Hello SCB friends, Andrew here, I’m here to present to you some DYI help for building a gadget that will save you loads of time cleaning kegs and carboys. If you’re anything like me, you can relate that cleaning carboys is one of the most tedious and tiresome tasks of home brewing, in fact there have been quite a few times where I’ve just let the damn things sit for weeks at a time then desperately cleaned them before a brew day to have one ready. I finally got fed up with the old method of soaking carboys for days at a time and struggling to get them clean.
A big thanks is due to Bart who showed us hit set up at the February SCB meeting! With his thorough presentation and a little extra digging around on the inter webs I was able to put one of these bad boys together myself.
First off check out how nasty this carboy was starting out:
Now for the build, I’ll list the parts I used as well as some photos of how to put it all together!
- 600 gal/hour pond pump (I bought mine at Home Depot for around $60 but I’m sure with some searching it could be found for much cheaper)
- 2 ft sections of both 3/4″ and 1/2″ PVC – they sell these pre cut and that is very convenient
- 3/4″ T fitting
- 3/4″ cross fitting
- 3/4″ slip to 1/2″ threaded elbow
- 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer
- Two 3/4″ caps
- Male 1/2″ threaded to 3/8″ barb
- 3/8″ tubing cut to size
- 3/8″ barbed T fitting
- Two 3/8″ barbed swivel nuts
- Six worm clamps
- CO2 and liquid keg disconnects
- Two five-gallon buckets
- Lid with 6″ diameter hole
- Seven feet of vinyl tubing
Pretty easy set up altogether.
Cut your 6″ hole in the lid for your bucket (this will be used for propping the carboy up during cleaning). This would also be a good time to cut slots in the top of each bucket to allow for the cord while the lid is on the bucket.
Cut a small (maybe 1.5″) section of the 3/4 pvc to connect the sprayer to the pump. The pump has a 1/2″ slip fitting so for mine I had to bore out the inner diameter of the connector a little to get it to fit over the outlet piece of the pump. For my build I only slipped each piece together to make it a little easier on myself, if I were to suggest one place to use pvc cement it would be to secure this little guy to the pump, because with mine it tends to slip off when switching from keg to carboy cleaning.
Cut two, 3″ sections of your 3/4″ pvc and attach them to the 3/4″ cross fitting. Place the 3/4″ caps on each exposed end. Use another small section of 3/4″ pvc to attach the tee fitting to the 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer. (I could not find a normal slip reducer so I used a slip to threaded 3/4″ to 1/2″ and then a threaded 1/2″ to 1/2″ slip to get the sprayer piece to attach). Either way it will work out just fine! I cut my 1/2″ pvc to 18″ and slipped the whole thing together, and this is what it came out to look like.
Now that you have the main assembly put together you will just need to build the keg washer. First you’ll want to cut another two small connector pieces of the 3/4″ pvc. Next you will slide the connector pieces into the top and front of the tee fitting, the top will be to connect the piece we just built and the other will connect to your 3/4″ elbow fitting. You will need to thread your barb fitting into the elbow and attach the elbow to the tee. From here, I cut a fairly lengthy section of the vinyl tubing so that I could connect the keg to the washer with out having any trouble moving it on and off the washer. I would say roughly three feet should do the trick, go ahead and connect your tee to that section now. Next, cut two 1′ sections of the tubing and attach them to the remaining ends of the tee and the opposite ends to your keg disconnects. Boom! That’s the keg washer!
Here she is in use, cleaning a carboy and a keg.
Tips for using the washer:
When I am cleaning, I will use PBW and hot water in one bucket and fill roughly a gallon and half, essentially all you need is enough to fully submerge the pump. The other bucket is full of hot rinse water for when the cleaning cycle has completed. If the carboy is especially filthy I will run the PBW solution until it is visibly grimy and then make a new PBW solution and run that through the carboy for 15 minutes. On carboys that are not so bad, a five to ten minute cleaning cycle is sufficient for sparkly clean results! Cleaning kegs is basically the same procedure, I have mine set up so that the keg washer piece is removable which makes it easy to use for either application.
Because the pumps are not fitted with any sort of switch, as you can see in the picture above I have my washer connected to a portable GFCI. The one time I forgot to use the switch I plugged it directly into the wall and had hot PBW spraying all over the kitchen!
*Note that this unit can be used for sanitizing as well, I personally don’t use it for sanitizing because I exclusively use Star San. Since Star San is a foaming sanitizer is not recommended to use with the washer. If you wish to use this is a sanitizer, I would recommend something non-foaming like IO Star. Personally, I prefer to sanitize kegs by filling them with a gallon or two of Star San solution and push it through the line and faucet of my kegerator with 2 lbs of pressure.
I hope this post has been helpful, now get out there and brew some beer!