Sodium percarbonate is sodium carbonate (i.e. Arm and Hammer Super Washing
Soda) reacted with hydrogen peroxide and it is a very effective cleaner for all types
of brewing equipment. It rinses easily. Several products (e.g. Straight-A, Powder
Brewery Wash, B-Brite, and One-Step) are approved by the FDA as cleaners in
food-manufacturing facilities. One-Step is labeled as a light cleaner and final rinse
agent, and produces hydrogen peroxide in solution. Hydrogen peroxide will
effectively sanitize surfaces and containers that are already clean. As with all
sanitizers, the effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizing agent is
comprimised by organic soil. Use these cleaners according to the manufacturer's
instructions, but generally use one tablespoon per gallon (4 ml per liter) and rinse
In my opinion, percarbonate-based cleaners are the best choice for equipment
cleaning, and Straight-A from Logic Inc
., and Powder Brewery Wash (PBW) from
Five Star Chemicals, Inc. are the best of them. These products combine sodium
metasilicate with the percarbonate in a stable form which increases its effectivity
and prevents the corrosion of metals like copper and aluminum that strong alkaline
solutions can cause.
Trisodium phosphate (TSP) and chlorinated TSP (CTSP) are very effective cleaners
for post-fermentation brewing deposits and the chlorinated form is also a sanitizer.
TSP and CTSP are becoming harder to find, but are still available at hardware
stores in the paint section. (Painters use it for washing walls because it can be
rinsed away completely.) The recommended usage is one tablespoon per gallon of
hot water. Solutions of TSP and CTSP should not be left to soak for more than an
hour because a white mineral film can sometimes deposit on glass and metal which
requires an acid (vinegar) solution to remove. This is not usually a problem
Using dishwashers to clean equipment and bottles is a popular idea among
homebrewers but there are a few limitations:
• The narrow openings of hoses, racking canes and bottles usually prevent the
water jets and detergent from effectively cleaning inside.
• If detergent does get inside these items, there is no guarantee that it will
get rinsed out again.
• Dishwasher drying additives (Jet Dry, for example) can ruin the head
retention of beer. Drying additives work by putting a chemical film on the
items that allows them to be fully wetted by the water so droplets don't
form; preventing spots. The wetting action destabilizes the proteins that
form the bubbles.
With the exceptions of spoons, measuring cups and wide mouth jars, it is probably
best to only use automatic dishwashers for heat sanitizing, not cleaning. Heat
sanitizing is discussed later in this chapter.
Commonly known as lye, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is the caustic main ingredient
of most heavy-duty cleaners like oven and drain cleaner. Potassium hydroxide
(KOH) is also commonly used. Even in moderate concentrations, these chemicals
are very hazardous to skin and should only be used when wearing rubber gloves
and goggle-type eye protection. Vinegar is useful for neutralizing sodium hydroxide
that gets on your skin, but if sodium hydroxide gets in your eyes it could cause
severe burns or blindness. Spray-on oven cleaner is the safest and most convenient
way to use sodium hydroxide. Brewers often scorch the bottoms of their brewpots
resulting in a black, burned wort area that is difficult to remove for fear of scouring
a hole in the pot. The easiest solution is to apply oven cleaner and allow it to
dissolve the stain. After the burned-on area has been removed, it is important to
thoroughly rinse the area of any oven cleaner residue to prevent subsequent
corrosion of the metal.
Sodium hydroxide is very corrosive to aluminum and brass. Copper and stainless
steel are generally resistant. Pure sodium hydroxide should not be used to clean
aluminum brewpots because the high pH causes the dissolution of the protective
oxides, and a subsequent batch of beer might have a metallic taste. Oven cleaner
should not affect aluminum adversely if it is used properly.
2.2.2 Cleaning Your Equipment
There are basically three kinds of plastic that you will be cleaning: opaque white
polypropylene, hard clear polycarbonate and clear soft vinyl tubing. You will often
hear the polypropylene referred to as "food grade plastic", though all three of these
plastics are. Polypropylene is used for utensils, fermenting buckets and fittings.
Polycarbonate is used for racking canes and measuring cups. The vinyl tubing is
used for siphons and the like.
The main thing to keep in mind when cleaning plastics is that they may adsorb
odors and stains from the cleaning products you use. Dish detergents are your best
bet for general cleaning, but scented detergents should be avoided. Bleach is useful
for heavy duty cleaning, but the odor can remain and bleach tends to cloud vinyl
tubing. Percarbonate cleaners have the benefit of cleaning as well as bleach without
the odor and clouding problems.
Dishwashers are a convenient way to clean plastic items providing that the water
can get inside. Also, the heat might warp polycarbonate items.
Glass has the advantage of being inert to everything you might use to clean it with.
The only considerations are the danger of breakage and the potential for stubborn
lime deposits when using bleach and TSP in hard water areas. When it comes to
cleaning your glass bottles and carboys, you will probably want to use bottle and
carboy brushes so you can effectively clean the insides.
For routine cleaning of copper and other metals, percarbonate-based cleaners like
PBW are the best choice. For heavily oxidized conditions, acetic acid is very
effective, especially when hot. Acetic acid is available in grocery stores as white
distilled vinegar at a standard concentration of 5% acetic acid by volume. It is
important to use only white distilled vinegar as opposed to cider or wine vinegar
because these other types may contain live acetobacteria cultures, which are the
last thing you want in your beer.
Brewers who use immersion wort chillers are always surprised how bright and shiny
the chiller is the first time it comes out of the wort. If the chiller wasn't bright and
shiny when it went into the wort, guess where the grime and oxides ended up? Yep,
in your beer. The oxides of copper are more readily dissolved by the mildly acidic
wort than is the copper itself. By cleaning copper tubing with acetic acid once
before the first use and rinsing with water immediately after each use, the copper
will remain clean with no oxide or wort deposits that could harbor bacteria.
Cleaning copper with vinegar should only occasionally be necessary.
The best sanitizer for counterflow wort chillers is Star San'. It is acidic and can be
used to clean copper as well as sanitize. Star San can be left in the chiller overnight
to soak-clean the inside.
Cleaning and sanitizing copper with bleach solutions is not recommended. The
chlorine and hypochlorites in bleach cause oxidation and blackening of copper and
brass. If the oxides come in contact with the mildly acidic wort, the oxides will
quickly dissolve, possibly exposing yeast to unhealthy levels of copper during
Some brewers use brass fittings in conjunction with their wort chillers or other
brewing equipment and are concerned about the lead that is present in brass
alloys. A solution of two parts white vinegar to one part hydrogen peroxide
(common 3% solution) will remove tarnish and surface lead from brass parts when
they are soaked for 15 minutes at room temperature. The brass will turn a buttery
yellow color as it is cleaned. If the solution starts to turn green, then the parts have
been soaking too long and the copper in the brass is beginning to dissolve. The
solution has become contaminated and the part should be re-cleaned in a fresh
Cleaning Stainless Steel and Aluminum
For general cleaning, mild detergents or percarbonate-based cleaners are best for
steel and aluminum. Bleach should be avoided because the high pH of a bleach
solution can cause corrosion of aluminum and to a lessor degree of stainless steel.
Do not clean aluminum shiny bright or use bleach to clean an aluminum brewpot
because this removes the protective oxides and can result in a metallic taste. This
detectable level of aluminum is not hazardous. There is more aluminum in a
common antacid tablet than would be present in a batch of beer made in an
There are oxalic acid based cleansers available at the grocery store that are very
effective for cleaning stubborn stains, deposits, and rust from stainless. They also
work well for copper. One example is Revere Ware Copper and Stainless Cleanser
and another is Kleen King Stainless Steel Cleanser. Use according to the
manufacturer's directions and rinse thoroughly with water afterwards.
2.2.3 Sanitizing Your Equipment
Once your equipment is clean, it is time to sanitize it before use. Only items that
will contact the wort after the boil need to be sanitized, namely: fermentor, lid,
airlock, rubber stopper, yeast starter jar, thermometer, funnel, and siphon. Your
bottles will need to be sanitized also, but that can wait until bottling day. There are
two very convenient ways to sanitize your equipment: chemical and heat. When
using chemical sanitizers, the solution can usually be prepared in the fermentor
bucket and all the equipment can be soaked in there. Heat sanitizing methods
depend on the type of material being sanitized.
The cheapest and most readily available sanitizing solution is made by adding 1
tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water (4 ml per liter). Let the items soak for 20
minutes, and then drain. Rinsing is supposedly not necessary at this concentration,
but many brewers, myself included, rinse with some boiled water anyway to be
sure of no off-flavors from the chlorine.
Star San is an acidic sanitizer from the makers of PBW and was developed
especially for sanitizing brewing equipment. It requires only 30 seconds of contact
time and does not require rinsing. Unlike other no-rinse sanitizers, Star San will not
contribute off-flavors at higher than recommended concentrations. The
recommended usage is one fluid ounce per 5 gallons of water. The solution can be
put in a spray bottle and used as a spray-on sanitizer for glassware or other items
that are needed in a hurry. The foam is just as effective as immersion in the
solution. Also, the surfactant used in Star San will not affect the head retention of
beer like those used in detergents.
Star San is my preferred sanitizer for all usages except those that I can
conveniently do in the dishwasher. A solution of Star San has a long usage life and
an open bucket of it will remain active for several days. Keeping a solution of Star
San in a closed container will increase its shelf life. The viability of the solution can
be judged by its clarity; it turns cloudy as the viability diminishes.
One last note on this product: Because it is listed as a sanitizer and bactricide by
the FDA and EPA, the container must list disposal warnings that are suitable for
pesticides. Do not be alarmed, it is less hazardous to your skin than bleach.
Iodophor is a solution of iodine complexed with a polymer carrier that is very
convenient to use. One tablespoon in 5 gallons of water (15ml in 19 l) is all that is
needed to sanitize equipment with a two minute soak time. This produces a
concentration of 12.5 ppm of titratable iodine. Soaking equipment longer, for 10
minutes, at the same concentration will disinfect surfaces to hospital standards. At
12.5 ppm the solution has a faint brown color that you can use to monitor the
solution's viability. If the solution loses its color, it no longer contains enough free
iodine to work. There is no advantage to using more than the specified amount of
iodophor. In addition to wasting the product, you risk exposing yourself and your
beer to excessive amounts of iodine.
Iodophor will stain plastic with long exposures, but that is only a cosmetic problem.
The 12.5 ppm concentration does not need to be rinsed, but the item should be
allowed to drain before use. Even though the recommended concentration is well
below the taste threshold, I rinse everything with a little bit of cooled boiled water
to avoid any chance of off-flavors, but that's me.
Heat is one of the few means by which the homebrewer can actually sterilize an
item. Why would you need to sterilize an item? Homebrewers that grow and
maintain their own yeast cultures want to sterilize their growth media to assure
against contamination. When a microorganism is heated at a high enough
temperature for a long enough time it is killed. Both dry heat (oven) and steam
(autoclave, pressure cooker or dishwasher) can be used for sanitizing.
Dry heat is less effective than steam for sanitizing and sterilizing, but many
brewers use it. The best place to do dry heat sterilization is in your oven. To
sterilize an item, refer to the following table for temperatures and times required.
Table 3 - Dry Heat Sterilization
12 hours (Overnight)
The times indicated begin when the item has reached the indicated temperature.
Although the durations seem long, remember this process kills all microorganisms,
not just most as in sanitizing. To be sterilized, items need to be heat-proof at the
given temperatures. Glass and metal items are prime candidates for heat
Some homebrewers bake their bottles using this method and thus always have a
supply of clean sterile bottles. The opening of the bottle can be covered with a
piece of aluminum foil prior to heating to prevent contamination after cooling and
during storage. They will remain sterile indefinitely if kept wrapped.
One note of caution: bottles made of soda lime glass are much more susceptible to
thermal shock and breakage than those made of borosilicate glass and should be
heated and cooled slowly (e.g. 5 °F per minute). You can assume all beer bottles
are made of soda lime glass and that any glassware that says Pyrex or Kimax is
made of borosilicate.
Autoclaves, Pressure Cookers and Dishwashers
Typically when we talk about using steam we are referring to the use of an
autoclave or pressure cooker. These devices use steam under pressure to sterilize
items. Because steam conducts heat more efficiently, the cycle time for such
devices is much shorter than when using dry heat. The typical amount of time it
takes to sterilize a piece of equipment in an autoclave or pressure cooker is 20
minutes at 257° F (125 °C) at 20 pounds per square inch (psi).
Dishwashers can be used to sanitize, as opposed to sterilize, most of your brewing
equipment, you just need to be careful that you don't warp any plastic items. The
steam from the drying cycle will effectively sanitize all surfaces. Bottles and other
equipment with narrow openings should be pre-cleaned. Run the equipment
through the full wash cycle without using any detergent or rinse agent. Dishwasher
Rinse Agents will destroy the head retention on your glassware. If you pour a beer
with carbonation and no head, this might be the cause.
Cleaning and Sanitizing Bottles
Dishwashers are great for cleaning the outside of bottles and heat sanitizing, but
will not clean the insides effectively. If your bottles are dirty or moldy, soak them in
a mild bleach solution or sodium percarbonate type cleaners (ex. PBW) for a day or
two to soften the residue. You'll still need to scrub them thoroughly with a bottle
brush to remove any stuck residue. To eliminate the need to scrub bottles in the
future, rinse them thoroughly after each use.
Table 4 - Cleaning and Sanitizing Summary Table
It is important to use unscented
detergents that won't leave any perfumey
odors behind. Be sure to rinse well.
1/4 cup per 5 gallons
(<1 Tbs per gallon)
Best all purpose cleaner for grunge on all
brewing equipment. Most effective in
1 tablespoon per
Effective cleaner for grungy brewing
deposits. Will not harm metals.
1 - 4 tablespoons per
Good cleaner for grungy brewing deposits.
Do not allow bleach to contact metals for
more than an hour. Corrosion may occur.
1 tablespoon per
Good cleaner for grungy brewing deposits.
May often be found in paint and hardware
Prolonged exposure times may cause
Normal amount of
Recommended for utensils and glassware.
Do not use scented detergents or those
with rinse agents.
Often the only way to dissolve burned-on
sugar from a brewpot.
Full Strength as
effective when hot.
Useful for cleaning copper wort chillers.
Cleansers made for Stainless Steel and
Copper pots and pans are also useful.
2:1 volume ratio
of vinegar to peroxide
Use for removing surface lead and
As Needed with
Use for removing stains and oxides.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested