HOMEBREWING 101: Guide to Cleaning & Sanitizing

If we were to say the number one thing a new brewer needs to master it would be cleaning and sanitizing. It’s the number one thing that can make or break your beer. a clean brewing system means a clean and tasty beer. This is where many beginner brewers make mistakes.

We will show you just how easy it can be to clean and sanitize your equipment, so you can make the beer you want. Let’s clean and sanitize.

A clean brewery is important because we want to be able to control the fermentation, to get the flavors we desire. Without proper cleaning techniques, you can risk getting an infected beer with other wild yeasts and bacteria. And while you won’t get sick from an infected beer, it certainly won’t taste good.

After this article, you are good and ready to start brewing. So make sure you check our Home Brewing 101: How to brew beer at home for some additional tips and tricks.

1. Cleaning

Cleaning is the process of removing dirt, grime, and overall gunk from your equipment. There are few products that are best.

Brew cleaner is a product specifically made for brewing. We use PBW or Powdered Brewery Wash, which is a powdered alkali solution that you mix with hot water and soak your equipment in. Then you just scrub with a soft pad and wash it away with water.

Glass of beer and Can of Brewing cleaner
Credit:https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/tuesday-beer-trivia-cleaning-sanitizing/

There are other brands and options of brew cleaners. We recommend doing some research to see what works best for you.

Avoid soaps as cleaners. They have oils and fragrances that can stick around even after rinsing. The oils can negatively impact the head retention or foam of your beer. The fragrances can ruin the overall flavor and aroma. To learn more about different homebrew cleaners check this list.

We use PBW mainly on our kettle after a brew day, fermenter after the beer is complete and kegs, tubing, and bottles. Use the directed dosing on the back of the package, 1 oz. per gallon of hot water. The hotter the water the better powder will dissolve. Let it soak from 15 to 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

2. Cleaning Process

It’s always best to clean your equipment as soon as you’re done using it. The longer you let the mess stay on the equipment, the harder it will be to remove it. So make a habit of cleaning as soon as you’re done. Once it’s soaked for a bit use a soft sponge or rag to help scrub off any remaining dirt. If you have a really big mess, then a stiff bristle brush will do the trick.

Cleaning Beer Equipment
Credit: http://home-beer-brewing.net/home-beer-brewing-sanitizing-and-cleaning-your-equipment/

Don’t use anything too hard on plastic. If you scratch the plastic you are making a perfect little hiding spot for more bacteria to grow in the future. Make sure to rinse it all out with some water and you’ll be ready to use it next time.

3. Sanitizing

Sanitizing is the means of reducing microbial life to a safe level. It’s different from sterilizing which is when you completely remove all microbes to zero percent. Sterilization is not necessary for home brewing.

There are many products to help you sanitize. We use an acid-based sanitizer that doesn’t need to be rinsed out. It’s easy to use and has clear measurements on it, which makes it pretty failproof. We use sanitizer on anything that comes in contact with a wart of beer after the boil on a brew day.

Using spray Sanitizer
Credit:https://www.brewersassociation.org/brewing-industry-updates/ttb-informal-advice-on-brewers-producing-hand-sanitizer/

Any bacteria that touch the wart before the boil will be killed off, but it’s a prime spot for harboring wild yeast and bacteria once it’s cooled down.

Make a big batch of sanitizer on brew day. We recommend making it in the fermenter to make sure it’s sanitized. you can put some of the solutions in a spray bottle. You can spray down equipment and tabletops to make your life easier.

It’s a good idea to use distilled water when mixing it. The low mineral count in the distilled water will keep the sanitizer powers active for longer which is perfect for keeping it in a spray bottle at all times.

While the beer is fermenting anything that touches it, whether a hydrometer, refractometer, or hopsack must be sanitized.

On a packaging day, all equipment such as siphon, tubing, bottles, bottle caps, and kegs must be sanitized. It may seem like a lot to think about but really just remind yourself that you have to sanitize after the boil.

4. Myths and Misconceptions

New brewers often say that they will only sanitize. It will kill the bacteria.

Sanitizing doesn’t kill dirt and cleaner doesn’t sanitize your equipment. You must use both to ensure you don’t infect your beer.

Some professional brew cleaners have caustic properties and can actually burn you. So make sure to read instructions on how to use them first.

Don’t fear the foam. If you see the foam after sanitizing don’t worry about it. You can let it touch your beer.

Don’t be afraid your beer will be harmed if you use these items, You will ensure you come out with a consistent and clean product.

Clean your equipment after using it and then sanitize it before letting your post-boil beer touch it. It’s a simple concept that if you make it a habit to check before you brew, it will become second nature. And you’ll be on your way to making amazing beer.

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