The Payoff of Proper Commercial Beer Line Cleaning—Serving Your Customers the Best at Your Business
Is there anything more refreshing than a crisp, cold draught beer, straight from the faucet? We don’t think so! But sometimes, you can serve someone up the dreaded skunky beer—you know the type (most of us who’ve had one will never forget it). It has a stale or buttery taste, a funky smell, and may even be cloudy or contain small brown flakes.
The good news is that with proper commercial beer line and component cleaning, you can eliminate skunked beer’s four usual suspects— yeast, mold, bacteria, and beer stone. Of course, simply running some soap and water through your lines is not going to keep them clean; there are a number of procedures that need to be followed to ensure brewery-fresh flavor and perfect pours—as well as profits.
Establishing Proper Beer System Maintenance
To avoid skunk beer, lines and equipment need to be regularly cleaned every two weeks. In some states, the two-week timeframe for cleaning is required by law. Properly cleaning your beer lines dissolves proteins, hop resins, bio-films, mold, bacteria, and yeast. An acid cleaning to dissolve mineral buildup such as beer stone should also be done every three months.
Promoting and Ensuring Proper Beer Line Cleaning in Your Commercial Establishment
We recommend posting documentation of cleaning and servicing in all keg coolers as a reminder to be sure the job gets done. This also lets your beer distributors know you’re keeping up with recommended procedures; some distributors will pull distribution because they don’t want your poor line hygiene to give their beer a bad name. A few other steps to take to ensure quality draught beer:
Use effective chemicals
Not all line cleaning chemicals are created equally. To ensure clean beer lines, use a caustic-based solution at 2% for well-maintained lines or 3% for old or problem lines. Micro Matic’s beer and wine cleaners are proven to work more efficiently than other products, using the latest surfactant technology, allowing the chemical to clean more effectively and rinse easily.
Flush your lines
Leaving beer in your lines can dilute the cleaning properties of the chemicals you use. So, it’s best practice to push beer from lines with cold water before you begin cleaning.
Use a quality electric re-circulating pump
Using an electric recirculating pump is the best practice for cleaning direct draw and long draw systems. Allow the pump to operate for at least 15 minutes at a flow rate equal to or greater than the system's flow rate, typically a gallon per minute. Pressurized cleaning is another method in which the chemicals are hand-pumped or pushed through the system with the system's gas. All faucets should be removed, disassembled, and brush cleaned during each cleaning. Couplers and FOBs should also be routinely cleaned during the cleaning process.
Rinse your lines
After cleaning, give your lines a thorough flush with cold water to ensure all cleaning chemicals are removed. Leaving chemical in the lines will not only contaminate your beer when you fill your lines again, but it’s also dangerous to consume; so, as a best practice, be sure to check the pH level with a pH tester or litmus paper to ensure that no cleaning solution remains in the lines. As an additional safety measure, Micro Matic chemicals are color-coded, eliminating guesswork by allowing you to easily identify when the chemical is in use and when it's been rinsed out of the lines.
Acid cleaning follows these same procedures, but again it is only necessary to do quarterly. With all cleaning, be sure to disassemble and hand-clean faucets and couplers; there’s no point in cleaning the beer lines but leaving bacteria or mold at the point of the dispense. (You should also clean all FOB devices when you perform the acid cleaning).
Proper Commercial Beer Line Cleaning—How It Really Pays Off
You may be thinking, since the hops and alcohol in beer kill pathogens, which prevents anyone from actually getting sick off skunked beer, does it really matter if I push my cleaning schedule out to every three weeks instead of two? Aside from possibly being against the law in your state and helping maintain relationships with distributors, the answer is still a resounding yes! Here’s why...
Draught beer is the second biggest money-maker for bars and restaurants, with an 80% or greater profit margin and driving incremental sales for food. To maintain those margins, you want to maintain your lines and equipment to keep customers coming back.
The Cost Per Beer Line Cleaning vs. Profit Cost
According to the Brewers Association, the average cost of cleaning a beer line is between $6 and $12 (this accounts for the cost of beer lost during cleaning and the cost for time, labor, and materials). Now consider some of the costs associated with serving skunk beer (which will eventually be noticed in all taps, not just one) in each of the following scenarios:
- Customers don’t order another beer
- Customers ask for another beer (or a refund)
- Customers switch to profit-sucking bottles or cans
- Customers leave (and possibly don’t return)
It’s safe to say, the cost of cleaning your lines regularly is far less than any in either of the price of the four scenarios above. A report by David Quain, “Draught Beer Quality–Challenges and Opportunities,” found that retail locations that only cleaned their lines every five to eight weeks saw a 7% decline in draught beer sales.
There’s more. In a case study involving a 10 draught line system at 10 kegs per week, the impact of these percentages was brought to light. The 4% growth resulted in an additional profit per year of nearly $4,300, while the 7% decline resulted in a loss of over $23,000.
Proper Commercial Beer Line Cleaning—It Makes a Difference for Your Customers and Your Profits
Most brewers spend a lot of time and effort crafting the best beer possible for consumers, and their efforts can be ruined in the time it takes for a beer to travel down a dirty line. Not only that, but it can give your business a bad reputation.
Following proper procedures for commercial beer line cleaning is important for any beverage dispensing business to succeed—it’s the truth. So, keep up a 2-week beer line and equipment cleaning schedule to ensure your profits—and keep your customers happy (and coming back)! Talk to one of our specialists today about beer line cleaning equipment.
Raise a Glass to Draft Beer Sales!
For over 60 years, Micro Matic has been recognized as one of the world’s leading suppliers of draft beer equipment. Specializing in keg-to-glass technology, we offer a total solution for meeting your draft beer equipment needs. Our dedication to customer service is supported by four regional sales and distribution centers, the Micro Matic Dispense Institute for training and education, and a Certified Installer Network for draft beer installations and line cleaning. Want to speak with a “perfect pour” expert? Contact Micro Matic today.