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  • Jockey Box Foaming Issues

    Looking for some advice on issues with our jockey boxes. We have two (a two port and a three port) and have problems with both. Some days they'll pour great all day, sometimes they pour great for half the day then turn bad, some days its bad all day. There is not one specific line that does it either, it varies. The beer usually pours great when we first hook it up, but soon after turns to foam. We've had numerous breweries try to help us at various festivals when this happens, but we still haven't found an answer. We are not having to bring picnic taps to all events as backups, but this shouldn't be necessary. We usually run at about 30psi, but have tried pretty much every pressure to see if we get better results. Just wondering if anyone has any advice or maybe even their process for running a jockey box to see if there is something different we can try. Any advice would be appreciated.

  • #2
    In my limited experience with Jockey boxes I have run the pressure pretty high, often around 50psi, and that helped immensely with foaming. There is a pretty long run of coil in those boxes, and they often need a lot of push to compensate for 50 ft or so of tubing. I'm sure some others have more technical advice, but my experience is to just keep upping the psi until it stops foaming.
    Good luck!
    Darin
    Backslope Brewing
    Columbia Falls, MT

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    • #3
      Depends on if they are coils or plates. Coils need higher pressure because of the line length than a cold plate does...

      Assuming you have checked all the obvious stuff (are all the faucet connections tight? are all gaskets intact and installed correctly? etc.) Here's what I'll tell you from my experience with jockey boxes.

      1. As with all draft systems they are sensitive to temperature variation. However, jockeys are even worse for this since you are usually using them outside, in the sun, on a hot day. If you find the first few pours to be bad (after not running it for a bit) and then it steadies out, your lines from the keg to the box may be warming up on you. Try to keep them out of the sun and insulate them if you can. Use a mixture of ice and water in the box to keep the plate (or coils) colder due to better surface area. And lastly, if it's an outdoor event in the summer, you HAVE to keep the kegs on ice. An indoor event in the winter, you may be able to skip that last part.

      2. We used to have nothing but trouble using cold plates but coils would work better. We are using distributor equipment so the maintenance is not the best and almost always the CO2 gauges are broken. I found the best way to start out at initial setup is to drop the pressure coming out of the tank to nearly 0. Hook up the keg and start flushing through the lines. SLOWLY increase the CO2 pressure until you get a consistently low foam pour. Who cares if the pressure is 30 one day or 50 the next, as long as it works that day...

      3. Lastly. Even with all of the above we still had a lot of intermittent issues at events with foam. We finally got a Zahm and found that we were consistently sending out beer at 2.7 to 2.8 volumes. We never received complaints from draft accounts about foamy beer, but I felt that was a little higher than we wanted to be. After setting up a carbonation spec of 2.55 to 2.65 we found that we suddenly had a lot less issues with jockey boxes. It wasn't the issue we were trying to solve, but it seemed to help tremendously. My thought was always that a jockey box is the most unbalanced draft system you could pour through so the more "manageable" the beer you put through it, the better off you are.
      Scott LaFollette
      Fifty West Brewing Company
      Cincinnati, Ohio

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      • #4
        Since you're using plate-type boxes, there are a few things that differ from the coil-type.

        First, the plate should NEVER be in standing water--all the plate manufacturers specify this. The main part of the cooling effect comes from the phase-change of ice to water. The plate should be supported a inch or so above the bottom of the cooler at an angle so the melt water can run off. The cooler needs to have a drain that is open to get rid of melt water. Racks are available from suppliers, but I just made a simple one from 1/2" PVC.

        Next, are you icing the kegs? Plate coolers are less efficient than coils, and need the beer to be pre-chilled. Use a garbage can or tub to hold the ice around the keg. This is also a good place to drain the melt water to, keeping the mud down.

        Insulate all lines outside the box (CO2 excepted). Beer not only heats up rapidly in the lines, but if the lines are clearish, will skunk appreciably between pours.

        Clean the box thoroughly. That plate has a lot of area inside, and needs a really good cleaning. We use a continuous-flow cleaning and our pours have gotten much better than when we static-cleaned (see the ABA Draught Beer Quality Manual). Alternate acid and caustic cleaning cycles to be sure you're not accumulating beer stone or biofilms.

        And, as the previous poster said, get a pressure/temperature testing device of some kind and verify your carbonation levels.

        We have both a plate and a coil box, and the plate only gets used when we need the taps. The reasons above make it clear why the coil is more popular.
        Last edited by TGTimm; 06-25-2015, 10:03 AM.
        Timm Turrentine

        Brewerywright,
        Terminal Gravity Brewing,
        Enterprise. Oregon.

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        • #5
          I did a youtube video on How to properly set up a jockey box to fix foaming issues, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/SINpoBcIE0c
          I hope this helps someone out, I spent a lot of time dialing in my setup to figure out how to solve the foaming problems.

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