Maintaining a draft beer system is incredibly easy to do. As a respectable draft beer system owner, your primary responsibility is to keep your equipment clean. Regular cleaning and pressure maintenance will improve the taste and quality of your beer and extend the life of your system, so staying on top of upkeep is key.
You want to make sure that both the inside and the outside of your system stay sparkling clean.
For surfaces, normal cleaning agents and your own discretion will work just fine.
For beer lines, it's important that they're cleaned regularly and correctly.
Over time your beer lines collect deposits of yeasts and sugars that can affect the taste of the beer and cause irritating excess foaming. Dirty beer lines are the leading source of home draft system problems brought to the attention of KegWorks customer service personnel, so we know all too well what can happen when your lines get grubby.
We recommend that you clean your lines every time you change your keg to avoid such problems.
The cleaning kits that we've developed are simple and effective. They use air pressure to push a mixture of water and beer line cleaning solutions through your beer lines. The solution is specifically formulated to clear harmful deposits and sanitize your lines.
As CO2 enters a keg it displaces your beer at a constant pressure. When you open the tap/faucet, beer flows out of the keg and into your glass thanks to a push from the CO2. Not only does the gas encourage the beer to leave the keg, it replaces that beer by occupying the space that otherwise would be empty. This empty space in the keg is called "head space." The CO2 fills the head space and maintains the pressure inside of the keg at the PSI set on your regulator. This constant PSI keeps the beer well carbonated by preventing the CO2 that comes dissolved in the beer from the brewery from leaking out.
Remember these pressure pointers:
Your CO2 tank must be stored upright or it won't work properly. Storing the tank improperly can also cause expensive damage to your regulator.
Find the Magic Number
In general, most US produced ales and lagers should be dispensed at 10 to 12 PSI. Stout and other nitrogen dispensed keg beers are usually dispensed at 25 to 30 PSI.
For the specific dispense pressure for a particular keg, check with the local distributor where the keg came from.
What Happens When You've Got Too Much Pressure
Too much pressure will initially result in you beer coming out of the tap very quickly and very foamy. Essentially, your faucet will turn into a beer fire hose. In addition, if your beer is over carbonated, the foam will appear tight and have large bubbles.
If you recognize the problem, it is easy to fix: promptly adjust your regulator pressure to the proper lower level, and draw a few foamy pitchers or bleed some of the extra pressure off by using the relief valve on the coupler. These measures will allow the system to balance itself out again.
If the pressure is left too high for longer than 24 hours, CO2 will be forced into the beer resulting in permanently over carbonated and excessively foamy beer.
What Happens When You Don't Have Enough Pressure
Too little pressure will also cause the beer to become foamy, as the CO2 breaks free from the beer as it enters your glass. If the pressure is not raised to the appropriate level, your beer will eventually become flat.
A telltale sign of low pressure is when foam or bubbles visibly rise into the beer hose.
If your beer is under carbonated, the foam will appear loose (sometimes described as "soapy") with small bubbles.
To correct a low-pressure problem, you should first make sure that your CO2 tank isn't empty and is turned on. Then, check to see what level your regulator is set to. If your tank is functioning properly, your regulator is set to the right number and there are no obstructions in the air line, it is possible that your regulator or gauge needs to be replaced. Regulators do wear down and generally need to be replaced every 4-6 years.