I'm thinking of building a keg washer. It would be a double basin, I don't have room for three. 1 side for rinsing, and the second for caustic (or sanitizing), and then back to the first bowl to rinse again. I think that I'm okay with the rinse side, my quetion lies with the caustic side. I would like to use my existing portable pump for my CIP wash, I would circluate though the liquid side of a sanke tap handle (backflows removed) and drain out the gas side with the keg inverted in the basin. My question lies with the fact that my pump I would recirculate with is 1.5 hp, is this to much for the tap handle or the keg? and if so what is typically used?
Also from what i've read you can usually caustic 4-5 kegs per batch of cleaner, with that in mind if I start with my solution in the high 140 degree range is my heat loss enough that I need an imersion heater or if I lose 8-10 degrees is it just an extra, be nice to have, cost?
The Brewmaster at the first brewery I worked at, built his own dual keg washing machine for Hoff Stevens kegs, without a heat source. (I am assuming you are using Sankey). During my first 6 months at the brewery, I became very aquainted with it (To this day, I shudder at the though of cleaning those damn H-S kegs). To the best of my recolection, it had a 1 to 2 hp pump on it, so I don't think that is a problem.
As far as caustic use and temp, we used a 1/2 bbl as the holding tank, and would get 8-14 kegs per batch, the limiting factor always seemed to be temperature. This was not as much of a problem in the summer as it was in the winter, when the kegs would come in at 25-35 F.
My short answer, is that I would have killed to have a heated caustic tank during the winter.
follow up question. I just talked to another brewer who has an existing keg washer and he says that he tears his kegs apart every time he cleans them. Isn't CIPing though the keg stem if preceeded by a good rinse insure proper cleaning? Or is tearing the kegs apart each time necissary?
When I opened a Micro a few years back, we used an IDI system and never tore down kegs. Out of several thousand barrels kegged, I cant think of a single example of keg contamination.
Bear in mind though, we were producing a stable filtered beer for distribution. It might be possible that beers containing more yeast, protein etc. require the extra maintanence.
My gut feeling is that the extra wear and tear caused by breaking down, would negate the benefit.
The only reason to open a sealed, clean, sanitized keg (assuming its a single aperature keg) would be to randomly (1x/week?) check for cleanliness/beerstone/swab for bacteria. I can't imagine any reason to open one otherwise.
Make sure you have confidence in your cleaning regimen, your equipment and your chemical solution and then go.
Hey, why not recirc the caustic coming out of the keg being washed, directly into the reservior (keg, in your case)?
Maybe you're already doing this?