Here is a project that was inspired by Doc at The Brewing Network. It was discussed in one of their first episodes when Justin mentioned how Doc had a great system to clean his kegs and carboys. Doc gave a brief explanation about how he used a submersible pump to recirculate cleaning solution through all the keg's orifices.
There is a main spray head that cleans the keg or carboy, and there are also lines that feed cleaning solution through the gas in and beverage out dip tubes. Once I heard about this it went to the top of my priority list.
Here are the basic items you need:
Just like any of these projects the equipment or materials you use can be changed to suit your preference, their availability, or your budget. Find and repurpose things you have lying around the house. With that being said here is what I used from bottom to top.
You don’t need to have the QDs dedicated to this cleaner but you probably want to have an extra set so you don’t have to remove them from your draft system just to clean a keg.
Before any parts are soldered together you need to dry fit everything to get the correct heights and lengths. Then you need to find the location of any screwed-in fitting when it is tight. Take your main threaded fitting and screw it into the pump. Then mark the direction that the ball valve needs to go. This mark will be used to align the fittings when they are soldered. Additionally make sure you design your cleaner so the ball valve is a few inches below the rim of the bucket.
Solder your parts up making sure that your ball valve will be pointing in the correct direction when the unit is connected to the pump. Do not solder the pipe going up to the main spray head you will want to leave it free so you can add different length pipes for your various cleaning needs.
Solder the union on to the water hammer bulb.
Assemble all of the pieces that get attached to the pump.
Thread on the ball valve, the nipple, the tee, and the hose barbs. Then attach the sections of tubing and the barb to ¼" flare fittings.
You will need to modify your bucket lid by cutting a hole for the keg opening and the QD’s. Mine is an odd shape to accommodate both ball and pin lock kegs. You will also need to cut a slot in the edge to run the cord out and I had to drill holes to allow liquid to drain into the bucket from cavities around the edge of the lid.
I then built a support to hold my carboys. I used a hole saw to cut a large hole in a scrap piece of 2 x 6 to hold the neck of the carboys. They seemed to be awfully shifty so I used a jig saw to create a chamfer (albeit a messy one) around the hole.
Using a 3/32" drill bit, drill as many holes as you can into the top of your spray head.
You may need a number of bits. I snapped at least 3 or 4…
You really don’t want to hold this in your hands while drilling, use a vice or a drill press if you have one available. You may also want to add a few holes along the sides to clean the krausen line.
Once this is all complete you can start measuring out the lengths of copper pipe you need to get the spray head within 4 – 6 inches of the top of your vessels. I had to put a slight bend in the pipes in order to center the pipe in the bucket. I use the shorter pipe while cleaning carboys and the longer one when cleaning kegs.
When cleaning kegs I install the QDs on the lines, open the ball valve about half way and put the lid on the bucket. Then I place the keg over the spray bulb and connect the QD’s. The keg rests right on the bucket lid (I may need to reinforce the lid with something as I have cracked it).
I highly recommend using PBW it foams far less than oxy-clean and does not foam at all when heated over 100*. Solution for cleaning carboys should not be heated over 100 degrees to prevent the thermal shock from cracking the glass. Kegs can be cleaned with 160* solution which will clean more effectively.
Note: The heatstick is NOT a UL approved device. It is potentially dangerous if it’s not respected. The heating element must always remain submerged and only plug the heatstick into a GFCI protected outlet.
(editor: Wortomatic cannot recommend mixing electricity and scalding hot liquid, but we do it too)
The addition of a heat source is new to the system. To make my life easier I built a 1500 watt heatstick to heat up and maintain the solutions temperature. I can heat up the solution in the very plastic bucket I use for the pump. I can also plug it in from time to time while cleaning kegs to maintain the water temperature at about 150*.
All you need to do is build a heatstick and add a hole for it in the top of your bucket lid. I found the Cedar Creek Brewing website to be most helpful. That’s it. I learned a couple things the first time around. If I hang the power cord over the top of the keg the heatstick will maintain an upright position, 150* kegs are kind of hot (wear gloves), and if I take my pump up to 160 degrees the thermal protection circuit kicks in.
Hope this tutorial helps people. Add your own ideas if you like and build it as you see fit.