Friday, November 5, 2010

Keg cleaning and repair

When you get used corny kegs, they are usually scratched, dented, filthy and quite often still partially full of soda. After emptying them out, rinsing them with hot water and drying them, the next step is to remove any labels, gunk and grime from them, so that the stainless can either be sanitized for use or even better, polished back to a mirror finish. I find that a razor blade, Goo Gone and Brasso work great to remove labels and gunk on the tanks. You may also need to use a scrubbing pad, such as a Scotchbrite, but keep in mind that this may scratch the stainless even further.

Some attention also needs to be paid to replacing the o-ring seal and any weak poppet or relief valves. The corny kegs design is quite simple, with gas in, liquid out, dip tube, pressure relief and tank access o-rings and/or valves. The gas and liquid valves does unscrew in the standard fashion, counter clockwise, but may be stubborn because of their original tightness and residual cola causing stickiness. If you have pin lock kegs, as I do, you should get a pin lock keg socket, which is a socket with slots cut into it for the locking pins on the connectors. If you are (brave, foolish, careful) you can remove them with a 9/16ths open end wrench and a small mallet. Be careful if you do this, because you don't want to damage the fittings (round off, break off locking pins, etc).
Once you get the fittings off, you can access the poppet valves, dip tubes and o-rings inside. Some corny kegs have straight dip tubes (Firestone, Spartanburg, Hoover Universal), and some have a curved liquid line dip tube(Cornelius). I have a mix of both. Be sure to keep the parts seperate and only work on one keg at a time, since some parts don't interchange.
 It also appears that some poppet valves are free floating and some are locked into place with tabs. Don't force the poppet valve out of the fitting if is it held into place with tabs, since you may break the valve. I believe there may be a tool for removing them properly, but I have not seen it yet.
When you reassemble the corny keg, you should use a good quality keg lube to keep the seals pliable, which will make the seal at a lower pressure. Next time, we'll hopefully take a closer look at polishing and cleaning the exterior of the kegs to make them look great.

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