Monday, September 24, 2012

Brewing Gadget Review: Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer

Since I started brewing, most of the money I've spent on equipment has gone into making the final bottling/kegging step easier.

I started with bottling, bought a bottle jet, then a  bottle tree and a  Bottle Rinser (Sulfiter) to help sanitize the bottles. eventually I got tired of washing, sanitizing and filling 50+ bottles so I gave the Party Pig a try, which I decided took up too much room in my refrigerator, and wasn't very scalable, so I moved to kegging (I'll get more into the party pig and kegging in a future post.)

Kegs are great, you clean one 5 gallon keg, sanitize it and fill it with beer.  Connect it to CO2, wait a few days and you can start drinking beer, but that still isn't easy enough for me.

Faced with having 8 kegs to clean, I decided to give the  Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer a try.

Normally, my keg washing goes something like this.
1.) Mix a batch of cleaner
2.) Pour a gallon or so of cleaner in each keg
3.) Seal the keg and slightly pressurize
4.) Shake it up to get cleaner everywhere
5.) Let it soak for a bit
6.) Connect the gas and line out to a faucet and run cleaner through the faucet
Every few washings I also:
7.) remove all the fittings and soak them in cleaner, along with the poppets and gaskets and everything else that can be removed
8.) Rinse it all off with plain water
9.) Reconnect everything
Back to normal cleanings:
10.) Rinse out the keg
11.) Sanitize everything
12.) Transfer beer to keg
13.) Pressurize and put in kegerator

Because I want to be as efficient as possible, I tend to wait for several kegs to need to be cleaned before I clean them, which ends up taking me a couple of hours.  Granted, this means I've spent a couple of hours to get enough kegs ready for several batches of beer, as opposed to the 4+ hours I would spend with the whole bottle cleaning and filling process, but it still ends up being a lot of work.

With the Mark II Keg Cleaner, my process was a little different.
1.) Make batch of cleaning solution
2.) Remove all fittings from the kegs and soak fittings, dip tubes, etc. in some of the cleaner
3.) Fill the Mark II with a couple of gallons of the cleaner, put a keg on, plug in the Mark II, watch some tv, take the current kegs off the Mark II and put another one on every 10 minutes
4.) Spray out the inside of the keg with clean water
5.) Rinse off all the fittings, dip tubes, etc.
6.) Reattach everything to the kegs
7.) Sanitize the kegs
8.) Fill the kegs

I did still fill one keg with keg wash so I could use it to clean my beer lines and faucets, and then rinse and sanitize, and it all still took just as long, but I wasn't working the whole time, I was basically letting the Mark II do all the heavy lifting for me.

I had 8 kegs cleaned and sanitized within 2-3 hours, ready to fill with beer.

I'm not sure if I'll bother trying to use the Mark II on my carboys as I have carboy handles attached to them all, and you need to remove the handle to get the carboy to sit properly on the Mark II, and my carboy washing method is already pretty damned easy, but it worked like a dream on the kegs.

Now, make no mistake, the Mark II is definitely a luxury item.  It costs about $100, and is in no way needed to brew or keg beer, but it definitely making my least favorite part of making beer a lot more enjoyable, and have absolutely no regrets about spending the money on it.

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