Getting Started: Brewing Equipment Needed

  • Stainless Steel Stockpot: Try to get one that can carry 16-20 quarts (15-19L). It is also advised to purchase one with sturdy handles that are attached to the actual pot itself.

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  • Thermometer: Try to get a glass thermometer because they float upright in your must so you can read it easily. Just be careful when losing it because if it breaks while in your must then the whole batch is ruined. A good idea is to get a thermometer that ranges from 50 degrees F to 200 degrees F in increments of 10 degrees F or less.

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  • Hydrometer: This instruments reads how much sugar is dissolved in the solution using specific gravity. “Pure water at a temperature of 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) has a specific gravity of 1.000. Adding sugar makes the density of the solution-and therefore the specific gravity-rise. When this occurs, the hydrometer floats higher in the solution changing where its scale will be read” (Schramm 28).

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  • Plastic fermenter: The plastic fermentation buckets ranges from 5-8 gallons. There should be a hole on the top of the lid for the stopper and airlock. The reason plastic is desired because plastic fermenters won’t break or melt when the hot honey is added. However, if the interior is scratched then there is a potential for bacterial growth.

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  • Glass carboy: The carboys come in 5-10 gallon glass bottles that do not scratch easily but if dropped, can break and ruin your batch as well as harm you. This is why some people use rubber carboy handles to ease the lifting and transferring process. Plastic carboys like Better Bottles are made from clear, stain resistant, non-porous PET plastic that’s impermeable to oxygen. Just be careful when cleaning to prevent scratching.

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  • Airlocks: These locks provide the barrier that prevents contaminating bacteria or wild yeast from entering the fermenter and mead while allowing carbon dioxide to escape from the actively fermenting mead. The two most common are the Bubbler Air Lock and the Three-Piece Airlock. The Three-Piece Airlock is generally used for primary fermentation because if there is an overactive batch that foams all the way to the top of the fermenter to the airlock, it is easier to clean the separate pieces. In addition the Three-Piece is resistant to “suck-back” where negative pressure in the fermenter causes the third piece to suck down on the gas tube. With the Bubbler, the “suck-back” will draw all the airlock fluid into the wort. The Bubbler is used in the secondary fermentation because it allows a more accurate visualization of carbon dioxide escaping. If you don’t feel like purchasing an airlock or if you’re from the ghetto, insert a hose into the rubber stopper in your fermentation bucket and place the other end into a sanitized jaw filled with fluid (this method is most helpful when you are making a large batch or if your batch has vigorous fermentation). Another tip is to purchase an airlock brush to clean the fermentation residue out of the airlocks.

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  • Drilled Rubber Stoppers: This is used to adjoin your fermenter with the airlock. Stoppers No. 6 and 7 work well with 5 gallon carboys. If you are using carboys of a different size consult with the homebrew shop about the stopper size you need.

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  • Siphon Hose: You need clear, food-grade vinyl tubing with a 5/16 inch and 3/8 inch inner diameter. It is best to get one that is six feet long so there is leeway when re-racking. It is good to replace the siphon every 6 months to ensure sanitation.

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  • Racking Cane: This is a “clear, hard plastic food-grade tubing bent at an angle near one end. The siphon hose fits snugly over the end and the cane is lowered into the mead to be racked, to provide you control over siphoning. This allows you to avoid the sediment pack or fruit residue…” (Schramm 29).
  • Sanitizer: I prefer Star San for the sanitizer. You can buy it in any hombrew shop or website. I tend to buy the 32 oz because I know I will always need this. If you have a deep kitchen sink (preferably two), clean one sink thoroughly (and I mean scrub all that food residue) and then use the drain stopper. Add the Star San and fill that sink with water. You then have a basin designated to sanitizing your equipment.

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  • Cleaner: After re-racking your mead, there will be a thick layer of sediment in your carboy. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) is an alkali cleaner which if left overnight in the carboy, will require no scrubbing the following morning. It is also advised to purchase a carboy brush, preferably 24” long and bent at a 90 degree angle to reach all the corners of the carboy’s interior. There are also brushes that attach to a drill bit to ensure a faster more efficient cleaning method.

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  • Bottle Tree: Although you won’t need this when brewing your mead, you will find this useful when it comes time to bottling. Buy one that comes with a carrying handle on top. It makes drying your bottles easier and more efficient.

References:

  1. GotMead
  2. Northern Brewer
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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: