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Sanke keg cleaning for homebrewers

I’ve long been a fan of sanke kegs. My first brewery in 2010 was built with converted sankes for the boil kettle, mash tun, and hot liquor tank. I have used sanke kegs extensively for fermentation, and for the past couple of years I’ve been turning to sanke kegs rather than corny kegs for all my beer serving needs (and I can fit a lot of sanke kegs in my beastly keg fridge). With all of these sanke kegs I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to clean them at my scale (roughly 10-15hL per year). You may have already seen my 3 various attempts at sanke keg clean-in-place (1 and 2, and 3), and I’ve now come to the conclusion that true sanke keg CIP is not entirely practical for a homebrewer like myself. A commercial keg washer can be a considerable investment for a starting brewery, and while cheaper DIY keg washers exists, they are a bit complicated, a bit cumbersome, and still not that cheap. Here’s what I’m up to now. A very simple keg cleaner for my sanke kegs:



Only a couple parts to this:

  • Submersible 1/3 hp pump,
  • 1 1/4″ to 1/2″ stainless steel reducer
  • 12″ stainless steel nipple
  • 1″ rotating spray ball
  • 5 gallon bucket

It sits in a bucket…



And I have modified the bucket lid to accommodate the pump cord, and to act as a stand for the kegs…



Here’s a visualization of the force of the spray ball on a 1 gallon erlenmeyer flask, not bad!


Watch this video on YouTube.


My current process for cleaning sanke kegs with this is as follows:

  1. Depressurize and remove the spear from the sanke keg (time estimate: 2 mins)
  2. Rinse out keg with a hose 2-3 times and drain (time estimate: 2 mins)
  3. Set keg on keg washer and recirculate hot PBW solution for 10 minutes, then let drain (time estimate: 12 mins)
  4. Rinse out keg with a hose 2-3 times and drain (time estimate: 2 mins)
  5. Perform visual inspection, if fail go to step 3, else go to step 6 (time estimate: 1 min)
  6. Fill keg approximately 10% with sanitizing solution (time estimate: 1 min)
  7. Rinse and reinstall keg spear (time estimate: 2 mins)
  8. Slosh keg well with sanitizer (time estimate: 1 min)
  9. Purge keg with CO2, and store until use (time estimate: 2 mins)


On paper that’s 25 minutes per keg, but several kegs can be prepped and done simultaneously, getting it down to something more reasonable like 15 minutes each. Note that the washing solution will need to be changed every few kegs, generally you can get by with not changing it for more kegs if they had just been used for serving, in comparison to kegs used as fermentors. I’ve also learned that a helper can make this a lot easier when doing a batch of kegs. I think this gets me the best results for the time and money investment so far, I will update if I make any further improvements!

Published in Brewing Equipment


  1. randyalbon

    Excellent post! I used to do the same sort of thing for both sankes and cornys. We used both since some of my buddies still preferred cornys for their share.
    For cornys we added a tee before the sprayball and then a short hose with a ball lock fitting to connect to the draw tube. We had three guys working in unison and it went well. Now that I’ve gone smaller I think I will use your idea and stick with sankes only!

  2. Cliff S

    Where did you source the 1″ rotating spray bulb & reducer?

    • The spray ball and stainless nipple were from brewer’s hardware, and the 1.25-0.5″ reducer was from ebay.

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  4. Eric

    Any idea what the pressure is?

    According to engineering tool box converting ft head to psi is

    Psi = 0.433 * (head in ft)

    So 25ft head equates to 10.825psi

    Was curious if you had any actual measurements of pressure. I have a 4gpm 60psi diaphragm pump I’m not using for anything and was considering giving it a shot.

    • Justin

      I don’t think 4gpm will be high enough, but you could give it a shot. Each different spray ball should list pressure and volume requirements – it varies quite a bit.

  5. Eric

    Do you use anything to heat the water?

    • Justin

      I used to just use straight hot water from the tap for this. This is no longer how I clean kegs though. I now use my RIMS brewery, which has a 1/2hp pump to recirculate 80C PBW solution through a spray ball. Good reminder for me to do an update post on that.

  6. Eric

    I just got an immersion heater and temp controller to heat the water as described in the PBW manual before cleaning. I’ll shut off the heater during recirc to avoid low water/dry fire the element.

  7. Tony R

    I had a similar setup with nearly the exact same pump, but ran into issues with the internal seals not being high temp/food grade. I noticed a greasy residue in the bucket after the PBW wash cycle, so now I am looking for a 1/3 HP (or higher) food safe high temp pump instead. Thoughts on this issue or places to source a pump?

    • Justin

      I either didn’t notice or didn’t experience that. Not surprised in retrospect though. I am now cleaning kegs with my brewery pump – a 1/2hp sanitary centrifugal pump.

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