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Cleaning and sanitation are two important steps in the home brewing process. Although no homebrewer looks forward to cleaning and sanitizing on brew day, it is something that cannot be overlooked.
Taking the time to make sure all of your equipment is cleaned and sanitized can be the difference between a delicious batch of beer, and something that looks like a science project.
Table of Contents
The Difference Between Cleaning and Sanitizing
Some people think that cleaning and sanitizing are one in the same. Despite being used interchangeably, there is a big difference between sanitizing and cleaning.
There are a few cleansers that do have some sanitizing properties in the ingredients, but they should not be used as a sanitizer. At the same time, a sanitizer will kill germs, but will not get your equipment clean.
Cleaning removes debris and dirt from the equipment.
Although you might be tempted to use your favorite dish soap under the counter, don’t. Never use perfumed dish-washing detergents to clean your brewing equipment. Using this type of liquid soap can leave unwanted flavors and odors in your beer. Ensure you are constantly using unscented products, preferably alkaline ones.
A good cleaning agent also reduces the need to scrub the equipment, creating scratches that can give unwanted germs and bacteria places to hide.
Sanitizing is the process of eliminating any living organisms, like mold and bacteria that are hiding in the cracks and crevices in your brewing equipment.
After the boil, everything that comes into contact with the beer must be sanitized to avoid possible infection.
What Are The Best Cleaners To Keep Homebrew Equipment Clean?
Listed below are 3 widely used and popular cleansers used by homebrewers to keep their equipment clean and ready to go for their next brewing day.
Five Star PBW Brew Cleaner
The Five Star powdered brewery wash is an alkaline detergent and an excellent cleaner explicitly intended for your brewing equipment.
Five Star PBW is entirely bio-degradable and environmentally friendly, safe to use on stainless steel, plastic, glass, and soft metal. That means it’s great for brew kettles, kegs, wort chillers, fermenters, transfer hoses, and all your other equipment.
It is a versatile cleaner that can be used in hard or soft water, and with hot or cold temperatures. Although it is a safe to use, make sure you rinse thoroughly after cleaning.
- It’s non-caustic and won’t irritate the skin
- Good for the environment and biodegradable
- Can be used with hot or cold water
- Can be used on all brewing equipment
- Requires rinsing after using
- More expensive than other options
One Step No-Rinse Cleanser
One step no-rise cleanser is an oxygenated cleaner that does not require rinsing after cleaning your brewing items.
The cleanser gives a high oxygen burst, destroying any unwanted material as it evaporates from the surface within a few minutes of contact time.
It does not contain chlorine, and is suitable for glass and stainless steel without leaving a film or corroding your equipment. This product has been used in the homebrewing industry for years and is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
Just like most cleaners, 1 tablespoon of powder is used for 1 gallon of water. Leave for about 2 minutes contact time. No rinsing is required after use.
- One step – Does not require rinsing after use
- Can leave a white residue after drying
The OxiClean-free cleanser is 100% fragrance, dye, chlorine, and detergent-free that is safe to use on all your brewery materials.
It is an oxygen-based, water-activated formula that is an affordable option that can be found in most department or grocery stores.
Following instructions on the package, fill the scoop enough for a water gallon to make a solution. You can apply it directly to the surface or by using a brush or piece of cloth. Scrub the surface and rinse thoroughly.
OxiClean is also good to remove the sticky adhesive labels from your beer bottles.
- Non-toxic to humans, animals, and plants
- Long shelf life
- Easy to find
- Requires rinsing after use
- May take longer to dissolve in cooler water
BLC Beverage System Cleaner
BLC beverage system cleaner is an alkaline-based draft line cleaner that quickly removes mineral deposits and bacteria from beverage lines and faucets.
This cleaner is specifically designed to clean all your kegging equipment and beer lines. It dissolves quickly in cold or warm water and is effective at ½ oz per quart of water.
For normal cleaning, run your solution through the beer lines for about 15 minutes. Beer lines that haven’t been cleaned regularly will require longer. Rinse well after flushing out the solution.
- Easy to use
- Great for all kegging systems
- 32 ounce bottle is good for 64 cleanings
- Can be harsh on skin
What Are The Best Sanitizers To Use For Homebrewing?
After cleaning your brewing equipment, here are 3 well-known and effective products that you can use to sanitize all of your brewing equipment.
Star San No Rinse Sanitizer
Star San sanitizer is one of the most effective sanitizers for your homebrew equipment. It has the propensity to foam a lot, making it easy to penetrate and sanitize hard-to-reach areas, but Star San is completely safe for your home brew.
Star San is a food-grade phosphoric acid based solution that is odorless, flavorless, and does not need rinsing after use. You only need one ounce per 5 gallons of water, and just needs 1 or 2 minutes to be effectively sanitized.
It can be added to a spray bottle to quickly sanitize parts and equipment, and larger amounts can be stored in a well-sealed container for three to four weeks.
When Using Star San…..Don’t Fear The Foam!
- Top choice for most homebrewers
- Fast acting
- Won’t damage septic systems
- No rinse sanitizer
- Can be hazardous to animals
- Should not be used on soft metals like aluminum
Five Star IO Star Brewing Sanitizer
Iodophor is an iodine based sanitizer, and unlike Star San, does not foam up. Its brownish color allows you to see the areas you apply, and where you missed.
Using 1 oz of solution in five gallons of cold or lukewarm water will sanitize your equipment in 1 or 2 minutes. It will not corrode steel or copper, which is why many homebrewers use it for their stainless steel conical fermenters and wort chillers.
- Will not corrode copper or steel like Star San
- Can be used on stainless steel fermenters
- Can stain plastic
- Should wear gloves when using
Many homebrewers want to stay away from harmful chemicals during brew day, but good old fashioned bleach is the cheapest and most readily available sanitizer to use.
The active ingredient in bleach is chlorine, and is most effective when 1 ounce of bleach is mixed with 5 gallons of water, or 1 tablespoon to 1 gallon of water. Using this bleach/water ratio, your equipment will need to soak between 20 and 30 minutes.
At higher concentrations, it can leave a detectable flavor that may transfer to your beer if not thoroughly rinsed with warm water. If you intend to use bleach, just make sure you use unscented bleach.
- Available almost everywhere
- Will stain clothes
- Not good for the environment
- Can leave off-flavors and odors in the beer
There is no getting around it, unless you want to dump all your hard earned work down the drain. Having clean and sanitized equipment is just as important as any other step when brewing beer, and is a major factor in the quality of the finished beer.
You can’t have one without the other, and it really isn’t that hard to do it right.
Any of the products mentioned above can be used for effective cleaning and sanitizing. But the two that we recommend, and a popular choice among homebrewers, is the Five Star PBW and high foaming Star San sanitizer, also from Five Star.
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