Monday, November 20, 2023

Jockey box rebuild

When I volunteered to pour at Ales over ALS this year there were two things I needed to do. The first was to brew. I managed to do that successfully. The second was to dispense the beer that I had brewed.

I still owned the jockey box I purchased for my first Ales over ALS in 2015. The problem was that the jockey box had not been used or seen the light of day since Ales over ALS in 2019. Whenever I brought homebrew anywhere out of the house over the past four years, I just filled growlers off one of my taps. The jockey box had sat in my basement for four years gathering dust and spiderwebs. 

With the event coming up, I had to bite the bullet and see what kind of shape the jockey box was in. Oh my god, was it more disgusting than I imagined.

More disgusting than I thought.

This thing had not been cleaned at all since I last used it. Then it sat for four years. I could tell this project was going to be fun. And by fun I mean completely miserable.

The beer lines were clearly not salvageable and would need to be replaced. The beer faucets might have been even more disgusting. There was no way the cheap, chrome-plated brass would be able to be cleaned. The chrome-plated shanks were every bit as bad, with rubber stains from beer washers on top of beer sludge. The faucets and shanks all had to go as well. The only component that was salvageable was the stainless steel plate.

I was fairly certain the cooler itself would also need to be replaced. The inside was covered in mildew, and the outside caked on beer splatter. Before buying a new cooler, I gave it a long soak in a hot Brew Clean solution. Using hot discharge water from my immersion chiller, I filled the cooler all the way up to the faucets and shanks. I also submerged the plate in the cleaning solution.

If this won't work, nothing will.

After the solution cooled down to the point it wasn't hot to the touch, I took a sponge and tried to clean the inside of the cooler lid. Thankfully the Brew Clean solution did a remarkable job.

With the lid and the outside of the cooler looking close to brand new, I let the cooler and plate soak overnight before draining and giving the inside walls and bottom of the cooler a wipe down. The transformation was remarkable.

I still can't believe how clean this got.

Replacing all of the fittings and lines was more of a pain in the rear than I thought it would be. The lock nuts on the inside of the cooler were all rusted on and would not budge. The wall couplings on the back of the cooler the back had external nuts that were not rusted, so I was able to remove those and pull those shanks out through the inside of the cooler. Unfortunately the beer shanks on the front were secured on the inside with the rusted on lock nuts, and on the outside with the larger coupling nut and flange on the outside. 

I tried pliers, wrenches, a wrench on the inside while trying to hold the outside of the shank with pliers, and that nut would not budge. Then I bought a rotary tool to try and cut through the lock nuts. Unfortunately the washers were too close to the cooler wall and I started cutting into that while not cutting through the lock nut deeply enough to break it off the shank. Then I tried cutting off the coupling nut and sleeve on the outside of the cooler. Thankfully, that worked.

Such a pain in the...

I was able to buy all the replacement parts I needed from Pro Brew Supply including:  beer faucets, shanks, shank nipples 1/4" and 5/16", beer washers, beer nuts, wall couplings, and both 1/4" and 5/16" beverage hose.

With everything replaced and plumbed: here is the after photo of the finished project:

A night and day difference!

And before leaving to pour beer at Ales over ALS, a quick trial run at home to make sure beer poured properly and there are no leaks. 

In a perfect world I would've replaced all of the chrome-plated components with stainless steel. If I was doing this a year ago and was a little more flush, I would have. If I ever have to do this again, I probably will bite the bullet and spend a little extra. 

To make sure I don't have to do this again anytime soon, I made sure to clean the jockey box a couple days after the event. I made sure all the ice melt was drained and had time to air dry. I pumped a Brew Clean solution through the lines and plate to remove any residual beer. I then blew through the lines to eject as much of the cleaning solution as possible. 

Next time I need this thing, I'll give the lines a quick wash and rinse, and it should be ready to go!

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