CSS: Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Sterilizing

Definitions:

  • Cleaning: Ridding all the dust, stains, scum, dirt, and other visible contaminants from your homebrewing equipment. Elbow grease required.
  • Sanitizing: Ridding, rinsing, and removing invisible contaminants like microorganisms and bacteria. Chemicals needed.
  • Sterilizing: Removing germs through high temperature (over 200 degrees F)

Why does beer get infected in the first place?

  • Beer is pretty delicious. We know that and we love it. So is it any surprise germs want to bathe, live, and reproduce in beer? Not really. Think of it, beer provides a warm environment. Beer also contains natural sweeteners, nutrients to feed germs. It’s an ideal living condition: a warm environment with plenty of food.

Actions to Take:

  • CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN the area where you are brewing. Dust off those countertops, sweep the floor, and vacuum that carpet floor. 
  • I love dogs. They’re pretty awesome. But when it’s time to brew please keep them in the other room. With clean and sanitized equipment everywhere it will be easy to recontaminate them with your pet’s hair and dander.
  • Take care of your equipment. ALWAYS clean and sanitize before brewing and you must clean BEFORE sanitizing. After brewing thoroughly dry your equipment and store it in a dust-free mildew-free place.

Types of Cleaners & Sanitizers

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*Prior to using any product, read the directions and warning labels carefully

  • iodine-based products

Commonly used as disinfectants by hospitals, restaurants, and breweries. Iodophor requires 2 minutes of soaking. It binds immediately to any microorganism it contacts and destroys it. WARNING: Stains plastics and human skin. Dilute 1 ounce per 5 gallons of water.

Star-San’s main ingredient is phosphoric acid. Because it contains a foaming agent, this product can clean the nooks and crannies of your equipment.

  • chlorine-based products

Chlorine is found in a common household product, bleach. This is a money-saver. Dilute 1 ounce per 1 gallon. Unscented bleach is better because scented products leave a layer of film that can create off flavors in beer. You must rinse all equipment thoroughly with hot water to neutralize the chlorine. Use chlorine products only with glass because plastic can absorb the chemical which will then create off-flavors in your beer. Never use chlorine products with stainless steel since overtime it will create holes in the equipment. WARNING: Don’t mix ammonia with chlorine bleach because it will create toxic chlorine gas.

  • caustics

Lye is used for only the most stubborn and difficult to treat stains. Technically it is a cleaner but small concentrations of lye dissolve and kill any bacteria along with organic buildup.

  • ammonia

Best use for bottles. Dilute 1 cup of ammonia to 5 gallons of water. WARNING: Pungent Odor.

  • percarbonates

A mixture of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. Reacts with oxygen and mild alkali to produce oxygen bubbles that loosen soils. The hydrogen peroxide offers some sanitizing properties but percarbonates are mainly used as cleaners. Does not require rinsing after use.

PBW (Powder Brewery Wash)  has the highest concentration of percarbonate. Use 1 tablespoon for 1 gallon. Soak equipment with stubborn stains overnight. Rinse twice with warm water after using.

Tips

  • Hoses, airlocks, and siphons are relatively cheap so it may be better to just purchase new ones considering they can’t be scrub.
  • For plastic equipment use a sponge or soft cloth to avoid creating scratches where microorganisms can live

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  • For glass use a carboy brush

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  • For stainless steel, you can use a carboy brush but it can still scratch the surface so its better to use a softer cloth
  • Avoid using household cleaners since they are toxic for human consumption and too mild for thorough cleaning and sanitizing.
  • All equipment that comes into contact with cooled wort and fermented beer must be sanitized (including your hands that touch this equipment)

References:

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