Cleaning and Sanitizing Homebrewing Equipment – How to do it right.
A serious homebrewer needs to know two things: how to brew properly and how to keep equipment clean. Lack of knowledge in any of these will make or break a brew. See also 10 FAQs about Basic Homebrewing and Supplies.
That would be time, effort, and money wasted. The end-product could be contaminated and, overall, a mess. All these certainly takes all the fun out of homebrewing.
Let’s just say that one already knows the hows of brewing. After all, it’s what he/she must know in ord er to start making the brew of his/her dreams. But how about the other things? Maybe the brewer follows the procedure to a T. Unfortunately, failed results could lie in the fact that he/she hasn’t put time and effort to make sure that every equipment is clean and sanitized.
Cleaning and sanitizing for a homebrewing activity is very important. High temperature can only do so much to kill bad bacteria and rid of other contaminants. Besides, there are types of beverages that require low temperature instead for the yeast to function correctly in relation to the expected outcome.
In other words, there is no getting around it. Cleaning and sanitizing is a must if someone wants to succeed in any homebrewing endeavor.
Cleaning and sanitizing homebrewing equipment – Definition of Terms
Okay, first, it’s important to distinguish between “cleaning” and “sanitizing”. Yes, they are not the same. There are specific meanings for both. Throw in the meaning of “sterilizing” as well.
Now the Definition of Terms:
- Cleaning – removal of all visible dirt and residue, living organisms not included.
- Sanitizing – chemical treatment of equipment using a solution or heat to eliminate all molds, wild yeasts, and bacteria. This must come only after cleaning.
- Sterilizing – the complete elimination of spoilage organisms. Complete elimination is not quite possible in homebrewing, though.
What to Do
Not because the first batches of beer tasted awesome, it’s safe to assume that the next ones will turn out the same. The owner must work out a cleaning and sanitizing schedule and always stick to it. Becoming lax in these duties may result in problems in the quality of beer in the future.
After the fourth or fifth batch of brewed beers, clean all the pieces of equipment that come in contact with the brew such as the following:
There should be a list of all these things in order for the brewer to not forget anything, especially things that are easy to overlook. Hosing them out is not going to help avoid exposing beer to bacterial infections, which could ruin a batch of beer. Too much confidence never does anybody any good.
Thorough cleaning prevents the buildup of fouling chemicals or fermentation residue.
Two Methods for Cleaning Equipment
- Using a cleaning solution: Soak equipment for about 20 minutes then scrub away! Lightly, though.
- Using chemical and water: Allow a chemical cleaner to soak until the equipment is clean. Use this method for equipment that cannot be scrubbed (hoses, airlocks, and siphons). If a brewer does not trust that the chemical can thoroughly clean them, replacing the equipment should be the alternative option. They are inexpensive, anyway.
- Use a sponge or soft cloth towels for scrubbing on plastic equipment, but more abrasive scrubbers for glass and stainless steel.
- There are cleaners that work well on homebrewing equipment. Most cleaners are either unsafe for humans (don’t use on things used for human consumption), or simply too mild to be effective.
- If between batches, don’t let residue accumulate or dry. It is the same thing during storage.
- Consider percarbonates. A percarbonate is a sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide combo. It is an effective chemical cleaner available to homebrewers. There are various percarbonates:
Powder Brewery Wash (PBW)
- the highest strength of the percarbonates
- commonly used as a clean-in-place (CIP) chemical in commercial breweries
- effective in any type of water
- for plastic, glass, and stainless surfaces
- an overnight soak is very effective in dissolving stubborn stains in hard to reach places
- environmentally safe and relatively cheap
- good substitutes: B-brite, Oxygen Wash (for brewing products), plain Oxiclean
Straight A, One Step, and B Brite
- similar to but not as strong as PBW
- cleans well enough except for really tough jobs
- do not dissolve easily in cold water
- One Step is not as strong as the others, so simply use this for sanitizing
- good cleaner for glass
- not good for plastic and stainless steel
- not very effective on beer stone (calcium oxalate and protein) and other brewing residues
- mild, unscented dishwashing detergent for routine cleaning needs — perfume can be transferred to the beer if scented
- don’t use on fermenters, airlocks, beer bottles and caps
Proper sanitization rids of microbiological contaminants. If everything is clean before brewing, then sanitizing would be fast and easier. No-rinse sanitizers are the best! They eliminate the risk of rinsing and can be safely used on any surface without harmful effects.
Sanitizers must be added to water to create a solution to soak equipment in. Normally, they are turned upside down to dry, but with Bleach and Sparkle Brite, rinse very well with water.
See also: Homebrewing 101: The Complete Start Guide
These are sanitizers worth mentioning:
- most effective chemical sanitizer developed for the brewing industry
- flavorless, odorless, no-rinse food grade acidic sanitizer that is effective if pH is less than 3.5
- eliminates all microorganisms quickly (under 5 minutes) and leaves a safe microscopic film to protect even after the equipment has dried
- environment-friendly, biodegradable, and harmless to ‘helpful’ bacteria in a septic system
- most commonly used sanitizer by homebrewers
- used by the food service and medical industries
- iodine detergent, germicide, and no-rinse sanitizer
- will stain fabric if concentrated
- sanitizes bottles and other heat-resistant equipment
- sanitizes wort in glass canning bottles and metal lids by using the standard canning methods (180-degree water for 20 minutes) then gradually decreasing down to room temperature to avoid breaking jars
- use the oven to sanitize heat-resistant bottles — it does take longer
- chlorine bleach is a good glass equipment sanitizer, not so much for plastic
- rinse heavily to remove the excess chlorine smell — do not re-contaminate by rinsing with well water
- biggest disadvantage: it can kill yeast cells in even the lowest concentrations
Acid sanitizers like Star-San and Saniclean will retain antimicrobial properties for a longer time but never use with hard water. Doing so will precipitate the active ingredients and lose the agents’ effectiveness.
Some More Neat Tips
Before starting any brewing activity, it is always important to disassemble kegs periodically and soak the parts, or else run the big possibility of ruining and spoiling the end-result in the keg.
Below are a few more tips when cleaning and sanitizing homebrew equipment:
- For instant sanitation, keep a spray bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol or acid sanitizing solution handy.
- Flush kegs with hot water and cleaner or sanitizer under pressure from the CO2 tank.
- Use only bottles without visible residue and make sure to rinse them right after use.
- Invest in an auto-siphon — it’s easier and risk-free.
- Limit diluted bleach to glass equipment and bottles. It does need extensive rinsing
- See also: Brewing your own Beer : 12 Reasons Why
Make cleanliness and sanitation a big deal and a regular part of homebrewing routines. If the bits of information here are not enough, Keg Fridge can answer any queries on the topic. They are experts in the kegerator business and knowledgeable in the world of homebrewing.
To know more about homebrewing and how to handle equipment, start by visiting KegFridge.com.