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

Flat, foamy, and cloudy beer

  Watch our Draft Beer Troubleshooting Video Series!

If 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 beer

Foamy 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.

  Watch our Foamy Beer Fixes Video


a glass of flat beer

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.

  Watch our Flat Beer Fixes Video


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, or approximately every 2-3 weeks. 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.

  Watch our Cloudy Beer Fixes Video


Draft Beer Troubleshooting: Video Series



34 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.

        • Scott November 7, 2017 @ 1:19pm

          All of your Nitro beers run at 32 to 35 PSI due to the Restriction in the nozzle. Also make sure you are using 75% nitrogen and 25% CO2 for your gas mixture. Liquid Temp should be 36 to 38 degrees

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

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

        • Wrong!!! 10 to 14! December 13, 2018 @ 8:00pm

          Don’t give wrong info!

  • 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 Anderson April 13, 2016 @ 3:03pm

    I have never made beer yet myself, but I will keep these in mind for when I do. I wouldn’t have thought the temperature would change the amount of foam so much. Hopefully I am able to find a good balance using these tips.

  • 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.

  • Qustion April 30, 2016 @ 8:54am

    Drove from Texas to Florida with a keg. I purchased the keg, wrapped it in a blanket for the trip. It was never exposed to any heat above 65 degrees (the AC in our car works like a champ) and had it back under refrigeration in less than 24 hours, it never got warm. I know this isn’t ideal but it was my only option. The problem is foam and what seamed to be incredibly high pressure. I’m not familiar with this kegerator and the folks here aren’t much help, but the mechanics seem to be the same universally. So I’ve lowered the temperature, lowered the CO2 down to 5 psi from 25 psi and cleaned the ice build up out of the unit and started over. The lines are clean and kink free.

    What am I missing? Have I tried everything? #iwantabeer

    My current plan (since I just finished cleaning the ice build up and lowered the temp and pressure again) is to wait 5-6 hours for the temperature to stabilize and hopefully have a lovely draft beer this afternoon.

    • Chris April 4, 2019 @ 10:07am

      Hi there,

      After a long drive with a keg, you’d want to rest the keg in proper temperature for a solid 24 hours at least. Otherwise, the contents could be shaken up, which could have contributed to your faming issue. Cheers!

  • 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.

        • Danny July 29, 2017 @ 12:41am

          After reading these posts I found a common problem not discussed with the use of kegerators. I was having problems with my beers coming out extremely foamy after installing a new keg. The problem occurred due to my tap line resting on the exposed evaporator, the beer was partially freezing causing a restriction in the line. Repositioned the line and have had no further problems.

  • 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?

    • Darrell McGee October 13, 2018 @ 5:18pm

      It could be that your keg is too cold and ice is forming inside the keg. All That freezes is the water the alcohol freezes at much lower temperature. So your beer is now at a much higher ABV.

  • Joe October 22, 2016 @ 8:33pm

    I just cleaned out my lines and faucets today with the cleaning kit. When I reattached everything and connected the coupler to the keg (a brand new keg), I noticed beer slowly sliding into the CO2 line. I disconnected everything and and when I reconnected, there was no more beer in the line. However, I’ve been incapable of pouring anything but thick dark foam from that keg since. What beer I do get is really dark too. The line has a ton of bubbles in it. I actually have a dual tap setup, so I switched the coupler and lines to the other keg (which has been pouring fine) and it’s still the same issue, so I don’t think it’s the coupler. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

    • Joe October 24, 2016 @ 1:26pm

      Update: it was the keg.

    • Chris April 5, 2019 @ 5:06pm

      Hi Joe,

      It sounds like you may have an issue with the check valve in your keg coupler. It could be missing or damaged. I would recommend contacting our draft beer experts at Customer Care. They can be reached at 877.636.3673, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST. They can help figure out exactly the part you would need, or if it is another issue.

      You can also reach out here. They will be able to discuss specifics about your system and answer your questions. Cheers!

  • Randy November 1, 2016 @ 1:08pm

    What happens if I hook the Co2 outside the kegerator exposed to AZ heat

    • doug December 13, 2018 @ 8:02pm

      YOU BECOME A ZOMBIE

  • Bill lewis January 5, 2017 @ 9:29pm

    I have a keg system in my home. My problem is that the beer rapidly tastes ‘skunked’. I clean the system regularly, keep the temp at about 37-40 degrees and the co2 at about 12 psi. I don’t use it every day; a 1/4 keg may last me up to around 30- 45 days. Love draft beer but the rapid loss of that crisp clear taste is making me wonder what the problem is. Can you offer any help? Thanks.

    • Chris April 5, 2019 @ 5:03pm

      Hi Bill,

      While the taste of your beer should change throughout those 30-45 days, it shouldn’t be skunked so quickly. One thing that can cause early spoilage of your beer is an air leak into the beer. I have to refer you to our draft beer experts at Customer Care. They can be reached at 877.636.3673, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST. You can also reach out here. They will be able to discuss specifics about your system and answer your questions. Cheers!

  • Sean Maguire August 5, 2018 @ 6:35am

    Hi can you help my lager when poured is pulling good but after a few seconds in the glass it don’t keep it’s head very well but all the bubbles are still there I clean my lines once a week

    • Chris April 5, 2019 @ 4:12pm

      Hi Sean,

      A couple issues that could be causing the bubbles include:
      1. Temperature: the beer should be kept at a consistent temperature right around 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than 40 degrees or lower than 36 degrees could cause an issue.
      2. Beer Style: Different beers pour at different PSI levels, so an improper PSI could cause an issue.
      3. Beer Clean Glassware: A non “beer clean glass” could cause unwanted bubbles on the inside of the glass.

      If that doesn’t help, I would recommend that you contact our draft beer experts at Customer Care. They can be reached at 877.636.3673, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST. You can also reach out here. They will be able to discuss specifics about your system and answer your questions. Cheers!

  • ken lacey July 20, 2019 @ 4:51pm

    A simple way to revive a flat pint is to wrap a clean copper coin in a tissue, dip it into your pint and waggle it around. works like magic.

  • nige November 22, 2019 @ 8:35am

    i have an home bar with Amstel on draught I have a co2 bottle on its lowest setting.
    clean lines. the bar is situated outside with outside temperatures about 6 degrees at mo. I also have a chiller attached. my problem is just froth and very little beer I have altered the flow rate but only getting froth.
    The keg is about 3 weeks old if that helps and half full

    • Dave Buchanan November 22, 2019 @ 3:09pm

      Hi, your CO2 might be set too low. Amstel Light serving pressure is 14 psi.

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