Cleaning And Sanitization
When it comes to brewing your own beer at home, there is no single step that is more important that cleaning and sanitizing your home brewing equipment.
This step is often overlooked, especially by new brewers but quite often by experienced professionals as well.
I believe the reason why is because it’s such a simple step that people often underestimate the power of it.
Additionally, after you’ve made a few batches of beer it’s easy to become complacent and overconfident.
I’m here to tell you, don’t let this happen to you.
And there’s no reason for this, because learning how to sanitize brewing equipment takes just a few minutes to do.
Poor or improper cleaning or sanitizing of your beer making equipment is the single most leading cause of spoiled batches of homemade beer, so please pay attention to this step. It will save you plenty of trouble and heartache down the road.
Remember also that these are two separate steps and that both need to be done.
Cleaning is what you do when you’re removing large hunks of leftover evidence of your last brew, or something that you do when you first get your equipment from the store.
Don’t assume that things are clean, take the time necessary to make sure they are by scrubbing everything that will come into contact with your home brew.
Sanitizing is the next step after cleaning, and this involves reducing the amount of living things, such as bacteria and other nasty organisms, that would love spoil your batch of beer.
Sanitizing can be a leap of faith, because you can’t see any of these things with the naked eye, like when you’re going through the cleaning step.
sanitizing beer making equipment
How To Sanitize Your Beer Making Equipment
But take it from me, you still must sanitize brewing equipment even though all your items looks clean and shiny.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways to do both of these steps to ensure you give your homemade beer a fighting chance.
Cleaning Your Beer Making Equipment
For cleaning your home brewing equipment, specialized products exist that will get your stuff sparkling clean and not leave any residue behind.
I’ve seen different websites insist that normal, everyday dishwashing soap is perfectly fine for cleaning your equipment, and technically, these folks are correct. They all make the same points, however.
First, if you do use dishwashing soap, be sure to use an unscented variety.
The scent from soap residue left behind could easily transfer to your finished product, and soapy flavors would definitely ruin your brewing efforts.
Secondly, be sure to thoroughly rinse the soap from your equipment. When you think you have rinsed all the suds away, go over things one more time, as some soaps are very difficult to remove completely.
clean your beer bottles
Cleaning and Sanitizing beer bottles
Personally, I never use dish soap. Instead I use one of the specially prepared cleaners specifically for home brewing. I’ll highlight a couple here so you know what to look for.
• PBW – This stands for Powdered Brewery Wash. It was originally developed for use in professional breweries but is now available for home use. It’s very simple to use but can be a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way.
The procedure to use is to soak the equipment overnight in a solution of 1 to 2 ounces of PBW per one gallon of water. The best part is, there’s no scrubbing involved, just plenty of rinsing.
Additionally, PBW is environmentally friendly, completely biodegradable, and will not harm any of your beer making tools whatsoever. What’s not to like about PBW? For my money, it’s the best homebrew sanitizer.
• Straight A – This cleaner is similar to PBW, but it is not really as strong. It does a great job, however, and it costs about one third the price, so it’s very economical to use.
Straight A does not dissolve very well in cold water, so mixing it with warm water is the way to go. And even though the label may say that this product is both a cleaner and sanitizer, I always do an additional sanitizing step, as well as plenty of rinsing.
There are other cleaners you will see people talking about as well, including bleach, which I used a lot early on in my home brewing activities. It can be a good cleaner for glass, but plastic tends to absorb this material and can then impart off flavors to your beer.
If you do try this, remember to rinse everything very well.
How to Sanitize Your Beer Making Equipment
Sanitizing Your Homemade Beer Making Equipment
Well, now that we’ve managed to get the equipment cleaned, it’s time for the next, and in my opinion, most important step in brewing your own beer.
I say that because most of the failed batches of beer I’ve had can be traced back to poor sanitary conditions, and I’ll bet most home brewers would say the same thing.
There are plenty of good options when choosing a method and product to sanitize your equipment. Let’s take a look at a few.
• Star-San – One of my favorites. This one works the best out of the many I’ve tried, and I stick with it.
It’s a bit more expensive than the rest, but I have confidence in it, and that makes a difference in my opinion.
It is an odorless and flavorless sanitizer that does not require rinsing. It works quickly, and gets foamy so it penetrates all the cracks and scratches that may be present, especially in plastic materials.
You can mix Star-San ahead of time and then place it in a spray bottle for easy application. It just needs to touch the surface you want to sanitize and the sit for 5 minutes.
If you’re sanitizing a fermenting bucket, after 5 minutes just turn the bucket over and let it drain.
When its dry, Star-San will leave a film that helps protect your equipment and bottles.
• Iodophor – This is an iodine type sanitizer that is also widely used by home brewers. It does the job well, but some people are put off because of the color, for some reason.
This is another that I’ve used plenty of times, I just prefer the Star-San nowadays. Be aware that this product will stain plastic equipment if you used too much, and does have an odor to it.
Overall, though, this is one of the best sanitizers available for home breweries.
• Bleach – Ah, good old chlorine bleach. Once again, plenty of people use bleach as a sanitizer.
The advantages are that it’s cheap and readily available, you probably have some lying around the laundry room right now. And it is a strong, effective sanitizer.
The same rules apply as if you were using it as a cleaner. You must rinse thoroughly. I was always fanatical about rinsing, and thought that the money I was saving using bleach was offset by the water I was wasting!
Be careful when using bleach, it’s quite harmful to your clothes and skin, and is an irritant if accidentally splashed into your eyes.
Where To Get Homebrew Sanitizer
If you have a brewing supply store near you, you are lucky. Those of us that don’t have to rely on Internet suppliers, but there are a large number of reliable ones that will take good care of you.
Armed with the information you have learned in this article, you’re now equipped to clean and sanitize your home brewing equipment.
Remember that this is the most critical part of the beer making process, and that many people overlook it and them later regret doing that.
Do yourself a favor and be diligent about this step, and you will be rewarded with delicious beer time after time.