The maintenance and cleaning procedures for draft beer and wine systems are the same.
Service agents check the set pressure and clean the lines every two weeks. Acid line cleaners are used quarterly and dissolve any sediment that’s collected. Service agents also break down faucets and check for leaks, which can create a poor pour. A preventative maintenance contract is recommended for through-the-wall draft beer systems.
Some of the most common service calls are 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.
With the popularity of craft beer, there are more systems with vinyl, rubber or plastic lines that include stainless-steel barriers. This prevents the transfer of beer flavors if varieties are being switched out. There is typically a 6-foot drop line in the cooler that needs replacing when beer types are changed.
The goal is to maintain beer temperatures between 35 and 38 degrees F at the tap, with domestic beer served colder at 35 degrees F and microbrews closer to 38 degrees F. Glycol units should be set at about 30 degrees F. Operators can check the temp of their beer daily, checking the beer at the tap, cooler temperature and glycol temperature.
If drafts are coming out of the tap warm, this 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 wrong gas is being used. 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 over 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-cooled units have trunk lines with beer lines inside, and the glycol pump circulates antifreeze to keep beer cold in the line. If the keg is 40 feet from the point of pour, depending on the size of the beer line, there can be 10 to 15 pints of beer in a trunk 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.