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Cellar Maintenance – Avoiding Common Cellar Gas Issues

If you own or manage a pub, bar, or restaurant, you will already know how integral your cellar is to day to day operations. The cellar is not only a storage space for stock but home to all your dispensing equipment and keeps your kegs at the correct temperature. Problems in the cellar will eventually translate into problems in the front of house. Even though it’s an area of your business that customers can’t see, good cellar maintenance is key to a successful pub. Today, we’re going to outline some of the most common gas-related cellar issues that you may come up against and how you can prevent them from happening in your venue.

beer in a bar

Leaking Valves, Pipework and Connections

Gas leaks are, without a doubt, the most common cellar issue faced by pub and bar managers. Within a beer dispensing system, there are multiple places from which gas can escape if the connection between the two parts of the system isn’t sound.

In a typical cellar dispensing set-up, the gas cylinder is connected to a hose that runs to the primary valve, then the secondary valve, and finally into the side of the keg coupler. Beer or lager runs from the coupler, which is connected to the beer keg, to the cellar buoy, then through the cooler and from the cooler to the beer tap.

If there is a weak or broken connection at any point in the set-up, the system cannot effectively draw beer through the lines and up to the beer tap. The most common places for gas leaks to occur are at valves that have been poorly maintained and worn away over time. The issues presented by gas leaks in dispensing equipment are multiple:

  • Wasted gas, which can be costly for the business
  • Unable to dispense drinks correctly, resulting in unhappy customers and wasted stock
  • CO2 leaks can build up in pools if unnoticed and lead to a risk of asphyxiation if unaddressed.

Regular inspection of gas cylinder valves and points of connection in your dispensing equipment will help safeguard your cellar against gas leaks. Leaking valves are most commonly caused by moisture mixing with CO2, which causes corrosion and weak spots. You should always ensure you’re using a reputable cellar gas supplier who can assure you that they regularly and consistently check their cylinders are in good working condition before supplying to customers.

kegs in a cellar

Staff Training in Cellar Gas Safety

When it comes to cellar safety, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. That’s why it is crucial to train any staff who are using the cellar in correct cellar maintenance. Teaching your team how to change, store and move gas bottles correctly will not only save your time, money and effort but contribute significantly to a safe working environment for everyone. In fact, most of the issues we’re going to discuss now can be avoided with thorough and regular staff training.

Using the Right Gas for Each Product

Staff who attempt to change gas cylinders without proper knowledge may connect the incorrect gas to the dispensing system. For example, it’s not uncommon for pubs and bars to stock both CO2 and CO2/nitrogen mixes. Whilst pure CO2 is suitable for dispensing lager, you will immediately run into issues if you try to connect a CO2 cylinder to a stout or bitter line. This is because stouts and bitters require a CO2/nitrogen mix to give the beer its creamy, smooth texture. Forcing CO2 through a stout keg will result in over-carbonation and a poor quality pint.

It is, therefore, essential to educate your team on the different types of gas your business stocks, which products use each gas and how to identify the cylinders. Many bars and restaurants will even stock gas outside of drinks dispensing – like helium cylinders for balloons. Connecting a helium bottle to your drinks dispensing system is unlikely to go well since helium is not soluble in water or beer. Ensure your staff understand the importance of checking the gas bottles before connecting to the dispensing system.

beer kegs connected to gas lines

Correct Gas Cylinder Storage

Incorrect gas bottle storage can be hazardous. For example, if a pressurised cylinder were to fall over onto the concrete floor of a cellar, the valve fittings could break, causing CO2 to escape and propel the heavy cylinder across the floor.

Full cylinders should be stored upright and securely fasted to the wall using a chain to prevent them from toppling over. Empty cylinders can be laid on the ground somewhere out of the way where your bottled gas suppliers can access them easily to swap them for full bottles. Any empty cylinders that are laid on the ground should be chocked to prevent them from rolling around – alternatively, empty bottles can be stored upright with your full bottles. Still, they must be chained to the wall and cannot be freestanding as even empty cylinders can be a hazard.

Never Tamper With a Gas Cylinder

We’ve discussed the importance of regularly inspecting your cellar equipment for gas leaks, signs of corrosion, and weak points – but it is important to note that staff should not tamper with cylinders if they find a leak in the system. For example, suppose you experience issues with the valves on your gas cylinders. In that case, the best course of action is to close the valve, disconnect the gas bottle from your dispensing system and alert your supplier that you have a faulty cylinder. A reputable supplier will remove the cylinder from your site and take it away for testing to determine whether it can be repaired or scrapped.

different types of beer

It is also worth noting that you should never attempt to refill your gas cylinders yourselves. Instead, your gas supplier should carry out gas cylinder filling, as they have the correct tools and understands the best and safest procedure.

Using a trusted gas supplier is vital to avoiding common cellar issues that, if left unaddressed, will likely catch you out in the middle of a busy service. Here at Adams Gas, we supply cellar gas to pubs, bars and restaurants both directly and through our stockist network. If you would like more information on our beer gas, please contact us today.