There is nothing worse than losing a batch of beer. When a beer goes bad it is one of the most painful experiences a home brewer can ever have. Watching that beautiful nectar of the gods go down the drain is sickening…
But in the end you probably have no one to blame but yourself my friend. 9.99 times out of 10 you simply did not clean and sanitize your brew area and/or equipment correctly.
So to make sure that never happens to you… today we are going to look cleaning your gear and also we will discuss how to sanitize beer making equipment correctly and help you significantly reduce the chance of losing any of your beer.
On top of showing you exactly how to clean and sanitize; I will also share with you the only cleaning and sanitizing products I use and recommend you do.
Table of Contents
The First Batch is Always Good
Have you ever noticed how most people who get into homebrewing have their first batch of beer turn out pretty decent and then their next batches afterward taste terrible?
The worst part about this is that most people who quit this great hobby do so after their second batch.
The reason for this is that the equipment they first purchase is relatively clean and sanitized… but after brewing a batch it develops all kinds of little nasties that cling around unless they are destroyed.
Most people figure they can just give their gear a quick wash and rinse and they are good to go.
Obviously, this is not the case… in order to make sure your beer does not go bad, get infected and develop nasty off flavors you need to learn how to clean and sanitize your gear and then make sure you become a fanatic about it…
It is not hard… and it does not take a ton of work… but it is a necessity when it comes to making good beer.
First lets look at how to clearn home brew equipment and then we can get into santizing.
How to Clean Home Brew Equipment
Ok so cleaning your equipment is not difficult, but it can take some effort.
All of your gear needs to be cleaned. You want to make sure you get rid of all of the left over trub, debris, hop, residue, AKA the gunk from your last brewing activity.
It is obviously recommended to clean immediately after your brew day, or after bottling, etc. You want to do this as all the gunk will not have dried up and hardened to the equipment yet and it will be easier to clean.
To clean you will want a good cleaning detergent that we will talk about in the next section.
You will soak your equipment in the detergent.
I soak my kettles, fermenters, and kegs with detergent and place my accessories (transfer lines, mash paddles, hydrometers, filters, etc) in these vessels to soak also.
After you have let them soak for awhile (depends on how much gunk was built up), you then need to use some elbow grease and give them a good scrubbing.
Important thing to understand is that anything that is metal you can use a scrub brush that has bristles or a wire brush etc.
BUT only use a smooth soft cloth or sponge if the piece of equipment is plastic. You do not want to scratch the plastic as bacteria can hide in the scratches and cause you all kinds of trouble.
I will now share with you the only two detergents I use for cleaning my equipment…
The 2 Best Cleaning Detergents
As we discussed will want to pick up a detergent to help you clean your gear. Elbow grease will only work to a point. Trust me you will need a good food grade detergent to get the hard to remove gunk off.
There are two that I use and recommend:
The first is a product made by five stars and it is made for brewing. It is called PBW (powered Brewery Wash). This is a great product and I prefer it over the next one. But they both work great. It is a bit pricer then the next one, but not much and I do find it is worth the extra amount.
The second is a product that also works well and is called Oxi Clean. Yup the same stuff your wife uses to remove tough stains. You want to get the unscented version or you are going to have some nasty smelling beer to deal with. Oxi Clean also works great, not as well as PBW but better then anything else I have come across.
You can check them both out on this post here => Products to Clean & Sanitize Brewing Equipment
And that is it for cleaning my friend… it will shock you how a good portion of your time brewing will be spent cleaning. But a cleaned and sanitized brewery will reward you…
OK now lets take a look at Sanitizing!
How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment – Hot Side
OK if you are not brewing all grain beer yet, you can skip this section and head to the Cold Side of Brewing…
If you are an all grain brewer then all of the equipment you use prior to the boil and during the boil you do not need to sanitize…
The boiling of the water and wort does the sanitizing for you.
Items that you do not need to worry about sanitizing are:
=> Your kettle
=> Mash tun
=> Hot Liquor tank
=> Any scissors or knives used to open grain and hop bags
=> Your chiller does not need to be sanitized as you will run boiling wort through it
=> Transfer hoses as boiling wort is going to run through it. (if you don’t transfer direct to fermenter through chiller, then the line you use to transfer from kettle to the fermenter will need to be sanitized)
So again anything that will be touching the ingredients before and during the boil will be sanitized by the boil, so you are all good!
Not so with the cold side… everything after the boil… is a completely different story!!
On the cold side of the brewing process you now have to become obsessed with cleaning and sanitizing….
How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment – Cold Side
So once the wort has cooled down to under 190 degrees F everything it touches must be thoroughly sanitized or you run a very high risk of losing your beer to an infection.
Items that need to be sanitized:
=> Your brewing area (counter top, etc)
=> Lid of fermenter
=> Air lock and bung
=> Blow of hoses/tubes
=> Scissors/Knife used to open yeast packet
=> Yeast packet itself (yup I sanitize the packet!!)
=> Hop bag (if you are dry hopping)
=> Scissors/knife used to open priming sugar bag if you are naturally carbonating
=> Bag holding priming sugar
=> Transfer hose from fermenter to bottles or kegs
=> Bottles or keg
Everything that will come in contact with the wort/beer after it has dropped under 190 degrees F!!
Become a Sanitizing Freak
I will admit I probably go overboard with sanitizing.
But I have lost 3 batches in my time as a brewer and it sucks… so I now go over the top with it.
I recommend and only use a sanitizer called Star San… this stuff rocks.
Star San is food grade and if you use the recommended dosage on the bottle it will get rid of all the little beer infesting nasties.
I love it so much I almost bath it in during brew day!
A quick tip for you is get yourself a spray bottle and fill it with water and the right dosage of Star San and have it handy during brew day… I spray everything that the beer will come in contact with as I go along.
You can learn all about Star San and get some for yourself by Clicking The Following Link => Products to Clean & Sanitize Brewing Equipment
How to Clean and Sanitize after Brew Day…
Ok so once your brew day is done… the not-so-fun part of the process begins.
Yup, the biggest part of brewing is the cleaning and sanitizing… which is ironic as most dudes hate cleaning… yet here we go ahead and choose a hobby where we will be cleaning like a molly maid all hopped up on speed!
First: You first need to clean the hell out of all your gear… elbow grease and PBW or Oxi Clean will do the trick.
Get rid of all the remnants of the brew day… trub, grains, hops, etc. For anything that is metal, you can use a wire-type scrubbing brush pad on it… anything that is plastic do NOT!
Plastic can scratch… and little nasties can hide in the scratches just waiting to infect your beer. This is especially true with your fermenter. Use a soft cloth and elbow grease.
Secondly: Once you are done cleaning it is time to dig out the StarSan and go to town… Sanitize the hell out of everything. I even give my kettles a quick going over with it just so nothing builds up in between brew days.
I do not re-sanitize the hot side equipment before brew day… but I do re-sanitize the equipment that will be used for the cold side of brewing. I even leave Star San sitting in my fermenter and kegs between brew days.
Anyhow, I cannot stress enough that you must spend ample time cleaning and sanitizing thoroughly… it is the most important step in ensuring home brewing success!!
Some Last Tips
The above explains what you need to do but the following are a couple of quick tips I came across from an old email I sent to some fellow brewers… We’ve already covered most of this but repetition is always a good thing…
1) Use a soft cloth… do not use a brush or hard sponge as it will put scratches on your equipment and bacteria can build up there making it very hard to clean.
2) Clean and sanitize the whole brewing area… counter tops and stove and sink are what I recommend and do.
3) Clean and sanitize a plate or tray in order to place your sanitized gear on, such as spoons, bottle openers, scissors, etc!
4) Keep a big bowl of water and sanitizer on hand during the brew session to continuously sanitize anything that will come into contact with the Wort/Brew.
6) For Sanitizer itself… Star San is by FAR the best and easiest to work with. You want to sanitize everything that will come in contact with your brew with this stuff.
Again if you want to order some of your own PBW, Oxi Clean, and Star San you do so by CLICKING HERE!
When it comes to learning how to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment that really is all there is to it my friend… it’s not hard but it is a necessity… lean towards using more than less… don’t shy on the sanitizer… Star San goes a long way… a little drop of the stuff does a ton of sanitizing.
If you have any questions drop them in the comment section below and I will be sure to get back to you!
Big Robb is out!