Is Star San Sanitizer Safe For My Homebrew?

star san foam in a glass carboy

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If you are a home brewer, you probably already know that Star San is the sanitizer of choice for many people.

It is a safe and easy method to sanitize your brewing equipment. This method is quite effective, although the foam may scare some users that are not familiar with the process.

This article is intended to give you all the information you need when using Star San sanitizer.

Table of Contents

What Is Star San?

Star San is made by Five Star, and is an acid-based, no rinse sanitizer to effectively kill any prevent bacteria from ruining your brew day. This home brew sanitizer is made with pure natural ingredients that are safe for the environment and users, but is harmful to pets.

The active compound in Star San is food-grade phosphoric acid and DDBSA, for a flavor-free and odor-free solution. This product is known for creating a lot of foam, which works to deeply penetrate the crevices and cracks of your brewing equipment where bacteria can hide.

Your home-brewed beer or wine will still taste great if you use this popular solution. It does not require you to rinse it out if it is properly diluted. Star San will also not harm your septic system and reduces water spotting on your equipment.

Five Star
Star San High Foaming Sanitizer

What Causes Star San To Foam?

The foam may scare some users, but it has a very important purpose. It acts as an active sanitizer that penetrates hard-to-reach places of your brewing equipment. Foaming acts as a detergent agent that ensures all your equipment is fully sanitized.

The benefits of the foam allow you to be covered even if you miss some spots. You still have to be very detailed-oriented with your cleaning, but the foam is an additional measure for completely sanitizing every little corner of your equipment.

How To Use Star San

You only need to use 1 oz of Star San diluted in a five-gallon water container. It should contact the surfaces for 2 or 4 minutes.

The easiest way is to fill a plastic fermenter or bottling bucket with the Star San solution and submerge as many pieces of brewing equipment you can. Just leave them in the bucket until you are ready to use.

The pH of the solution must remain at three or lower for Star San to keep its effectiveness for a period of up to three weeks or one month. It must be kept in a sealed container.

Will The Foam Affect My Homebrew?

Absolutely not!

The manufacturer of Star San created a slogan: “Don’t Fear the Foam!” This statement has helped people come to terms with the benefits of the overwhelming foaming when using the product.

The most experienced brewers know that there is no harm in putting your fresh wort into a keg or carboy that is full of foam. It can actually be beneficial for the development of the yeast as the main components of Star San contribute to the fermentation process.

The pH of the Star San increases when mixed with your wort. The DDBSA and phosphoric acid break down as the pH increases becoming a nutrient for the yeast. It does not negatively affect your brew in any way.

How To Reduce The Amount Of Foam

The foam may scare some users, but it has a very important purpose. It acts as an active sanitizer that penetrates hard-to-reach places of your brewing equipment. Foaming acts as a detergent agent that ensures all your equipment is fully sanitized.

The benefits of the foam allow you to be covered even if you miss some spots. You still have to be very detailed-oriented with your cleaning, but the foam is an additional measure for completely sanitizing every little corner of your equipment.

Some users want to keep the overwhelming foam under control. You can follow these next steps to reduce the foam:

  • Dilute it properly by using the correct ratio of 1oz of Star San to 5-gallons of water.
  • Do not shake the solution. Star San works best without much agitation. Use slow and gentle pouring that avoids any unnecessary splashing. The less agitation, the less foam you will have.
  • Pour the Star San into the water, not the other way around. Adding the Star San to the water will prevent most of the bubbling.
 
By following these steps, you should be able to significantly reduce the amount of foam that is produced. Also, never try to rinse out the foam as this will only make it worse.

Other Sanitizing Options

For those that want to avoid the large amounts of foam, there are other sanitizing alternatives available. These alternatives have other chemical compounds that get the job done without all the foam.

Perhaps, you don’t mind the foam and appreciate the no-rinse quick effectiveness of Star San. But when you run out, what can you use instead?

Five Star Low-Foaming Iodophor

Another product by Five Star, this low foaming Iodophor sanitizer is an effective solution that also kills bacteria.

It has the benefits and not the disadvantages of using iodine or sodium hypochlorite sanitizers. The foam created is very minimal and the process works fairly quickly.

The dark color of the iodine base makes it easy to see where the sanitizer has made contact, and where it hasn’t. One thing many homebrewers dislike about this product is that it can stain your plastic equipment.

This sanitizer is not acid based, and is safe to use on brewing equipment like wort chillers, steel fermenters, brewing systems, and kegs.

Five Star IO Star
Low Foaming Iodophor Sanitizer

Household Bleach

The thought of using standard household bleach might be frightening to some homebrewers, but it gets the job done. The drawback of this method is that you need to thoroughly rinse the bleach out of your equipment.

It can be a lengthy process, in addition, you also need to soak in the bleach for at least 30 minutes for the dangerous microbes to be killed. It seems like an eternity compared to the one or two-minute effectiveness of the no-rinse Star San method.

Although bleach is an inexpensive sanitizer alternative, it is not recommended if you are using any stainless steel equipment, like conical fermenters or kegs.

Steam or Boiling Water

Another way to you can sanitize some equipment is to use boiling water or steam. Many home brewers will use their dishwasher if it has a sanitizing feature.

This method can be cumbersome and requires proper cooling of your equipment. Usually this works best for a large amount of glass beer bottles or other small pieces of brewing equipment.

How Long Does Star San Last?

A prepared solution of Star San will remain effective if sealed properly and kept at a pH of three or lower for up to three to four weeks. You may keep undiluted Star San on the shelf for one or two years at a proper pH level of three or less.

Use a Spray Bottle

Star San also works great when used with a spray bottle because it allows you to only use what you need. This product does not require you to submerge your equipment, instead, the surfaces can be quickly sprayed.

It’s convenient to have a spray bottle on hand that contains the proper dilution of Star San and water while you cover all surfaces of your equipment. This method is conservative requiring you to use a small quantity of the product, saving you money in the long run.

Use your spray bottle to sanitize things like your scissors and yeast packet, and let it sit for a minute.

It’s that simple!

Conclusion and Final Say

There are other homebrewing sanitizers on the market, but Star San is the preferred product by many experienced brewers for sanitizing all types of brewing equipment.

It is safe, easy to use, and won’t interfere with the taste or texture of your beer.  But because it is acid based, contact with rubber, aluminum and other soft metals should not be in contact for a long period of time.

Happy brewing and don’t fear the foam!

Star San Sanitizer
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