Cleaning and sanitizing is probably the least popular part of homebrewing but is certainly one of the most important aspects if you want to avoid dumping batches of beer due to being infected.
Kegs and carboys, especially glass carboys, are both heavy and bulky plus for different reasons can be problematic to clean properly.
Cornelius or Corny kegs are a challenge to clean because of the long dip tube which goes from the Out post to the bottom of the keg and can be rather tedious to remove the Post, internal valve or poppet, seals and tube after every use. Reassembly can also create problems with leaking seals.
Carboys are not too much of a problem to clean after using them for secondary fermentation because the soiling is often not very heavy but after using them for primary fermentation is a different matter as the dried on yeast and foam can be tough to remove from just below the neck.
Keg & Carboy Washer
During an online sale the Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer was reduced from $99.99 to $79.99 and included Free Shipping so I thought it was time to give this product a go and see whether or not it would save me time and effort whilst homebrewing.
The product has plenty of positive reviews and arrived a few days later in a branded box ready for assembly. With an item that mixes water and electricity it is always wise to first of all read the instructions carefully!
Contents & Assembly
The contents of the washer fit within the base, or basin, which in turn fits into the box that it came packaged in. The contents consist of:
- Moulded basin
- Keg / carboy stand
- Rubber ring for stand
- 1/4″ barb
- 3/8″ barb
- User manual
In a nutshell the basics of assembly are as follows for carboy use:
- Hand screw the plastic pipe into the top of the pump.
- Place the pump into the center of the basin.
- Hand screw the nozzle onto the top of the pipe.
- Click into place the three-legged keg / carboy stand within the basin so the pump and pipe are in the center of the stand.
- Place the rubber ring onto the top of the stand.
For use with a Corny keg change step 2 so that the T-adapter screws into the pump and the pipe screws into the T-adapter. This adapter is for connecting to a length of plastic tubing that then goes onto a Ball Lock or Pin Lock connector that in turn attaches to the Out post on the keg i.e. so the dip tube can also be cleaned.
Lengths of plastic tubing can also be cleaned by attaching the 1/4″ or 3/8″ barb fittings onto the top of the pump and then attaching the tube.
Cleaning a Carboy
First up was an already cleaned carboy to see how the washer worked. After assembly I placed one Carboy Cleaning Tablet into the basin and filled it with water to the lip of the raised platform which ensures the pump is fully submersed.
I then placed the carboy over the nozzle and pipe so the shoulders of the carboy rested on the rubber lip of the stand and then plugged the cord into the electrical socket (note: there is no on/off switch).
Once plugged in the nozzle sprayed cleaning solution upwards at the bottom of the carboy and it ran down the sides back into the basin which acts as a reservoir. All seemed to work fine though after a while I noticed there was quite a build-up of foam in the basin.
Next up was a used carboy with yeast and foam crusted on the neck of the carboy that can be tough to remove. I left the washer running for 10-15 minutes and found that it did not remove the worst of the soiling but did loosen it making it easier to remove with a 90 degree carboy cleaning brush after removing the carboy from the washer.
Cleaning a Corny Keg
After removing the pipe from the pump and placing the T-adapter in between I up-ended a Corny keg, placed some tubing onto the T-adapter and slotted the Ball Connector onto the Out post of the keg then turned on the washer.
Cleaning solution is sprayed upwards on to the bottom of the Corny keg and at the same time through the Out post and up the dip tube. Again there was some foaming in the basin which I scooped out with my hands into the sink before it over-flowed.
Tube Cleaning & Sanitizing
Although I have not yet tried this out it appears very simple to remove the pipe and T-adapter if fitted then screw a barb fitting into the top of the pump, attach a siphon tube and let the washer recirculate cleaning solution through the tubing and back into the washer basin.
After cleaning the carboys, kegs and tubing the same setup can be used to sanitize the equipment but pouring in sanitizer solution or powder then filling up the reservoir as before and recirculate the solution to kill any bacteria that remains following cleaning.
Foaming proved to be a bit of an issue but this may be resolved by using an alternative cleaning agent.
For cleaning or sanitizing an individual item then I would say it is not worth the assembly and dis-assembly effort, but if you have a few carboys, kegs and lengths of tubing that need cleaning and sanitizing in one session then this will save time and effort because you can set it going and do something else whilst the cleaning or sanitizing solution recirculates.
For carboys that are heavily soiled then the washer does not remove all the dirt and requires the use of a 90 degree carboy brush once loosened.
According to the steps laid out in the User Manual the items, including the pump, look very easy to maintain.
Overall I would say this is a worthwhile piece of homebrew equipment, especially if you keep an eye out for it being on sale.