You have read the books, studied the recipes, have all your brewing equipment, and now you are all set to go. Not so fast, rookie.Anyone who wants to become a good brewer of good beer must learn how to properly clean and sterilizing brewing equipment first.
Sterilizing brewing equipment is where most first time brewers fail!
You can find out about sterilizing brewing equipment in several different ways. One, you can read about sanitizing. Two, ask other brewers sanitation questions or three. Experiment with sanitizers on your own. But the lesson you will learn from is when you find out about them by accident. Contaminating a batch of beer out of carelessness or just plain ignorance is a painful lesson to learn. The only thing worse than throwing out bad beer is drinking 5 gallons of bad beer. Especially after you’ve spent a great deal of time getting it to the point you can drink it.
In this article, I will give you five key tip and critical things you need to know about sterilizing brew equipment and the different levels of cleanliness required and give you information on the products and practices that can help you be successful from day one.
There are a variety of chemicals that you can use to clean and sanitize your homebrewing equipment including iodine-based products, chlorine-based products, caustics, ammonia, and a couple of environmentally safe cleansers that contain oxygen-based percarbonates.
With all that said the easiest way of sterilizing brewing equipment is with bleach. Is it the easiest? No. Is it the most cost-effective? You better believe it. Just to put it into perspective, you can buy a 30oz. bottle for a $1.50. That’s enough to sterilize 60 gallons of water. You just can’t beat that with any other method. For new brewers, you don’t want to go out and drop money on something you may never use again. I always encourage new brewers to start with bleach and if you think you are going to stay with the hobby then you can move to specialized products.
2. Soak…do not scrub
The most effective methods of sterilizing brewing equipment involve soaking rather than intensive scrubbing. For this purpose, the best place to handle sanitizing procedures is a utility basin or large-capacity sink. You can use a tub in a pinch but the tub is a very dirty place. You will need to clean in thoroughly before you use it. For the small bits and pieces like tubing and the air lock, I will throw them in the fermentor when the sanitizer is filled to the rim. If it’s a plastic bucket, I will shove the lid into. This causes the liquid to over flow just enough so I am assured all surfaces are submerged.
Never use any abrasives or materials that can scratch plastic or metal surfaces! Doing so causes pits and scratches and these are excellent hiding places for bacteria. Instead, use a very soft sponge that you’ve devoted to cleaning only homebrewing equipment and replace it often! Sponges are cheap.
Yup, you read that right. One of the easiest and fastest ways to sterilize bottles is to bake them. The first time I did that I was amazed and I have never looked back. The key here is temperature. Most bacteria are destroyed at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Most ovens lowest setting is 175 to 200. Simply clean bottles with soap and water, rinse, cover the top with a small piece of tinfoil (Allows the steam to escape and hinders bugs going in) place in
oven and set to 200 for 30 min. I usually do this the night before so they have plenty of time to cool and bottle in the morning.
4. Use Vodka to sterilize tools
One of the main reasons beer is bug-free, for the most part, is because of the alcohol in it. Vodka, which is usually around 40% by volume, is a super sterilizer. Now you won’t want to be using this for sterilizing brewing equipment per say but it is great for the equipment you will be using as you go through the process of making beer. For example, when pulling a sample for your fermentor to check the gravity. Simply wipe down the cup or ladle vodka just prior to using. This will kill all the bacteria on the surface immediately saving you from contaminating your precious batch of beer. You can also use vodka in your air-lock as a blocking fluid.
Tubing is one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment when it comes to contamination. Most think that because you can see through it, it must be clean. Fact of the matter is it’s usually the dirtiest piece of equipment in home brewing. Mostly because surface cleaning inside the tube is near impossible.
The easiest way to keep tubing clean is to rinse immediately after using and then storing it in a weak sterilizing solution. I only recommend this if you brew often though. If you plan to brew periodically make sure to dry the tube completely before putting away. Check all tubing before use. If you see any type of discoloration in the tubing, just throw it away and use a new piece. Tubing is cheap and it’s just not worth the risk.
While these 5 tips are not the be all and end all of sterilizing brewing equipment it should help you eliminate some of the most common mistakes and help you to make your brew day a little easier. If you want to be serious and open your own brew and in short of cash. There are legit lenders like Payday Champion loans online.
Do you have any tips or tricks you have learned along the way or were shared with you? Share them in the comments below!
Brew it! Drink it! Enjoy it!