Used Kombucha Corny Kegs- Worth the risk?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by MrOH, May 27, 2020.

  1. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    So a kombucha producer working out of the same communal space as me is calling it quits. She's selling off corny kegs for $45 each, which seems like a good deal. I'm figuring that if I replace all the gaskets, give everything else a good, hot PBW soak and then scrub, nice hot water rinse, and then a long starsan soak they should be ok.

    I am in the process of putting together a keezer system, and have no previous experience with kegging, so I'm not very learned in the ins and outs of keg care. Already have the freezer, purchased from an ice cream maker in the space that called it quits.

    Any input into why this may be a bad idea? Mostly worried about residual bacteria in the kegs.
     
    #1 MrOH, May 27, 2020
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  2. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    They're ball-lock, BTW, if that matters. $20 cheaper than used kegs from LHBS.
     
  3. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,950) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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  4. riptorn

    riptorn Disciple (382) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
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    Ball lock is more prevalent that pin lock, so that's a plus. $45 is a fair price for ball-lock in good condition. You might be able to do better on Craigslist if you're not in a rush. I occasionally see them for half that from former HB's who just want to reclaim the space in their garage.

    Regardless of whether you get the kombucha kegs or other, you'll want to break them down completely; removing posts, poppets and PRV from the lid (if equipped) for cleaning. Each of those utilize gaskets or O-rings. Lids are fairly universal among corny's but poppet design can vary and springs can weaken over time. Make a note of the manufacturer (Firestone, Spartanburg, etc.) for future reference. It's often stamped somewhere on the side of the keg.
    Shine a light inside and look for deep scratches or gouges, or pitting that might indicate something corrosive was used for cleaning.

    The Home Bar forum often has some good niche info and several very learned members.
     
  5. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (449) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    I'd probably do it if I needed to get some more kegs. But I don't, and beware that each keg is not that big but when you have eleven, it's a problem.

    Everything @riptorn says. Definitely replace the all the O-rings. You can buy complete refurb kits. I have a few kegs that once were used for a 7-Up type product and they smelled like Mello Yello for a long time but the beer tasted fine. A few that were recovered from a bar fire... smelled like smoke. Still do. But the beer is fine. Your concern is yeast infections but with new rings and a solid soak it should not be a problem.

    If you are going to be buying multiple kegs you should offer less than $45. You can get used kegs for around $45. Truth is, she needs you to buy a bunch more than you need to buy them from her. And get the CO2 tank and regulator too if you can.
    Cheers
     
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  6. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Well, it's $20/keg cheaper, so figuring I'm gong for a 4 line keezer and an extra keg to have on the back, $100 is a lot.
    Gaskets, o-rings, poppets, etc. aren't expensive, and my labor scales. Ain't much harder to soak 5 kegs than to soak 1.
     
    #6 MrOH, May 27, 2020
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  7. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Didn't think about the regulator! Thanks!
     
  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,950) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Society

    I almost put this in my original reply, but call it $20 "per risk avoidance." Personally, I don't ever put live bacteria (intentionally) in any cold side equipment that will ever be used again for clean beers. But I'm conservative that way.
     
  9. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Not really trying to haggle with someone going out of business in a time of crisis.
     
  10. Uprightfever

    Uprightfever Initiate (23) Apr 23, 2019 California

  11. Ten_SeventySix_Brewhouse

    Ten_SeventySix_Brewhouse Initiate (161) Jul 20, 2016 Indiana

    Any time you buy a used keg you’re running the same risk. These things are usually decades old. You never know what has been in them or what they’ve been through. Stainless steel should be fine with a thorough cleaning/reconditioning. Plus, I assume you’ll be keeping the kegs cold once you put beer in them, so that should slow the growth of anything that may have survived.

    On the other hand, $45 per keg is a fair price, not a great price. So unless you’re wanting to help her out, there’s no benefit to you buying these over any other used keg.
     
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  12. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (547) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    I would heat sanitize if you can - fill up with 180-190F water and let it sit awhile. This will kill a lot of bugs in the nooks and crannies. Still do a thorough cleaning and chemical sanitizing of course.
     
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  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,827) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
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    @MrOH
    Replace all of the O rings. Invest in a diptube brush to clean that out.

    I've done the heat on a keg that had Brett. The bugs and critters can't hide from the heat.

    If you want to be really safe. Pull the posts and poppets and boil those, as there are places for stuff to hide.
     
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  14. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,911) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
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    To be honest, this almost makes me want to devote a keg and picnic tap line to kombucha. A couple summers ago, I was making frequent small batches, half a gallon at a time. I got tired of doing it. Maybe worth thinking about, scaled up.
     
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  15. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Devotee (493) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Chlorine will kill bacterial, a good complete hot water rinse wil remove the chlorine. Always good to replace o rings , gaskets and other part when possible. But definatly rinse very well cause I imagine chlorine might be a problem for a regulator if some gets into it.
     
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  16. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    The old lady makes kombucha, and we were thinking about dedicating a line for it, but she likes the variety she can make in 1 gallon batches.
     
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  17. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,911) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Society

    Does she go by MrsOH?
     
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  18. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    After 12 years together, we oughtta tie the knot

    She actually bought my start-up equipment
     
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  19. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,950) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    You probably know a guy who could brew a wedding beer.
     
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  20. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (449) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Chlorine and stainless?
    Are you injecting Lysol man?!

    I love me some bleach, and do use it in when all else fails especially if it's not s/s. Just be cautious with chlorine and stainless. It will eff up stainless steel right quick.
    Cheers
     
  21. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Devotee (493) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Nope, disagree completly,

    Use chlorine all the time either in public water systems and in the home brewery where I utilize chlorine in both of my stainless steel kettles for years. No troubles at all. Just rinse with hot water and your fine. Rips of beer stone and anything else leaving the surface like new with no poc markings one would get using chemicals not safe for stainless.

    Side note###
    Not all stainless steel is the same, many kinds out there , so, as always, use on a small area first or in one keg , then look for any trouble.

    And NO DUDE, not injecting, that's for the other guy, hahhaahahahhh
     
  22. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (449) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    I'm not going to tell you how to run your brewery, only that chlorine does really damage stainless, all stainless, 316, 304, any of the 3 series Some s/s is more chloride resistant to others but the basic stainless principle is compromised when chlorides are applied to the steel. It can be repaired but that is a hassle and should not be the solution. Chlorine damages stainless steel, it should not be used and there are very effective products that are stainless safe. And you won't see the damage. The passive protective layer is invisible, and when it is removed... it's still invisible.

    The truth is that stainless steel is really mislabeled. It is stain resistant. And if you are using a solution of chlorine to clean, it is 100% pitting your stainless. It's just a matter of time.
    Cheers
     
  23. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Devotee (493) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Must b a long time, no pitting after 5 years, longer for other Brewers I know.

    To each their own.

    Happy brewing
     
  24. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Thanks for all the input, y'all. I think I'm gonna pull the trigger and offer $40/keg, since I'll be buying five. Unfortunately, the CO2 tank and regulator are not available. Going to pull it all apart, get proper equipment to scrub things out and replace all the o-rings, poppets, etc. Setting up the keezer is going to be a work in progress for a bit (doing 6 days a week now, and every other week's day off is spoken for), so I don't mind doing some passive work like boiling water and then letting stuff soak. Figuring hot PBW soak, scrub with an green scrubby, boiling water soak/rinse, hot StarSan soak, air dry completely.
     
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  25. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (157) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    I don't see why you wouldn't buy them. If you keg in the low 30/40s can anything grow.
     
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  26. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Well, I'm figuring I would probably keg-condition certain beers, so that would be an issue there. But I figure I'll take proper precautions, and if it doesn't work out, I'll know better for next time. Can't be mad at anyone but myself at that point, and I'll learn my lesson. And also share with others.
     
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  27. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,950) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Pretty much anything can, just more slowly.
     
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  28. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Also, after over 20 years in food, and especially my 5+ years working in cheese, stuff can and will grow in the 30s.
     
  29. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (449) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Do you have a young kid?
    I don't know you, but your fat mitts ain't gonna fit inside of a corney keg short of the elbow.

    Be sure to visit the Home Bar forum when you build the keezer. To be honest we could use some action. Cricketsville.

    Cheers
     
  30. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (157) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    I'm dumb. I should have known from bread left in back of the fridge. What i meant was can it grow after you purge the keg and have almost no oxygen.
     
  31. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I suppose I'll find out.
    Also the fridge is not a good place to store bread, it actually stales more quickly at refrigerator temperatures than room temperature. If you can't eat the loaf before it goes stale, you should freeze it and pull it out as needed. See McGee's "On Food and Cooking".
     
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  32. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Actually, I'm 5'11" and 155# of muscle, the vast majority of which is legs and core. I'm pretty sure I can get in there.

    Will definitely check it out. Thanks for the tip.
     
  33. hyndmanevan

    hyndmanevan Initiate (101) Mar 2, 2007 Indiana

    I had a dedicated keg for my own kombucha while I stopped brewing for about a year. I have since started brewing beer again and stopped kombucha, so I cleaned and sanitized the keg as usual (I only rinsed it between kombucha batches) and have had no issues. I've probably used the keg 4 times with beer now.
     
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  34. riptorn

    riptorn Disciple (382) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

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  35. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,252) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I never got back to her. The continuance of the pandemic has kept me from doing much in the way of upgrades, and I definitely want to consult someone with experience face to face before building out.

    Thanks for the heads up, though. I'll look into it.
     
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  36. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (449) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    I can't remember $39 kegs, not ever. Been doing this since the mid 90's

    AIH is reliable. This is likely to be the lowest price for used Corneys we are going to see. If I needed more I would jump.
    That's my 2 cents worth.
    Cheers
     
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  37. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,950) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Not $39, but I used to get them for exactly $40 from an LHBS. Around 2010-ish, IIRC. But today, $39 is pretty crazy.

    I got two of these. They were both holding pressure and they look good from the outside. (Haven't opened and cleaned one yet.)
     
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  38. riptorn

    riptorn Disciple (382) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
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    I'd be less surprised if they were pin lock but these are ball lock + have PRV's
     
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  39. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Devotee (407) May 2, 2006 Utah

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  40. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (547) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    My LHBS in Colorado sold used cornies as-is for $10 in the late 80's/early 90's. I think his sourcing might have been a little sketchy. I still have 4 of them, still in service and performing well.