With more craft beer bars boasting “400 tap beer barnpalooza” it is now more important than ever to know how to spot draft irregularities and how to fix them. Operators can have the best brews on tap, but if timely cleaning procedures fall short the selection won’t show well.
Generally beer distributors maintain the cleanliness of the taps for their operator partners; however, they may fall behind on regularly scheduled cleanings. Knowing how to do draft upkeep will not only keep your beer tasting good and your regulars happy but will also save you money from wasting kegs and having beer become out of code (expired).
There are many technical reasons why a draft system may pour bad beer: pressure issues, unclean lines and of course bacteria and yeast build-up. The two most common problems that help create off-tastes in beer are Diacetyl (butterscotch and butter pop) and common infection (sickly sour or vinegar). Most bars do a quick tap cleaning training at closing and opening and most of the technical cleaning should be left to the managers or distributor.
A few ways to easily clean the draft system are the following. First, always spray inside and wipe down faucets with a non-rinse sanitizer. Second, to actually flush out and clean the lines, take off an existing keg and hook up a beer line-cleaning keg. Push the existing beer through with cold water and once the beer has been cleared and the cooler is off, run cleaner through for 15 to 20 minutes. To do a quick clean between kegs one could also just run cold water through the lines, if the bar is switching from a sour to an IPA on a busy night. After running the cleanser on, flush the lines again with regular cold water before running beer through the lines.
Now that all the lines are cleaned and ready for new beer, the taps and couplers still need attention. They tend to collect biofilms or organic deposits of yeasts and bacteria, which can lead to off tastes, cause the spread of bacteria beer to beer and help create a habitat in which fruit flies can flourish. A few preventive procedures to be done every night at closing include spraying a non-rinse sanitizer into each faucet and placing a presoaked faucet cap or plug over each faucet end. This will keep fruit fies out and discourage the growth of organic material.
Following these short and simple steps will help stop beer profit loss and help keep equipment running properly, which will keep repair costs down and help maintain cleanliness in your draught system. At the end of the day, what’s the point of having the most sought after brews to only serve them through dirty, bacteria filled lines and taps?
Step by Step
1. Always remember to ask your manager before doing any in-depth cleaning.
2. Clean your taps every two weeks and do a full deep cleaning every three months.
3. Flush lines with cold water, then detergent and (always) cold water before running beer through lines.
4. Wipe down the entire tap system, scrub and polish drip trays.
5. Spray, clean and cap faucets nightly.