Homebrew Cleaning: Ball Valves
Half of homebrewing is cleanliness. If you are not religiously cleaning your equipment you are leaving your self open to infections. While I have not experienced many infections in my decade and half of homebrewing, I have tasted my fair share of beers that have. In an all-grain brewing setup you’ll have at least 3 ball valves in your set up, the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), the Mash Tun(MT), and the boil kettle. While at first glance a ball valve may look like one piece, it is actually made up of at least 5 pieces.
Like the rest of your equipment, if you are not cleaning your valves (I know that sounds dirty) you are leaving your self open to the risk of infection in your homebrew. With the ball valve there are so many places for old wort to collect, grow funky, and ruin beer. Most ball valves, you have the lever, a ball, 2 plastic washers the ball sits in and a piece that screws it all together. If you are not cleaning the valve, the wort/beer that passes through it will cake up on the C cup washers the ball sits in.
Cleaning the ball valve is actually very simple. Look at valve; you should see a line on the backside right before the handle. (In the top picture, it is to the right of the handle) With a wrench on either side, twist the backside wrench counter clockwise two loosen. It is a short thread, so it should separate after a few turns. From there, pull out the washer, the stainless steel or brass ball, and the second washer. If you have never done this, you will see a lot of build up on the washers. Using a sponge clean the washers. Then use a small bristle brush to clean the inside of the valve.
Once you are done cleaning, assemble the value back together. You will save your self a future headache if you make sure it is leak free at this point. To check, close the value and fill the end up with water. If there are no leaks you’re good to go!