Beverage Equipment

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Cleaning and Maintenance of Beer and Wine Dispensing Systems

Cleaning and maintenance requirements are the same for beer and wine dispensing systems. Service agents check the set pressure and clean the lines every two weeks. Quarterly use of acid line cleaner helps help dissolve any sediment that collects in the lines. Service agents also break down faucets and check for leaks, which can create a poor pour. Service agents recommend a preventative maintenance contract for through-the-wall beer draft systems.

Some of the most common service calls center on complaints about foamy beer. This typically happens when staff members try to adjust regulators after running out of CO2, thinking there is more gas available. This causes issues with the system, since the gas needs to be set by a professional and not altered.

The rise in popularity of craft beer has led to more systems with vinyl, rubber or plastic lines that include stainless-steel barriers. This prevents the transfer of beer flavors when operators switch the types of beer they serve. There is typically a 6-foot drop line in the cooler that needs replacing when operators change beer types.

The goal is to maintain beer temperatures between 35 degrees F and 38 degrees F at the tap, serving macro domestic beers colder at 35 degrees F and microbrews closer to 38 degrees F. If serving both, 38 degrees F is a perfect medium for all beer types. Set glycol units at about 30 degrees F.

When drafts come out of the tap warm it means something is off with the glycol temperature. Excessively foamy beer also may indicate the temperature is off, the gas pressure isn’t accurate, or the system is using the wrong gas. The warmer the beer, the greater the CO2 breakout. Beer needs to be cold enough to hold the CO2, which breaks out when the temperature is more than 40 degrees F. This causes excess foaming. Beer should have a ¾- to 1-inch head, otherwise operators are losing profits by wasting product.

Also, if a system uses CO2 cylinders and the coupler is engaged longer than 10 to 12 days, the beer will absorb excess gas.

Glycol units have trunk lines with beer lines inside, and the glycol pump circulates antifreeze to keep beer cold in the line. With kegs 40 feet from the point of pour, there can be 10 to 15 pints of beer in a trunk line, depending on the size of the line. This will warm up without use of a glycol unit.

Properly maintained beer and wine dispensing systems can last indefinitely, since keg box and polymer lines are inexpensive to replace. Trunk lines last between 10 and 15 years when properly maintained. Faucets and internal workings of these systems, depending on the materials, are durable. Bars typically have chrome-plated brass fixtures that can show wear and tear. These eventually need replacement.