Commercial Keg Washers — Necessary Brewery Equipment

Commercial keg washers are an important investment for brewers looking to expand their operations.

By Kinnek Knowledge Team  |  June 09, 2018

We are currently living in a craft brewing “golden age,” so to speak — for the past several decades, craft brewing has been on the rise, and there are more competitively-priced equipment options than ever before.  Vendors are increasingly targeting craft brewing operations with their offerings, from small 3bbl breweries to larger breweries that are fast-becoming major regional players in their own right.

Keg washing is a necessary, though much-maligned aspect of brewing.  It is a tedious job, and may require hours of intensive effort to ensure that the kegs have been properly sanitized.  Still, despite the fact that keg washing can be extremely costly from time and effort perspective, many small breweries continue to make do with slapdash, DIY keg washing solutions in order to save on the initial investment of capital required for a commercial keg washer.

If you’re serious about brewing, however, commercial keg washers are a critical investment that will ensure your brewery makes the best use of its existing manpower.  Fortunately, the craft brewing revolution has expanded the variety of keg washing equipment available for purchase from vendors.

Let’s take a look at the three primary types of keg washers: manual, semi-automatic, and automatic.  These categories are not fully descriptive of the functionality and capabilities of the washer unit, of course — equipment can vary significantly, depending on the manufacturer.

Manual Keg Washer

Manual keg washers are the least expensive variant of commercial keg washers.  Though you can automate manual keg washers yourself (if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, and if you have the requisite expertise to modify the equipment), most breweries leave the manual keg washers as-is, once purchased.  It’s worth noting that such keg washers require — as the name implies — regular manual inputs.  There is a significant gap in cleaning effectiveness between an untrained employee and a trained employee.  As such, it’s critical that you properly train the employee(s) that will be assigned to keg washing duties.

Semi-Automatic Keg Washer

Semi-automatic keg washers are an excellent option for breweries that don’t want to deal with the hassle of manual keg washing, but who simply aren’t ready to jump up in price to an automatic keg washer (further, they may not have the volume necessary to justify the use of an automatic keg washer).  Semi-automatic keg washers are highly automated, despite their “label,” and as such, can be programmed in a variety of ways — cycle timings, temperature controls, and more.

Semi-automatic keg washers still require manual keg coupling, which means that you’ll need an employee to oversee the process and intervene at set time intervals.  This can be costly from a human resources perspective, as the employee cannot necessarily split their attention between the keg washer supervision task and other tasks.

Automatic Keg Washer

Automatic keg washers are the most expensive variant.  They are fully-automated, and so employee inputs are negligible.  In the past, automatic keg washers tended to be too pricy for smaller breweries, but vendors have expanded their offerings substantially in recent years — there are plenty of automatic keg washers that are designed to serve the needs of those with relatively low production volumes.  Further, some keg washers may be modular, and can be expanded as your business grows.

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