Keg Tumbler - v1

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HopSing

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I’ve noticed what I believe to be beerstone building up inside of my kegs. It has not impacted flavor, so I was ignoring it, but as expected it continued to get worse. I read that beerstone could harbor harmful stuff. I’m not sure of that, but I am sure it just looks nasty so I wanted it gone. I considered building a CIP keg washer with a pump and spray ball based on a few of the ingenious designs I’ve seen on these forums, but some of the remover chemicals called for using them at full strength, which would require a lot of product in a CIP design and I did not know if the full strength chemicals would impact the pump and hoses so I took a different route.

I built a keg tumbler prototype out of some parts I had laying around that allowed the keg to rotate horizontally, much like a rock tumbler does. This design also allows me to use small amounts of cleaning product. It works with as little as a 1/2 gallon of liquid.

Here’s what it looks like in action:



Yup, those are wheels off of an old office chair. The 12v motor at no load is 30 RPM. With a keg in place it is about half that since it is tiny and does not have a ton of torque.

Here’s the before and after pictures of the two kegs I cleaned (so far) using the keg tumbler:
keg1before.jpg keg1clean.jpg keg2before.jpg keg2clean.jpg

For the first keg I tried using 5 Star Beerstone Remover. It did practically nothing at 4x the recommended strength. The label said it can be used at full strength, but using it a full strength would be expensive for all of the kegs I have, so I went looking for alternatives and found 2 options for removing milkstone (same thing as beerstone). Stera Sheen is NSF certified and made to remove milkstone from ice cream dispensing equipment and it is also a sanitizer. The other option was Dairyland Sterosol Milkstone Remover available from Tractor Supply. Since the Stera Sheen Green Label is available via Amazon and could be delivered next day, I decided to give it a try.

While waiting for the Stera Sheen to be delivered, I tried using 1 gallon of 150F water with 1.5 oz of PBW in the tumbler. I let it spin for 4 hours then turned off the motor and let it sit for 45 minutes before briefly turning the motor back on then letting it sit for another 45 minutes. I did this 4 or 5 times. PBW actually did a lot more than the BS Remover from 5 Star. I rinsed out the PBW and let the keg dry. Once the Stera Sheen arrived, I mixed 1 gallon of water to 1 oz of the powder and let it tumble for 45 minutes. It worked really well. After a good rinse I mixed 1/2 gallon of water to 6ml of StarSan (double the normal strength) and let it tumble for an hour or so then turned off the motor and let it sit for an hour before turning the motor on briefly and letting it sit for an hour. I did that a few times. Other than a few spots that I hit with a soft cleaning brush after the pictures above were taken, it was shiny and clean.

For the 2nd keg, I plugged the motor into a timer switch that would turn on for 30 seconds, then turn off for 5 minutes, then repeat the cycle. This allows for a lot less wear on the tiny motor.

I used 1 gallon of water with 1 oz of Stera Sheen for 45 minutes. The beerstone was softened and would come off with some rubbing, but then I mixed up 1 gallon of 150F water with 1.5 oz PBW for 4 hours using the same on/off cycle. I dumped it since it was looking nasty and made another 1 gallon batch of PBW and let it spin for another couple of hours using the same on/off cycle. 90% was removed. After a good rinse, I did the double strength StarSan with 1/2 gallon of water and 6ml of StarSan and let that tumble for a few hours. It was nearly spotless.

The keg tumbler works!

I’m thinking of v2 of the keg tumbler by upgrading the motor using an automotive windshield wiper motor (lots more torque and still 12v) and using either a belt around the keg or using a belt as a sling that the keg sits in. I’ve discovered that not all kegs are exactly the same diameter and also some kegs have a flatter side where the seam is welded. This caused the direct drive wheel to skip on the flat spots. It was fixed with a few layers of painters tape on the flat spot, but having a belt or drive sling would provide more tolerance to changes in diameter or keg imperfections.

I was also thinking with a stronger motor, improved drive line, and a lot of lube on the gas post, perhaps this would work to force carb a keg. I can’t see why not.

If you’ve built one of these already or decide to build one, post some pictures. Of course ideas for v2 are welcome too.

~HopSing.
 

Dr_Jeff

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If I read correctly, this is basically an all day process for one keg?

When I start cleaning kegs, typically I'll clean 6-10 kegs in an afternoon.

It wouldn't be to practical for me.
 

Broken Crow

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That's a really nice piece work! I notice your keg is nicely polished... I had been contemplating building something along that line for the purpose of polishing the outside of kegs (Both corny and Sankey) with a wool-wheel on my variable speed angle grinder. I'm kinda disabled, but trying to find new workarounds and squatting with a keg between my legs while using the grinder and compunds limits how long a period of time I can spend doing it. I thought that if I had a lathe-like assembly to rotate it for me, I'd be able to simply hold the grinder in one position, slowly moving along the keg in a screwlike fasion. I'm wondering if your drive mechanism could continue to turn a keg with the tension of an angle grinder against it, or if I'd need a larger drive-wheel and stronger motor. Can I ask, does it still continue to rotate if you apply pressure to the keg surface?
(BTW: in an early attempt for both polishing and for cutting the top out, I mounted a set of chair wheels just like yours, upright in a circle sized to a Sankey so I could sit with the grinder in one place and rotate the keg verically ;) )
 

Beholder

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PBW works very well in my experience too. I typically half fill with hot PBW and shake, then pump out into the next keg, which are cleaned like this every few batches, and never had the beer stone build up like you’ve seen. In between it’s a rinse out, wipe out, sani cycle only.

Back when I did this more infrequently, I used an aquarium pump connected to a ball lock that pushed on the keg connectors, which provided constant cleaner motion similar to your tumbler, but limited the heat of the water that could be used to not wear out the pump.

Very cool you re-purposed a motor to tumble the kegs - a clever workaround to purchase of a hot CIP pump!
 
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HopSing

HopSing

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If I read correctly, this is basically an all day process for one keg?

When I start cleaning kegs, typically I'll clean 6-10 kegs in an afternoon.

It wouldn't be to practical for me.

Yeah, @Dr_Jeff that beerstone is like concrete once it starts to build up so it is an all day process. But the majority of that time is unattended while it spins and the chemicals go to work breaking it down. Once I get the beerstone out of my kegs, I don't think it would be more than a 30 minute spin with a gallon of 150F water and an ounce of PBW to keep them clean. Lesson learned for sure.

~HopSing.
 
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HopSing

HopSing

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That's a really nice piece work! I notice your keg is nicely polished... I had been contemplating building something along that line for the purpose of polishing the outside of kegs (Both corny and Sankey) with a wool-wheel on my variable speed angle grinder. I'm kinda disabled, but trying to find new workarounds and squatting with a keg between my legs while using the grinder and compunds limits how long a period of time I can spend doing it. I thought that if I had a lathe-like assembly to rotate it for me, I'd be able to simply hold the grinder in one position, slowly moving along the keg in a screwlike fasion. I'm wondering if your drive mechanism could continue to turn a keg with the tension of an angle grinder against it, or if I'd need a larger drive-wheel and stronger motor. Can I ask, does it still continue to rotate if you apply pressure to the keg surface?
(BTW: in an early attempt for both polishing and for cutting the top out, I mounted a set of chair wheels just like yours, upright in a circle sized to a Sankey so I could sit with the grinder in one place and rotate the keg verically ;) )

The current drive motor does not have a lot of torque and the drive wheel is pretty narrow, so even if the motor could turn it, the small contact patch between the drive wheel and the keg would likely slip and stop it from spinning if much resistance was applied. But if I rotate the desk chair wheels 180 degrees, it will raise the keg off the drive wheel and it spins freely, so you could buff the length of the keg, then manually spin it a bit then buff another row. Surely better than trying to do that while squatting and holding the keg with your legs.

~HopSing.
 
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