The least rewarding part of brewing is the cleanup. It’s easy to feel a parental pride as your carboys bubble away or a moment of bliss with the first sip of a finished batch, but nobody loves cleaning, despite how important it is. That’s why it’s nice to find shortcuts and good tools. Building this carboy and keg washer gave me a sense of satisfaction made all the sweeter because of the future labor I’d save.
There are many variations on this design, but the geometry and fittings for your pump will have the biggest impact. This version is based on a Superior Pump 91250 ¼ HP submersible pump (pictured above). The water outlet is on the top and has a ¾" (19 mm) garden hose fitting. You may need to adapt your design to match your specific pump if it has a different fitting or outlet location. You may also choose to leave off the keg fittings if you won’t need them.
Another factor in my design is that my carboys have handles, which affects how I stabilize them on the washer. Other designs use a carboy dryer mounted to a bucket lid, but the handles get in the way. That’s why I used an ABS reducer to keep the carboy balanced and able to drain.
A final note: Pulling together the parts was an educational experience. In particular, I learned that there are differences between PVC and CPVC sizing and applicability. This design uses PVC throughout.
PVC pipe cement
A. ¾" (19 mm) PVC cross
B. Two ½" (13 mm) FNPT x ¾" (19 mm) male PVC adapter
C. ½" (13 mm) MNPT x ¾" (19 mm) FHT adapter
D. Two 2" (5 cm) segments of ¾" (19 mm) PVC pipe
(NOTE: parts E–K are for the keg washer; you can omit them if you don’t need the keg washer part. Instead, purchase two ¾"/19 mm PVC caps)
E. Two ¾" (19 mm) female PVC x ¾" (19 mm) FNPT adapter
F. Two ¾" (19 mm) NPT x ½" (13 mm) FPT bushing
G. Two ½" (13 mm) NPT x 3/8" (10 mm) barb elbow
H. Two 1.5 ft (46 cm) segments of 7/16 ID vinyl tubing
I. 4 hose clamps
J. CO2 gas quick connect keg fitting
K. Liquid quick connect keg fitting
L. 18" (45.7 cm) threaded ½" (13 mm) PVC pipe (cut down from 36"/0.9 m)—Note that this size will fit in the carboy neck but still leave room for the cleanser solution to drain out.
M. ½" (13 mm) female PVC cap
N. Submersible pump (There are many choices. I chose mine based on cost, size, and geometry. Avoid a pump with a float switch. It’s not necessary for this application and requires a larger amount of water to operate.)
O. 2" x 3" (5 cm x 8 cm) ABS reducer
5 gal (19 l) bucket
Drill with 3/32" (2.4 mm) bit
Dremel with router bit
I recommend using PVC cement on the threaded connections to make them permanent.
1) Start with the PVC cross (A). Cement a ½" (13 mm) FNPT x ¾" (19 mm) male PVC adapter (B) into the bottom of the cross.
2) Screw the ½" (13 mm) MNPT x ¾" (19 mm) FHT adapter (C) into the adapter you just attached.
3) Cement the other ½" (13 mm) FNPT x ¾" (19 mm) male PVC adapter (B) into the top of the cross. Later, we’ll attach the sprayer wand.
4) For each side bar of the PVC cross:
4a) Cement a 2" (5 cm) section of ¾" (19 mm) PVC pipe (D) into the side bar of the PVC cross.
NOTE: if you don’t need the keg washer part, skip steps b–f and just cement the two ¾" (19 mm) PVC caps in place.
4b) Cement a ¾" (19 mm) female PVC x ¾" (19 mm) FNPT adapter (E) to the other side of the PVC pipe.
4c) Screw a ¾" (19 mm) NPT x ½" (13 mm) FPT bushing (F) into the adapter.
4d) Screw a ½" (13 mm) NPT x 3/8" (10 mm) barb elbow (G) into the bushing.
4e) Take one piece of the vinyl tubing (H) and heat one end in some boiling water so it can stretch over the 3/8" (10 mm) barb. Tighten a hose clamp (I) to attach the tubing to the barb.
4f) Place another hose clamp (I) loosely on the tubing and slide the tubing onto the barb for one of the quick connect keg fittings (J or K). Tighten the hose clamp to attach the tubing to the keg fitting.
5) Screw the threaded PVC pipe (L) into the top of the PVC cross.
6) Drill a half dozen small holes into the top of the PVC cap (M), as pictured below.
7) Cement the PVC cap (M) onto the end of the PVC pipe (L).
8) Use the Dremel to grind away the lip of the PVC cap (M). This will allow the wand to fit into narrow-necked carboys. Pictured below, you can see what your PVC cross will look like.
9) Screw the adapter (C) from the bottom of the PVC cross onto the pump (N) output, as pictured below.
10) Using the Dremel, make two arc cutaways into the 3" (8 cm) side of the ABS reducer (O) so that the reducer can sit on the top of the PVC cross. Once you’ve verified the fit, cement it into place with epoxy, centered on the cross.
Mix up about 6 qt (5.7 l) of cleanser solution (e.g. PWB, OxyClean). Put the cleanser into the 5 gal (19 l) bucket. Place the pump into the bucket, as pictured below.
Place the carboy or keg over the spray wand. The carboy neck should balance on the ABS reducer.
For kegs, also attach the keg fittings. The photos below show how the keg fittings will look before and during the wash.
Plug in the pump to circulate the cleanser. Run the pump until the keg or carboy is clean, then rinse (either directly or by switching out the cleanser for clean water).
After I got the plumbing built for this project, I had a little epiphany. My brew day normally begins and ends with running PBW through my counterflow chiller. This pump and bucket can handle that in parallel with my normal brewing, as pictured below, which shaves a good 45−60 minutes off the day.