Foamy, Flat, or Cloudy? Troubleshoot Your Draft Beer System

Flat, foamy, and cloudy beerIf you own or work at a bar or restaurant, you understand that keeping your draft beer dispensing system in proper working condition is an integral part of maintaining your bottom line. When your commercial draft beer system isn’t working properly, you run the risk of creating unhappy customers who may leave your establishment with a less than satisfactory experience to look back on.  

Luckily, most common issues with your draft beer system, including foamy, flat, or cloudy beer, are easy to diagnose and troubleshoot. As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that the vast majority of issues can be traced back to one of three things: improper temperature, improper pressure, or general cleanliness.

The following quick guide will arm you with information to help you make the necessary adjustments to ensure that your beer flows freely and your customers remain happy.

 

a glass of foamy beerFoamy Beer

Instead of being mostly liquid with just the right amount of creamy head on top, the glass is filled with wasteful foam. Here’s what might be wrong:

The temperature is too warm. Lower the temperature in the refrigeration unit that holds your kegs (ideally, to between 36º and 40ºF). If using glycol to dispense, ensure that your glycol bath is set to dispense at that range as well.

The CO2 pressure is too high. Adjust your regulator to lower the CO2 pressure.

The faucet is dirty or broken. Inspect faucet and washers and replace both as needed. Every few weeks, remove and disassemble your faucet, then clean it with hot water and a brush.

The beer hose has kinks or obstructions. Inspect your hose and make corrections, if necessary.

The beer was poured improperly. Be sure to follow the five easy steps laid out in “How to Pour a Perfect Pint.


 

Flat Beera glass of flat beer

Serving flat beer, or beer that doesn’t have the right level of carbonation, will quickly drive away customers. Beer at its best has a certain effervescence that helps enhance the drinking experience. In many ways, flat beer is the exact inverse problem of beer that is too foamy (or over-carbonated). If your beer is coming out flat, here are some potential problems to address:

The temperature is too cold. Raise the temperature in the refrigeration unit that holds your kegs (ideally, to between 36º and 40ºF). If using glycol to dispense, ensure that your glycol bath is set to dispense at that range as well.

The CO2 pressure is too low. Adjust your regulator to raise the CO2 pressure.

The glass is dirty. Grease is the enemy of carbonation. Ensure your glasses are “beer clean,” and rinse with cold water just before pouring.


 

a glass of cloudy beer

Cloudy Beer

Cloudy or hazy beer is unattractive and offputting to say the least. If you wouldn’t want to drink a glass of cloudy beer, why would your customers be any different? If you’re experiencing this problem, try this:

The temperature is not remaining steady. Check your refrigeration unit to ensure that your keg isn’t being exposed to alternating warm and cool temperatures. Never let your keg get above 45ºF.

The beer lines are dirty. For best results, you should clean your beer lines between every new keg. If that’s not possible, aim for no less than once per month. For more information, check out “The Basics of Beer Line Cleaning.”

The beer is old. Beer doesn’t stay good forever. Check the expiration date on the keg and/or institute an inventory management system that helps you keep track of your kegs.

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15 Comments

  • Vincent Burns February 5, 2016 @ 6:53pm

    I heard that CO2 levels can influence your beer. I didn’t know that it could be that fragile of a system. It looks like it isn’t a hard fix. I think it is important to have CO2 in your draft but not too much.
    http://www.hbso.com/keg-specials-policies/

    • John February 16, 2016 @ 1:14pm

      CO2 pressure levels for most beers are between 10-12PSI Some special micros can be higher or lower, usually the distributer will know the recommended pressure. Nitro Beers (Guinness) are a whole different animal and require a premixed gas. Pouring pressure can be controlled though beer line diameter.

      • John j March 13, 2016 @ 12:48pm

        Hi john
        Don’t know if you can help but I have a question I have a Guinness Kegerator which works great but I recently got a system for my brother and when I hooked it up the pour is not smooth it seems rushed out of the spouts which leaves a lot of small bubbles on the head the gas is set at 23 psi
        The same as my own .Any idea what is the issue .
        Thanks

        • Dan March 28, 2016 @ 9:23pm

          Beer line length. 23psi is a lot too. Especially if your beer lines are short. Mine are 10ft and even 12psi is pushing it sometimes.

      • lee moore April 12, 2016 @ 1:22am

        Lagers are usually served between 20 to 24 psi (co2)

  • Cesar H February 17, 2016 @ 7:38am

    Any part of the process from when and where it is stored to when and where it is served will affect the quality of your beer. As the article mentions, keep in mind the temperature, how it’s served and the vessel being used.

  • The Badger February 17, 2016 @ 7:48pm

    Also having your taps professionally cleaned every other week is good, I once worked in a bar and was cleaning up and there was mold in the taps from not being cleaned regularly YUCKO!

  • Sarah April 19, 2016 @ 7:36pm

    My new barrel of Estrella is coming pouring out just about totally foam. All the other beers are fine could it be the barrel it’s self we’ve received that’s the problem?

    • Caitlin Hartney April 20, 2016 @ 12:10pm

      Hi, Sarah. If the problem is with that beer only, there may be a problem with the keg spear. Feel free to give a call in to our expert customer care people to troubleshoot. You can read them at 877-636-3673.

  • Gio August 17, 2016 @ 2:04am

    Hi. I just recently got a keg of swamis IPA. The keg was cold from the store and I have a kegerstor at home. The keg sat in the kegerator for a whole day and then i tapped it. Ever since the beer is been coming out really foamy. I cleaned the line and the faucet again and the psi is set to 12 but I still get mainly foam. What can be causing this?

    • Caitlin Hartney August 17, 2016 @ 10:19am

      Hi, Gio. Is it foamy all the time, or is it foamy on the first pours then clears up?

      • Gio August 17, 2016 @ 2:14pm

        I have only poured like 80 oz of the keg but its been mainly foam. After seating in the glass for minutes the foam discipates a bit to form beer.

        • Caitlin Hartney August 18, 2016 @ 9:55am

          When you pour Beer A it is foamy. But just to clarify, if you immediately pour Beer B, is it less foamy? What about Beer C? The issue is most likely temperature differential between the cold beer and the warm metal of the shank and faucet.

          • Gio August 18, 2016 @ 6:37pm

            So the beer that comes out of the faucet never looks clear. I would say that 30% of the foam clears up after maybe a minute but for the most part its thick foam. So i usually let it run so that the faucet its cold and it works well but this time around, I only get mainly foam.

  • Bradley August 19, 2016 @ 8:37am

    So i had a problem. My regulator for my kegerator went bad and was at about 25psi for about 4 day untill i coukd get a new one. After i replaced my new regulator pours great but my beer has become darker than normal (bud light) and seems to make you a littlr loopy after a couple glasses. Any input from other would be a great help? IS MY KEG JUNK?

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