I love having clean fermentation vessels and clean kegs. I hate actually cleaning them though. I mean it’s not a lot of work to do it. It’s just a lot of product/chemical that is used to actually do it. I figured there had to be a way to clean my vessels with minimal effort and minimal use of water and chemicals. I was thinking of a small scale keg washer that the breweries use as a model. Of course I had never seen one in person and saw less for sale at a price point that I could afford. Or would want to afford.
With this in mind I began scouring the web in hopes that someone else had the same thought I did. I saw a few designs that were interesting, but they all seemed geared towards cleaning only kegs. And only ball lock kegs at that. With some brainstorming I could make one of these designs into something I could use for all my cleaning needs. Well, clean beer vessel needs. I could also use it to clean my barrels if I felt the need.
The original idea had me putting my pump into a five gallon bucket. Looked neat and compact. Made a mess though. My next idea was to use a cheap trash can. This keeps the mess to a minimum; or really not a mess at all. It keeps all the liquid inside without spraying everywhere. This was my main first goal. And it does so way better than the bucket ever could. At least in my use. It cuts my water usage to about 2 gallons total per cleaning session. I can also store my solution for later use if I desire, which I do. And if I should choose to sanitize I could do so.
A note about solutions to use. At least in my experience. If there is any sort of additive that would cause foaming it might be best to avoid it. In this setup. I do have a CIP spray ball that I will try in the future that might cut down on the foaming, but I don’t think it will cut down that much. The force of the pump is the real factor here. Had I bought a lower HP pump it might be more gentle. But I went with the model I did to get some force along with the cleaning solution. The alkaline cleaner I’ve been using has done pretty good so far at removing any kräusen gunk (technical term) that has decided to take up residence on my fermenters. And there was a fermenter I cleaned that had gunk for about a month on it (picture below).
My design, and operation, as it is right now, is fairly simple: an old trash can, a pump, a pipe with hand drilled holes towards the top, a cap on said pipe with more holes drilled into it on top of that, teflon tape at the threads, and PVC glue on the pipe. You could make this out of metal, but I chose PVC. If you were to use super-hot water you could go with CPVC, but I won’t be using water much hotter than room temp. I then place the pump with all attachments in place into the trash can, hang the cord outside, place whatever I’m cleaning at that moment over the pipe, and plug it in. I’ll let it run until clean, or if it’s a really caked on I’ll use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down after a while. When using the cloth the gunk will wipe off with the greatest of ease (no trapeze references here). The bottom of the trash can is perfect for holding the small items that need cleaning!
For my particular pump I used two different setups, PVC pipe-wise. A 1/2″ pipe, and a 1″ pipe. At the bottom I used a 3/4″-1/2″ adapter for, obviously, the 1/2″ pipe. And a 3/4″-1″ adapter for the other. Unfortunately the adapter on the pump is a 3/4″ hose fitting which is really tight for the PVC 3/4″ adapter. I just hand tighten as much as possible and I’ve had not issue, yet. But I’m going to change these out in the future. The 1/2″ pipe is great for Better Bottles, or the like, and the 1″ is great for anything with a bigger opening than the plastic carboys, such as what you’ll see below.
Future plans include a shelf of some sort (or cross members) to place inside the trash can to hold the object getting cleaned more vertical. This will eliminate any spray that may occur, which is very minimal for my buckets and carboys, but does happen on my shorter vessels. I could also eliminate this spray by shortening my pipe, but I may need this size in the future for my SS fermenters. Though I could run a hose for that I suppose… I’m also planning on a more permanent structure but haven’t come up with anything yet – this will also allow me to install a heating element to make the act of heating the solution and rinse much easier. A solution storage tank for future use may be in the works, but the costs savings so far will have me using a tub of cleaner very sparingly so I may forgot this. A switch is in the immediate future though so I don’t have to plug it in and unplug it to operate.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I’ll write up another post once I get it finalized (or as final as it will get) which should address anything overlooked. If there are questions that the pictures don’t seem to answer, let me know. I’ll answer them as best I can – which can be hard sometimes over the internet. And stayed tune for a post about my BA RIS, Saison fermenting in the barrel, and I might finally bottle/sample my wild yeast beer.