So you leave your kegerator or tap beer system sit for a few days without use, when you come back the tap handle is stuck! What’s going on here? In this article we discuss what is causing your tap handle to stick, how to fix it and how to prevent it from sticking in the future.
Why is my tap handle sticking?
To get a clear understanding of what is happening with your tap beer system let’s first cover the mechanics of a standard tap faucet. I borrowed the image below from kegoutlet.com to show you the parts of a standard beer faucet and help you visualize how it works.
When the tap handle of a standard tap beer faucet is pulled forward the internal lever (#6 in the diagram) moves backwards, moving with it the valve shaft, sometimes called the plunger (#9 in the diagram). This allows beer to flow through the tap faucet and out the spout. Now that you understand the basic mechanics of the faucet, why is it getting stuck?
When the beer flows through the faucet it leaves trace amounts of beer on the internal parts of the spout. When a kegerator or draft beer system sits unused for a day or two the left over beer in the spout can dry inside the unit. Then, the dry beer causing the valve shaft and internal lever to stick, this is what some people call “beer Glue”.
How do I loosen a stuck tap beer handle?
There are a few recommended ways to loosen a stuck tap handle. The first thing you should try is warm water. Using a spray bottle or small bowl of water, wet the external part of the valve shaft and the inside of the faucet liberally.Then try and pull the handle again.
If warm water does not loosen the faucet handle, your next move is to spray Starsan. Wet the external part of the valve shaft and the inside of the faucet with Starsan or another sanitizer you prefer. Starsan is an acid based cleaner which can loosen a stuck tap handle, but can be dangerous. It should go without saying that you should be careful not to get the chemical in your eyes or allow it to sit on your hands. Spray the starsan in the same manner you sprayed the warm water.
If you spray the interior and exterior parts of your tap system with starsan and it still doesn’t budge, then it’s time to disassemble the tap faucet. Remove the faucet from the shank using a faucet wrench. Then unscrew the lower nut from the spout and remove the faucet lever. Next, allow the parts to soak in a sanitizer solution for a few minutes. Pull the parts out and put pressure on the exterior component of the valve shaft until it breaks free. If the valve shaft still does not budge, soak for a few more minutes and try again.
Here is a well done video by beverage factory that walks you step by step through the process of unsticking your stuck tap handle:
How can I prevent my tap handle from sticking?
Now that you know how to fix a stuck tap handle we can discuss how to prevent it from sticking in the first place. Our #1 recommendation is to upgrade your faucet to a forward-facing faucet, these spouts drain completely after every use. The forward-facing faucets eliminate the “beer glue” problem associated with standard rear-facing faucets. If you are not in a place to upgrade your tap faucet you can use starsan, purchase a cap for your spout or simply pour more beer. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these options.
Purchase a Forward Facing Tap Faucet
A forward facing faucet is set up to allow the beer to drain completely from the faucet after every use. It does this by using a vertical pendulum at the front of the spout to allow beer to flow out of the faucet. The pendulum at the front of the faucet means that no beer will sit inside the spout preventing the “beer glue” effect. This differs from the standard faucet where beer flows all the way from the valve shaft at the back of the faucet to the spout.
Most kegerator owners eventually upgrade to a forward facing faucet. In addition to the benefit of eliminating the problem of stuck tap handles, these faucets are stainless steel, look sharp, and will last longer than a standard chrome plated faucet.
What forward facing faucet should I get?
There are two forward-facing faucet brands that you should consider. Perlick and an Intertap faucet. Both of these are considered top tier.
Perlick is that gold star standard for tap beer faucets, however there is a price tag to match. Intertap is a newer company that is providing budget options for forward facing tap faucets.
We recommend the Perlick 650ss. The Perlick 650ss features the forward-facing design, is stainless steel and has an added flow control handle. The flow control handle allows you to adjust the tap flow from light to hard. Perlick has been creating high quality beverage dispensing equipment for over 100 years and has a reputation for creating top the line products that many people swear by.
If replacing the faucet is out of your budget, you can use Starsan to keep your tap system from sticking. At the end of the night, after you are done using your tap system, spray Starsan into the faucet. This will help clear out any residual beer in the spout.
Purchase Cheap Caps
Cheap plastic caps can help keep your system stick free. A cap like the one pictured below can stop gnats and other insects from coming into your faucet, but you can also use it to keep your system from becoming sticky by preventing residue build up. Spray a little water or Starsan into the faucet, then cap it with one of these brush caps.
Pour more Beer
When all else fails, pour more beer. A fool proof way to keep your tap system from gumming up is to simply pour more beer. You now know that when beer inside your faucet dries it becomes sticky, so don’t allow it to dry up. Pour at least one small taster everyday. The extra pours will prevent the beer from drying inside the faucet and creating that dreaded “beer glue”.
When you’re ready for a fresh cold brew, a sticky tap handle is a major inconvenience. This happens when residual beer inside the faucet is allowed to dry and gunks up your tap system. To prevent the handle from sticking, upgrade to a forward-facing faucet that allows the beer to drain completely. We recommend the Perlick 650ss.