Do you know how clean your beer line system is? If you're not regularly cleaning your beer lines, they are likely filled with particles and deposits of yeasts and sugars, which can negatively impact the taste of your beers on tap. In some cases, molds can grow if the lines are exposed to air, which can definitely affect the taste. Plus, no one wants to be served a pint with beer stones (flaked debris) floating in the glass.
Other particles that get into your beers can cause excess foaming. Of course, a nice head is important for that perfect pint, but too much foam can leave your customers feeling cheated.
There's also the risk you take that your dirty beer lines could be breeding who-knows-what bacteria, which could be hard on your customers' digestive systems. No one wants to make their bar patrons ill. For these reasons, it's important to keep your beer lines crystal clear. Otherwise, you could end up with a disgusting and bad-tasting mess.
When Should You Clean Your Beer Lines?
At a minimum, your beer lines should be cleaned every time you put in a new keg. For best results, beer systems manufacturers may recommend cleaning after every 1/2 barrel. Talk to the manufacturer of your equipment or read your equipment manual to find out what is recommended for your setup.
How Should You Clean Your Beer Lines?
The reason that many restaurants and bars fail to keep their beer lines as clean as they ought to be is because it's a pain to do it right. Traditionally, you'd have to disconnect the lines and run warm, soapy water or a disinfectant solution down the length of the tubing, then rinse thoroughly. If you used the wrong cleaner, you might have a hard time getting the taste out of the lines, as well.
Many manufacturers make beer line cleaning kits that use air pressure to move water and an approved cleaning solution through the lines. Some establishments use their carbon dioxide tank to power it while others hand pump, but the pressure takes care of moving the solution through. Move the solution through for about 15 minutes to make sure you loosen and remove all caked on grime inside the lines, especially if you haven't been regularly cleaning them.
When you rinse, you can use pH strips to test until you find they match your original pH; this ensures you have removed all the caustic cleaning solution from the lines and there will be no aftertaste.
Is There More to Clean?
It's not just the lines themselves that can get gross. Make sure you clean out the taps themselves as well as any couplers in the lines. Use the same cleaning solution you run through the lines and soak for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing.
If you are concerned about the method you use to clean your beer lines and system, talk to your salesperson about the best method to use.
For draft beer systems, contact a company such as Perfect Pour Draft Beer Specialists.