. We’ve put some in corny kegs, and many of our customers have been enjoying pints and growlers of it. It’s time to move the Harvest Ale to some of our new Sanke kegs so we can make room in the bright tank for McKinney Eddy Amber Ale and Missouri Mule India Pale Ale which are currently crash cooling in our fermentation vessels.
Over the past week, Brian ran air lines to a new, large compressor we’ve installed in the “farm room”. The air is a necessary part of cleaning a keg, and it’s also needed for the our canning system which should be delivered any day now. We also hooked the keg cleaner up to water which is also used in the cleaning process.
The keg cleaner has a reservoir which is filled with a high powered cleaning agent. (Special thanks to the folks at Birko that have a special “brewing” person that provided us with all the information we needed to keep our stuff clean and sanitized.) Sanitizer is also fed into the kegs from a bucket that is set off to the side of the machine. The keg cleaner heats the water and the detergent going into the kegs, and a clean smelling steam fills the air around the machine when the kegs are being cleaned.
Instead of having to take the little parts of each keg apart, now I just hook the keg up to the machine, set it on top of the machine and turn levers and knobs on the machine to activate cleaner, water, sanitizer and CO2 for each keg. There’s much less hands on time involved in cleaning and preparing a keg to be re-filled. There’s less “back-breaking” labor, too because I’m not filling the kegs with water, detergent, sanitizer, dumping them, etc. I don’t have to worry about losing some of the teeny, tiny parts that those corny kegs have in them.
Don’t get me wrong, I can see where the fully automatic keg cleaner will be an excellent addition to our brewery somewhere down the road–attach the kegs, push a button, wa-la! No lever turning required. Tonight, I’m quite the happy keg cleaning queen with my new machine.
Here’s to emptying those shiny new kegs!