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Stainless Steel Beer Kegs

Keg Maintenance Guide for Craft Breweries

By Nick Amador on February 9, 2023

Keg maintenance — both regular repairs and consistent cleaning — are often overlooked aspects of craft beverage production and distribution. From product safety and quality to steel keg longevity, proper care and cleaning systems for your fleet are important considerations.

In this article, we'll explore the space in detail, discussing which repair and cleaning practices you’ll need – and how you can deploy them – to consistently deliver quality product.*

Why Is It Important to Maintain Keg Quality?

Three words: Safety, quality, and longevity.

At a foundational level, regular keg cleaning and maintenance will ensure that your containers remain safe. This means for both transportation and consumption, reducing the likelihood of injury mishaps (blown gaskets, CO2 leaks, etc.) and health mishaps (consumer sickness due to bacteria build-up, etc.)

Beyond the health implications, poorly kept kegs expose you to plenty of downside risk on the quality front. This can be taste imperfections due to beer stone buildup, or carbonation issues due to poor seals. Either way, all roads lead to a poor consumption experience – damaging your brand and reputation in the process.

Lastly, longevity. Your kegs are a serious investment, and keeping them in good condition will allow you to maximize their return over time. The better care you take – by regularly repairing and cleaning – the more turns (and less dollars per turn) you'll be able to get from each unit.

Keg Maintenance: How Often Should You Clean and Inspect Your Kegs?

As with any piece of brewing equipment, keg maintenance will be an ongoing effort. On the repair front, the most important keg element to monitor over time will be its gasket, spear, and exterior shell. Below is a breakdown of standard keg maintenance requirements over time:


Inspection Frequency

Replacement Frequency



1 Year

As Needed

Perform external spot checks during each clean cycle, and a comprehensive inspection once yearly.

Gasket / CO2 Ring

1 Year

3-4 Years

Pay attention to seal-related issues, as keg pressure loss is likely gasket-related. Gasket replacements are rather complicated, but they’ll be required to ensure keg quality over time.

Keg Spear

3 Years

7 Years

Do a comprehensive Keg Spear inspection with every Gasket/CO2 ring replacement.

In addition to doing the scheduled maintenance above, it’s important to perform visual keg inspections with each cleaning cycle, keeping an eye out for surface level damage and deterioration. If new dents or dings are spotted at the surface level, the likelihood that something internal has been damaged increases dramatically. Additionally, beat-up kegs aren’t going to represent your brand particularly well in the field, and should be dealt-with the moment issues are found.

These surface-level inspections should be quick and easy, and the entire team should be trained on and capable of performing them to allow for proactive maintenance.

Cleaning, on the other hand, is a far more repetitive process. Regular caustic cleaning will need to occur after each use, critical to ensuring keg and product safety over time. Acid washes and passivation are to only be performed every handful of uses, but depending on the types of beer you have in the keg, acid washes can play an important role in preventing beer stone build-up and maintaining the longevity of your keg. That said, you have to do it properly, as over-cleaning can lead to unintended steel degradation. Below is a breakdown of standard keg cleaning requirements over time:




Caustic Clean

Each Cycle

Experts recommend PAA for caustic sanitization cleaning. There won’t be an effect on the quality or taste, as there is natural PAA already in beer.

Acid Wash / Passivation

Kegs ~ 5-6 Cycles

Brewery Equipment ~ Yearly

Many producers lean on citric acid for regular passivation, although it doesn’t passivate the steel, and the surface continuously oxidizes over time. Most professionals recommend using Nitric Acid, as it is the most oxidizing acid available.

When it comes to quality cleaning over time, there’s a serious argument to be made for professional-grade keg washers at breweries of any size. Although expensive when compared to traditional homemade solutions and processes, the extra dollars spent go a long way in properly cleaning and sanitizing your steel, increasing the longevity of every keg in your fleet.

In addition to the quality improvements, there are also a number of efficiency improvements that accompany a keg washer, freeing up your brewhouse team for more important matters.

Eric Wagner, VP of Sales at Specialized Stainless Solutions, summarized it as follows,

Even the smallest leaks can cause major problems (in kegs, in business, in life). Taking proper care of your assets is a great way to keep your company’s piggy bank from dripping away your hard-earned dollars.

How Can You Keep Track of When You Last Cleaned or Inspected Your Kegs?

Depending on the size of your operation, keeping track of when kegs (and production equipment at large) were last cleaned or repaired can be terribly challenging.

For small operations, a pen and paper setup (or whiteboard, chalkboard, etc.) is an OK place to start. It will allow you to manually mark & monitor kegs over timing, giving you a semi-complete look at performance.

That said, most moderately sized operations will benefit from having a keg tracking and maintenance software in place. You’ll be given the ability to log maintenance (and corresponding notes) as it's performed, ensuring the entire team is aware of relevant information.

In most cases, you'll also have the ability to manage cleaning cycles over time, monitoring how frequently (or infrequently) kegs are being cleaned, and whether caustic washes, acid washes, or both are being performed.

Kegshoe Keg Tracking makes it easy to monitor the health of your keg fleet, ensuring you get the most out of each and every container. If you're looking to improve your maintenance scheduling and cleaning effectiveness, drop us a line.

What Are Some Tell-Tale Signs That Your Keg Needs Maintenance

Over time, even the best-kept kegs will damage or produce inconsistent quality. Here are some tell-tale signs that your kegs need to be maintained:

The neck is damaged. Visible keg neck wear can cause seal or spear damage, leading to carbonation and leakage. Lean on the exterior state of your keg as a visual indicator of interior quality. This will allow you to quickly identify issues without needing to perform a full inspection.

Lack of pressure. Pressure-related issues may be caused by damage to the gasket, or a leak in the keg itself. A loss of pressure will cause beer to go flat, eliminating the keg from your active fleet until fixed.

Product taste is awry. This could be caused by a number of factors, including interior damage, oxygen exposure, or beer-stone/bacteria buildup. If product tastes off, start by running the keg through a passivation cycle. If that doesn’t fix the problem, initiate a more thorough inspection.

Assess and repair or replace any kegs in question as quickly as possible. Doing so will ensure that your product – and brand – maintains its quality.

Moving Forward

In the months, years, and decades ahead, it will be important to establish a maintenance and cleaning schedule to keep your keg fleet healthy.

The schedule should include a regular cleaning and sanitizing of all parts, as well as inspections for wear and tear. It's a good idea to perform a keg component assessment as per the table above, in addition to the regular cleaning that occurs after each use. This review should involve checking the seals and valves, inspecting the exterior of the keg, and making sure there isn't any buildup on the inside of each shell.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your kegs continue to deliver safe, high-quality product over the years, maximizing your investment return of each unit.

We’d like to thank Eric from Specialized Stainless Solutions and Oliver from Zee Loeffler – Member of The Vincit Group for helping provide context and information for this article.

* This article was crafted to explore the topic of steel keg maintenance and cleaning, not to be taken as official advise or guidelines. Please consult your steel keg manufacturer documentation surrounding maintenance and cleaning best practices to ensure fleet success moving forward.