The time to clean your tap lines is before you need to.
When we were expecting our daughter, I was smart enough to know that my caffeine consumption would increase exponentially upon becoming a parent, so we invested in a semi-automatic Gaggia espresso machine the summer before the due date. In the years since, that thing has pulled literally barrels of shots, and I was relatively diligent about cleaning the portafilter assembly with PBW and flushing the system with descaler every couple months.
But, just like the lines we use to run sweet, essential carbonated homebrew from a corny keg to a faucet, the occasional halfassed rinse isn’t good enough in the long haul. Last week the Gaggia started chugging, slowing down, barely mustering enough pressure to push a trickle of steam through a puck of ground coffee.
Citizens, this would not do. Daddy needs coffee.
No, what was needed was a deep cleaning, a teardown and rebuild using a mixture of bike tools (metric wrenches!) and citric acid from our friendly neighborhood LHBS to strip the accumulated calcium deposits that were clogging the valves in the brew group.
So I did that, and I wish I had done it before it ever got to the point that I had to live without espresso like some kind of Neanderthal, but the moral of the story is that fracking around with the limed-up shower screen block and group valve reminded me that it was past time to flush the lines on the kegerator, and once I did so, the Dunkel and the Hoppy Amber Lager immediately started drinking better and our all-around quality of life improved.
How do you clean your tap lines? BLC, PBW, alternating acid rinses, let the beer clean it out? Are you conscientious, or do you wait til it’s past due?