Cask ale return valve lifespan


HandpullI’ve recently taken the reins of a bar and have had to, twice now, call a technician out to replace a return valve in my ale pumps.

I thought little of it with the first one, its an old installation (7 years, give or take.) but the second one was brand new in April!

Is there anything my staff could be doing to take such a toll on the valves? I cant be there to watch them 24/7. But I suspect they may be pulling far too hard. Could this be the cause?


  1. Possibly, you said you called a tech out to replace a return valve you haven’t said the problem you were having. If the handle is springing back then the handle is being pulled too quickly, the liquid can’t get up to beer engine quick enough. Do you have a gas pump in the cellar assisting the beer engine. Is the line filling up with air or is it gas with the ale still a bit ripe? We need a bit more info.

    • With the valve broken, air gets into the line after one or two pulls.
      The beer WILL clear beautifully, given time, and tastes fine. But itll be horribly frothy to pour. Leading to about 5floz of waste per pint poured. I cant abide this.
      Its been fixed now.
      But the fact that it happened twice now (on different pumps) bothers me.
      I suppose my main query is what could be causing the valves to fail so rapidly? One of them is less than 6 months old.

  2. The reason you were asked the type of beer engine, did you have gas pumps etc, there can be different scenarios for each system.

    For example if the jubilee clips tightening the fittings down by the cask tap are letting in air, you wont see the air being pulled in going up the pipe, but it will go to the highest point which is usually just behind the beer engine this will cause fobbing.

    The nut connecting to the cask tap could be drawing in air if it isn’t tight, or the hop strainer or seal is a bit worn. So if your bar staff are pulling the handle really hard and fast then you will draw air in through these weak spots more so.

    You are probably aware of this anyway, but cask beer needs to be vented off up to 48hrs or even more but if the secondary fermentation hasn’t completed, (its difficult to tell these days with so many different brews some taking no time at all to clear down). Otherwise Co2 can break out of the liquid in the line, this again will go to the highest point usually behind the beer engine, and cause the symptoms you complain about. As your problem has happened with different lines this may have happened intermittently, without you noticing.

    The non return valve that you keep replacing, is it in the line or the beer engine?

    Does the Beer engine connect directly to barrel via a pipe?

    Is there a high lift from cellar to the bar?

    Is there a gas pump assisting the hand-pull from the cellar?

    And no you shouldn’t have to change non returns that often I rarely change one in fact I haven’t changed one in a long time.

    • The valve is in the beer engine, which does indeed connect directly to the barrel via a shortish pipe. And my cellar is level with the bar itself. And yeah, they are gas assisted.

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